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.

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?

 

Librarian’s Choice – Book Group Favourites

This blog comes from Julia, a Community Librarian based in the south of the city.

If asked about my taste in fiction, my answer would have to be ‘eclectic’, as some of my favourite reads are from completely diverse genres.  And that’s one of the reasons why I love being part of Leeds Libraries’ readers’ groups which give me the opportunity to read books that otherwise I probably wouldn’t select …only to discover some terrific stories. (Never judge a book by its cover!) Here are just some of the novels that I’ve enjoyed at Book Clubs and would recommend that you try:

julia-burial-ritesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent:

A debut novel, inspired by a true story, Burial Rites is set in Iceland in 1829 and tells the tale of Agnes, accused of a brutal murder and billeted with a family at a bleak, remote farm over winter, to await execution.  Well written and atmospheric, the story is compelling and the central characters described in detail.  The exploration of various relationships develops into a strong examination of the effect of the State forcing a family to accept a prisoner living amongst them and the turmoil of emotions which this brings.

julia-little-strangerThe Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

A ghost story – or is it? It’s up to you to decide!  This gothic novel is set at the end of the Second World War, when the NHS is just being established, the class system is changing and big old houses such as the one featured, are falling into disrepair, abandoned in the drive for modernity.  The protagonist is a young doctor whose mother had once worked at the house and who remembers the family’s halcyon days.  However, there are some spooky goings on; or are they just imagined by the various damaged individuals who live at or visit the property?

julia-guernsey-literaryThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Charming, funny, engaging, tear-jerking, heart-warming…. I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to descriptive words for one of my very favourite reads, which even features its own readers’ group within its plot!  It’s a story set at the end of World War Two, told through a series of letters exchanged between writer, Juliet Ashton and her friends and colleagues.  But when she receives a letter from a stranger who lives in Guernsey, little does she know that her life is about to change forever.

julia-place-of-executionA Place of Execution by Val McDermid

A real ‘page turner’ which gripped me from the word go and kept me captivated until the very end.  Fantastic crime fiction but with hint of realism as the story unfolds against the backdrop of the true crimes of moors murderers, Brady and Hindley.  A 13 year old girl, Alison Carter, has gone missing from the small, close-knit northern village of Scarsdale and DCI George Bennett steps up to lead the investigation.

julia-the-earth-humsThe Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan

Interesting and easy to read, this story is set during the 1950’s in a small Welsh town where everyone knows everyone else’s business!  The protagonist is 12-year-old Gwenni Morgan, the ‘voice’ of the book, through whose innocent eyes we see the comings and goings of her family and neighbours (including some fabulous characters) but as the story unfolds, the complexities and problems which lie below the surface of their lives are explored and family secrets are revealed.  A beautifully written and thought provoking book which prompted an enjoyable discussion at Book Club.

julia-the-language-of-flowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

You’ll never look at a bouquet in the same way after reading this book – and you’ll certainly choose your flowers with care after learning of the Victorian meanings associated with particular blooms.   The emotional and enthralling story of Victoria Jones, a young woman making the transition from a difficult childhood into adult life and for whom her own understanding of the language of flowers brings hope for the future.

julia-the-last-runawayThe Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

This is the story of Honor Bright, a young Quaker woman, jilted by her fiancé, who runs away from her life in England for the challenges of America in the early 1800s where she comes into contact with ‘runaways’ of a different kind.  The plot addresses themes of personal honour/values, the Quaker belief in equality, slavery and what some will do to help others despite the dangers involved. These were brutal times but issues raised still resonate in today’s world.  An easy read with interesting plot twists and well researched history.

julia-roomRoom by Emma Donoghue

It doesn’t seem quite right to say that I ‘enjoyed’ this book which tackles dark and harrowing subject matter but I was totally captivated by the story, told through the realistic voice of 5-year-old Jack who is held captive with ‘Ma’, in a single room.  It’s an emotional but utterly compelling read; hair-raising at times, when I could hardly bear the suspense.  (No surprise then, that it has subsequently been made into a film.)  Brilliantly written, heartfelt and thought-provoking, I do recommend that you give it a try.

julia-the-invention-of-wingThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk-Kidd

This book was inspired by the story of real sisters from the early 19th Century, who ultimately took a prominent role in the abolitionist movement. The fictional story, set in the American Deep South, is told via the alternating and interlinked narratives of Sarah Grimke, and her slave, Handful.  It is a moving read, exploring powerful issues including the parallels between the limitations of the life of a slave at the time, and that of her wealthy mistress.

julia-the-goldfinch

 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Don’t be put off by the sheer size of this book (circa 800 pages) as the story is a captivating read which will quickly draw you in!  With action in New York, Las Vegas and Amsterdam, the plot follows the fortunes (and misfortunes) of young protagonist, Theo Decker who survives a terrorist explosion at the Metropolitan Museum and absconds with his mother’s favourite painting, a priceless Dutch masterpiece.  However, the story is much more than an account of what happens next; exploring themes of love, loss and loyalty through a variety of brilliantly drawn characters.

Librarian’s Choice: Recommended reads for LGBT History Month

PrintThis blog comes from Alex, a library assistant on our peripatetic team.

Love is in the air… — yes, but so is hail and frost you might say. Fair point, it is after all February and, let’s face it, the weather is what it is. But suppose for a moment, we could travel anywhere we’d like to without queuing at the airport or drying our accounts out. Imagine we could do that whiles being wrapped up in a woolly blanket, enjoying a deliciously warm hot chocolate. Now suppose that I’m not just daydreaming; after all there is one wonderful thing we can all do for each other this February. Let’s take advice from our wise Scandinavian cousins: let’s all get hygge and let the romance of these stories warm our hearts because, is there any more magical way to travel than through the pages of a gripping book?

Inspired by LGBT* History Month 2017, I have chosen some of the most heart breaking love stories to get us all through February.

Picture books:

alex-tango-makes-threeAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole.

For all the animal lovers out there, there is probably no better love story than the one between Roy and Silo. Two penguins at New York Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo might appear as an odd couple. Whiles their fellow penguins are preparing themselves for the joy and challenges of parenthood, Roy and Silo are worried they might never be able to become dads… or will they? There is only one way to find out.

Teenage Fiction:

alex-you-know-me-wellYou know me well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan

Friends at first sight, Mark and Kate have never spoken to each other until one fateful night their lives collide: Kate is running away from a chance of meeting the girl she has loved from afar, while Mark is in love with his best friend who may or may not loves him back. They are both lost and finding each other is the last thing on their minds., though they don’t realize just how important they will become to each other.

alex-fans-of-teh-impossible-lifeFans of the impossible life by Kate Scelsa

“May we live impossibly.” Sebby said when he opened his eyes. “Against all odds. May people look at us and wonder how such jewels can sparkle in the sad desert of the world. May we live the impossible life”.
Echoing Stephen Chbosky’s much celebrated novel “The perks of being a wallflower”, “Fans of the impossible life” is the story of love, loss, growing up and finding friends who can see through you and the person you’re trying to become. The story follows Sebby and his best friend Mira on their impromptu road trips and magical rituals designed to fix parts of their broken lives. But what will happen when Jeremy, the painfully shy and isolated art nerd, enters the picture?

alex-outOut by Joanna Kenrick, illustrated by Julia Page

This dyslexia friendly book is a short but gripping story of love, friendship and solidarity. “Out” poignantly portrays the difficult experience of ‘‘coming out’ and the struggle with unrequited love.

Teenage non-fiction:

alex-beyond-magentaBeyond Magenta: transgender teens speak out

Author and photographer Susan Kuklin meets and interviews six transgender and gender-neutral teens to portray them before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender identity, empathetically exploring their emotional and physical transitioning.

 

Adult fiction:

alex-oranges-are-notOranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson

If you grew up gay among religious fundamentalists, Jeanette Winterson feels your pain. Oranges, the novelist and critic’s 1985 autobiographical debut novel, follows an English lesbian girl coming of age in a Pentecostal community.

alex-carolCarol by Patricia Highsmith

“And she did not have to ask if this was right, no one had to tell her, because this could not have been more right or perfect.” Previously published as “The Price of Salt”, most of us are probably familiar with Todd Haynes 2015 rendering of Patricia Highsmith’s lesbian novel. In Carol, two women from different backgrounds—one a department store clerk who dreams of a better life, the other a wealthy wife — strike up a passionate love affair with each other in 1950s New York.

alex-rubyfruit-jungleRubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Widely considered to be the lesbian coming of age novel par excellence, “Rubyfruit Jungle” follows the life of Molly Bolt, adopted daughter of a poor US family, who possesses remarkable beauty and who is aware of her lesbianism from early childhood. Sex, love and betrayal are at the heart of this turbulent coming to age, which often mirrors Brown’s own experience of being an emerging lesbian author in 1970s New York.

alex-orlandoOrlando: a Biography by Virginia Woolf.

“I’m sick to death of this particular self. I want another.” For the classics lovers amongst us, there is perhaps no book which better portrays the elusive essence of gender like Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”. Spanning a lifetime of almost three centuries, Orland accompanies us on a poetic journey of rediscovery which challenges conventional assumptions of gender as a binary concept.

 

Adult non-fiction:

alex-queerQueer: a graphic history by Meg John Barker, illustrated by Julia Scheele (eBook)

Activist-academic Meg John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ* action in this ground breaking non-fiction graphic novel. You can download the eBook from our library catalogues.

Gay life and culture: a world history by Robert Aldrich

In the years since Stonewall, the world has witnessed an outpouring of research, critical inquiry, and re-interpretation of gay life and culture. This book draws on ground breaking new material to present a comprehensive survey of all things gay, stretching back to ancient history and ranging to the present days. Critically acclaimed historian Robert Aldrich with the support of ten leading scholars juxtaposes thought-provoking essays with an extensive selection of images, many never before seen. This masterful combination reveals the story behind gay culture from the industrialized world to the remotest corners of tribal New Guinea.

alex-art-and-queer-cultureArt and queer culture by Catherine Lord and Richard Meyer

A comprehensive survey covering 125 years of art that has constructed, contested or otherwise responded to alternative forms of sexuality. The book traces the rich visual legacy of art’s relationship to queer culture, from the emergence of homosexuality as an identity in the late nineteenth century to the pioneering ‘genderqueers’ of the early twenty-first century.

 

For comic book lovers:

alex-prideThe Pride by Joe Glass and Mike Stock

Have you ever been sick of being misrepresented? Of having no one like you to look up to? Have you ever wanted to change everything?
Then you need to join FabMan, Wolf, Muscle Mary, Frost, Twink, Bear, Angel and White Trash on their mission to help people and improve LGBT representation. Wanting to fight for change, FabMan has formed PRIDE, the world’s premier LGBTQ supergroup. Not exactly receiving the desired response, the group faces opposition from the confrontational Justice Division and the nefarious Reverend. After a serious trial by fire, the team find themselves the only super team in the world capable of stopping The Reverend’s diabolical plot for world domination.

alex-juicy-motherJuicy mother: celebration by Jennifer Camper

Featuring work by and about queers, women and black artists, “Juicy Mother” is probably the queerest cartoon anthology you can get your hands on; these stories are not just exuberant and carefree, they are also a marvellous celebration of artistry and diversity.

 

alex-100-crushes100 crushes by Lim Elisha

100 Crushes compiles five years of queer comics by Elisha Lim, including excerpts from Sissy, The Illustrated Gentleman, Queer Child in the Eighties, and their cult series 100 Butches, as well as new work. It’s an absorbing documentary that travels through Toronto, Berlin, Singapore, and beyond in the form of interviews, memoirs, and gossip from an international queer vanguard.

Librarian’s Choice – Sisters

This blog is from Kat, an Assistant Community Librarian.

Being a sister is weird; there is no one I love or hate more in the world than my little sister. I recently realised that some of my favourite stories are centred on this special and frustrating relationship – books, films and reality TV. My mum is also a sister and understands the special bond of sisterhood – I was once watching Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and she said “Oh, I love this film, it’s about sisters being horrible to each other…” My all-time fave sisters are obviously the Kardashians but here are a few others that I quite like too;

kat-little-womenLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read this (and watched the Winona Ryder film version)– and I keep meaning to reread as an adult but never get around to it. This is a story of four sisters and how the family copes whilst their father is away fighting in the American Civil War. Each sister has a different personality, but are all united by their love for each other and their grief (just like the Kardashians? Okay… I know no one else likes a Kardashian reference). Does anything sum up an annoying little sister more than when Amy throws Jo’s manuscript in the fire? And then needs to be rescued from the ice and becomes the victim? That is definitely something my sister would do!

kat-the-lost-and-the-foundThe Lost & The Found by Cat Clarke

Nominated for a Leeds Book Award last year this book is about a little girl who is kidnapped, and returns to the family years later, seen through the eyes of her younger sister; how she felt during the years without a sister and how she tries to get to know her on her return. This is such a heart-breaking book, it actually made me cry real tears (which very rarely happens!).

kat-pride-and-prejudicePride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Another book about four sisters, and again a really annoying younger sister (although actually Lydia was probably the most fun, I’d much rather have a sister like her than boring Jane). Although there is a focus on marriage, class and wealth at its heart this is a novel about family and the lengths siblings will go to to support/defend each other.

kat-double-actDouble Act by Jacqueline Wilson

This was the first Jacqueline Wilson I ever read – I can remember finding it in my school library (which was pretty much a single shelf in the corner) and devouring it. It made me wish I had a twin with a matching name (probably around the same time I was watching Sister, Sister on Nickelodeon and thought it was possible I had a long lost twin somewhere). It was also around the time I just got my sister, and although she wasn’t my twin at least there was someone with just as weird a name as me.

kat-the-other-boleyn-girlThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Where Little Women touches of the idea of one sister stealing another sisters love interest this goes all the way – and the worst part is this is based on real life sisters! Mary is Henry VIII’s lover for a while and then whilst she is pregnant he moves on to her sister Anne. Which in the end works out better for Mary, she might never become Queen of England but at least she isn’t beheaded. This is a little unbelievable from a modern perspective, but I guess this is just the way sisters were with each other back then – and at least they loved each other in their own bizarre way.

Librarian’s (and family) Choice

This week’s blog is from Trudi (and her family), a Community Librarian based in the South of the city.

It’s almost Christmas and after all the festivities there may be time to relax and read. Looking for inspiration? Perhaps these will help…

Books for a Year Six child…

trudi-street-childStreet Child by Berlie Doherty
This is on a Year 6 reading list at a local primary school. The list also includes Goodnight Mr Tom and as most of the children had already read it, Street Child was the next most popular!
My youngest daughter is enjoying this immensely. The story is set in Victorian times and is about a boy called Jim, whose dad has died and his mum is going to die. There is no money and they are about to lose their home. A book about survival.

trudi-wimpy-kidDiary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
There are ten books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
The series started off online in 2004 and made its print debut in April of 2007. There are now more than 180 million copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books available in 61 editions and 52 languages.
A few children I know have asked for a set of these books for Christmas! Ever popular, written in a comic format with drawings and speech bubbles, my daughter cannot get enough of these. Funny and complete escapism.

I asked my husband which book he would recommend as a gift for someone. His answer was…

trudi-fellowship-of-the-ringLord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
This is an epic adventure and renowned as a favourite for children and adults. My husband read it when he was aged 28 (almost 20 years ago) and loved being transported through lots of different lands and settings on a magical and fantastical grand adventure. He says that the books are much better than the films! If he could own only one book, this would be it.

And…

trudi-grapes-of-wrathGrapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
My husband read this recently and couldn’t stop talking about it.
With themes pertinent to society today, this is a journey with the Joad family who are evicted by greedy bankers recovering their farming properties in the American mid-west to sell to larger, more profitable farming companies. Their only hope is to travel to California to start a new life having been tempted by the misrepresentation of the land of opportunity. Everyone should read this!

My eldest daughter is almost out of her teens and her recommendations include:-

trudi-handmaids-taleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This book was lent to my daughter by a family friend and came highly recommended.
Written in 1985, this novel, in the genre of speculative fiction, is set in an oppressive imperfect world – where women exist to fulfil the desires of society but are chastised for it. A group of women are moved between wealthy men, to mother their children to keep the population stable. They are harshly judged by other women for this vital job. Although she found some of the themes terrifying, this book is very highly rated by my daughter as a ‘must read’.

trudi-the-girl-who-savedThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
A poor girl from the slums of Soweto comes across a fortune and gets embroiled in a political secret. She is sent to Sweden where she meets a man who, in law, doesn’t exist. A completely bizarre and hilarious book. Another ‘must read’ from my daughter who was laughing so much trying to explain the storyline that it must just speak for itself!

What I will be reading over Christmas…

trudi-talking-headsTalking Heads by Alan Bennett
I first read this collection of monologues as soon as they were published in the late 1980s and realised quickly that although I was only in my teens, I had an old soul! Humorous and touching, all human life is here.
I love anything by Alan Bennett and look forward to reading Keeping On Keeping On!

trudi-a-million-yearsA Million Years In A Day by Greg Jenner
A good ‘dip in and out of’ book, this is a witty look at the popular history of everyday life and social rituals, from the Stone Age to the phone age, brought to you by the chief nerd of the Horrible Histories TV series.
If you secretly enjoy watching Horrible Histories then you will love this!

Librarian’s Choice -Personal Favourites

This blog is from Alli, a Community Librarian based in the south of the city.

alli-ninth-lifeThe Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen

This unforgettable book took my breath away, literally. The funniest first chapter I’ve ever read and the rest just such a compulsive read. Louis, 9, is on a family holiday in France with his family, when his life changes. A psychological thriller about a child’s connections to his parents. Fabulously written with well-drawn characters, it’s hard to say more about the plot of this book without giving it away. It’s a much bigger book in every way than the slim volume it is physically. Read it – I’d love to hear what you think of it.

alli-memory-gameMemory Game by Nicci French

First novel of the writing duo Nicci Gerard and Sean French in 1997, it’s a crime novel about the nature of memory and about recovered memory syndrome. I found it exciting and compulsive.

alli-pride-and-prejudicePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I studied this for O’Level, but loved it. For me, an unexpected, understated, delight.

 

alli-the-lion-witch-wardrobeThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

I read this during a spell in hospital when I was thirteen, having missed it when I was younger. I loved the adventure, the different levels of meaning, the imagination it created in me. I read all the books in the series as soon as I could get them from the library (the Mobile Library the used to visit the bottom of Pool Bank). It was so exciting, waiting to see if they had brought me another one!

alli-devotion-of-suspect-xThe Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

A mystery in which you know “whodunit” from the beginning. I suppose it’s a sort of Police crime thriller in which everything you read is a clue and everything is included to help you find out why. It’s like a literary game of chess and is logical, simple and really different.

alli-woman-in-whiteThe Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This was the first book that I read when I started work in libraries and for me, it had everything. The cover had an Atkinson Grimshaw painting on the front, which immediately evoked an atmosphere of mystery. I was gripped form the beginning and remember being absorbed by its mystery, love and a touch of the sinister.

alli-elizabeth-is-missingElizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Maud is suffering from loss of memory, but is convinced her best friend Elizabeth is missing and she believes her to be in danger. No one listens (not her daughter, the police etc.), but Maud is determined to find out what has happened to her.

alli-thirteenth-taleThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Novelist Vida Winter wants to get the tale of her life recorded and so she engages biographer Maureen Lea. Maureen also has a story of her own and as she starts work on Vida’s, she starts to find out about her own….

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Best friends Caddy and Rosie go to different schools. A new girl, Suzanne joins Rosie’s school and the dynamic of Rosie’s and Caddy’s friendship begins to change. It’s clear to Caddy that something has happened to Suzanne before coming to Brighton and she begins to find out what. Caddy’s friendship with Suzanne takes her on a journey that challenges her outlook, her upbringing and all that she has experienced so far. Caddy goes out on midnight walks with Suzanne, during which she learns more about Suzanne’s background and her fragile mental state. Caddy listens to Suzanne’s situation, but who is getting more out of this – Suzanne, or Caddy, who experiences being important to someone? When things go wrong and Caddy suffers serious injuries from an ill-conceived trip to an old building, Suzanne finally gets the professional help she needs, but with the consequence that she will have to move away from her “best friends”.
The way it covered friendships and their importance to individuals, I thought was excellent, making clear there is more than one way to support someone who is having a difficult time and that it’s the support that counts. The book was gripping in an uncomfortable way. It was a compulsive but disturbing read at times, with the feeling that all will not end well pervading whilst I was reading it. I was there in the situations Caddy found herself in and felt uncomfortable for her.