Bank holiday dreaming…

It might be fleeting but if like me, the weather this week has brightened your mood we should take advantage of it before it slips away again. I am dreaming of a bank holiday that consists of lazing in the sun, consuming barbecued foods, sipping cocktails and reading fabulous books. You too? Here are some books to help you achieve all that.

summer picnicA perfect day for a picnic: over 80 recipes for outdoor feasts to share with family and friends by Tori Finch

Chic country girl and gourmet Tori Finch understands the joy of a carefree picnic. There’s nothing like eating outdoors to capture your sense of adventure, and add a flair to the food. Hop on your vintage bike to work up an appetite, hit the beach for a cook-out, or host a teddy bears picnic for little ones; these all feature within Tori’s 10 themed menus, each complete with recipes for savoury and sweet dishes, as well as drinks.

Summer how to eat outsideHow to eat outside: fabulous al fresco food for BBQs, bonfires, camping and more by Genevieve Taylor

summer great outdoors cookbookThe great outdoors cookbook: over 140 recipes for barbecues, campfires, picnics and more by Phil Vickery

From campfire bangers to the most simple of picnics, it’s amazing how good food tastes out in the open. This book has been arranged by cooking method, with chapters on home BBQs, BBQs on the beach, gas burners, Dutch ovens, open fires and picnics.

Summer tequila mockingbirdTequila mockingbird: cocktails with a literary twist by Tim Federle

The ultimate cocktail book for theliterary obsessed. Featuring delicious recipes paired with wry commentary on history’s most beloved novels. The drinks include Last of the Mojitos, Are you there God? Its me, Margarita, Love in the time of Kahlua.

summer pretty fly for a mai taiPretty fly for a mai tai: cocktails with rock ‘n’ roll spirit

It’s an undisputed truth that music and booze go hand-in-hand. So what better way to improve your favorite songs than by pairing them with a tailor-made cocktail? ‘Pretty Fly For A Mai Tai’ offers 75 delicious drinks recipes accompanied by humorous illustrations which are sure to please the audiophile in your life.

summer water colouristThe Watercolourist by Beatrice Masini

19th century Italy. A young woman arrives at a beautiful villa in the countryside outside Milan. Bianca, a gifted young watercolourist, has been commissioned to illustrate the plants in the magnificent grounds. She settles into her grand new home, invited into the heart of the family by the eccentric poet Don Titta, his five children, his elegant and delicate wife and powerful, controlling mother. As the seasons pass, the young watercolourist develops her art – inspired by the landscape around her – and attracts many admirers. And while most of the household’s servants view her with envy, she soon develops a special affection for one housemaid, who, she is intrigued to learn, has mysterious origins. But as Bianca’s determination to unlock the secrets of the villa grows, she little notices the dangers that lie all around her.

summer before the rainsBefore the rains by Dinah Jeffries

1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself. But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding younger brother. Brought together by their desire to improve conditions for local people, Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, and following their heart.

summer the oneThe one by John Marrs

How far would you go to find ‘the one’? One simple mouth swab is all it takes. One tiny DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for. A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people take the test. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others.

summer the girlsThe girls by Emma Cline

California. The summer of 1969. In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life. Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat. Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls. And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways. Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

 

Librarian’s Choice: The books that got me back into reading

This blog is from Louise, a librarian based at Central library.

I used to read, a lot. Days would be lost with my eyes tied firmly to the pages in front of me as I awaited what would happen next, early favourites included the adventurous tales of Robin Hood and the multiple ‘scrapes’ encountered by red-headed orphan Anne Shirley. Teenage years followed with a dip into the teen horror genre and Stephen King, who I found way too scary but had to read because all my friends were. As young adulthood overtook teens it was into the world of ‘chick lit’ I fell. My reading tastes continued to grow and change as I aged and there was always a book in my bag to be opened and indulged whenever the chance arose.
And then it stopped.

Something major in my life happened that pretty much stopped dead my love of literature. I became a parent. Instead of reading by lamplight my nights were spent with a fractious babe. Sometimes I could barely remember what day it was never mind where I was up to in the plot. Instead of finishing a book in a couple of days it was now taking me a couple of weeks to even get to the middle and by the time I’d gone a whole year without finishing a book I realised I’d lost the habit. To me that’s what reading always was, a good habit that brought pleasure, escapism and knowledge.

Two children and one house move later I’d had enough, I wanted reading back but it appeared I’d forgot how to become engrossed in a book once more and repeated efforts left me feeling a failure when I couldn’t get past chapter 3. And then I remembered a book that I’d read 15 years previously and still had squirrelled away in a box somewhere. True Tales of American Lives by Paul Auster. 180 stories chosen from his National Public Radio programme are the stories of everyday people living in twentieth century America. There were only 2 rules to have your story included, it must be true and you must be previously unpublished. The resulting stories cover everything from grief to romance, adventurous to the hum drum, humourous, sad and ridiculous but all of them real. The best bit, most of them were short. Some barely a page while others took up 5, the book was one that could be picked up and put down without plot lines or character getting confused. This book got me back into reading while being one of the most authentic but multi-voiced books I have ever read. Some of the stories I couldn’t remember from my first reading 15 years previous, but others were like old friends just waiting to be reacquainted.

Louise The MothIt was also talking about my love of this book that had my next read recommended to me. The Moth: This is a True Story
by Catherine Burns.  Like True Tales, The Moth gathers together a selection of stories though this time there is definitely more of a fantastical element to the tales, with accounts of space walks from astronaut Michael J. Massimino, to the American doctor spirited away by a group of nuns to the bed side of Mother Theresa. Again the stories are short but always engaging and easy to read wherever you are.

These are the two books that got me back into reading, these are the two books I would recommend to anyone and everyone, whether you are already a voracious reader or someone looking for a way into a wonderful new habit.

Here are some other short story collections to kick off your reading habit.

Lou The not deadThe not-dead and the saved and other stories by Kate Clanchy

None of us are perfect, in the way we love, age, or view the world. ‘The Not-Dead and the Saved’ offers us an opportunity for reinvention: of ourselves, those we have lost, and the world in which we live. From a man doomed to spend his life trying to find solutions to cancer; to a new mother haunted by a swaddling, tablet-eating great-aunt; to an intrepid literary agent who travels to the Yorkshire Moors to discover the next big thing, and ends up eating Anne Brontë’s rock cakes, we meet a host of characters who are desperately, creatively, and often hilariously trying to evade the underlying truths of their lives.

Lou Sweet HomeSweet home by Carys Bray

A surreal supermarket, fictional parenting books, a gingerbread house and an alternative to IVF steeped in Nordic mythology are deployed in 17 very different notions of home, as Carys Bray explores loss, disappointment, frustrated expectations and regret through dark, funny stories which strike at the heart of family life.

 

Lou The visiting privelegeThe visiting privilege: new and collected stories by Joy Williams

Joy Williams has been celebrated as a master of the short story for four decades, her renown passing as a given from one generation to the next even in the shifting landscape of contemporary writing. And at long last the incredible scope of her singular achievement is put on display: 33 stories drawn from three earlier, much lauded collections, and another 13 appearing here for the first time in book form.

Lou Those were the daysThose were the days by Terry Wogan

Welcome to the party. Pull up a chair, take your ease, and join Tom, king of the Cattle Market branch, for a bite to eat and a glass or two of wine. Come and meet his customers: many of whom have become his friends, and many more of whom haven’t. Either way they’ve some fine tales to tell. Join Tom as he reminisces about the places he’s been, the people he has met, the laughter and the tears of daily life as he made his way from humble bank clerk to the heady heights of Branch Manager. ‘Those Were the Days’ is a collection of short stories by national treasure Sir Terry Wogan, filled with his famous humour, and charm.

Lou American HousewifeAmerican housewife by Helen Ellis

Meet the women of ‘American Housewife’: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party-crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. Vicious, fresh and nutty as a poisoned Snicker, this collection is an uproarious and pointed commentary on womanhood.

Lou Single, carefreeSingle, carefree, mellow by Katherine Heiny

A tender and ruefully funny look at varieties of love, secrets, and betrayal in ten exquisite stories that form a guided tour of the human heart.

 

Music and Performing Arts

Leeds Central Library is home to one of the biggest collections of music and performing arts collections in the country. We have huge collections of orchestral scores, a specialist drama collection full of play sets to borrow, not to mention lots and lots of books about everything you can imagine relating to a huge variety of different types of music. As a taster, here are a few of our favourites:-

Music Cant StopCan’t Stop, Won’t Stop: a history of the hip-hop generation by Jeff Chang

This is the definitive history of hip-hop- not just as a musical genre but as a cultural phenomenon – and is widely considered to be the best book written on the subject so far. He traces the roots of the movement way back to the sound systems of 60s Jamaica, through the urban jungle of 70s New York with its block parties and gang fights, to the “golden age” of the 80s, and its eventual transformation in the 90s to the globe-spanning, cultural colossus that it is today. There’s more to this than music; it’s not just a detailed history of the luminary artists and records that shaped the movement, but an in-depth analysis of everything that came with it, from graffiti and break-dancing – who’d have thought it originated in kung-fu movies? – to beatboxing and hip-hop fashion through the years, and a whole load of other interesting stuff as well. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop has it all.

Music Last trainLast Train To Memphis – the rise of Elvis Presley/Careless Love – the unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick

Essential reading for anyone interested in Elvis or early rock n roll music in general. Peter Guralnick is a brilliant chronicler of American roots music and he’s never written better than here, especially in the first volume, describing how a shy country boy shot to fame as a country/rockabilly star before becoming the King of rock n roll. It’s a real rollercoaster ride and ultimately a very sad story, with the shadowy figure of Colonel Tom Parker seemingly responsible for much of what led to the wheels falling off in later years. It’s a monumental bit of work, stretching to just shy of a couple of thousand pages across two books, but if you’re after a biography of Elvis, you won’t find a better one than this.

music EnglandsEngland’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock by Jon Savage

What Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop is for hip-hop, England’s Dreaming is for punk. It’s ostensibly a biography of the Sex Pistols, but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s really a social history of England post-1945, showing how the political and economic turmoil that followed the end of the Second World War led to the liberalism of the 60s and the backlash that followed with the rise of punk in the mid to late 70s. It’s interesting to read that rather than appearing in a spontaneous burst of working-class rage, in a lot of ways it was a manufactured, middle-class movement – created largely by Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood, with a little help from Bernie Rhodes – that took on a life of its own. Savage examines the whole story with the incisive scalpel of a true academic but he obviously has a visceral feeling for why punk came to matter so much to so many people, and his descriptions of the chaos, noise and violence of the early bands and shows are absolutely brilliant. First class.

music NirvanaNirvana: the true story by Everett True

Even since before Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994 there have been hundreds of biographies both of the man himself and of the band he fronted, but this one, written by a man who played a big part in popularising them in this country, is one of the best. Everett True was a journalist for the now sadly-defunct Melody Maker in the late 1980s when he came across a burgeoning musical scene around Seattle/Washington. A host of bands were combining the riffing of 70s heavy rock with the power and attitude of 80s hardcore punk, and thus what came to be known as grunge was born. True played a pivotal role in bringing those bands to England for the first time, and as such he had a level of access to them that no other English journalist could match. True and Cobain remained friends throughout Nirvana’s stratospheric rise to fame in the early 90s, and he was one of only two people –the other being Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan – that was asked to speak at his funeral, so it’s fair to say that you can give this account a good degree of credibility, even if some of the more fanciful stories have to be taken with a pinch of salt. This is recommended reading for anyone interested in the band or in 90s alternative rock in general.

Music redemption songRedemption Song by Chris Salewicz

More punk, this time a biography of the Clash frontman Joe Strummer. Strummer was always the poster-boy for political punk rock, but far from being a working class rebel, he was actually the son of a minor diplomat and something of a middle-class art school hippy. No matter. He fronted one of the 70s most seminal bands, and continued to be a significant presence in the British cultural and musical landscape until his untimely death in 2002. Salewicz (or Sandwich, as Strummer called him) was “the only journalist he ever trusted” and was obviously present at many of the major events described herein, but with a masterful sleight-of-hand he writes himself out of this history altogether and remains invisible throughout the narrative, which is a pretty neat trick when you think about it. There are some great anecdotes from the punk days in here, but overall it’s a great biography of a complex and fascinating individual, whose private persona seems very different to the one he projected to the public.

Librarian’s Choice – Rediscovering Science Fiction

This blog post comes from Ben, who manages our Business and Information library at Central library.

Ben Time shipsMy rediscovery of a love of Science Fiction came about last August on holiday in Majorca. The jury’s out as to whether I had heat stroke or a virus but either way I spent 48 hours dividing my time between visits to the bathroom and lying in bed. There wasn’t much else to do except read, so I finished the 2 books I’d taken with me (Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall and Alan McGee’s story of Creation Records) pretty quickly. I managed to make it to the hotel foyer where there was a shelf full of random sun-bleached paperbacks that holiday makers had abandoned. In-amongst the chick-lit and James Patterson novels there was a book that intrigued me, it was “The Time Ships” by Stephen Baxter, which the cover told me was the authorized sequel to The Time Machine by H G Wells. I hadn’t read any Science Fiction since I was a teenager, I wasn’t really expecting much but took it back to my sick bed and soon got hooked. The story takes up where The Time Machine left off. This won’t mean much if you haven’t read the original but the Time Traveller, wracked by guilt, decides to return to the year 802,701 to save Weena (a devolved human from the future that he failed to save in the first book). However when he travels into the future he discovers that this timeline is no longer accessible because he has changed history through his previous journeys through time. He then embarks on adventures in time into distant pasts and futures (and even a strange alternate World War 2 at one point), but each journey alters reality. It tied my head in knots but in a really good way.

Ben children of timeTime Ships had whetted my appetite, and the next novel I read was “Children of Time” by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The last survivors of the human race leave the dying Earth, desperate to find a new home. Thousands are in suspended animation aboard a colossal ship, in hibernation until they find a habitable planet, heading for a world that was terraformed by humans long ago. The story alternates between the humans on the space ship, who are travelling for hundreds of thousands of years, and the evolution of intelligent life on the terraformed planet. While life advances on the terraformed planet it regresses on the space ship. You sense events are building to an inevitable collision between the two civilizations and the tension is unbearable by the end of the novel. This book makes you ponder really big themes – time, evolution, religion, God – but ultimately it’s also an excellent story.

Ben HyperionA couple of weeks ago I read “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons, a book that always features in top 10 Sci-fi lists. This book is really intense, in parts it’s as much horror as Science fiction. I read it in one week, and I absolutely couldn’t put it down even though it literally gave me nightmares! The galaxy is on the brink of a massive war, and the mysterious planet of Hyperion holds secrets that both sides want to exploit. Seven pilgrims set out on an epic journey to confront the Shrike – a monstrous creature “part god part killing machine” that inhabits Hyperion. The book consists of each of the pilgrims telling their tale to the others, to explain their reason for confronting the Shrike. It’s a strange, incredibly imaginative – and at times very dark – story, but the worlds and universe that Simmons has created are rich, detailed and colourful.

All three of these massively inventive books combine gripping story-telling with an ability to instill a sense of wonder in the reader and actually make you think more about the nature of the universe.

Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist announced

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction chose to announce the longlisted books on International Women’s Day earlier this week. The list is sixteen brilliant books chosen by the 2017 judging panel. This year the panel members are Tessa Ross, Chair of Judges, comedian Sara Pascoe, novelist Aminatta Forna, broadcaster Katie Derham and journalist Sam Baker.

The judges now have the unenviable task of whittling these sixteen titles down to just six shortlisted titles before finally choosing the winner which will be revealed at an awards ceremony hosted in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall on 7 June 2017.

And of course you can borrow them all from Leeds Libraries so you can see which ones you think deserve to be on the shortlist, and ultimately win the £30,000 prize money.

Baileys Stay with meStay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother-in-law wants, and she has tried everything – arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, dances with prophets, appeals to God. But when her in-laws insist upon a new wife, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair.

Unravelling against the social and political turbulence of 80s Nigeria, Stay With Me sings with the voices, colours, joys and fears of its surroundings. Ayobami Adebayo weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief, and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood. It is a tale about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak.

Baileys The PowerThe Power by Naomi Alderman

In ‘The Power’, the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

Baileys Hag-seedHag-Seed byMargaret Atwood

Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds. Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge. After 12 years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?

Baileys Little DeathsLittle Deaths by Emma Flint

It’s the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery. Noting Ruth’s perfectly made-up face and provocative clothing, the empty liquor bottles and love letters that litter her apartment, the detectives leap to convenient conclusions, fuelled by neighbourhood gossip and speculation. Sent to cover the case on his first major assignment, tabloid reporter Pete Wonicke at first can’t help but do the same. But the longer he spends watching Ruth, the more he learns about the darker workings of the police and the press. Soon, Pete begins to doubt everything he thought he knew. Ruth Malone is enthralling, challenging and secretive – is she really capable of murder?

Baileys The MareThe Mare by Mary Gaitskill

Velveteen Vargas is eleven years old, a Fresh Air Fund kid from Brooklyn. Her host family is a couple in upstate New York: Ginger, a failed artist on the fringe of Alcoholics Anonymous, and Paul, an academic who wonders what it will mean to “make a difference” in such a contrived situation. The Mare illuminates the couple’s changing relationship with Velvet over the course of several years, as well as Velvet’s powerful encounter with the horses at the stable down the road, as Gaitskill weaves together Velvet’s vital inner-city community and the privileged country world of Ginger and Paul.

Baileys Teh Dark CircleThe Dark Circle by Linda Grant

The Second World War is over, a new decade is beginning but for an East End teenage brother and sister living on the edge of the law, life has been suspended. Sent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent to learn the way of the patient, they find themselves in the company of army and air force officers, a car salesman, a young university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the aristocracy and an American merchant seaman. They discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach and only by inciting wholesale rebellion can freedom be snatched.

Baileys Lesser BohemiansThe Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

One night in London an 18 year old girl, recently arrived from Ireland to study drama, meets an older actor and a tumultuous relationship ensues. Set across the bedsits and squats of mid-nineties north London, ‘The Lesser Bohemians’ is a story about love and innocence, joy and discovery, the grip of the past and the struggle to be new again.

 

Baileys midwinterMidwinter by Fiona Melrose

Father and Son, Landyn and Vale Midwinter, are men of the land. Suffolk farmers. Times are hard and they struggle to sustain their property, their livelihood and their heritage in the face of competition from big business. But an even bigger, more brutal fight is brewing: a fight between each other, about the horrible death of Cecelia, beloved wife and mother, in Zambia ten years earlier. A past they have both refused to confront until now. Over the course of a particularly mauling Suffolk winter, Landyn and Vale grapple with their memories and their pain, raking over what remains of their fragile family unit, constantly at odds and under threat of falling apart forever. While Vale makes increasingly desperate decisions, Landyn retreats, finding solace in the land, his animals – and a fox who haunts the farm and seems to bring with her both comfort and protection.

Baileys Sport of KingsThe Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

Hellsmouth, a wilful thoroughbred filly, has the legacy of a family riding on her.

The Forges: one of the oldest and proudest families in Kentucky; descended from the first settlers to brave the Wilderness Road; as mythic as the history of the South itself – and now, first-time horse breeders.

Through an act of naked ambition, Henry Forge is attempting to blaze this new path on the family’s crop farm. His daughter, Henrietta, becomes his partner in the endeavour but has desires of her own. When Allmon Shaughnessy, an African American man fresh from prison, comes to work in the stables, the ugliness of the farm’s history rears its head. Together through sheer will, the three stubbornly try to create a new future – one that isn’t determined by Kentucky’s bloody past – while they mould Hellsmouth into a champion.

Baileys Woman next doorThe Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbours. One is black, one white. Both are successful with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed. And both are sworn enemies, sharing a hedge and hostility and pruning both with a vim that belies the fact they are over 80. But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together. And gradually the bickering and sniping softens into lively debate, and from there into memories shared. But could these sparks of connection ever transform into friendship? Or is it too late for these two to change?

Baileys lonely Hearts HotelThe Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.

Baileys Essex SerpentThe Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890’s, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, ‘The Essex Serpent’ has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way. They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned.

Baileys BarkskinsBarkskins by Annie Proulx

In the late 17th century two illiterate woodsmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, make their way from Northern France to New France to seek a living. Bound to a feudal lord, a ‘seigneur’, for three years in exchange for land, they suffer extraordinary hardship, always in awe of the forest they are charged with clearing, sometimes brimming with dreams of its commercial potential. Rene marries an Indian healer, and they have children, mixing the blood of two cultures. Duquet travels the globe and back, starting a logging company that will prosper for generations. Proulx tells the stories of the children, grandchildren, and descendants of these two lineages, the Sels and the Duquets, as well as the descendants of their allies and foes, as they travel back to Europe, to China, to New England, always in quest of a livelihood or a fortune, or fleeing stunningly brutal conditions.

Baileys First LoveFirst Love by Gwendoline Riley

Neve is a writer in her mid-30s married to an older man, Edwyn. For now they are in a place of relative peace, but their past battles have left scars. As Neve recalls the decisions that led her to this marriage, she tells of other loves and other debts, from her bullying father and her self-involved mother to a musician who played her and a series of lonely flights from place to place. Drawing the reader into the battleground of her relationship, Neve spins a story of helplessness and hostility, an ongoing conflict in which both husband and wife have played a part. But is this, nonetheless, also a story of love?

Baileys Do not sayDo Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

At the center of this epic story are two young women, Marie and Ai-Ming. Through their relationship Marie strives to piece together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking answers in the fragile layers of their collective story. Her quest will unveil how Kai, her enigmatic father, a talented pianist, and Ai-Ming’s father, the shy and brilliant composer, Sparrow, along with the violin prodigy Zhuli were forced to reimagine their artistic and private selves during China’s political campaigns and how their fates reverberate through the years with lasting consequences.

With maturity and sophistication, humor and beauty, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of life inside China yet transcendent in its universality.

Baileys Gustav SonataThe Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

It is the tutor who tells the young Gustav that he must try to be more like a coconut – that he needs a hard shell to protect the softness inside. This is what his native Switzerland has perfected – a shell to protect its neutrality, to keep its people safe. But his beloved friend, Anton, doesn’t want to be safe – a gifted pianist, he longs to make his mark on the world outside. On holiday one summer in Davos, the boys stumble across a remote building. Long ago, it was a TB sanitorium; now it is wrecked and derelict. Here, they play a game of life and death, deciding which of their imaginary patients must burn. It becomes their secret. ‘The Gustav Sonata’ begins in the 1930s, under the shadow of the Second World War, and follows the boys into maturity, and middle age, where their friendship is tested as never before.

International Women’s Day – The Lemonade Syllabus

This blog is from Kat, a librarian based in the North East of the city.

The Lemonade Syllabus

Beyoncé may not be everyone’s kind of feminist but no one can argue with the effect she has had upon a generation of Independent Women who grew up listening to Bills, Bills, Bills, Independent Women, Survivor, Irreplaceable, Single Ladies and Run The World (Girls). One of the greatest moments of my life was seeing her perform Single Ladies at Glastonbury – I have never seen so many men look confused at all the enthusiastic women in the crowd.

Last year she released a visual album Lemonade (which is available to borrow from the Music Library) which inspired doctoral student Candice Benbow to create the #LemonadeSyllabus hashtag and social media campaign. As a result of this Candice released the syllabus as a free downloadable resource of over 250 works centred around the lives of Black women. Within the first week, it was downloaded over 40,000 times.

A selection of the titles featured are currently on display at Chapeltown Library and features both fiction and non-fiction coving a range of subjects which centre around Black Womanhood :

kat-raisin-in-the-sunA raisin in the sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Set in 1950s Chicago, A Raisin in the Sun is the classic play about a black family’s struggle for equality. The play was originally published in the USA in 1959 but has since become a standard text in American schools.

kat-americanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

From the award-winning author of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, a powerful story of love, race and identity. As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race.

kat-blues-legaciesBlues legacies and black feminism by Angela Y. Davis

In this work Angela Davies provides the historical, social, and political contexts with which to reinterpret the lyrics and performances of Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday.

kat-snow-birdBoy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

‘Boy, Snow, Bird’ is a deeply moving novel about three women and the strange connection between them. It confirms Helen Oyeyemi’s place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of her generation.

 

kat-letter-to-my-daughterLetter to my daughter by Maya Angelou

Dedicated to the daughter she never had but sees all around her, Letter to My Daughter reveals Maya Angelou’s path to living well and living a life with meaning. Told in her own inimitable style, this book transcends genres and categories: guidebook, memoir, poetry, and pure delight. Here in short spellbinding essays are glimpses of the tumultuous life that led Angelou to an exalted place in American letters and taught her lessons in compassion and fortitude: how she was brought up by her indomitable grandmother in segregated Arkansas, taken in at thirteen by her more worldly and less religious mother, and grew to be an awkward, six-foot-tall teenager whose first experience of loveless sex paradoxically left her with her greatest gift, a son.

kat-a-piece-of-cakeA piece of cake : a memoir by Cupcake Brown

‘A Piece of Cake’ is the story of a girl named Cupcake, which begins when, aged 11, she is orphaned and placed in the care of sadistic foster parents. Neglected and sexually abused she fell into drug abuse and gang culture before turning her life around.

 

kat-the-bluest-eyeThe bluest eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author’s girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves’ garden do not bloom. Pecola’s life does change- in painful, devastating ways.
With its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child’s yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment the Bluest Eye remains one of Tony Morrisons’s most powerful, unforgettable novels- and a significant work of American fiction.

kat-the-book-of-phoenixThe book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

They call her many things – a research project, a test-subject, a specimen. An abomination. But she calls herself Phoenix, an ‘accelerated woman’ – a genetic experiment grown and raised in Manhattan’s famous Tower 7, the only home she has ever known. Although she’s only two years old, Phoenix has the body and mind of an adult – and powers beyond imagining. Phoenix is an innocent, happy to live quietly in Tower 7, reading voraciously and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human. Until the night that Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated, Phoenix begins to search for answers – only to discover that everything that she has ever known is a lie.

kat-we-should-allWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun. With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

kat-you-cantYou can’t keep a good woman down by Alice Walker

A natural evolution from the earlier, much-acclaimed collection In Love & Trouble, these fourteen provocative and often humorous stories show women oppressed but not defeated. These are hopeful stories about love, lust, fame, and cultural thievery, the delight of new lovers, and the rediscovery of old friends, affirmed even across self-imposed color lines.

In case you were wondering my favourite song from Lemonade is Hold Up, and my ultimate Beyoncé track would have to be Survivor – I will survive and keep on surviving!

Librarian’s Choice – Teen Reads

This blog comes from Sapphia, a librarian based in the North East of the city.

I hit a bit of a wall. I have been super busy. But I also stopped reading. I don’t like it. I am a librarian. I looked at all the beautiful books, but couldn’t quite bring myself to read any of them. So I set myself a challenge, to read teen books. I worked on the theory that they would be easier to crack on with. I forget I’m not a teenager anymore! Seriously though, generally they are great, and even though you don’t have to worry about having friends at school anymore or whether you’re home before your parents can scream at you, we still go through similar scenarios and we still suffer the anxiety and self doubt that we did as young adults. Phew it feels nice to have got through it, but it’s also good to know you did, and remember now, you are capable of even more.
And one plus point, teenage books are definitely quicker to read.

sapp-suicide-notesSuicide Notes from Beautiful Girls – Lynn Weingarten

I loved this book! It’s full of plot twists and your constantly wondering what’s going to happen next! June and Delia used to be friends. Delia is wild and out of control, June is timid and fascinated that someone like Delia would want to be friends with her. They drifted apart. Then June finds out Delia has killed herself. She has left a suicide note. June is overcome with guilt for not answering Delia’s last call. But why did she call? When Delia’s death becomes suspicious, June decides to investigate. This novel is great at highlighting the all consuming turbulence of friendship and how toxic it can be. Its hard to tell you anymore without hinting to the plot twists but the end is immense and truly gripping, I couldn’t stop reading! Give it a go. It’s a quick read but adult in content so it captivates you throughout and you can relate to the characters.

sapp-our-chemical-heartsOur Chemical Hearts – Krystal Sutherland

For lovers of John Green and Rainbow Rowell. Henry Page is sensitive. Maybe too sensitive at first I won’t lie to you, you think yep this is a teen book, I won’t be able to read this. But I kept going and I got drawn in, Grace is a captivating character. Grace is the new girl at school and she’s weird. She dresses in boys clothes and has no interest in anyone. Grace and Henry are both nominated to be the editor of their school paper and this means that they have to be around each other. Henry realises that it’s not about what a girl looks like it’s who they are that makes you like them…..but Grace has got some serious issues. And you just don’t trust her. Full of teenage angst, first love and movie references, including Harry Potter and Snatch. See how the characters explore and experience grief and how it can completely take over your life. (Only if you’re a teen, we’re adults now….yer we wish.) But there are also many forms of grief.

sapp-instructionsInstructions for a Second Hand Heart – Tamsyn Murray

One of the the teen titles chosen for this years Leeds Book Awards, I chose this book for the interesting title and book cover. I like a good cover. I didn’t read the back, I just read the book. I really liked it, I had a free day and I read it in the day. Niamh constantly fights her twin brother, always living in his shadow she’s about to be experience a future completely different, one where it feels like everything has fallen apart. Jonny has been in hospital for what feels like his whole life, every day he’s kept alive by a machine and wonders if this will be the day he will die? His best friend is Em, Em has cancer. To get them through the endless days in the hospital they create an ‘unbucket’ list for all of the things they will do together when they get out. But this is a book about facing the future, no matter how scary and painful it can be, and realising that the best way to heal your heart is to share it with others, no matter how much it hurts.

sapp-the-gracesThe Graces – Laure Eve

I wasn’t as keen on this book. Recommended by Mr. B of Mr.B’s Book Emporium I thought i would give it a go. River doesn’t know if Magic really exists, but when she moves school and meets the ‘Graces’ she suddenly finds herself desperate to be a part of the group that everyone loves. A modern day Matilda, with less of the mischief and endearment and instead, teen angst and a dash of witch craft. This is one for the ‘Twilight’ series fans. I think this was why I wasn’t too keen on it, it’s full of romance and I think I was hoping for more ‘The Craft’. Thinking about it, maybe it’s good the book didn’t go there for teen readers? This being said it’s likely that if you are a teen or know one, they might love it, can we all remember how big Twilight was? FYI I’m team ‘Werewolf’.
There will be more books to follow. It could start all over again!

sapp-monster-callsA Monster Calls – Patrick Ness – Conception by Soibhan Dowd

I really loved this book! Recommended by the Zoella Book Club and with all the hype with the new film adaption I felt like this had to be on a teen reading list. It was nothing like I expected. A wild ancient Monster visits Connor, he has been expecting one from his nightmares, but this monster is quite different. As well as the monster Connor is having to deal with his mothers illness, his dad starting a new family in America, his grandma getting in the way and the school bullies he has to face every day. The Monster doesn’t care about any of these things, he is here to tell Conner 3 stories and from him in return, he wants the most dangerous thing of all, the truth. I read this book in a day. I recommend everyone to read it and remember how it felt to be a child.

sapp-girl-upGirl UP! – Laura Bates

Ok – so this isn’t a fiction book. Its a book I think is really important. I needed this book as a teenager! It would have saved me from myself, doubt and envy. Ok, not completely, but it definitely would have helped. A non- fiction book with comic illustrations this is a book for teen girls and maybe even boys, talking about everything from body issues, identity and sexuality. And do you remember all those quizzes we are all obsessed with as a teen, wanting to be allocated in the ‘best’ category or body shape? Like really how did we even let this happen? Social media suckers us in and it does influence us. As much as we wish it didn’t or try to deny it. They have us wanting to conform to something we are not.
Laura Bates has a movement. If we educate teens and our kids even earlier, they can make informed decisions, knowing the consequences. But mostly, making the choice for themselves and not giving into peer pressure or social ideals, even it’s about responding to that nude Snapchat. I vote using the snapchat stickers Laura provides, just saying.
There’s also lots of great sign posting with useful contacts and info. Again, where was this when I was a teen?