Librarian’s Bookshelf

This blog is from Stu, a community librarian in the east of the city.

Stu's Bookshelf

If you ask most people who work in libraries what they love most about the job, or why they came to it in the first place, they can probably answer in a single word: books. I’m no different. I learned to read before I even went to school and have been a total bookworm ever since; I studied English Language and Literature at A-level, then English and American Literature at University. I have literally thousands of books in my house – more than some of the smallest branch libraries in Leeds – and love to read widely around a whole variety of subjects. Above is a snapshot of a random bookshelf of fiction in my house. Right now, I’m going to give you a guided tour of some of my favourite things on it:

The Poems of Emily Bronte: you can see the Haworth moors from the window of the house I grew up in, and I spent a lot of my childhood on my aunty’s bleak hilltop farm with the wind rattling the rooftop and snow piled as high as the windows in winter, so I’ve always had an affinity for the Bronte sisters. Emily in particular is my favourite, and this is a fantastic collection of all her best poems. It’s a little stilted by the standards of today – bound as it is by the poetic conventions of Victorian England – but there’s no doubting the power of the language, and the way she evokes the beauty of the harsh Northern landscape is utterly sublime.

Stu Ask the DustAsk the Dust by John Fante: Bukowski fans, walk this way…..He’s not a particularly well-known name, but John Fante was Bukowski’s hero, and his nihilistic brand of downbeat LA tales – mostly featuring the semi-autobiographical protagonist Arturo Bandini – were also a great influence on Bret Easton Ellis. This is the tale of an aspiring screenwriter, down on his luck in the early years of Holloywood, and, like the best of Buk, it’s pathetic, tragic and hilarious in equal measure. Ask the Dust is also notable as it contains one of my favourite lines in all American literature – “It was a great problem, requiring immediate attention. I solved it by turning out the lights and going to bed.” Most of Fante’s stuff is excellent, but this really is a high point. For the dedicated searcher, Chump Change by Dan Fante, his son, is another overlooked classic.

Hell by Dante: otherwise known as Inferno, this particular translation of part 1 of Dante’s Divine Comedy is by Dorothy L. Sayers, who’s far more widely known for her crime writing. I’ve read a few different translations of Dante but this is my favourite by far as it retains the playfulness and bawdy humour of the original, which can be lost in some of the more po-faced translations of earlier years. For a book about a journey through Satan’s underworld, it’s a lot funnier than you’d expect it to be, although it goes without saying that it’s pretty harrowing too.

The Complete Dramatic Works of Samuel Beckett: Beckett was a literary colossus who wrote plays, poems, short stories and novels in both English and French, and excelled at every form he tried. This collection contains his entire dramatic output, from more famous plays such as Waiting For Godot and Endgame to more experimental works like Breath. My personal favourite is Krapp’s Last Tape, in which an old recluse looks back over his life by having a dialogue with his younger self, via listening and then responding to audio diaries he’s recorded over the years. There’s an amazingly powerful production of this starring an ageing Harold Pinter – Beckett’s most famous disciple – available online.

Stu GravitysGravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon: how the hell this guy hasn’t won the Nobel Prize for Literature is an absolute mystery for me. A man of singular vision, and possibly the greatest prose technician in the English language since James Joyce, his oeuvre is absolutely unique and nigh-on impossible to describe. For this gargantuan, head-frying classic, try reimagining Moby Dick as a World War Two espionage thriller, written in the style of Ulysses. On acid.

Stu TortureTorture Garden by Octave Mirbeau: words fail me when trying to describe this oddity from 1898, so here’s what Phil Baker of The Sunday Times had to say about it: “This hideously decadent fin-de-siècle novel by the French anarchist Mirbeau has become an underground classic. A cynical first half exposes the rottenness of politics, commerce and the petit-bourgeois; in the second half, our totally corrupt narrator travels to China and meets the extraordinary Clara. She shows him the Torture Garden, a place of exotic flowers and baroque sadism. There are satirical and allegorical dimensions, but it remains irreducibly horrible…..” Well worth a look if you want something totally left-field, but it’s not for the faint of heart!

Stu Malcolm xThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley: this is a stellar bit of biographical writing and is essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in 20th Century American history or the history of the Civil Rights movement in general. This works best when read immediately before or after The Autobiography of Doctor Martin Luther King, which is sadly absent from this shelf as some miscreant absconded with my copy a few years back. It’s fascinating to look at them side by side so you can see two completely differing solutions to the same problem.

Stu RainRain On the River by Jim Dodge: this little gem is, alongside The Complete Poems Of Raymond Carver, my favourite book of poetry, and it’s so well-thumbed that it’s starting to fall apart. I can’t think of any other poet who has brings such beautiful clarity to his images with such economy of language, and he gets right to the heart of what he wants to say every single time. “Naked beyond skin/we lift our palms to the moon/our bodies trembling like the limbs of a tree/a heartbeat after the bird has flown.” Unbelievable stuff.

Stu War and PeaceWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: some books are canonical for a reason. You know all those lists you see where they claim to show the greatest novels ever written, and this is always top? They’re absolutely right.

All Our Worldly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky: like most people, I discovered her when Suite Francaise was rediscovered and republished in 2004, over sixty years after the author’s death at the hands of the Nazis in Auschwitz. Since then, I’ve read everything I could get my hands on of hers that’s been translated into English. This is a typically sharp bourgeois tragedy about a man in love with a girl considered beneath him by his wealthy, snobbish and tyrannical family. As with all her work, the characters are beautifully and perceptively drawn, the story told in crystalline detail and the prose is exquisite.

And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave: it was perhaps inevitable that a man who so renowned for his lyrical skills should turn his hand to fiction, and this is his brilliant first foray into it from way back in 1989. For anyone familiar with his music – especially the stuff from the 80s – this is pretty much what you’d expect, that is to say, a hefty slice of dense Southern Gothic, with the ghosts of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor haunting every page. As you’d expect from him, it’s full of blood and guts, devils, demons, hellfire and the wrath of a vengeful God, but it’s savagely funny to boot. A deserved underground classic.

Young Adult Favourites

This blog post comes from Caitlin, a 15 year old student from Cardinal Heenan school who has been working at Central Library on work experience over the last couple of weeks. Here are some of her recommendations:-

Caitlin Counting by 7sCounting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by Sevens is one of my favourite teenage fiction books. It is about a young girl who loses both parents at the same time to a car accident. The young girl is far from stupid and doesn’t seem to let things like being judged for being unique to faze her, but the accident does. It portrays a good example of trying to move on from heartache and that if people are there to help don’t seclude yourself from them, open up to them because they only want to help. It also shows the struggles of carrying on through hard situations and the fact that even though you think you may be stuck, there is always a way to pull yourself back up again.

Caitling Violet WingsViolet Wings by Victoria Hanley

Violet Wings was my favourite book as a ten year old, a book about fairies, magic and wings, this was my ten year old dream after watching Barbie movies constantly. It is a book about a seemingly weak girl called Zaria, who after discovering her magical powers as a faery is faced with unspoken powers and evil people after her at every turn. In an attempt to help a human boy find his father, Zaria is faced with uncountable troubles. This book is full of excitement and intensity and made me see that power isn’t everything. It teaches near teens girls that truth is absolute and that you can do anything if you believe in yourself and the people around you.

Caitlin LimitLimit by Keiko Suenobu

This manga though less well known in the younger generation is a really good manga with a gripping and intense plot. After a group of school pupils are involved in an over the Cliffside bus accident, a small number are left behind and the less popular begin to show their true colours. Forced under a kind of leadership, Konno has to learn how to survive and keep her wits about her or her life could be taken by a satanic classmate. This book is very gripping and had me on my feet wondering if anyone was going to be killed. It shows you how to cope in an unexpected situation and that you must be able to survive because only the strongest do.

Caitlin Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights is a book about life, death and above all love. Catherine who is in love with Heathcliff is forced with another man against her will, this leads to saddening events and tragedies. A story, the epitome of how strong ones love for another can be and that pulling this meant to be love apart is tragic, a bit like Romeo and Juliet. This book had me crying for which reason is still unsure to me, is it the gripping love story, the tragic ending or the message behind it all- loved ones can’t stay forever.

Caitlin Carry OnCarry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On is a wonderful story of two boys falling in love. Simon and Baz are kind of enemies but secretly they both don’t think that is true. In a world of magic, is it ok for a vampire and human to be in love? In this coming of age book about diverse love, it made me really happy how accepting we are as a community nowadays. The book was really well written and had an intense plot and it was very gripping. Overall it had me very in depth with the storyline and hoping that what happened was best for the characters.

Librarian’s Choice: Holiday Reads

This blog comes from Rose, Central Library Manager.

Whatever type of holiday you are planning this year, at home or abroad, it is always a great time to relax and enjoy some wonderful books. If you’re planning to lie on a sun lounger or sit in the garden a good book (or several good books) is a must have for a great holiday. These are a few on my summer reading list which will take you on a journey across India, challenge your views on racism and intrigue with a psychological thriller.

Rose Her last breathHer last breath by Tracy Buchanan

Food writer Estelle Forster has the perfect life. And with her first book on the way, it’s about to get even better. When Estelle hears about Poppy O’Farrell’s disappearance, she assumes the girl has simply run away. But Estelle’s world crumbles when she’s sent a photo of Poppy, along with a terrifying note. Estelle has no idea who’s threatening her, or how she’s connected to the missing teen, but she thinks the answers lie in the coastal town she once called home, and the past she hoped was long behind her. Estelle knows she must do everything to find Poppy. But how far will she go to hide the truth – that herperfect life was the perfect lie?

Rose Sister, SisterSister, sister by Sue Fortin 

Alice: Beautiful, kind, manipulative, liar.

Clare: Intelligent, loyal, paranoid, jealous.

Clare thinks Alice is a manipulative liar who is trying to steal her life. Alice thinks Claire is jealous of her long-lost return and place in their family. One of them is telling the truth. The other is a maniac. Two sisters. One truth.

Rose Into the waterInto the water by Paula Hawkins

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind. But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool.

Rose I see youI see you by Clare Mackintosh

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation, no website: just a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that. Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make?

Rose The ministryThe ministry of utmost happiness by Arundhati Roy

‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ transports us across a subcontinent on a journey of many years. It takes us deep into the lives of its gloriously rendered characters, each of them in search of a place of safety – in search of meaning, and of love.

Rose Small great thingsSmall great things by Jodi Picoult

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

 

 

 

 

 

Librarian’s choice: Dog Books

As the owner of one of those troublesome, mischievous, beautiful, loyal creatures known as dogs, I thought I would write about some of the interesting books I’ve recently come across on the subject of our canine companions. When you look through the library catalogue, there are so many great books covering everything you might want to know.

Here is just a small selection:-

Lisa Clever dogClever Dog by Sarah Whitehead

Clever Dog is an easy to read, fun book focusing on behaviour and communication, with plenty of handy tips, examples and case studies bringing her theories to life. Plus it’s also the first book that made me think about my dog’s learning style! I think we’re both mainly visual.

Lisa Dog TalesDog Talk by Bruce Fogle

Dog Talk has some lovely photos of the author’s own dog at various stages throughout his life, smiling the whole time! This one provides bite size segments of information but goes deeper into the relationship between humans and dogs, looking at subconscious needs. There are some quick ways of teaching basic commands and also of dealing with aggression and other unwanted behaviours, although I think some of his advice is a little old fashioned.

Lisa Being a dogBeing a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

This book is like nothing else I have ever read, and that’s saying a lot! Its main focus is on the dog’s nose and how they experience the world through smell, although the author has done some smell research herself, so it does also go into the human sense of smell. The writing style is really accessible and quite humorous but there’s some seriously scientific research in here, and some myth-busting.

Lisa Rescue MeRescue Me – Dogs Trust

Thought I ought to include this one as our dog came from Dogs Trust! The adoption process was straightforward but fairly rigorous and they’re always available for advice afterwards. The book is very clear and step by step with case studies and lots of useful information for anyone thinking of adopting a dog. Believe me, it’s worth it!

Lisa Test your dogTest your dog’s IQ: how clever is your canine? by David Taylor

I was given this for a Christmas present one year and of course I’ve tried out some of these tests on my own dog and my sister –in-law’s two dogs. There are lots of fun activities in here for all ages – one we tried was covering the dog with a blanket and timing how long it takes for them to free themselves. Not long with ours it turns out, which apparently means she’s intelligent!

Lisa Dog ShamingDog Shaming by Pascale Lemire

This is a great book for cheering you up – dog photos never fail to make me smile, especially when they’re posing with a sign blaming them for having done something ridiculous or naughty. It’s basically a book of photos so won’t take you long to read, but I can guarantee at least some of them will raise a chuckle. I particularly liked the dog who chewed the face off an antique stuffed panda bear, and was pretty surprised by the dog who ate a starfish!

Librarian’s Choice: Women in Music

This blog is from Allison, an Assistant Community Librarian based in the west of Leeds.

As the music festivals are now in full swing, I thought a few good music related reads were in order. To narrow it down, women in music took my interest. There are plenty of good books to choose from at Leeds Libraries. Here’s a starter selection that you can read in the comfort of your own home without mud, queues for porta-loos and overpriced food and drinks. Although, if you are getting out to a festival, happy camping!

Allison M TrainM Train by Patti Smith

I anticipated this would be an emotional read. I picked it up a few times before finally straying from the first chapter. I wondered how deep it would be and if it would feel too intrusive. Autobiographies don’t shove things under the carpet; they take hold of the carpet at one end, waft it in the air and let the ‘dirt’ fly where it may. I also knew this was going to be a read that would make me repeatedly pause and search the influential figures in her life. I am not sure now why I saw any of this as reasons to delay reading the book.
My predictions weren’t wrong. Not even half way in and the words became misty for me as she shared simple but moving memories of her deceased father. But the real hits came from the one liners that she deals about her late husband; her ‘angel with the lank brown hair and eyes the colour of water’. When she commands him to come back because he’s been ‘gone long enough now’ it makes me want to have been there to offer comfort on that long flight to Tokyo.
Of course, my mind was kept from wandering to the maudlin side too much by my desire to research the historical characters of fiction and nonfiction that have inspired Ms. Smith. She spoke so poetically about the scientist Wegener that I just had to know more. I knew this would happen but it is not in any way a bad thing; she herself rightly describes books as ’portals to the world’. What I didn’t expect is that I would be checking travel advising sites for ‘small favoured’ hotels in London and that my heart would fill up as she talks about ITV3 detective shows, ironically meeting Robbie Coltrane and elderberry water with popcorn. How did she do this; turn even small details into emotional gems? Her dialogue with statues and table ‘thieves’ is intellectual clowning at its best and her devotion to coffee is commendable. I smiled as my own imagination took over by picturing fictional coffee fanatic Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks being the one sat in her spot in her favourite cafe.
While I won’t rank any of the other books in order of preference, M Train comes out as my absolute favourite. I lingered before embarking but once on board, the ride was both comfortable and thrilling. I read the book in one day; one scorching, humid day off from work. It was Frida Kahlo’s birthday and here I was reading about Patti Smith visiting the artist’s home in Mexico. Every detail in this book became even more poignant. I did also get quite star struck when she mentioned travelling to Leeds. Patti Smith, THE Patti Smith, wandering around in my hometown; although I just know she would have blended right in to the places and the crowds without any fuss. She came through Leeds on her way to visit Sylvia Plath’s grave; adamant that she’s wasn’t leaving her best pen there! As I get to the end chapters it is here she describes losing her husband and her brother within a month of each other. By now it doesn’t feel intrusive. I know exactly why she is telling us and I am thankful.
Throughout the book, Ms. Smith is led by her dreams (and coffee) and we follow her. Her words are as beautiful as ever, elegiac yet uplifting and lyrical. I could hear her music; I’d like to imagine it being all around her as she travels the world. By the end of the book, I had the lines from a nursery rhyme in my head: ‘see a fine lady upon a white horse, with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes’. I now know that I must seek out her 2010 offering, Just Kids; without hesitation.

Allison Girl in a BandGirl in a Band-A Memoir by Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon writes with a broken heart; the opening chapter describes Sonic Youth’s last gig intertwined with the end of her marriage to Thurston Moore. Throughout, she scatters seeds of information that we can peck at to discover reasons for the breakdown of the relationship. However, I prefer to graze on more fulfilling morsels that she throws out to us. I wouldn’t read this book for marital gossip but instead for an insight into insightfulness. She knows her stuff. She knows music, she knows about people and she knows herself…without always realising it.
“I’m not a musician” she tells us. Thankfully, under any self-doubt was a heap of fearlessness that helped her share her talents with the world. Kim Gordon seems the type of person I would be happy being friends with, simply because she is just so cool. And what makes her cool is that she hates cool; that’s quite cool. What captures me more is her perceptiveness about people. Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, Karen Carpenter, Henry Rollins and her own family, she has looked them all up and down. She then deduces their personalities and without appearing a tell-tale she explains, we listen and we nod because we recognise that what she is telling us is probably correct. There seems an innate bluntness to her deductions.
For all fans of her music, this book also goes deep into the writing, the recording and performing. It also skims the art world and she takes us with her as she wanders in and out of her childhood. In the final chapters she reflects on rock and roll parenthood:
“…even if they were in their forties or fifties, they still had a banked fire in them, raised finger, a sneer, hidden under years of living.”
Swoon. I am available for a chat and a pint anytime you are, Kim Gordon. I promise not to ask what it’s like to be a girl in a band; I just know how much you hate that.

Allison Clothes Music BoysClothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys- A Memoir by Viv Albertine.

All the names are here: Vicious, Jones, Levene, Lydon, Letts, Hynde, Harry, Sioux and so on. The places and the stories we’ve heard are all transmitted to us first hand. We remember so much in our own little time pockets. This is a book, however, that requires you to leave your preconceived notions at the door before you step inside. If you think you know punk (which everyone over a certain age thinks they do), if you think you know women in punk or if you just think you know women please note the advice that I whispered to myself- ‘shut your gob’ and read it. It wasn’t the punk paradise of tales that captured me; I got drawn in more when her life inevitably moves on. Domesticity often spat on her worse than any punk crowd yet it’s her honest vulnerability and resilience that made it raw to read.
Nice quick chapters. She gives you a guide to skip to the subjects you want to read about, easy. Even if you just want to know about The Slits; it’s all here with warts and all, easy. However the content doesn’t always make for an easy read. But, come on, what did you expect? A Bunuel quote that Ms. Albertine uses pretty much sums it up:
“l’m not here to entertain you, I’m here to make you feel uncomfortable”.
She did make me feel uncomfortable but I needed to be in order to relate. She also mesmerised me, made me cry, laugh and cringe at times. Most importantly, her words made me think. So here’s to all those who may not have ‘aspired to be musicians’ but thankfully became ‘warriors’. Give it a read, you won’t get the feeling you’ve been cheated.

Allison Here she comesHere She Comes Now: Women in Music that have Changed our Lives edited by Jeff Gordinier and Marc Weingarten

First, I must say that I am duly impressed that one of the editors managed to compare the feeling he got when seeing Gloria Gaynor’s live performance of ‘I will survive’ to emotions felt by Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. I love that book and for him to somehow squeeze that in so effortlessly made me smile. An over the top comparison? Not really, not when you realise that he wants to move away from the predictable stories about women in music. The book’s contributors are relaying to us how much music has enriched their lives and in some cases, saved them. They are all novelists, bloggers and poets who are writing about the ‘voice to listener’ experience. The editor starts the book with an apology for the many influential names that had to be left out but we understand; how big that book would be if they included them all, right? So, the writers do the cherry picking and what we get is a wonderfully eclectic crop of stories.
Allison Clock does not mince words as she declares her thoughts on those who hate Dolly Parton. She isn’t wrong in my view; I wouldn’t trust anyone who disses our Dolly. Sandy Denny’s life and tragic, untimely death is seen through the eyes of another writer. Rosie Schaap captures her ‘ghost friend’ Sandy with deep eloquence. Ian Daly writes a letter to PJ Harvey and we could almost feel intrusive reading it as it is so personal and profound. This book is for people who feel the same way about music as the writers. That is why I could relate to it. From a young age, I realised the power music had in my life; music will always be my sword and my shield.

Allison Black by designBlack by Design: A 2-Tone Memoir by Pauline Black

I remember seeing Pauline Black in music videos and magazines for the first time when I was barely sixteen. I feel so lucky that my era had such amazing female role models in music. I wanted to dress like her, dance like her and wished I could sing like her. She looked confident, cool and beautiful. I didn’t think of her as trying to be like the men of the group or the men of 2-tone; she was just being herself. 2-tone never seemed to bow down to the usual media selling tactic of ‘girl in a band’. Pauline Black always looked like she was soundly aware of any elephants in the room and that she wasn’t afraid to bring down to size anyone who pointed them out. After reading her book, I now know how that strength of character was built and why it shines through.
Black by Design is beautifully written with honest words. There were times that I could literally not put the book because my fingers were holding on so tightly in horror as certain childhood traumas were revealed. Most of her childhood milestones were met with challenges; these are my understating words. You will need to read her own account as my frustration and anger from looking in would not do any justice. She lets us be a part of it all as she seeks to unravel the threads:
“So, why did my mother chose a black child if she had so much antipathy towards black people? Didn’t it occur to her that my ‘colour’ was going to be a future issue, which couldn’t be swept under the carpet…”
“I cannot say that I wasn’t loved. I know I was. But I grew up feeling like a cuckoo in someone else’s nest.”
Pauline Black reads, she grows, she reads some more. As she reaches her teens her reading material becomes more radical; she thanks the Librarian of Romford Town Library for ordering books that provided her with the information she ‘required at sixteen’. She doesn’t stop reading; she studies and becomes a hospital radiographer.
Naturally, the meetings and formation of The Selecter then dominate with pictures that capture the essence of the time. One story comes from good old Leeds again and the infamous F club where she states: “In Leeds, everything came together, the harmonies, the Selecter sound, the songs, Gap’s dance routines, my stage persona and cockney patter.”
The rest is Sta-Prest history and the Queen of Ska occupies her throne. Without giving any spoilers, the reunions that dominate the last chapters will in no doubt take centre stage. I have seen Pauline Black in recent interviews and it is hard to believe that she is in her sixties. She is ‘not for resigning’ and she is still giving us goals to aspire to.

Health Information Week – Mood Boosting Books

There is strong evidence that self-help reading can help people with common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, sometimes on its own or with other forms of treatment.

In a report commissioned by GALAXY® chocolate on behalf of the Reading Agency’s Quick Reads initiative, which produces short books by well-known authors for busy people and less confident readers, it is revealed that regular reading has the unique ability to empower us to embark on positive journeys in life, connect us with others and make us feel happier in our own skin.

The Reading Agency have lists of books recommended for their mood boosting effect, and last year’s list, chosen by readers groups can be found in full here, http://reading-well.org.uk/books/mood-boosting-books/chosen-by-reading-groups-2016

Here are some of their recommendations and ours from our catalogue:-

HIWF ReadersThe readers of Broken Wheel recommend by Katarina Bivald

Sara has never left Sweden but at the age of 28 she decides it’s time. She cashes in her savings, packs a suitcase full of books and sets off for Broken Wheel, Iowa, a town where she knows nobody. Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop. With a little help from the locals, Sara sets up Broken Wheel’s first bookstore. The shop might be a little quirky but then again, so is Sara.

HIWF DannyGoing to sea in a sieve: the autobiography by Danny Baker

Danny Baker was born in Deptford, South East London in June 1957, and from an early age was involved in magazine journalism, with the founding of fanzine ‘Sniffin’ Glue’, alongside friend Mark Perry. This is a biography of his life and career in television and radio.

HIWF FrankThe extraordinary life of Frank Derrick, age 81 by Bob Jim

Frank Derrick is 81 … and he’s just been run over by a milk float. It was tough enough to fill the hours of the day when he was active, but now he’s broken his arm and fractured his foot, it looks set to be a very long few weeks ahead. He watches DVDs, spends his money frivolously at the local charity shop and desperately tries to avoid the cold callers knocking on his door. Emailing his daughter in America on the library computer and visiting his friend Smelly John used to be the highlights of his week. Now he can’t even do that. Then a breath of fresh air comes into his life in the form of Kelly Christmas, home help. With her little blue car and appalling parking, her cheerful resilience and ability to laugh at his jokes, Kelly changes Frank’s life.

HIWF WonderWonder by R. J. Palacio

 ‘Wonder’ is the funny, sweet and incredibly moving story of Auggie Pullman. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, this shy, bright ten-year-old has been home-schooled by his parents for his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the stares and cruelty of the outside world.

HIWF HumansThe humans by Matt Haig

Professor Andrew Martin of Cambridge University solves the world’s greatest mathematical riddle. Then he disappears. When he is found walking naked along the motorway, Professor Martin seems different. Besides the lack of clothes, he now finds normal life pointless. His loving wife and teenage son seem repulsive to him. In fact, he hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton. And he’s a dog. Can a bit of Debussy and Emily Dickinson keep him from murder?

HIWF RosieThe Rosie project by Graeme Simsion

Meet Don Tillman. Don is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet. But he has designed a very detailed questionnaire to help him find the perfect woman. One thing he already knows, though, is that it’s not Rosie. Absolutely, completely, definitely not.

 

Helen Cadbury

This is a short blog to say how sad I was to hear that Helen Cadbury died last week. I was lucky enough to meet Helen several times, when she was talking about her books in our libraries. Helen was the author of two crime novels about PCSO Sean Denton with a third in the series out later this year. Her first volume of poetry is also due out later this year.

Helen was always very supportive of libraries and did events in not just Leeds but many across the country. She had a warmth and a way of speaking to an audience that made it very difficult to wrap an event up as the audience always wanted to linger to talk to her more.

The first time I encountered Helen was at an event in Bramley Library when she was talking about her first book to the Crime Readers group there. We held the event while the library was open. This can bring its challenges and indeed I cringed as one member of the public insisted on browsing the bookshelf just behind Helen’s head while musing loudly about the books to a friend. Helen took this in her stride, dealing with the situation with good grace and humour.

When Helen’s second book was selected for Read Regional for 2016, she visited Pudsey library to talk to the readers group there about the book. Helen’s honesty about her writing and writing process provoked a readers group discussion that I am sure the group will remember for some time.

The last time I saw Helen was at an event she did about writing at Central library in Leeds. Again her candidness about her books and writing and indeed about her recent cancer treatment made the event a memorable one for those that attended.

I will miss Helen, and my deepest sympathy goes to her family for their loss.

To catch a rabbit

Helen To catchTwo young boys stumble on a dead prostitute. She’s on Sean Denton’s patch. As Doncaster’s youngest community support officer, he’s already way out of his depth, but soon he’s uncovering more than he’s supposed to know. Meanwhile Karen Friedman, professional mother of two, learns her brother has disappeared. She desperately needs to know he’s safe, but once she starts looking, she discovers unexpected things about her own needs and desires. In this gripping story of migrants, love and the sex trade, Karen and Sean’s enquiries begin to throw up the same names. While Sean comes up against a corrupt senior officer, Karen finds she’s falling in love. Played out against a gritty landscape on the edge of a Northern town, both of them risk losing all they hold precious.

Bones in the nest

Helen BonesThe Chasebridge Killer is out; racial tension is rising and the mutilated body of a young Muslim man is found in the stairwell of a tower block in Doncaster. As he gets drawn into the case, Sean Denton’s family life and his police job become dangerously entwined. Meanwhile a young woman is trying to piece her life back together, but someone is out there; someone who will never let her forget what she’s done.