1 June 2013

I'm moving to Tumblr!

With a little help from my friends, well one Tumblr-savvy friend in particular, acaseforbooks is now on Tumblr here: http://acaseforbooks.tumblr.com/ (and soon to be www.acaseforbooks.com).

All my reviews are there as well as some new ones - in a slightly different, less dense format and with Disqus comments. It would be lovely to see you over there :)

26 April 2013

My Week in Books

This week (and a bit) I posted a review of Carnegie shortlisted In Darkness by Nick Lake, Women's Prize longlisted The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber, as well as my thoughts on the Women's Prize Shortlist (which was sadly missing The Marlowe Papers).

I finished The Forrests by Emily Perkins which I was really disappointed by unfortunately. It was very long and felt like hard work to get through and I would have been tempted to give up on it if it wasn't on the Women's Prize longlist, which had so far given me some of the best books I've read this year. The two main problems were the overwheming misery of the book and the female characters reliance on men, normally useless ones. I don't mind a bit of melancholy, in fact I really love it, but this was just miserable and lacking in any hope or joy.

I also read Jimmy Coates: Sabotage, the fourth book in the Jimmy Coates series by Joe Craig (I reviewed the first three here). This was my favourite in the series so far and I read it in a day needing to know how all the twists and mysteries were going to be sorted - of course being the middle of a series means a lot of them weren't and I've started the fifth book, Survival which is set to continue the pattern of each book being better than the last.

I also started May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes this week, the next book on the Women's Prize shortlist. I have owned this book ever since it came out but it's shortlisting has kicked it up to the top of the pile. I find Homes' writing very engaging and readable as well as thought provoking. It's blackly humorous and manages to fuse clever writing with a proper story and characters we care about.

I was very pleased to be approved for two books on NetGalley: Alex Woods Versus the Universe by Gavin Extence (which I put on my wishlist last week) and Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson.

We also had our #tweetckg discussion about In Darkness by Nick Lake and you can see the Storify of the discussion here. I also added too many books to mention to my wishlist but including Frances & Berard by Carlene Baeur.

25 April 2013

Teen Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Thank you so much to Erin, who is in Year 9, who wrote this wonderful review of Carnegie shortlisted Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I think you'll be able to tell by Erin's review, that she's pretty awesome: 

There are countless reasons why I loved Code Name Verity and the first was that it was based on the friendship between two girls in World War 2. I loved that the book was about their unlikely friendship because to quote from the book, “It's like falling in love, finding your best friend”.  The first part of the narrative is told by ‘Verity’ in the confession that she writes for the Gestapo in order to avoid another interrogation after being caught as a spy in France. Although in the confession she is meant to be telling the Gestapo everything she knows about British Intelligence operations, she ends up telling the story of how she met her best friend Maddie, who is a pilot, and their lives throughout the war.

Throughout the first part of the novel, ‘Verity’ tells us that she is a coward and that she wishes she could have been brave like the other prisoners who refuse to tell the Gestapo anything. However, the mere thought of another brutal interrogation by Captain makes her carry on writing with renewed energy.  As the protagonist I was expecting her to be strong and to withstand anything that happened to her and yet despite the fact that the she agrees to betray her country, I still found her brave and I was afraid for her.  What I loved about her report was that although she was writing in the first person, she writes about her best friend Maddie, and only refers to herself from Maddie’s point of view, which makes us closer to Maddie as well.

I grew attached to the characters and there were so many characters that at a first glance appeared to be evil but over the course of the book I was reminded that not everyone is who they appear to be. I loved how Code Name Verity was written because it showed you how people can have so many good qualities but can have flaws as well. I loved that the two heroines, ‘Verity’ and Maddie, were people you could root for whilst reading the story because it made the book seem more real and also it made me want to know what happened to these characters. As with any book we search for characters that are somehow similar to ourselves, and I felt like I found that I could relate to these characters despite never having been in any situation that they went through.

Code Name Verity is one of those rare and magical books that will stay with you even after you finish it and for days after reading it I would remember parts of it and want to cry. And that is how I know that this book is truly incredible. Code Name Verity is a book that I want everyone to read because if they read it I’m sure they would love reading as much as I do.

A brief thought about book snobbery...

There's been lots of talk about book snobbery recently after Matt Haig's excellent Booktrust blog (here). Matt writes a lot more eloquently than I could ever hope to and many people who are perhaps lacking in eloquence have already contributed to the discussion but...

I enjoy literary fiction very much and I also love YA (not that these two are necessarily mutually exclusive) - I like meandering, wordy books and I like fast paced, plot heavy books but the books that I truly adore, those that I fall in love with and have fundamentally affected me are those that fuse the two. I want soaring, beautiful, intelligent language but I also want characters that move me and that I care about and a story that takes me somewhere I've never been before.

Sometimes these books are literary fiction (The Unconsoled, Life After Life), sometimes these books are for children or teenagers (Maggot Moon, The Phantom Tollbooth) and sometimes they are mainstream, bestseller books (The Eyre Affair, The Time Traveler's Wife) and I really don't mind which genre or bracket anyone wants to put them in so long as they fill me with wonder.

All of us who love books and stories and words should rally together and encourage everyone to realise why we love them so much - whether that be through a unoriginal erotic book, a children's book, a graphic novel or a wordy challenging novel. The book that turns you into a reader is different for everyone, but I really want everyone to find theirs.

22 April 2013

Review: The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber

'This poetry you have before your eyes: the greatest code that man has yet devised.'

"On May 30th, 1593, a celebrated young playwright was killed in a tavern brawl in London. Or so the official version goes. Now Christopher Marlowe tells us the truth: that his 'death' was an elaborate ruse to avoid his prosecution for heresy; that he lived on in lonely exile, pining for his true love from across the Channel; and that he continued to write plays and poetry, hiding behind the name of a colourless merchant from Stratford - one William Shakespeare."

I hadn't heard of this book before the Women's Prize longlist was announced but it was one that instantly appealed. I had the enjoyable experience of reading it without knowing much about it and whilst I had to really invest time and concentration on it, and it took me a while to read, I was thoroughly impressed and entranced by it. It is both witty and melancholy, gritty yet lovely. It's wonderful to read something so unique.

First Line: "What can a dead man say that you will hear?"

Why I read it: It was on the Women's Prize longlist, and I am so disappointed it didn't make the shortlist.

Who I would recommend it to: Fans of fiction that requires some concentration and investment, but that is worth the effort. If you enjoy Hilary Mantel and Kazuo Ishiguro. (Also fans of beautiful hardbacks.)

16 April 2013

Women's Prize for Fiction Shortlist 2013

The shortlist for the Women's Prize was announced this morning:

- Kate Atkinson: Life After Life
- A. M. Homes: May We Be Forgiven
- Barbara Kingsolver: Flight Behaviour
- Hilary Mantel: Bring Up the Bodies
- Maria Semple: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
- Zadie Smith: NW

It seems like a very strong, if high-profile, list. I have read Life After Life, Bring Up the Bodies and Where'd You Go, Bernadette and I loved all three. I think Mantel will have her strongest competition to date in Atkinson's Life After Life which I thought was, quite frankly, perfect. I absolutely loved it and I think I would choose it over Bring Up the Bodies. Whilst I can't say I liked it more that the other two, I thought Semple's novel was moving and quirky and I enjoyed it an awful lot. Those three books are three of the best I've read this year. I was very sad not to see The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber make the shortlist as I thought that was an exemplary novel and staggeringly well written and it's a real shame it won't get a bigger audience through being shortlisted.

The other three on the shortlist I already own but haven't got around to reading yet. May We Be Forgiven has been on my to-read list ever since it came out and I think is going to be the one I try first. I was very impressed by Kingsolver's The Lacuna, although I felt it lacked an emotional connection, and I loved White Teeth, although I read it when I was a teenager, so I'm hoping to really enjoy all of the shortlist.

It is, however, a very well established shortlist - Atkinson, Kingsolver, Mantel and Smith are very well known authors and have all won major awards before. Homes is well established amongst literary crowds and Semple is an established screenwriter, having written for Arrested Development. All of the novels had a lot of buzz around them when they were published unlike many of the rest of the longlist. However, books don't deserve to be shortlisted for major awards just because they are not very well known and the strength of the three novels I've already read makes me believe that it's a, perhaps unfortunate, coincidence that the most established authors have made the shortlist. And of course one could argue they are more established because they write the best books! Bring Up the Bodies and Life After Life are certainly two of my all time favourite novels!

I personally feel there's too much literary snobbery going on generally and I'm a huge believer that something can be both popular and literary. My favourite book is The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger which was a huge mainstream success and I really resent being made to feel as though this is a bad choice just because it is popular! I hated the snobbery around the Man Booker last year being too readable - we're on dangerous ground when a book being readable is a criticism. Books are there to be loved.

So, I'm excited to read the rest of the shortlist and to see who wins on 5th June. So far, my vote is for Life After Life.

15 April 2013

Review: In Darkness by Nick Lake

'An evil idea makes bad men of everyone who believes in it.'

"In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, a boy is trapped beneath the rubble of a ruined hospital, thirsty, terrified and alone. Shorty is a child of the slums, a teenage boy who has seen enough violence to last a lifetime, and who has been inexorably drawn into the world of the gangsters who rule Site Soley; men who dole out money with one hand and death with the other. But Shorty has a secret; a flame of revenge that blazes inside him and a burning wish to find the twin sister he lost seven years ago..."

First Line: "I am the voice in the dark, calling out for your help."

In Darkness is a violent but careful novel set in Haiti that alternates chapters between 'now' - the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and 'then' - the late 18th century slave rebellion led by Toussaint l'Ouverture. Both perspectives are dark, intelligent and engaging. It's not a book that you enjoy as it is upsetting and too grounded in atrocities that really happened but it is moving, complex and impressive - I would highly recommend it. (It has a beautiful hardback cover as well).

Why I read it: I read it whilst it was on the Carnegie longlist - it has since been announced as making the shortlist (as I hoped and thought it would).

Who I would recommend it: If you want to be challenged and moved by a story. This is not for the faint-hearted but it is for those who like to be provoked and made to think by what they read.

14 April 2013

My Week in Books

This week I posted reviews of The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan and A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle. I also had the first of a new series of guest reviews from some of my teen students with Geek Girl by Holly Smale up first.

I also have finished, read or started four novels. I finished the magnificent The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber which has taken me a couple of weeks to finish as it's a novel to really invest time and concentration in. I found I much preferred reading it in long chunks than in ten minute quiet moments so I saved it for a couple of really long reading sessions so I could really get involved in the staggeringly beautiful writing - it had me giggling in pleasure at times at how well Barber puts words together. I really hope it makes it onto the Women's Prize shortlist on Tuesday.

I also read Patrick Ness' new adult novel, The Crane Wife which more than lived up to expectations. I'm a big fan of Patrick's young adult novels and whilst this is very different is still has Patrick's wonderful, uplifting way with words. Whimsical and melancholy , it's inspired by a Japanese folk tale and captures people in all their confusion, perfectly.

I just finished this morning The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion - a book I've been looking forward to for a while. I read it very quickly - it is very enga
ging and likeable and I really enjoyed reading something lighter and fun - although it's certainly no worse off for that and has plenty of more contemplative moments. It reminded me of
Q by Evan Mandery and Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore - celebrations of love and life and people.

I also started The Forrests by Emily Perkins, which is currently on the Women's Prize longlist. I'm about a quarter of the way through and I'm still making my mind up - I started it before The Rosie Project and got sidetracked by that but I'm giving it my full attention now.

I also added three books to my wishlist: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence and Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight.

Our Carnegie Twitter shadowing group is also carrying on and gathering momentum - I've thoroughly enjoyed doing this. Twitter has been absolutely wonderful in keeping me connected with home and with wonderful book people whilst I'm in Thailand and #tweetckg is a particularly fun part of this, so thank you to everyone who gets involved! You can follow or join in with the shadowing by looking out for the #tweetckg hashtag during our discussions on Wednesdays. Have a look at the schedule here: http://acaseforbooks.blogspot.com/2013/03/ckg-twitter-shadowing-schedule.html This coming week we're discussing In Darkness by Nick Lake, a review of which I'm working on at the moment and am hoping to have up before Wednesday. You can also look at the collated discussions on Storify, here's a link to this week's excellent discussion of Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner: http://storify.com/acaseforbooks/tweetckg-maggot-moon-by-sally-gardner

In other news, Matt Haig debuted the trailer for his new book, The Humans and I'm in it! You can watch it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX8V2OFHHbQ&feature=youtu.be

Teen Review: Geek Girl by Holly Smale

I have some wonderful students and some of them have very kindly agreed to write me some reviews of
books they've read recently. I thought it would be interesting to feature some reviews from the actual intended audience of some of the young adult books that I read and review. First up is the charming and funny Geek Girl by Holly Smale, which I reviewed here.

From here on, the words are all by Frances who is in Year 8:

Geek Girl is a brilliant book that shows dreams do come true; even if the dream isn't yours. Harriet is a self-confessed geek. She knows it, and so does everyone at her school - it's a shame that no one else, except possibly her stalker Toby, appreciates facts like, "Bluebirds can't see the colour blue."

When her best friend Nat invites her to the Clothes Show, one disastrous thing leads to another and Harriet ends up being scouted by a top modelling agency. They is when you start to feel sympathy for both characters because it's Nat's dream to be a model and Harriet's pursuing it - Harriet has stolen her best friend's dream by accident.

If you life was terrible and you got the opportunity to change it, would you? Harriet would. Harriet and her risk-taking Dad are whisked off to Moscow (by the nickname-giving Wilbur), and there it begins - Harriet's "New Life". However, when she gets back to England she is greeted by her bully Alexa threatening her, Annabel, her step-mum seems to have left, and Nat apparently hates her guts. Everything seems to be ruined, but Harriet luckily uses her intelligence to make some sense of it all.

I really loved reading Geek Girl as it was something I could really get into and Holly Smale's writing makes you really feel for the characters in every situation. Harriet was a really well written character (like all of them) and she was a heroine that I could root for and that was just one of the things that made it such a good book! Geek Girl was easy to read but still had a good, interesting story to it and it is one of my favourite books!

13 April 2013

Review: A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle

'She'd tried to even the score, by saying Yes so often that the No would fade to nothing.'

"12-year-old Mary's beloved grandmother is near the end of her life. Letting go is hard - until Granny's long-dead mammy appears. Her ghost has returned to help her dying daughter say goodbye to the ones she loves. But first she needs to take them all on a road trip to the past."

If I had read A Greyhound of a Girl in a vacuum (not that reading a book in a vacuum is ever possible), not comparing it to the other books on the current Carnegie shortlist, I think this would be a more glowing review. However, whilst I really enjoyed it and was very moved by it, it didn't quite meet the heady heights set by the others on the shortlist. Undeniably capably written, but I felt it didn't really do anything new or exciting so whilst I would definitely recommend this but I don't think it's unique enough to compare to the rest of the Carnegie shortlist.

First Line: 'She hated the hospital.'

Why I read it: It's currently on the Carnegie shortlist.

Who I would recommend it to: If you were moved by the themes of A Monster Calls and enjoy stories of mothers and daughters.

9 April 2013

Review: The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

'I must remember how to be ordinary now that I'd seen the wonders inside me.'

"Rollrock is a lonely island of cliffs and storms, blunt fishermen and their fierce wives. Life is hard for the families who must wring a poor living from the stormy seas. But Rollrock is also a place of magic - the scary, salty-real sort of magic that changes lives forever. Down on the windswept beach, where the seals lies in their herd, the outcast sea witch Misskaella casts her spells, and brings forth girls from the sea - girls with long, pale limbs and faces of haunting loveliness. But magic always has its price. A fisherman may have and hold a sea bride, and tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into her lovely eyes, he will be just as transformed as she is. He will be equally ensnared. And in the end the witch will always have her payment."

First Line: "The old witch is there,' said Raditch, peering over the top to Six-Mile Beach."

This is a careful and thoughtful story of myth, magic, family and loneliness. It is not fast paced and full of action, although there are some dramatic moments wonderfully full of tension. It is haunting and it really got under my skin whilst I was reading it. The only thing lacking for me personally was a main character I could invest it - whilst I enjoyed the way that none of our characters are clear cut heroes or villains, it did mean that there isn't anyone in particular to root for. I liked the non traditional structure and that it was different and intelligent. I would highly recommend this to adults and to teen readers who enjoy beautiful language and ideas as much as exciting plot.

Why I read it: It was on the Carnegie longlist this year. Whilst it didn't make the official shortlist, out of the longlist titles I read it have made my personal shortlist (link to Carnegie predictions post). 

Who I would recommend it to: If you enjoyed The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvator or The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff.

27 March 2013

Review: The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

'As though a word could change the truth.'

"Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At homer her mother's heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat." 

First Line: "The wheels on the suitcase break
                 Before we've even left Gdansk Glowny."

This is a wonderful book that I read in one sitting. It deals beautifully with both big, difficult ideas such as immigation and identity but also celebrates the small wonders of growing up. Despite the novel being written in verse, and therefore being sparse on long descriptions and dialogue, Crossan gives us a cast of characters that are real and sympathetic especially in our lovely heroine, Kasienka. It also has a beautiful cover designed by Oliver Jeffers.

Why I read it: It was on the Carnegie longlist, and has since been announced as making the shortlist (which I predicted, and hoped, that it would).

Who I would recommend it to: If you enjoyed The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce or The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett.

24 March 2013

Favourite Books of 2012

I have historically done Top 10 lists for my favourite books of the year, ranking them in order for young adult and adult fiction. For book awards I've been shadowing I've also often done a ranking post of the shortlists. However, I am hereby officially abandoning ranking lists from my blog because they ignore the wonderful undefinable aspect of good books. Do you rank by sheer enjoyment? Or by literary worth? Or by how much it spoke to you? If it will get good reviews? If it will win the award it is shortlisted for? Do you put a book that was challenging and impressive above something that was fun and engaging?

I had started writing a Top 10 for 2012 but got stuck because I read so many wonderful books and so abandoned it but I'm now sad I didn't share what I loved (and goodness knows, the Internet needs more lists) so here is my favourite books of last year.

(Some of these books I didn't get round to writing a full review of, mainly those I read in the second half of the year whilst I was also beginning my MSc dissertation. If I have done a full review, clicking the title of the book will take you there. Reading some of them back, some books I have clearly grown more fond of in hindsight.)

20 March 2013

Why I Love to Read

I often try to explain why I love to read and struggle to find the words. As a librarian trying to stimulate a love of reading, stories and words in young people, it is a conversation that I have regularly but any victory I have in creating readers relies far more on my ability to match a student to a story that will open their eyes than my own capacity to explain this moment of realisation. My work relies on other people’s words to inspire far more than my own and it is other people’s words that have made me a reader.

In my library I often quote George R. R. Martin; “A reader lives a thousand lives before  he dies, a man who does not read lives only one.” Some students light up at hearing a familiar sentiment articulated but some remain unconvinced. At times I feel faintly ridiculous telling sceptical teenagers that I have travelled to extraordinary places and met remarkable people through books, but it is true. Without stories I would never have watched Chroma the Great conduct the sunrise with Milo and Tock. I would never have laughed and cried with Augustus and Hazel or wondered at the beauty of the night sky with Mina.

Reading has shaped me and I sometimes wonder about how different I would be if I hadn’t had these experiences. Would I have a simpler relationship with faith if I hadn’t prayed ceaselessly with Franny Glass?  Would I still be a librarian if I hadn’t fallen for Henry DeTamble? I definitely wouldn’t get a little thrill of excitement when I see a tree disappearing into the sky if I hadn’t been exploring with Jo, Bessie and Fanny when I was a child, and I don’t suppose I would think of my friends as kindred spirits if I hadn’t met Anne Shirley. When  I visited Iceland and didn’t see the Northern Lights I was consoled by having seen them with Lyra and Pantalaimon.

I love the feeling when you pick up a book and open it for the first time – that feeling of limitless possibility. That this book might change your life, this author might express things you think and feel but in words that float and soar. Every book you start could be the best book you’ve ever read. Of course if you read a lot, you will read the average, disappointing or mundane but you will also discover the illumianting, the sublime and the magnificent. Every so often when you read, you will find a book that speaks to you so profoundly that it will make you  giddy with wonder. It will reveal and provoke, wound and heal, comfort and astound. We should seek these books out, soak them up, marvel in them and then share them with as many people as we can. 

17 March 2013

Review: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (Shades of London 2)

'There's no point in anything happening if you can't talk about it.'

"When madness stalks the streets of London, no one is safe... There's a creepy new terror haunting modern-day London. Fresh from defeating a Jack the Ripper killer, Rory must put her new-found hunting skills to the test before all hell breaks loose... But enemies are not always who you expect them to be and crazy times call for crazy solutions."

First Line: "Charlie Strong liked his customers - you don't run a pub for twenty-one years if you don't like your customers - but there was something about the quiet in the morning that pleased him to no end."

This is the second book in a series and I haven't read the first, and this turned out to be a bit of a problem. I enjoyed reading this in a vague way and found Rory a largely appealing heroine but it felt like a middle book - there were lots of references to the first book and lots of set up for the next and not enough of it's own plot arc. There were too many frustrations that pulled me out of the story. Having said that, Johnson's writing zips along, the series has a great concept and it did make me want to read the first one, The Name of the Star.

Why I read this: I have lots of fans of Maureen Johnson at school although I haven't read anything by her myself so when this popped up on NetGalley I requested it.

Who I would recommend it to: To be people who have read the first book and are already invested in it or fans of easy to read thrillers.

*There are spoilers of the first book in the review.*

15 March 2013

Review: Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

'The what ifs are as boundless as the stars.'

"What if the football hadn't gone over the wall. On the other side of the wall there is a dark secret. And the devil. And the Moon Man. And the Motherland doesn't want anyone to know. But Standish Treadwell - who has different coloured eyes, who can't read, can't write, Standish Treadwell isn't bright - sees things differently than the rest of the train-track thinkers. So when Standish and hs only friend and neighbour, Hector, make their way to the other side of the wall, they see what the Motherland has been hiding. And it's big..."

First Line: "I'm wondering what if."

Maggot Moon is a staggeringly beautiful, hugely unique story. The story moved me and Sally Gardner's writing just filled me with wonder. It is simple and yet challenging, abrupt and yet soaring, beautiful and also incredibly cruel. It will make you angry at the atrocities humans are capable of whilst marvelling at what one person can achieve - be it our hero Standish in the story or Sally Gardner through her beautiful writing.

Why I read it: It was the first book I read from the Carnegie longlist as I had heard such good things about it.

Who I would recommend it to: I rarely say this, but anyone. I struggle to think of anyone who wouldn't find some merit in it. Men, women, boys, girls, teenagers, adults (maybe a little dark for younger readers), confident readers, slow readers.

13 March 2013

Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist 2013

It's an exciting week for book awards with the UKLA and Carnegie shortlists being announced yesterday and the Women's Prize for Fiction today. The Women's Prize is what used to be known as the Orange Prize until this year before they withdrew their funding. This year the prize is being funded by private donations before a new headline sponsor for the 2014 prize. This prize isn't one where I 'shadow' it and read the whole shortlist but I'm always interested to see what is on the longlist and shortlist and always end up reading a least  a handful of the books. As with other book prizes, it is a great way to discover new books you haven't heard of. This year the longlist is very exciting indeed:

- A Trick I Learned from Dead Men by Kitty Aldridge
- Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
- Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
- Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- Honour by Elif Shafak
- How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
- Ignorance by Michele Roberts
- Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
- Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany
- May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes
- NW by Zadie Smith
- The Forrests by Emily Perkins
- The Innocents by Francesca Segal
- The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
- The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber
- The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu
- The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan
- Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

CKG Twitter Shadowing Schedule

To give us all a little structure and so people don't have to rely on being on Twitter at the right point to see what we're reading next I thought I'd do a very simple schedule. I've given us a week or two to get hold of books and start reading so we can keep up once we get going, I've also slotted in two weeks for Kate Greenaway discussion for those of us who are shadowing that as well. For Carnegie I've just gone alphabetical by author to try and resist the urge to give my favourites the star slots, if there are such things.

I thought for the last two weeks we could separate out our personal favourites and who we think will win because often these are two very different books and I think it's great to have the opportunity to discuss the ones we really loved without reference to winning or judging criteria and just celebrate discovering such awesome stuff before getting into the nitty gritty of what we think is going to actually win.

So TweetCKG will be happening roughly on Wednesdays but hopefully chat can continue ad infinitum or as people are online etc. I'll probably post an introductory tweet on Wednesdays with some of my thoughts and some of the talking points from the shadowing website. Remember to use the #tweetckg hashtag, whoever you are replying to, so I can keep track of discussions as I'm planning on using Storify to chart each week's chat.

12 March 2013

Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Shortlists

The shortlists for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway shortlists have just been announced! The shortlist for the Carnegie award is:

- The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
- A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
- Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
- In Darkness by Nick Lake
- Wonder by R. J. Palacio
- Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
- A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton
- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Whilst my personal preference would have David Almond there my Top 6 predictions are all there which makes me a pretty happy librarian and I can't help but feel a little proud my predictions were right :) The two I haven't read are A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle and A Boy and a Bear and a Boat by Dave Shelton. Boy Bear Boat really appealed to me but unfortunately I couldn't get an ecopy to read whilst I'm in Asia and am going to have to get one of my friends who is visiting in a few weeks to bring a copy out for me. I've heard very mixed things about Greyhound so will be interested to read it.

10 March 2013

Carnegie Shortlist Predictions

The Carnegie longlist was announced in November with nearly 70 books on it - a rather daunting task. I've read 15 (and a bit) of that longlist, not an especially impressive count, but I managed to read most of the books that either appealed to me or were being talked about a lot. The only one I really wanted to read but couldn't got hold of an e-copy whilst I'm travelling was The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne. I have a print copy at home and wish I'd got round to reading it before I left. So I have a flavour of the longlist and the below opinions are just based on that - I may well have missed some gems. All credit to school librarian Caroline Fielding who managed to read the entire longlist! You can read her thoughts on it and her personal shortlist here: http://cazapr1.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-personal-ckg2013-short-list.html.

The Carnegie shortlist has between 6 or 8 books on it. If I have to pick six my personal shortlist would be: (Any links in this post will take you to full reviews.)

- The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond
- The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
- Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
- Wonder by R. J. Palacio
- Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

7 March 2013

Review: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

"Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things - eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside. But ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren't stared at wherever they do. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?"

First Line: "I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid."

Wonder is an inspiring, funny and altogether lovely story about people. It's about adults and children, teachers and students, brothers and sisters, boys and girls and friends and bullies. It is written very accessibly (although with a lot of Americanisms) and simply but intelligently and compassionately and won't fail to move you with it's realism about the difficulties of human relationships but also ultimately people's capacity for kindness.

Why I read it: It was already on my to-read list but then I chose it to read aloud with a Year 7 English class I help with once a week.

Who I would recommend it to: Fans of John Green's style of writing and you're looking for an inspiring story full of heart.

18 February 2013

Review: Jimmy Coates 1 - 3 by Joe Craig

"An eleven-year-old boy discovers he has strange powers, and a future that holds mystery, adventure - and death! Who are the mysterious men chasing Jimmy across the city? Why are they after him? What are Jimmy's parents keeping from him and who can he trust? And how come he can suddenly do all this really cool stuff." 

First Line: "Jimmy knew what was coming, but he was too late to dodge out of the way."

The Jimmy Coates series is a riveting, action packed series that gets better and better with each book. Not my normal pick of genre, it took me a few chapters to get into Killer but once I got going I couldn't put it down. Whilst I don't have any complaints about Jimmy himself, why I really enjoy this series is the brilliant selection of secondary characters who add the elements that make this series more than just chases and gadgets. Add in enough humour to not make it too dark and something under the surface to make you think and you have a series that more than capably stands up to the natural comparisons with Anthony Horowitz and Robert Muchamore.

Why I read them: Joe did a brilliant visit to my school in October and I read Killer just before his visit, and then the next two this month. Joe has just excitingly announced that the seventh, penultimate, book in the Jimmy Coates series will be published on June 6th. So I'm posting my review of the first three now and the next three nearer to the release of Jimmy Coates: Blackout.

Who I would recommend them to: If you like fast paced action and clever gadgetry on the surface but want it with appealing characters that grow across a series and something to think about as well.

12 February 2013

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

"It's 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan to get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in a police investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Should she avoid Jesse, the mysterious motorcycle boy? Can she trust Patrick, her best friend at the bookstore? Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in a quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test."

I really enjoyed this fast paced, unique story with an older, gutsy heroine and a surprisingly moving ending. I preferred this to Between Shades of Grey, I felt it was a more unusual story and setting and had wonderful, individual characters as well as an excellent, tense mystery with some really dramatic scenes but that doesn't overshadow the character development. I read this over a day because I was desperate to find out what happens and I felt that Sepetys' writing was more lyrical and moving that her debut. Also, bonus points for having Josie, our heroine, working in a bookshop.

First Line: "My mother's a prostitute."

Why I read it: I read Sepetys' debut, Between Shades of Grey, when it was shortlisted for the Carnegie award last year and found it very moving so was excited to get an ARC via NetGalley/Penguin for her new novel.

Who I would recommend it to: Fans of Theresa Breslin and character-driven historical fiction.

7 February 2013

Review: Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell

"It's July 1976. In London, it hasn't rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he's going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn't come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta's children - two estranged sister and a brother on the brink of divorce - back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspect that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share."

I'm a big fan of Maggie O'Farrell, I would rank After You'd Gone as one of my all time favourites. So I was thrilled to hear a new book announced for March 2013 and nearly died of excitement when I was offered a proof copy on Twitter. Heatwave more than lived up to expectations and is up there with my favourite Maggie O'Farrells. The writing is just beautiful and the characters heartbreaking. Whilst there are plot twists and turns, it relies less on a big reveal than some of her previous stories and more on the intricate exploration of a broken, messy family.

First Line: "The heat, the heat."

Why I read it: I was beyond excited to get a proof copy of Maggie O'Farrell's new book from the wonderful Georgina at Headline Books.

Who I would recommend it to: First and foremost fans of her previous books, I would say this is most similar to The Hand That First Held Mine. If you like lyrical, melancholy books with broken but disconcertingly relatable characters. Fans of Kazuo Ishiguro.

27 January 2013

Review: Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

"Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret - a dark and terrible secret that she can't confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is not stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder. Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can - in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal."

I was hugely impressed by Ketchup Clouds - I was nervous because I had such high expectations due to the huge success of My Sister but thankfully this more than matched them. Annabel's real talent lies in creating such wonderful, believable characters and I felt for Zoe so very much that I got really emotionally invested in her story. The gradual reveal of Zoe's secret builds to a very tense climax with an emotional denouement that left me a bit teary. I would be very surprised not to see this on as many awards shortlists as My Sister.

First Line: "Dear Mr. S. Harris, ignore the blob of red in the top left corner."

Why I read it: I loved Annabel's debut novel, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, so I was super excited  to read her new book.

Who I would recommend it to: Fans of My Sister (although the content is darker in Ketchup Clouds), and readers looking for a beautifully compelling exploration of relationships and guilt.

18 January 2013

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living - one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers' arms to take their turn in the killing and  dying. Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon's secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel - a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness. This was not that world.

I really liked (but didn't love) Daughter of Smoke and Bone, when I read it last year but I was hooked enough to be invested in the series and the end of the first leaves plenty of questions unanswered. Karou continues to be a superb heroine full of independence and determination. Whilst the love story is crucial to the book, it takes more of a back burner here whilst Taylor focuses on more superb world building and a dark and moving tale of war and conflict. The full review is full of spoilers if you haven't read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, be warned!

First Line: "Prague, early May. The Sky weighed gray over fairy-tale rooftops, and all the world was

Why I read it: I read the first book in the series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone which made it to number 8 on my Top 10 YA of 2012 and definitely was invested enough to want to know what happened next.

Who I would recommend it to: Well, for one, people who read the first one. This is not a sequel you can pick up without having read Daughter of Smoke and  Bone. I read the first one about six months ago and had to check a fair few things from the end of the last one before this clicked into place. But more generally; fans of high quality paranormal romance and fantasy who appreciate poetic description and excellent world building.

12 January 2013

Review: Geek Girl by Holly Smale

"Harriet Manners knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. She knows that bats always turn left when exiting a cave and that peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite. But she doesn't know why nobody at school seems to like her. So when Harriet is spotted by a top model agent, she grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her best friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of impossibly handsome model Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. Veering from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, Harriet begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did." 

A fast-paced and funny story with an engaging and likeable heroine. There is a lot out there that comes under the broad teen girly, funny bracket but unfortunately a lot of it is vapid, badly written and not even remotely funny so it is refreshing to have something that is largely light hearted but that is well put together and has a message at it's backbone that is actually worthwhile for teen readers to hear. Also, it's just really good fun.

First Line: "My name is Harriet Manners and I am a geek."

Why I read it: I met the lovely Holly on Twitter and after a few chats about her visiting my school, and a meet up in London, I was very excited to get a NetGalley copy of Geek Girl to read before it comes out in February.

Who I would recommend it to: Girls who like Louise Rennison and the like but want their fun, and their heroines, with a bit more depth.