Top 10 – Romance

This is the time of year where sometimes all you need is a sofa, a blanket, a hot chocolate and a book that provides pure escapism. These are the top 10 romance novels that went out from Leeds libraries in December.

Can I tempt you with a little love?

Tempting of Thomas CarrickThe Tempting of Thomas Carrick by Stephanie Laurens

Thomas Carrick is determined to make his own life in the bustling port city of Glasgow, far from the demands of the Carrick clan, eventually with an appropriate wife on his arm. But disturbing events on his family’s estate force Thomas to return to the Scottish countryside – where he is forced to ask for help from the last woman he wants to face. Thomas has never forgotten Lucilla Cynster and the connection that seethes between them, but to marry Lucilla would mean embracing a life he’s adamant is not for him.

Mastered by LoveMastered by Love by Stephanie Laurens

As the mysterious leader of the Bastion Club, Royce Varisey, 10th Duke of Wolverstone, served his country for decades, facing untold dangers. But as the holder of one of England’s most august noble titles, he must now take on that gravest duty of all: marriage.

second chance summerSecond Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis

When it comes to search and rescue, Aiden Kincaid is one of the best in the Rockies. And never has he seen anyone who needs rescuing more than Lily. She just doesn’t know it yet … Lily left their small Colorado hometown right after her sister’s fatal accident. She couldn’t face the guilt, couldn’t face the mountain, couldn’t face the heartbreak of falling hard for the only guy her sister ever loved: Aiden Kincaid. But now she is back home, and Aidan is as hot as ever. How does she deal with that? By playing it cool and casual, of course. So cool and casual, in fact, that she doesn’t realise she’s fallen hard for his sexy charm until it’s too late.

Let Love find youLet Love Find You by Johanna Lindsey

Beautiful, titled and charming, Lady Amanda Locke doesn’t understand why love eludes her. So Amanda’s family hire Devin Baldwin to help find her a match. Soon she is being courted by the dashing Viscount Altone, but in his efforts to help find her a husband, Devin himself becomes the object of Amanda’s affections.

This matter of marriage

This Matter of Marriage by Debbie Macomber

A woman and her handsome neighbour come together to share their experiences as single people. He helps her to develop a one-year plan to find Mr. Right, but their scheming is tempered by the romantic connection that slowly builds between them.

Claimed by the LairdClaimed by the Laird by Nicola Cornick

An old maid – that’s all Lady Christina McMorlan, daughter to the Duke of Forres, is to society now that she’s past thirty. She hosts her father’s parties and cares for her siblings, knowing she’ll never have her own home and family. She has no time to pine, however. By night, she’s The Lady, head of a notorious whiskey-smuggling gang that supports her impoverished clan. They’re always one step ahead of the revenue man – until Lucas Black shows up. Rejecting his title and the proper society that disparaged his mother, Lucas earns his living running a successful gambling house. He’s also a spy, charged with bringing down the Forres Gang. He thinks The Lady’s just a bored society spinster. She thinks he’s a lost child playing at rebellion. And when the truth comes out, it’s not just their love on the line.

Cowboy Xmas TreeA Cowboy Under my Christmas Tree by Janet Dailey

Sam Bennett left a snowbound Colorado ranch for the glittering steel canyons of Manhattan – temporarily. Hard work was never this much fun as he sets up Christmas trees all around town. And now that he’s met Nicole Young, a gorgeous window designer, four weeks won’t be enough to romance her the way he wants to.

when i met youWhen I Met You by Jemma Forte

‘When I Met You’ tells the heartwarming story of Marianne, whose father is suddenly back in her life – but with the news that he’s dying, and with a rather gorgeous male nurse in tow.

in the shadow of winterIn the Shadow of Winter by Lorna Gray

The Cotswolds, 1947. The relentless winter holds post-war Britain in its deadly grip, and Eleanor Phillips rides out from her beleaguered Cotswold farm to rescue a stranger lost in the storm. But the near-dead man is no stranger and when she recognises Matthew Croft, the old ties of a failed romance tug deeply. Her sweetheart has returned from the war. Suspicion, the police and the panicked flight of a desperate man beat a path to her door. And with a wanted man hidden in her home and stealing back into her heart, Eleanor must be on her guard – for the net is closing in on them both and enemies are all around.

slightly sinfulSlightly Sinful by Mary Balogh

Injured on the battlefield, Lord Alleyne Bedwyn awakens in a ladies’ brothel, with no memory of who he is, in the care of the lovely Rachel York, who decides to use the dashing soldier she rescued to try to reclaim her stolen fortune.

 

Librarian Top 10 – Sapphia’s Best Illustrated Books

The librarian top 10 this time comes from Sapphia, an assistant community librarian based at Moor Allerton Library.

My favourite illustrated books.

I am, due to my art school background, unfortunately an illustration snob when it comes to children’s books, and that goes for bad typography too! Fortunately the world of children’s books has an abundance of illustrators that can help depict all the wondrous adventures that some of our favourite authors compose. There will be hundreds, in a world full of graphic design, an illustrator doesn’t often get the credit they are due.

I can promise you that if you think of your favourite book as a child, more often than not it will be an illustration of your favourite character or the book cover that will be what you remember first.

Here is a selection of books and illustrators that I believe show a great quality of illustration that I love.

Dear DiaryDear Diary by Sara Fanelli

Sara Fanelli is an illustrator that uses lots of beautiful handwritten typography that works as part of the whole illustration on each page. Sara creates marvellous creatures using a variety of sources included, patterned and textured papers, pens and paint, collaging them all together to create something completely new and magical. It is so easy to get lost in all of Sara’s childlike creativity and stories. Dear diary is set as the journal of various different characters including Lucy, the Ladybird and Spider and what happens on the day Lucy takes something to ‘show and tell’ at school upsetting Bubu the dog because surely Lucy should of taken him as the ‘show and tell?’. All manner of wonderful things happen! Don’t miss out.

hungry caterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

I think everyone will remember this book from their childhood. A greedy red and green caterpillar eating his way out of a variety of delicious looking food, with different sized pages and the hole punched bite marks he leaves behind. By turning each page and helping the caterpillar eat each piece of food like apples, plums and chocolate cake. It makes you the reader, really feel as though you help this delightful caterpillar transform into the beautiful butterfly he becomes. Carle creates all his illustrations by painting textures onto tissue papers and then collaging them to form shapes, this is how he is able to create colours with such depth but still have his simplistic shape.

MatildaMatilda by Roald Dahl – Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Part of the reason we all loved Roald Dahl books so much was because of the super little illustrations that you would find as chapter headings and story depictions to further your imagination. Blake uses simplistic ink brush strokes to create characters that are full of movement and life, with splashes of watercolour to emphasise the personality of each character that once again have a childlike quality. You will however often notice that a lot of his illustration still shows great detail, with a busy background to set the scene of the story you are reading. I chose Matilda as my Quentin Blake example as I don’t think any librarian should not acknowledge the story of a little girl so in love with reading. Matilda overcomes a neglectful family and a wicked head mistress, using her love of books, intellect, secret super power and a retaliation of pranks to create the happy ending she had always read about in the stories she loved.

the day the crayons quitThe Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt – Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

The idea that your colouring crayons could outright refuse to be used seems like an absurd idea! This book utilises your child’s imagination to the extreme, getting them to ask themselves what would happen if something so odd happened in real life. Oliver Jeffers illustrates this story as if the crayons are children themselves and drawing away all their dormant emotions. Again focusing on typography, it is amazing how each coloured crayon show’s their different personality by the way they each have their own handwriting style and talk about why they are refusing to draw. All the pictures drawn by the crayon, (in real life too) possess the naivety of a child, which reminds you of how you used to draw. Or how, in fact your child does now. They will love it. As purple crayon says too, it’s worth remembering to try and colour inside the lines!

Smelly LouieSmelly Louie by Catherine Rayner

Shortlisted for the Kate Greenway Medal 2015 Smelly Louie is the story of the well-known predicament, washing the dog. Poor Louie doesn’t like the smell of roses and apple blossom; he has his own special smell and he will get it back again. Catherine Rayner creatively takes you on a journey of bubbles, water colour splashes, coffee stains, pencil scribbles and mud to make Louie the dog he longs to be. Catherine has an impeccable ability of letting the reader see the joy and disdain of Louie, the illustration style changing as Louie does. Louie is a messy water colour, ink scribble type of dog reflective of his scruffy demeanour, the array of colours and depth and his sketchy style intensifies the dirtier Louie gets and we watch him revel in his chaotic appearance. Clean or dirty, he is a very beautifully illustrated dog.

where the poppies now growWhere the Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson – Illustrated by Martin Impey

Written to mark the anniversary of the start of the First World War, the illustrations still manage to convey a sense of innocence without limiting the importance of the stories message, but making it accessible to children. The water colour images in the blotchy frames create the illusion that all the illustrations are a memory with their softly drawn depiction, helping you become swept away within the rhyme narrative, a fitting tribute to the war poets of the time. Depicting War will always be difficult but using illustrations and a story that showcase a journey of friendship, courage and personal grief, Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey create a powerful reminder of the cost of war. But they also share the message that even after darkness, in humanity there is light, there is a field ‘Where the Poppies Now Grow’.

wolvesWolves– Emily Gravett

Winning the Kate Greenway Medal back in 2005 and attaining the Bronze in the Nestle Children’s Book Prize, this book already has a great start. Wolves is the story of Rabbit who goes to the Public Burrowing Library to choose a book about wolves. Emily Gravett is a fabulous author and illustrator who uses a mixed media approach to tell her stories. I will say that I believe the best part of this book is the 3d library borrower’s pocket with book card, so that the reader feels like they have checked out the book themselves. There are linear black and white pencil sketches throughout that depict the pages of the book Rabbit is reading as he moves across the pages as a 2d full colour character. Until of course the book and the Wolf comes to life! The book also offers a humorous alternative ending for readers of a more sensitive disposition and is illustrated in a way that suggests that yes, these characters have already suffered from a story ending. There is also a friendly reminder at the end of the book with a 3D overdue letter that surely Rabbit wouldn’t ignore?

Charlie and LolaI Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato by Lauren Child

Like most children Lola doesn’t really like to eat vegetables and lots of other food either so it is left up to her brother Charlie to trick Lola, convincing her that carrots are twiglets from Jupiter, mash potato is cloud fluff and best of all…tomatoes, well they are moonsquirters and they are Lola’s favourite. Lauren Child uses her characteristic mixed media collage, full of ditzy prints, patterns and block colours and Photoshop layers to build and illustrate this story. Child uses a variation of font s and font sizes and direction, used to highlight the flow of the story and to make the young reader become lost in a captivating tale which actually echoes real life. Photographic images are also used to depict the vegetables that Lola won’t eat which children can use to help them identify real vegetables with and hopefully encourage them to eat them too. Lauren Child has created an illustrative style of her own that many have tried to recreate but no one has ever been able to match her wit and clash of her classic illustration style with the world of graphic design.

Dear ZooDear Zoo by Rod Campbell

When you are a child I think more often than not your favourite books are all about animals. From a young age it can be amazing to realise just how many there are and how different, Rod Campbell’s book, Dear Zoo, has definitely helped a lot of children discover wild animals and their names. With simple illustrations, short witty narrative and explorative flaps, there is nothing more exciting than using the narrative clues to discover what has been delivered to the zoo! Rod Campbell’s illustrations start off with a simple pencil outline which he then draws over with a black ink pen. All colours are added via watercolour paint and he then uses felt tips to create detail and shading. It’s lovely to hear a felt tip being used to such great effect and shows how easily imagery can be made with a little imagination. At 33 years old Dear Zoo remains a firm favourite for children under five’s and I hope for many years longer, we might just have to ensure we get a few more copies as the poor lift-the flaps become so well worn from the love of reading it.

Double ActDouble Act by Jaqueline Wilson – Illustrated by Nick Sharratt and Sue Heap

I almost left Nick Sharratt off the list, as his illustrations are generally very simple, with a comic style and simple black outline, which I generally don’t love as much as an illustrative style. However to me as a young child/almost teenager Jacqueline Wilson books illustrated by Nick Sharratt evoked all the weird emotions and stuff going on in my little world that nobody else talked about, because it might imply you weren’t ‘normal’. All Jacqueline Wilsons stories involve characters that aren’t perfect, but they are real and living in real life situations, with that she helps kids to realise that even if there are things in your life that aren’t going quite right it doesn’t make you any less of person/ kid.

Out of all of the wonderful Jacqueline Wilson’s books, I have chosen Double Act, as a twin sister myself the characters Ruby and Garnet resonated with me, a world seemingly collapsing around them and with changing personalities, can they still be the same sisters they have always been? When you’re a twin believe me this can be the scariest thing in the world and this story helped me realise that this stuff happens, but it can be overcome. Nick Sharratt’s and Sue Heap’s illustrations are dotted throughout the book, fantastic for the younger reader, giving a break from reading but also adding purpose, helping the reader identify with the characters.

I recently gave a family member my collection of Jacqueline Wilson Books, I collected all of them, and they were in beautiful, prized condition. I’m still wondering if it was one of the worst decisions of my life……

Picking 10 books, I have barely touched the surface of amazing illustration in books, but I hope this list will encourage you to discover your favourites.

A good illustration captivates you; it can make a story real and help a book, become a memory.

Poem of the week – January by John Updike

thin-ice-17996_640It’s back! We haven’t had a poem of the week for a little while but Stu, a librarian based at Seacroft has been busy finding some wintery gems that I will share over the coming weeks.

January
The days are short,
 The sun a spark,
 Hung thin between
 The dark and dark.
 
 Fat snowy footsteps
 Track the floor.
 Milk bottles burst
 Outside the door.
 
 The river is
 A frozen place
 Held still beneath
 The trees of lace.
 
 The sky is low.
 The wind is gray.
 The radiator
 Purrs all day.

 

Librarian Top 10 – Matt’s Best Reads 2015

This Librarian Top 10 is from Matt, an assistant community librarian based at Armley library.

The Red PonyThe Red Pony by John Steinbeck

I’m a huge Steinbeck fan, ever since I read Of Mice and Men for my GCSE exams, and this is another example of how masterful he is when writing short fiction. The story is simply about a boy’s desire to possess and train his very own horse, but in typical Steinbeck-style, fate has its part to play. The novel is written with great affection for the land and nature, and, of course, the author’s beloved California. You’d be hard-pressed to find such vivid descriptive language and precise prose that captures the human condition in works by other authors.

Boxer HandsomeBoxer Handsome by Anna Whitwham

Most boxing novels, and movies too, tend to follow the same storyline (underdog wins and gets the girl etc..), however Anna Whitwham’s debut novel is incredibly original. The book focusses on two young pugilists from culturally disparate backgrounds and how their East End neighbourhood, and love of ‘sweet science’ brings them together in and outside of the ring – sometimes with devastating outcomes. The fight scenes are truly exhilarating and the author captures life’s intimate interactions most beautifully.

One.jpgOne by Sarah Crossen

Shortlisted for this year’s Leeds Book Awards – and rightly so! – One is the story of conjoined twin sisters who have no choice but to attend American high school when their family fall on hard times. They’re exposed to a world which they have tried to avoid all their lives; fortunately they find friendship and love, but their story is tinged with sadness. Sarah Crossan has written an immensely moving teen novel in prose-poetry that abandons rich language (usually found in verse) and uses line breaks and spatial wordplay to astonishing effect.

PhysicalPhysical by Andrew McMillan

Thank heavens for Andrew McMillan’s debut poetry collection! I was fortunate enough to see him read from Physical at Latitude festival and it was evident in his reading that we have a towering poetic voice in the Barnsley-born bard. His technical ability is unparalleled and his dissection of modern manhood is refreshing yet startlingly self-aware and honest. His poem ‘The men are weeping in the gym’ is a stand-out example of his verse; direct, funny and universal.

Black CountryBlack Country by Liz Berry

As I get older, I become more and more aware of how we are letting slip our link with history and the tribe of people that made us. So you can imagine my joy in discovering Liz Berry’s debut, which is largely inspired by her Black Country upbringing and the region’s thick dialect. The opener, ‘Bird’, soars into your mind as though the pages of the book our trying to take flight. And ‘Bostin’ Fittle’ (meaning good food) is a favourite of mine; musical and nostalgic, reminding me of the time I first saw a rabbit being skinned and transformed into a delicious stew.

HappinessHappiness by Jack Underwood

I saw Mr Underwood read at the Bridlington Poetry Festival and he obligingly recited my favourite of his, ‘Your Horse’, a surreal lyric about examining a relationship through a person’s belongings. There are flashes of Frank O’Hara and Philip Larkin throughout this collection, but the poet is an altogether inimitable talent. You only have to read ‘The spooks’, a poem about injecting blood into a banana and observing what happens when someone attempts to eat it, to realise you are in the midst of a rare literary mind.

Bunny vs MonkeyBunny vs Monkey Book One by Jamie Smart

My five-year-old son loves weekly comic The Phoenix, so he was dead chuffed when I brought home a copy of Bunny vs Monkey: Book One from the library. The basic storyline concerns a laboratory simian who was supposed to be fired into space, but instead crash lands in a nearby forest. He instantly thinks he should be ruler of the woodlands, with the help of an innovative skunk, however a defiant rabbit and his friends have something to say about it. This graphic book is wonderfully daft and Jamie Smart’s illustrations are accomplished and alive with colour.

The Gorse trilogyThe Gorse Trilogy by Patrick Hamilton

Patrick Hamilton must be the most overlooked novelist in literary history. Responsible for novels such as Hangover Square and Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, as well as the play Rope (later adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock), his legacy should loom larger. The Gorse Trilogy is an epic novel following the decline of a swindler who preys on vulnerable women. However, as his powers of persuasion dwindle with age, he resorts to new, less sophisticated, methods of extracting what he wants from his victims. And I have to add that Hamilton is the finest writer when describing drunkenness and how it can suddenly creep up on you.

LanarkLanark: a life in four books by Alasdair Gray

A masterpiece in cross-genre fiction, Lanark is a portrait of the artist (Gray) as a young man as he transforms into a serious painter, lover and, er, salamander. The novel begins as a surreal dystopian fantasy, focusing on a mythical skin condition known as ‘dragonhide’, a metaphor for the author’s own battle with severe eczema. From that point, the plot takes several twists and turns in various guises of Modernism and realism – one chapter goes to great lengths to point out all the possible plagiarisms within its pages. Nothing comes close to this book, in terms of style and subject matter. Nothing!

UlyssesUlysses by James Joyce

Alright, I have to admit, I haven’t finished Ulysses yet – I’m about 350 pages in. Still, it is a fantastic novel and a vital contribution to Modernism and literature in general. I read the first 100-or-so pages in one go, but felt exhausted afterwards because the language is so complex, bulging with slang, Latin, unformed thoughts, etc… and the novel, as a whole, is pretty much devoid of plot. Having said that, if you pick at its bones, now and again, you realise that this is a text celebrating every aspect of living, creating a festival of words as you turn the pages. I plan to delve back into Joyce’s groundbreaking book when I finish my current read – hopefully I will have read Ulysses before the year’s out!

 

 

Librarian Top 10 – Great fiction read this year

This weeks top 10 comes from Stu, a community librarian based in the East of the city.

WreakingWreaking by James Scudamore

A magnificent slice of modern Gothic storytelling, in which a reclusive academic seeks refuge in an abandoned mental hospital and slowly loses his mind while seeking to unravel the chain of events that led up to a horrific family accident in the dim and distant past. The over-riding theme is the relationship between time and memory, and the distortive effect that each has on the other. Everything about this book screams quality – vivid characterisation, pitch-perfect dialogue, wonderfully descriptive, nuanced prose and a fantastic plot hiding behind the multiple layers of smoke and mirrors. Highly, highly recommended.

1980Nineteen Eighty by David Peace

A typically sanguine Yorkshire-noir with a labyrinthine plot that will be all-too familiar to anyone who’s read the other books in the quadrilogy. This one is set against the backdrop of the Yorkshire Ripper murders, but in-keeping with the rest of the series, the main focus is on the dodgy dealings of the bent coppers who are supposed to be investigating the case. It’s not for the faint-hearted – the Ripper’s monologues in particular are stomach-churningly graphic and deeply disturbing – but the plot moves along at a cracking pace, and Peace’s sparse, staccato style paints a suitably lurid vision of hell.

Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman

A trite line that crops up in quite a few reviews of this novel is that this is like an updated version of War and Peace, and it’s not too far from the truth. This book is an epic in every sense, featuring a huge cast of characters (including a cameo from Stalin himself) at all levels of society and deals chiefly with the Nazi invasion of Russia and the Battle of Stalingrad. Like Isaac Babel before him, Grossman was a journalist who wrote fiction based on fact, and this authenticity really comes through in his descriptions of the battle. It’s not an easy novel to read by any means – especially the scene in the gas chamber at Auschwitz -, but like all the best Russian literature, it’s very, very rewarding if you’re willing to give it the time and attention it deserves.

RegenerationRegeneration by Pat Barker

This is the first in a trilogy of books the deal with WW1, with war poet Siegfried Sassoon appearing as one of the main characters, convalescing at Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh. It’s only a slim volume but incredibly dense, and aims to deal with the awful psychological effects that war has on the minds of young men. There are some really harrowing scenes in here – particularly the descriptions of some of the treatments administered by the psychiatrists – but surely that’s to be expected in a book of this nature – and it’s an interesting read for anyone with an interest in the Great War.

The Last WordThe Last Word by Hanif Kureishi

Here Kureishi, arguably the greatest English writer of his generation turns his razor eye upon the struggles of an ageing man of letters. Told with his usual insight and acerbic wit, and a tongue firmly planted in its cheek, this book is very funny indeed.

The misfortunatesThe Misfortunates by Dimitri Verhulst

It would be all-too easy to describe this book as a Belgian take on Bukowski, but it’s not that far off the mark. It’s a squalid, sleazy tale of a family of small-town alcoholics and the misadventures they get up to in the course of their miserable, drunken lives. Okay, it’s not the most original subject matter, but the translation (by David Colmer) is fantastic and really brings the book to life in all its feculent glory. As with all books of this kind, it’s genuinely, laugh out loud, tears-on-your-cheeks funny, but ultimately downbeat and shot through with the kind of bottom of the barrel, red-eyed sadness that only boozy literature of this ilk can muster.

Wolf HallWolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

This first instalment of a trilogy of novels deals with Thomas Cromwell’s formative years, his rise to power in the court of Henry VIII and the fall of his mentor Cardinal Wolsey. It’s all written in the present tense, which gives the story a real sense of urgency and keeps the pages turning. It’s a big book, make no mistake, but a far easier read than you’d probably imagine. There is a caveat though. If you’re unfamiliar with Tudor politics, you may struggle a little with some of the characters; lots and lots of the men are called Thomas (named after Becket, England’s favourite medieval Saint), and every other lady seems to be called Mary, which could be confusing to those who aren’t fully conversant with the court of the time. That said, there’s a table of characters at the front of the book for those who aren’t already in the know so don’t be put off, even if you know nothing of the period. This is a masterful bit of writing and a cracking historical novel that’s worthy of every bit of praise that’s been lavished upon it.

Bring up the bodiesBring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: or, Wolf Hall Part Deux.

Picks up at the precise point where the first book left off, and moves us through the fall of Anne Boleyn. The real skill of Mantel here is to take a story that’s fairly familiar to most people but still construct a narrative in a way that keeps you turning the pages, even though you know ultimately what’s going to happen (hint: things don’t end well for Ms Boleyn) There’s a wealth of great characterisation, lovely descriptive prose and she has a great ear for dialogue too, all the marks of a first-class writer working right at the top of her game.

The first circleThe First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

From the foremost chronicler of Stalinist Russia, this is a huge novel, dealing with all his usual themes – Gulag, show trials, Five Year Plans, Collectivisation, industrialisation etc. and how they affected the general populace of Russia during the Stalinist years. It’s another huge book, packed with a fantastic array of characters, all with their own hard luck stories to tell. One of his greatest qualities as a writer was to be able to relate the lives of people right at the bottom of the social scale to those right at the top, and to show how the machinations of the Party apparatus were inescapable for anyone unfortunate enough to be living in Russia at that time.

Les miserablesLes Miserables by Victor Hugo

Gigantic, door-stopping tome dealing with the seedy underbelly of Paris in the early part of the 19th century. This is a very modern work in some ways. In the text Hugo often refers to himself as the writer, and it’s filled with references to real people and real events. It’s epic not just in size, but in scope too, combining what’s basically a detective story – Javert’s relentless pursuit of petty-crook turned outlaw Jean Valjean, which in itself is reminiscent of Ahab’s chase of the white whale in Moby Dick, another early modern(ist) novel) with a host of digressions, philosophical musings and essays on topics as diverse as the French Revolution, underworld slang, social inequality and the Battle of Waterloo. It’s definitely not for the casual reader – the Vintage edition has nearly 1300 pages, not including the generous introduction and a couple of hundred pages of footnotes at the end – but for those who want to sample a genuine classic of world literature, it’s an absolute marvel.

Top 10 – Science Fiction

These are the top 10 Science fiction titles borrowed from Leeds Libraries during November. Science fiction isn’t everyone’s bag – but why not try one of these for something different?

Heart goes lastThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.

The Long WarThe Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

A generation after the events of ‘The Long Earth’, mankind has spread across the new worlds opened up by Stepping. Where Joshua and Lobsang once pioneered, now fleets of airships link the stepwise Americas with trade and culture. Mankind is shaping the Long Earth – but in turn the Long Earth is shaping mankind.

The Long MarsThe Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

2040-2045: In the years after the cataclysmic Yellowstone eruption there is massive economic dislocation as populations flee Datum Earth to myriad Long Earth worlds. Sally, Joshua, and Lobsang are all involved in this perilous work when, out of the blue, Sally is contacted by her long-vanished father and inventor of the original Stepper device, Willis Linsay. He tells her he is planning a fantastic voyage across the Long Mars and wants her to accompany him. But Sally soon learns that Willis has ulterior motives.

A Storm of swordsA Storm of Swords by George R R Martin

The Seven Kingdoms are divided by revolt and blood feud. Winter is approaching and the wildings are poised to invade the Kingdom of the North. Robb Stark must protect himself from them and the threat of his enemies in the south.

Lock InLock In by John Scalzi

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. 4% suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1% find themselves ‘locked in’ – fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. 1% doesn’t seem like a lot. But in the US that’s 1.7 million people ‘locked in’ – including the President’s wife and daughter. Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can fully restore the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge…

Fools assassinFool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife, Molly, for many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service to the crown. But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic and assassin: a man who has risked much for his king and lost more. On a shelf in his den sits a triptych carved in memory stone of a man, a wolf and a fool. Once, these three were inseparable friends. But one is long dead, and one long-missing. Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives, seeking Fitz, only to mysteriously disappear leaving nothing but a blood-trail. What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger?

Raising steamRaising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Change is afoot in Ankh-Morpork – Discworld’s first steam engine has arrived, and once again Moist von Lipwig finds himself with a new and challenging job.

Wards of faerieWards of Faerie by Terry Brooks

There was an age when the world was young, before the coming of humans, a time when magic was the dominant power. It was during this age that the Elfstones protecting the Elven disappeared. Now a clue to their location may have surfaced in the diary of a princess, and it will be the beginning of an adventure that no-one expected.

DragonbaneDragonbane by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Out of all the mysterious boarders who call Sanctuary home, no one is more antisocial or withdrawn than Maxis Drago. But then, it’s hard to blend in with the modern world when you have a fifty foot wingspan. Centuries ago, he was cursed by an enemy who swore to see him fall. An enemy who took everything from him and left him forever secluded. But Fate is a bitch, with a wicked sense of humour. And when she throws old enemies together and threatens the wife he thought had died centuries ago, he comes back with a vengeance. Modern day New Orleans has become a battleground for the oldest of evils. And two dragons will hold the line, or go down in flames.

BattlemageBattlemage by Stephen Aryan

Balfruss is a battlemage, one of a vanishing breed, sworn to fight and die for a country that fears and despises him. Vargus is a soldier, and while mages shoot lightning from the walls of his city, he’s down in the frontlines getting blood on his blade. Talandra is a princess and her father’s spymaster, but the war may force her to take up a greater responsibility, and make the greatest sacrifice of all. Known for their unpredictable, dangerous power, society has left battlemages untrained and shunned. But when a force unlike anything ever imagined attacks their home, the few remaining magic users must go to war – to save those who fear them most, and herald in a new age of peace, built upon the corpses of their enemies.

Librarian Top 10 – Girl Power

An occasional series featuring Top 10 book recommendations from our librarians. This first list comes from Kat, an Assistant Community Librarian based at Chapeltown, Oakwood and Chapel Allerton Libraries.

Am I normal yetHolly Bourne – Am I normal yet?

A story of friendship, feminism and mental health – there was nothing didn’t LOVE about this book. The way Evie’s illness affects her friendships, choices and family was really enlightening – I particularly found the way it does and yet doesn’t inform her relationship with her younger sister. Maybe because eleven years later my lifestyle is still that of a 16 year old girl, but I just felt that this book was describing my life, and I just didn’t want it to end. Also has the most accurate description of a hangover ever! I wish there had been books like this when I was a teenager.

not that kind of girlLena Dunham – Not that kind of girl

I love Lena’s tv show ‘Girls’, but some bits make me feel a little uncomfortable, and that is exactly how I felt about this book. I love the things she writes about, but some of it just made me sad. Not about Lena, but about society.

 

Elizabeth is missingEmma Healey – Elizabeth is missing

I think I only read this because it was getting a lot of attention and was nominated for the Booker Prize, but I am so glad I did. A woman with Alzheimer’s is trying to find her friend Elizabeth, but keeps losing track of what she is doing and feels like no-one is helping her. She is also reminded about the last time someone went missing, her sister during the war, a how that impacted her life. This was so frustrating at times as everything kept starting over again, but that is because Healey so accurately captures the illlness in her writing.

Opposite of lonelinessMarina Keegan – The opposite of loneliness

This is a book of essays and short stories which was compiled by Marina’s family and Yale writing professor; Marina died in a car crash just after graduating. She wrote about college life, family, friends and boys. Her writing is most often described as ‘promising’, and knowing what happened to her and that she won’t be able to continue to grow as a writer (and a person) makes me feel the same way I felt when I read ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank.

It was me all alongAndie Mitchell – It was me all along : a memoir

(I’m starting to see a theme here – the American college experience. Also all female authors – Girl Power!)

This is essentially a story of growing up overweight, being unhappy about it and the vicious cycle of comfort eating. But eventually Andie loses 135lbs (almost 10 stone!) through healthy eating, exercise and changing the way she thinks about food. I found all of this really inspiring (I was trying to do the same thing as I read it) but what stands out to me is the heart-breaking relationship she had with her father, and how she dealt with his death, so very emotional!

Spare BridesAdele Parks – Spare Brides

I see rows of Adele Parks all the time in libraries but never thought I’d be interested; I came across this book whilst putting together a suffragettes display and I was curious. It is Parks’ first historical novel, set in the 1920s, and is about a group of women who grew up expecting life to turn out a certain way and then find themselves a few years and a war later with drastically different lives and options than they ever expected. It was kind of Sex & the City meets Downton Abbey, and of course I loved that.

Eleanor and ParkRainbow Rowell – Eleanor & Park

This starts off as a teenage love story but as the story develops so do the underlying issues of both Eleanor & Park. I loved the mix tapes they listen to on the school bus, and the books that Eleanor borrows from Park and has to read in secret at home. I just thought that this was a great little love story, but it is sad that a teenage story has to be set in the 1980s to not be dominated by technology and social media. It must be the soundtrack, but it makes me think of 500 Days of Summer. Actually, this book is the teenage version of that film, set in the 1980s.

Opal PlumsteadJacqueline Wilson – Opal Plumstead

This was actually what inspired me to do the suffragettes display. I love Jacqueline Wilson. She is probably one of the reasons I love reading, and she nearly always writes really strong female characters (both the children and adults). One of my favourite things about working in a library is getting to talk to children who love reading her as much as I did. Of course when I saw she had a book about suffragettes I knew I had to read it, and it didn’t disappoint. The only downside was that Opal works in a sweet factory, and it made me want sweets every time I read it. Or do I just want sweets all the time anyway?

Mrs HemingwayNaomi Woods – Mrs Hemingway

I read this on the train to Paris; it was just the perfect book to take on that trip. The book is in four sections, each from the perspective of a different Mrs Ernest Hemingway toward the end of their marriage. To be reading this and then walk down the same streets, across bridges and into Shakespeare & Co bookshop was just dreamy. Although now I have thought about him from his wives perspectives, I don’t think I can like Mr Hemingway anymore (sorry, dad!), but if you go Paris you should read A Moveable Feast.

Deliciously EllaElla Woodward – Deliciously Ella

If you have read this far you have probably worked out that I quite like food. I take out pretty much every recipe book we ever get in, but this has be my favourite of the year (sorry, Nigella – I still love you!). In fact I know it is, because after taking it out of the library I actually bought a copy. It is all about healthy, wholesome food and isn’t drastically different from the other healthy eating books that have appeared lately (there is porridge, granola, hummus, avocado on toast, sprialised vegetables, ridiculously expensive ingredient filled desserts aka all my favourite things) it just happened to be the first one I came across. I have only made a few recipes from the book but they have all worked and all being delicious; Creamy Coconut Porridge, Raw Brownies, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, and a bonus – Warming Winter Curry from her blog is also delicious and ridiculously easy, and i’ve been eating it all year (but without the beans, I draw the health food line at any bean!).

deliciouslyella.com/warming-winter-curry