Librarian’s Choice: Crime Favourites

This blog comes from Lynn, a Senior Community Librarian based in the south of Leeds.

Although I love reading and will read anything and everything I am particularly drawn towards crime, especially those with a psychological edge.
I’ve picked a few of my more recent reads to share, I hope you enjoy them!

Lynn The OneThe One by John Marrs

Oh wow, this book gripped me from the start,  I couldn’t put it down. It features matchmaking with a difference, where a simple DNA test will match you with your perfect DNA genetic match. But of course nothing is a simple as that because of course we all have secrets. What if your match lives at the other side of the world or is a serial killer, what do you do? I felt the confusion, the excitement and fear of all the characters in this excellent read.

Lynn Gone without traceGone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

A brilliant novel of psychological suspense that asks, if the love of your life disappeared without a trace, how far would you go to find out why? Hannah Monroe’s boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house, images removed from social media, he’s not at work, it’s almost as if he never existed! All is not as it seems.

Lynn CoupleThe couple next door by Shari Lapena

A great debut psychological thriller novel. A dinner party next door is not a good night out. The wife Cynthia is all over Anne’s husband Marco and the birthday boy Graham is his usually boring self. Anne and Marco’s babysitter cancels at the last minute, and Anne is persuaded to leave the baby and to rely on the baby monitor. Hours tick by and Anne’s unease increases – they return home after midnight to find the baby gone and she and her husband are the chief suspects. The twists and turns of the plot will you keep you on your toes.

Lynn Apple Tree YardApple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Yvonne Carmichael is a strong independent professional woman who embarks on an ill-fated affair with a mysterious man she meets at the houses of parliament. They both end up in court charged with murder after many plot twists, lies, and intrigue. This book is both creepy and compelling with devastating consequences for all concerned. The book in my opinion is much better than the tv adaption.

Lynn Something wickedSomething wicked by Kerry Wilkinson

Nicholas Carr disappears on his 18th birthday, the world moves on except for his father, Richard. His last hope is Andrew Hunter, a private investigator. Andrew will need to go back to basics to try and find out what has happened to Nicholas, revisiting the site where three of Nicholas’s fingers were found and talking to friends and family. Andrew and his assistant mysterious assistant Jenny delve further into Nicholas’s life and discover he was getting involved in something dangerous……

And for a crime novel with a very local flavour:-

Lynn Skin Like SilverSkin like silver by Chris Nickson

This book features Detective Tom Harper and is set in Leeds in October 1891. An unclaimed parcel at the Central post office is discovered to contain the body of a baby boy. A fire at the railway station leaves a fireman dead and the body of a young woman is recovered, although it soon becomes apparent her death isn’t as a result of the fire. Tom works with former colleague Billy (now a fireman) to solve the case and during their investigations they find links to the suffrage and socialist causes, votes for women, abusive husbands and much more. The story reveals a lot about the political agenda at the time and the changing role of women including that of Tom’s wife. The plot builds to a violent end.

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Book Advent

This blog is from Rachel, the children’s librarian in Central library.

Book AdventWe are approaching that magical time of year where we count the days till Christmas. I have a daughter who has just turned 3 and doesn’t like eating chocolate (I know it’s hard to believe). So for us chocolate advent calendars are just not that exciting. The one thing she really does love is having stories read to her especially at bedtime. We are strong advocates of the Books Trust’s Bath, Book and Bed campaign, see more here. Each year we just combine the two things, bedtime story and advent and make it a little bit more special in the build up to Christmas Eve. I select 24 picture or board books and individually wrap them with a number tag on, 1-24. Each day we unwrap the book to read for that day. It’s a wonderful opportunity to make books exciting, enjoy those quiet moments of bonding and learn about Christmas traditions.

24 books sounds a lot, but that’s the brilliance of the library service, I just borrow the majority of them. I use some old books we already have at home, I’ll buy a couple of new books for her collection and borrow the rest. I like to get a mix of stories, some about sharing, giving and kindness and some that tell the tale of Christmas traditions. Here are some of my favourites.

Rachel GiantThe Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson.

A story of kindness, sharing and giving. George was very happy being the scruffiest giant in town. But one day, when he sees a shop stocking giant-size clothes, he decides it’s time to update his image. With smart clothes, George is a new man. However, as he goes home, he meets various animals who desperately need his help

Rachel JollyThe Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet Ahlberg.

A lovely story about letters at Christmas time. It’s Christmas Eve and the jolly postman is delivering greetings to various fairy-tale characters – there’s a card for Baby Bear, a game called ‘Beware’ for Red Riding Hood from Mr Wolf and four more surprise envelopes.

Rachel FatherFather Christmas by Raymond Briggs.

Meet Father Christmas: a very human gift-giver with a tough job to do. You’ll find out that he sometimes gets a little grumpy living at the icy North Pole and squeezing down chimneys, but he more than makes up for it in heart and
humor. Raymond Briggs brings this endearing character to life in over 100 wonderfully illustrated vignettes that follow the adventures of Father Christmas on his big night of the year.

Rachel StickStick Man by Julia Donaldson.

Stick Man lives in the family tree with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three’. But it’s dangerous being a Stick Man. A dog wants to play with him, a swan builds her nest with him. He even ends up on a fire! Join Stick Man on his troublesome journey back to the family tree.

Rachel StockingThe Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis.

This is a fun story about siblings being naughty or nice but ultimately being kind and doing the right thing. It’s Christmas Eve and everyone is asking – have you been good this year? For twins Sam and Charlie this is a big worry. Charlie has been especially naughty and everyone is sure she won’t get any presents at all. But when Santa makes a mistake, it’s up to Charlie to put things right. Will her last-minute act of kindness be enough?

Rachel weeFather Christmas Needs A Wee by Nicholas Allan.

At each different house that he visits, Father Christmas drinks and eats all the goodies left out for him. Before long he really, really, really needs a wee. Find out what happens, and whether Father Christmas ever gets to relieve himself, in this funny counting book from Nicholas Allan

Rachel nightThe Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore.

A classic magical story of the Christmas Eve. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’. Clement Moore’s popular festive poem about a visit from Santa Claus, illustrated in colour by Tomie DePaola, is a delight to share with children.

 

Librarian’s Choice: Books with Pictures

This blog post comes from Kate, a community librarian based in the east of the city.

I thought about organising my recommendations for illustrated books by age group, or category but in the end I decided against it. “Picture Books” are still often regarded as the territory of small children, but I hope this selection proves that is not the case.

Kate Iron ManThe Iron Man by Ted Hughes, illustrated by Laura Carlin

This is a classic modern fairy tale of a boy who befriends a dangerous, but misunderstood, metal guzzling robot who goes on to save the world. In this edition Laura Carlin’s stunning illustrations evoke a real sense of drama. The book includes gatefold pages and peep holes giving a physical dimension to sections of building tension as well as the huge scale of the story and its monsters.
The striking images and simple drama of Hughes’ text are so successful at creating the world of The Iron Man that I find myself getting lost between the pages of this book over and over again. The message of love and peace is universal, applicable across age groups and decades.

Kate SallySally Heathcote, Suffragette– by Mary M. Talbot artist- Kate Charlesworth

Telling the story of Sally Heathcote, a character of a maid working for Emmeline Pankhurst in turn of the century Manchester, the graphic novel offers another way into the world of the suffragettes. As a reader, you journey through time with Sally, watching the movement progress and the main character become more informed, better educated and increasingly politically involved. Using the personal viewpoint of Sally gives already shocking elements of the story, such as the force feeding of political prisoners, even more intensity and brings home both the horror of the event and the strength of the women who went through it.

The format of the graphic novel drew me in to the narrative, immersing me in the emotional and political turmoil experienced by activists whilst also feeding me information about the struggle through the inclusion of headline events and important dates. The artist uses gentle tones throughout, but with shocks of colour, including Sally’s red hair that show the passion and strength of the women. The purple, green and white of the suffragette movement are also prominent and the pictures deliver a lasting visual impression of the determination of the women involved. Whether as an introduction to the subject, or as an emotive read for those already familiar with the facts, I think this powerful book is well worth a read.

Kate BearSomething About a Bear written and illustrated by Jackie Morris

On a recent trip to our suppliers to purchase children’s non-fiction books, I couldn’t tear myself away from the gaze of the beautiful brown bear gazing out from the cover of this book. Every double page spread is filled with an immense and detailed painting of bears and poetic descriptions of the species and how they live. Despite undeniably offering an education on bears, this book is far from being a typical information book. I challenge you to walk past this book on a shelf without picking it up and burying yourself in its pages.

Kate ChildA Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Anyone who knows much about my reading habits will not be surprised to see a book by Oliver Jeffers on this list. They may be surprised to see only one and I must admit it was a hard choice. If you are not familiar with his work, get out there and explore it!

The plot follows a little girl leading a boy on an adventure of the imagination through the varied worlds of literature but A Child of Books if much more than a story- it’s a mantra for reading, a reminder about the importance and magic of the imagination. Would it go too far to say that this should be compulsory reading for all children, parents, educators, librarians, those who love books and those who don’t…?
Sam Winston and Oliver Jeffers collaborated on the illustrations combining Jeffers’ stylish line drawings and Winston’s typography to create a world truly made of books which the characters explore. Winston has used extracts from children’s classics from appropriate genres to match each setting. The illustrations in this book not only strengthen the story but add a historical, literary dimension encouraging readers to explore literature beyond the picture book world.

Kate MonsterA Monster Calls written by Patrick Ness illustrated by Jim Kay

This is the heart-breaking story of a real life nightmare as teenaged Connor struggles with the impending loss of his mother to cancer. Visited nightly by a monster, telling dark and twisted tales, Connor comes face to face with his situation and learns a difficult and upsetting truth.

There are many editions of this beautiful story available, and it has also been made into an amazing film, but this illustrated version, with its dark, tangled illustrations is particularly haunting. Kay’s pictures evoke the deep sense of oncoming doom felt by Connor. If you can bear the heart-break of the inevitable ending, choose to read this illustrated version of the book.

Kate HatThis is Not my Hat written and illustrated by Jon Klassen

My favourite of a trilogy of picture books by Jon Klassen featuring hats, conflict and controversy, This is Not my Hat tells the story of a small but plucky fish who has stolen the hat of a much larger fish. Klassen’s bold pictures give a sense of dramatic irony as the text relates the little fish’s thoughts and the illustrations show us what’s really going on! I highly recommend all three titles, the other two being I Want my Hat Back and We Found a hat. Fabulous to share with children (those who can’t or won’t read will certainly want to “read” the pictures) or to take pleasure in on your own (I bought a copy for my Dad for father’s day and he loves it).

Kate ShackletonShackleton’s Journey written and illustrated by William Grill

Telling the epic survival story of Ernest Shackleton and the crew of The Endeavour, there is something about the size of this book along with the glorious double page spreads, which give the reader a sense of the scale of the adventure.
Some of my favourite pages include those which feature an illustration of each member of the crew along with their names and roles on board and the page which pictorially lists all of the equipment and supplies taken on the expedition. As the journey progresses, you are treated to dramatic seascapes in tones of blue, black and white. The text may seem minimal in comparison to the pictures, but it tells the true story in a narrative style that entertains and informs. This is a luxurious non-fiction book that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.

Kate LovelaceThe Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: the (mostly) true story of the first computer written and illustrated by Sydney Padua

This graphic novel takes place in a fictional history where Charles Babbage completed the building of his Analytical Engine and teams up with Ada Lovelace for a series of adventures. The pair bump into various historical figures including George Eliot and Queen Victoria in comical but historically relevant scenarios.
Bold, steampunk inspired illustrations successfully engage the reader into wanting to know more about the topic and the copious footnotes, endnotes and appendixes comply, straightening out the facts from the fiction.
This is one for computing enthusiasts, comic lovers and the uninitiated alike!

Librarian’s Choice: Sci Fi

This blog comes from Liam, an assistant community librarian based in the east of Leeds.

Sci-fi has been unfairly maligned within the literary community for many decades, mainly by folk who believe literature equals being beaten around the head with a 19th Century thesaurus. Those of us who actually read it know that it is in fact an endless source of creativity and imagination, a way of reflecting today’s society through futuristic funhouse mirrors, and an important and compelling method of examining what’s ahead. It isn’t just aliens and spaceships and planets with names like Zygolythkah-7. Not only that, anyway. So I have compiled a list of sci-fi novels, some more well-known than others, but all of which I believe would stand up against any classic 20th Century novels. I could have talked about so many more, but hopefully this will whet your appetite!

Liam Left HandThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

No list of classic sci-fi would be complete without Ursula K. Le Guin, a true heavyweight of the genre. The Left Hand of Darkness won the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and remains as popular today as it was in 1969, when it was published.
Genly Ai, an envoy for Ekumen – a coalition of humanoid species – is sent to Gethen to encourage its leaders to join the union. He spends two years trying to persuade Karhide and Orgoreyn, the two dominant nations, to join, but encounters scepticism from both. Though capable of a type of telepathic communication, he struggles to understand the Gethen concept of ‘shifgrethor’, a system of social rules and status, and the effeminate mannerisms of many of the ‘male’ folk he meets. His task becomes all the more difficult as both nations distrust one another, and he gets caught in the middle.

The Left Hand of Darkness is an early example of feminist sci-fi, and explores themes of androgyny, sexuality and gender and their effects on society, particularly when you take gender away. Genly, for example, is unable to understand how his sexuality affects his way of thinking, and thus finds it incredibly difficult to communicate with the ambisexual Gethenians, who in turn find his motivations hard to understand. Another fascinating aspect of the story is the idea of ‘shifgrethor’, a complex system used by Gethenians extensively with regards to their society. So much of this story is as relevant today as it was when it was written. A particular passage about the dangers of patriotism rings true, especially with what’s happening in the world at the moment: “No, I don’t mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other. And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression.” Another longer part about nations and borders should be mandatory reading. In fact, the entire book should be!

Liam CandidateA Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for anything post-apocalyptic. Oryx and Crake, The Road, Earth Abides, Station Eleven, I Am Legend, Greybeard, The Gone-Away World… the list goes on. Show me society collapsing and I’m all over it. I chose ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’ for this blog as it is widely regarded as one of the finest examples, and hasn’t been out of print since it was first published in 1960. It’s the only novel Walter M. Miller ever wrote, which I guess proves the old adage of quitting while you’re ahead.

At the beginning we follow a religious sect that seems to live in the Middle Ages, but as we progress, we learn that this desolate landscape is actually 600 years after a terrible nuclear war. One of the few survivors, Isaac Edward Leibowitz, collected and stored any books he could find. Centuries later, they have become the basis for a new religion called the ‘Albertian Order of Leibowitz’. The story follows humanity as it tries to rebuild civilisation and is split into three parts, with a six-century time-jump in between. Much of the novel focuses on the aspects of religion versus state, and cyclical history – how we’re doomed to repeat it if we fail to learn from our mistakes. A true masterpiece which is well worth a read.

Lilith’s Brood (The Xenogenesis Trilogy) by Octavia E. Butler

Though less so today, sci-fi in the past was often a reserve for straight white male authors. Octavia E. Butler, an African-American lesbian, broke that mould and helped pave the way for a more diverse representation of voices in this genre. Her Xenogenesis trilogy – Dawn, Adulthood Rights, and Iago, recently released as an omnibus titled Lilith’s Brood – was written between 1987-89. Nuclear war has left the earth uninhabitable and humanity on the brink of extinction. The Oankili, an alien race, takes the handful of survivors left and holds them in suspended animation while they make the earth safe for life once more. Lilith Iyapo, our hero, is one of the first to be awoken aboard her new home, and is trained to help the other survivors come to terms with this new earth. The Oankili, however, know what the humans cannot accept – that humanity holds an innate self-destructive gene manifested in a need for hierarchical systems that will once again lead to their downfall – and wish to interbreed, removing this gene and thus allowing humanity the chance to flourish. But some of the survivors believe these hybrid offspring won’t truly be human, and will only cause the extinction of humankind. Some rebel…

Lilith’s Brood is a fantastic story about human nature, biological determinism, gender, sexuality and race. It could be seen as an allegory of immigration and integration that we see in society today. Though it could be argued that Butler doesn’t hold humanity in much regard, her characters are nevertheless brilliantly written and believable, the prose is tight and efficient, and the ideas are out of this world. Lilith herself is a true feminine hero, an archetype we need to see more of in sci-fi, and all genres.

Liam SiriusSirius by Olaf Stapledon

One of our librarians, Chris, recommended Sirius to me. Though the plot – a scientist breeds a super-intelligent dog with the ability to speak – sounds like it could’ve been lifted from a straight-to-DVD flop voiced by Rob Schneider, the result is actually a poignant study on consciousness, innate nature, the relationships between human and animal, and the fear of the ‘other’.

In rural Wales, a scientist begins using steroids to increase the cognisance of farm dogs. Though most fail, one little pup, Sirius, grows and develops until he holds the intelligence of a human. Born at the same time as the scientist’s daughter Plaxy, the pair forms a tight bond despite their sibling rivalry. While the family tries to keep Sirius’ intelligence a secret, locals soon begin to wonder about the dog’s smart behaviour, and react with fear and hatred. Sirius, neither man nor beast, struggles with his own identity and battles his innate wild nature against his carefully nurtured character.

‘Sirius’ is a remarkable novel by a true sci-fi legend, Olaf Stapledon, who influenced a whole generation of authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Stanislaw Lem, Brian Aldiss, C.S. Lewis and many more. First published in 1944, its main themes are still just as relevant, and have been explored in other novels such as Flowers for Algernon.

Liam AndroidsDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

With the recent release of ‘Blade Runner 2049’, and the current TV anthology series ‘Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams’, now would be the perfect time to revisit Philip K. Dick’s seminal novel. Set in a future San Francisco, a devastating nuclear war has seen the majority of the surviving population leave Earth to live in off-world colonies. A group of androids, used as labourers throughout the solar system, go rogue, murder their owners, and flee Mars for Earth. It’s down to Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, to track them down and ‘retire’ them, while the androids hide out with John Isidore, a simpleton who lives in an abandoned apartment building. These androids, though superficially identical to humans, are incapable of empathy. Though they’re trying to learn…

The novel explores what it means to be human; whether it’s our emotions, experiences, souls, or simply biology. It’s darkly funny in places too. Early on, Deckard and his wife use a ‘Penfield Mood Organ’ which feeds them the emotions that their lifeless world has taken away. Deckard’s wife Iran uses this organ for a “six-hour self-accusatory depression.” With the nuclear war devastating animal life most people can only afford mechanical replicas, such as the title’s electric sheep. Yes, the film’s popularity has overshadowed its source, but this remains a noteworthy book and is a must-read for anyone with an inclination to enjoy one of cyberpunk’s original sources.

Liam More thanMore Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

I put up a Gollancz sci-fi masterworks display at Headingley Library, with their gorgeously cheesy 30s pulp style paperback covers or the yellow with pink lettering hardbacks. This was one I found that I’d never heard of before, and quickly became one of my favourites. Theodore Sturgeon, a New Wave sci-fi author, and one of the few to escape a middle initial, was prolific in his writing – before his death in 1985 he had written over 200 stories. ‘More Than Human’ was one of his most famous and won 1954’s International Fantasy Award for best novel.

The story follows six individuals who, when apart, are societal misfits with weird powers – a 25 year old with a very low IQ who can control minds; two teleporting twin toddlers who can only say “he-he” and “ho-ho”; a severely disabled baby (described in the books as “mongoloid”… different times) who can think like a computer and answer any question; and an 8 year old telekinetic girl. But when these characters come together they form a symbiotic being capable of almost anything – they are“homo gestalt” humanity’s next evolutionary step.

I loved this book so much. From the first chapter where two girls, hidden away from society by their over-protective father, come face to face with the feeble-minded Lone, ending in tragedy, to the accidental creation of an anti-gravity machine while trying to build a tractor that works in both wet and dry conditions. It is truly a story that stays with you long after you’ve finished.

Coffee Table Reads: Bang on Trend

This blog post comes from Rachel Benn, a Communities Librarian in the South of the City. A lover of coffee and books.

Forget not judging a book by its cover, with coffee table reads it’s all about that!
Coffee Table books provide perfect décor and in the era of Pinterest, Instagram and multiple magazines and blogs it’s time to jump on the trend. Coffee Tables have recently become built-in bookcases, choosing the right books can transform any surface and add a little extra chic to your home.
Here are my top ten Coffee Table reads that are bang on trend and good to read too! Monday – Saturday a decorating staple, Sunday morning perfect for reading over a cuppa. All are available on the Leeds Libraries catalogue to borrow for free.

Rachel How not toHow not to kill your Plants by Nik Southern

So I recently chose this book as a survival guide, another trend which I’ve joined the hype on is house plants! I can’t get enough of them, but my major concern was how do I look after them?! I chose them based on Instagramable quality not practicability! So this book was a necessity. Not only is it’s cover chic with its gold and navy simplistic tones, it has great tips, solutions and advice for taking care of those sassy plants. There’s even a guide for giving your plants a funeral – but I’m hoping I don’t get to that stage, I’m taking the tips seriously and monitoring the watering, humidity and room positioning carefully! The quirky illustrations are amazing and there’s plenty of photos to give you #PlantEnvy, the book is a work of art. “Don’t let the pricks get you down” – the Cactus chapter is a go to – treat them like a best friend and they will remain a feature in your room for a very long time.

Rachel hyggeThe Little book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking

It’s that time of year again…we’re entering the cosy season, so this book not only looks great on your Coffee Table but makes you feel warm and fuzzy just by reading it. I joined the Hygge hype last winter and absolutely loved reading this book, packed with tips for creating Hygge in the home and yummy recipes. Hygge pronounced (Hoo-gah) is the Danish art of living well, enjoying life’s simple pleasures and embracing the warm and gentle things in life. This book is cute in design, small and compact but has perfect chapters for picking up and reading on a cold winter night by the fire with a hot chocolate, it’s such a feel good book! There are lots more Hygge books on the Library catalogue to choose from too.

Rachel TidyingThe Life Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever by Marie Kondo

I was recommended this read by a friend who is obsessed with tidying, and instantly questioned whether she was trying to tell me something! This choice is a Coffee Table read that also adds a bit of sass to the room – yes the room is tidy and yes I’ve got a book on it! I’d go as far as saying this book is life changing, it gives ideas and solutions for de-cluttering that you wouldn’t even think of. It’s changed me for the better! You begin to look forward to ironing your jumpers to get them back in their assigned place in the draw. One tip that has transformed my wardrobes and drawers is positioning your clothes so you can see every item. It’s elegant and simplistic. Also try Marie Kondo’s second book ‘Spark Joy’ which gives you even more life hacks.

Rachel Creative HomeThe Creative Home: Inspiring Ideas for Beautiful Living by Geraldine James

As a decorative staple, it seemed right to have a home interior book on the list. I chose this one as it went with my room colour scheme (which is absolutely fine to do!) but it’s also a fantastic book to read and use for inspiration and ideas for the home. Every page will give you #HomeEnvy as you read about creative dining, upcycling furniture, and my favourite section – creating your own home library! Packed with styling tips, decorative displays, creating artistic flair and making the right choices. With meticulous attention to detail it inspires you to come out of your comfort zone and dare to try a new style to reinvent your home to make it uniquely yours.

Rachel HappyHappy: Finding joy in every day and letting go of perfect by Fearne Cotton

As a style icon Fearne Cotton didn’t disappoint in the look of this great read, its bright quirky cover lights up the room. Fearne draws on her own experiences and shares ways to bring happiness back into your life, embracing the times when you’re happy and it gives practical ways to release your inner joy. The hand drawn illustrations give it a real personal feel, it’s an easy read and is brilliant to pick up at times when you need to relax, I found it a perfect weekend read to reboost your inner happiness ready to start the following week. You may find you don’t want it to ever leave your Coffee Table! I’ve just borrowed Fearne’s new cookbook ‘Cook, Eat, Love’ which has great recipes in it to try too.

Rachel LagomLagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living by Linnea Dunne

So instantly when I saw this on the Library catalogue I thought ‘I need this now!’ After thoroughly enjoying The Little Book of Hygge I wanted to try this, I’d seen the word ‘Lagom’ appear on several blogs and in magazine articles over the last few months so naturally I wanted to be in on the hype! It looks great on the Coffee Table, it’s pretty detailed cover with images of coffee, house plants and biscuits naturally drew me in. So I firstly thought what is Lagom? Well Linnea Dunne describes the concept as “Not too little, not too much, but just enough”. The lovely photographs and short chapters provide a great introduction to Lagom and it’s perfect to read when you have the holiday blues, it gives you a health and wellbeing boost. As a fellow foodie I also tried some of the great recipes inside!

Rachel FaceFace: makeup, skin care, beauty by Pixiwoo (Sam and Nic Chapman)

After vaguely hearing of Pixiwoo (I’m showing my age now) I thought I’ll give this book a try, it’s a beautiful book and oozes style. I jumped to chapters of interest around skincare and top tips for creating the perfect brows. It’s perfect for beginners, aspiring make-up artists and anyone that wants to try something new. After reading some reviews I was keen to have a read, the book is full of needed information for any make up lover! You can also download the app and use it as you go along which brings interactive aspects out of the book and links to Pixiwoo’s online tutorials on You Tube.

Rachel HemsleyHemsley Hemsley – good + simple by Jasmine Hemsley & Melissa Hemsley

At least one cookbook has to make its way to the Coffee Table, and there are so many to choose that look both stylish and chic but also have fantastic recipes in too. I felt the need to go out and buy a spiralizer immediately after reading the first few recipes and I have never looked back! Great clean eating meals and some unusual ingredients to take you out of your comfort zones using the kitchen staples. I am guilty of cooking the same meals on a regular basis so trying a new cookery book is a must, this book will ensure your Instagram feed has enough content for a month of foodie posts, give your friends and families #FoodEnvy and try some!

Rachel MacAnna Mae’s mac n cheese: recipes from London’s legendary street food truck by Anna Clark

Anyone I know will tell you my favourite food is Mac n Cheese, if it’s on the menu I’m choosing it! I’ve tried it with different toppings, different cheeses and every time it doesn’t disappoint. So I came across this book and I was buzzing to read it, show it off on my Coffee Table and try some new ways of experimenting with the classic recipe. The writing is very witty, the photos make you very hungry and you’re going to want to recommend it to everyone you know. Not for the calorie counters but a favourite has to be the Mac n Cheese fries recipe. It’s cheesy good.

Rachel bloomBloom: Navigating Life and Style by Estee Lalonde

I came across Estee Lalonde’s Instagram account and realised I’d been following her lifestyle/travel blog for a few months, this is her first book and is full of life hacks, travel tips and lifestyle inspiration. Its cover is a gorgeous pale blue which is perfect for the Coffee Table, it’s stylish in look and content. Imagine having dinner with a really cool friend, that’s how you feel when reading the home interior tips, recipes and life hacks. An empowering woman read and a real feel good book.

So that’s my top 10 Coffee Table reads: You can use these for styling a room, adding chic to a Coffee Table but most importantly you can have fun reading them too! #CoffeeTableReads #BookEnvy

Librarian’s Choice: Fiction for foodies

This blog post comes from Maddie, a Community Librarian based in the east of Leeds.

I enjoy baking and love books which have food at the heart of them. I particularly like the idea of books which recipes in them.

Maddie Cupcake CafeMeet Me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan

When Issy Randall loses her boss/boyfriend and her job she decides to make a new start and open a cafe. With recipes handed down to her by her Grandpa Joe she turns her life around. This is an easy reading chick-lit romance and in true chick lit style Issy eventually manages to find Mr. Right. If you’re a fan of Sophie Kinsella then this is one you might like to try.

Maddie Shape of waterThe Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri

My next choice is completely different, as this is a crime book. This is the first in a series of books about the Sicilian inspector Montalbano. The books are set in Vigata, a quiet little town where not very much happens apart from bizarre murders and lots of them. Inspector Montalbano is passionate about food and always eats his meals in silence appreciating what he is eating. There are lots of descriptions in the book about food that he is ordering in restaurants and has inspired me to look up recipes of the food described.

Maddie chocolatChocolat by Joanne Harris

This seems an obvious choice to include in this selection. I read this book many years ago before the film was made of it. The book is about a young single mum – Vianne Rocher who arrives in a quiet French village with her young daughter and opens up a chocolate shop much to the discontent to the parish priest and divides the whole community. It is probably the only book where the description of the cooking has been so vivid that you can almost smell the chocolate being made.

Maddie Like water for chocolateLike Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The protagonist of this story is 15 year old Tita who falls in love with her neighbor Pedro. They want to marry, but her mother forbids it because of a family tradition where the youngest daughter is not allowed to marry as she is expected to look after her parents as they age. The book is set out in monthly chapters and at the beginning of each one there is a Mexican recipe.

 

Maddie Baking Cakes in the KigaliBaking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Meet Angel Tangaranza a professional cake maker, matchmaker and a shoulder to cry on. This book reminded me very much of Alexander McCall Smith’s book The Lady’s no. 1 Detective Agency. The book is set in Rwanda. The people who order cakes from Angel for special occasions relate their problems to her and she does her best to help. I liked the way that the food is the connecting factor. I’m not in Angel’s league when it comes to baking cakes, but I am tempted to try one although it might have to be a simplified version.

Librarian’s Choice: Funny Memoirs

This blog comes from Angie, an Assistant Community Librarian based in the east of Leeds.

My reading interests lean towards psychological thrillers but on occasion I like to lighten the load with something humorous. Laughing is a wonderful tonic and respite from the cares of the world and books are as mood busting as a trip to a comedy festival or an old episode of ‘Everyone Loves Raymond’
Some books are just wry and witty, some are light entertainment and others are laugh out loud “whoops there go my cornflakes all over the breakfast table” hysterical. I have often found myself involuntarily laughing out loud much to the bemusement of my fellow commuters. Below is a selection of some of my favourites, most of which are co-incidentally memoirs.

Ang Teenage RevolutionTeenage Revolution by Alan Davies

A very funny trip down memory lane, this time as an adolescent in the weird and wonderful late 1970’s early 80’s. This memoir will resonate with anyone of a similar age set against the backdrop of Thatcher’s Britain. It is a reminder that far from being the ‘time of our lives’’ it can also be a period of high anxiety, of struggling to fit in and find a purpose to life. The book is such a great and painfully honest account of being a teenager, with lots of musical references thrown in, I had to dig out my vinyl collection afterwards to recreate the mood.

ANG Wishful DrinkingWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

I have always been a big fan, I have enjoyed her previous memoirs films and regular TV appearances. We mourn the passing not only of a space princess but a genuine comic talent. In truth there is an element of ‘celebrity net twitching ‘ going on here which I am not immune to, but the reader is allowed this guilty pleasure since Carrie fisher’s life was full of dichotomies having enjoyed all the superficial benefits of a Hollywood lifestyle coupled with all its dysfunctions. Ms Fisher’s biographies are full of clever observations and acerbic humour.
‘Wishful Drinking’ is one of her later memoirs and as the title suggests offers an insight into her life post rehab. I read it in a hospital waiting room in 3 hours and frequently drew concerned looks from other patients as my whole body writhed with laughter. Sadly, as we now know she never did rid herself of her demons.

Ang The tentThe Tent the Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy

As a child of the 1970’s I could so relate, my childhood and teens were similarly spent coiled in embarrassment whether by my mother’s cat suits and penchant for fancy dress parties or my dad’s moustache and permed hair, Kevin Keegan has a lot to answer for! Emma Kennedy is able to evoke such awkward but hysterical memories it almost makes me melancholic for the 3 day week and squishy cheese in a tube. The book introduces you to her eccentric family and their disastrous attempts at holidaying in a tent first in the UK then abroad. Be warned all holiday makers check that your tent is weather proof and that you take spare clothes for all eventualities including motorway service stations. This book was made into a BBC T.V series ‘The Kennedy’s, look out for any repeats, it is a must watch.

Ang How to beHow To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran not only lets you glimpse into her past but brings you bang up to date with the trials and tribulations of being a woman in the noughties. It is one long, very funny feminist rant. Caitlin is the funniest feminist commentator of our modern times, not for the fainthearted as it is very ‘earthy’ in tone and language.

Ang Serge BastardeSerge Bastarde Ate My Baguette by John Dummer

This book was borrowed to accompany me on my travels to France a few years back. I really enjoyed this true account of ex brit musician who relocates across the channel to try his hand as an antique dealer. Along the way he meets a fellow Brocante enthusiast Serge Bastarde (Bastarde by name and by nature) and hence the drama begins. Serge reminded me of Dell Boy in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ a hopeless yet likeable rogue. As with any story set in rural France there is lots of wine drinking thrown in, what’s not to like? A very funny foray into the foibles of the French and all the more enjoyed due to a shared passion for antique hunting and flea markets.

Ang How to be a husbandHow to Be A Husband by Tim Dowling

A comical biographical journey through the life and times of 21st century man and confessed non-alpha male Tim Dowling. This books offers a very funny insight into the Guardian columnist life. Having been married over 20 years and with three sons he is more than qualified to comment on the matter. The book is essentially a collection of no-particular-order chapters of which include: “Twelve Labours of Marriage”, “Seven Ways in Which You Might Be Wrong”, “Five Things You Can Actually Fix by Hitting Them with a Hammer”. Basically Tim Dowling portrays himself as baffled and bewildered where even the family dog is a rung higher on the family pecking order.

Ang The HusbandNot to be confused with the equally funny ‘The Husband’, part of a spoof collection of ’How It Works’ Ladybird classics also available in Leeds Libraries

Ang Lady in the vanThe Lady In The Van by Alan Bennett

Camden is my old stomping ground and indeed my children were born there. I am familiar with the uniqueness of London, where the uber rich live cheek by jowl with the homeless. This is such a poignant and funny account of trying to put your principles into practice, the desire to be a good neighbour and humanitarian whilst also begrudging the consequences. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film or play this memoir revolves around a homeless eccentric old lady who lives in a van and after the threat of eviction becomes a sitting tenant in Alan Bennet’s front drive. This is classic Bennett, full of awkwardness and honest self- effacing northern humour

Happy Reading!