Top 10 Science Fiction

Science Fiction is a genre that people either say they love or hate. It is a shame that many write it off as ‘not for them’ while often enjoying the films at the cinema that have been adapted from a book.

So if you fancy giving giving a new genre a chance these are the top 10 science fiction novels that were borrowed from us last month.

scifi-woolWool by Hugh Howey

In a ruined and hostile landscape, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies. The people who don’t follow the rules are the dangerous ones; they dare to hope and dream, and infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside. Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last.

scifi-the-long-cosmosThe Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

2070-71. Nearly six decades after Step Day and in the Long Earth, the new Next post-human society continues to evolve. For Joshua Valiente, now in his late sixties, it is time to take one last solo journey into the High Meggers: an adventure that turns into a disaster. Alone and facing death, his only hope of salvation lies with a group of trolls. But as Joshua confronts his mortality, the Long Earth receives a signal from the stars. A signal that is picked up by radio astronomers but also in more abstract ways – by the trolls and by the Great Traversers. Its message is simple but ts implications are enormous: JOIN US. The super-smart Next realise that the Message contains instructions on how to develop an immense artificial intelligence but to build it they have to seek help from throughout the industrious worlds of mankind.

scifi-the-thing-itselfThe Thing Itself by Adam Roberts

Two men while away the days in an Antarctic research station. Tensions between them build as they argue over a love letter one of them has received. One is practical and open. The other surly, superior and obsessed with reading one book – by the philosopher Kant. As a storm brews and they lose contact with the outside world they debate Kant, reality and the emptiness of the universe. The come to hate each other – and they learn that they are not alone.

scifi-the-long-utopiaThe Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

2045-2059. After the cataclysmic upheavals of Step Day and the Yellowstone eruption humanity is spreading further into the Long Earth, and society, on a battered Datum Earth and beyond, continues to evolve. Now an elderly and cantankerous AI, Lobsang lives in disguise with Agnes in an exotic, far-distant world. He’s convinced they’re leading a normal life in New Springfield – they even adopt a child – but it seems they have been guided there for a reason. As rumours of strange sightings and hauntings proliferate, it becomes clear that something is very awry with this particular world. Millions of steps away, Joshua is on a personal journey of discovery: learning about the father he never knew and a secret family history. But then he receives a summons from New Springfield. Lobsang understands the enormity of what’s taking place beneath the surface of his earth – a threat to all the worlds of the Long Earth.

scifi-auroraAurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Our voyage from Earth began generations ago. Now, we approach our destination. A new home. Aurora.

scifi-fellowship-of-the-ringThe Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

The ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ is the first part of Tolkien’s epic adventure ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care.

scifi-the-martianThe Martian by Andy Weir

I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Earth. I’m in a habitat designed to last 31 days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death. I’m screwed.

scifi-xeelee-enduranceXeelee Endurance by Stephen Baxter

Return to the eon-spanning and universe-crossing conflict between humanity and the unknowable alien Xeelee in this selection of uncollected and unpublished stories. From tales charting the earliest days of man’s adventure to the stars to stories of Old Earth, four billion years in the future, the range and startling imagination of Baxter is always on display. As humanity rises and falls, ebbs and flows, one thing is always needed – the ability to endure.

scifi-the-oceanThe Ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman

It began for our narrator 40 years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive.

scifi-the-explorerThe Explorer by James Smythe

When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers. But in space, nothing goes according to plan. The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod.

 

 

 

Librarian’s choice – Top 10 Favourites

This blog is from Stu, a community librarian based in the East of the city:-

Here’s a list of ten of my favourite fiction books, in no particular order.

stu-catch-22Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

Joseph Heller was once confronted by an interviewer with the statement, ‘Since Catch-22, you haven’t written anywhere near as good.’ To which Heller replied, ‘No. But neither has anyone else.’ I think this is the greatest book written by anyone anywhere ever and is worthy of every bit of praise that’s been lavished on it over the years. It’s the sorry tale of Yossarian, a bomber in the US Airforce during World War II and his quest to “live forever or die trying”. It’s gloriously, riotously funny, contradictions piling up on top of one another so fast you need wings to stay above them, and the dialogue is absolutely hilarious too. At its heart it’s a razor-sharp satire on the utter ridiculousness of war and what it does to those who are made to fight it, and there are so many classic scenes it would be impossible to even begin to describe them. If you’ve never had a look at this one, you really should do so immediately. Read read read.

stu-salughterhouse-5Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut was described for the vast majority of his career as a sci-fi novelist, but it was a tag which he absolutely hated. So it goes. There are sci-fi aspects to this book to be sure – time travel, aliens from the planet Tralfalmadore – but really it’s a wickedly clever, achingly sad autobiographical novel about the fire-bombing of Dreseden at the end of World War II, which Vonnegut himself actually survived. It’s a startlingly original work with a mellifluous blend of fact, fiction and meta-fiction (years before it became de rigeur), and parts of it – such as the American soldier shot for stealing a teapot – are completely unforgettable. I must have read this book ten times and I’ll read it ten more before I’m finished. Amazing stuff.

stu-cannery-rowCannery Row by John Steinbeck.

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gambler and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen” and he would have meant the same thing…..” If that opening paragraph doesn’t grab your attention, nothing will. This novella about Doc, Mack, Hazel and the boys panhandling down on Cannery Row is a thing of absolute beauty, and is the perfect introduction for anyone new to Steinbeck’s world. If you’re already familiar with this, the sequel Sweet Thursday is a great read too, as is Tortilla Flat, which is almost like a prototype for this little gem.

stu-wuthering-heightsWuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Emily is my favourite Bronte by a considerable distance, and this is my favourite Bronte novel by a country mile. Most people will have a vague idea of the story – Cathy, Heathcliff, love, passion, death etc. – but the real star of this novel is the wild Yorkshire landscape, described perfectly in Bronte’s turbulent, almost Gothic prose.

stu-notes-from-undergroundNotes From Underground by Dostoyevsky.

This book provides us with the first great anti-hero in literature, the progenitor of a whole motley crew of misanthropic weirdoes from the starving, unnamed wretch in Knut Hamsun’s Hunger to Arturo Bandini and Henry Chinaski and everyone in between. You could also look at it as the first proper Existential novel, if you really wanted to. The great Russian writers come with a lot of baggage and formidable reputations to boot, and the sheer size of their works can often put people off, but for the dedicated reader there are great delights to be found therein. This is reasonably short by the standards of many of his other works, so if you’ve ever fancied checking him out but feel over-faced by The Idiot, maybe this is the place to start.

stu-frankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Yeah, I know, people will tell you that there were Gothic novels before this one – The Castle Of Otranto, The Monk, Ann Radcliffe and all that – but for me this is really where it all started. It’s a canny mix of early Gothic atmospherics shot through with Romantic sensibilities, and it’s treatment of the dichotomy between science and religion captured the Zeitgeist perfectly when it was first published in the early 19th century. It’s a surprisingly easy read for something that’s as old as it is, and it’s a compulsive, page-turning story to boot; it’s also a hugely influential work that has spawned thousands of imitators both in printed and cinematic forms. If you’ve ever read a book or watched a movie with a mad scientist protagonist who ends up being destroyed by his single-minded pursuit of his vision, whether the writer even knows it or not, you can trace a direct line back to poor, misguided Victor. Incidentally, Shelley’s treatment of the creature he creates is deeply sympathetic, extremely humane and quite forward-thinking in many ways, so it’s kind of odd that over the years it has come to be known as Frankenstein’s Monster. It may be monstrous, but that’s not quite the same thing. With all the recent debates about GM foods, cloning and stem cells, it’s still as relevant as ever and seems destined to remain so for quite some time yet.

stu-johnny-got-his-gunJohnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo.

It’s worth noting that this book is unique on this list as it’s the only one that I haven’t read more than once – yet. I read it two or three years ago, having had it on my list since my university days a long time ago in a universe far, far away. It’s an absolutely breathtaking piece of creative writing and trying to describe it effectively is virtually impossible. In a nutshell though, the whole novel is an internal monologue from inside the head of a soldier who has been blown up by a shell in World War I. The thing is, he doesn’t realise initially that he has been blown up, and over the course of the opening few chapters he makes – via some astonishingly inventive psychological insights from the writer -several chilling discoveries about the extent of his injuries; he has no arms, no legs, and most of his face has been blown off so he’s deaf and blind as well. What follows is his attempts to deal with the situation he’s in, and his amazing efforts to communicate with the outside world. Absolutely extraordinary, this one.

stu-ulyssesUlysses by James Joyce.

Ulysses is really more of an artistic statement and an intellectual puzzle than a novel, but it’s no less enjoyable for it. On the face of it’s the tale of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom and their meeting one day in Dublin on 16th June, 1904. What lies beneath is a virtuoso display of technical skill, linguistic pastiche (check out the Oxen Of the Sun section for a stellar example of this) and stream-of-consciousness monologues, all addressing serious contemporary issues such as the power of the Catholic church, Home Rule and Irish Nationalism. It fulfils Joyce’s promise from A Portrait Of the Artist As A Young Man to ‘forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race’ and it does so brilliantly.

stu-the-fightThe Fight by Norman Mailer.

A bit of a cheat putting this on a fiction list, but it’s an cracking example of what came to be known as the non-fiction novel so I think I’ll just about get away with it. This is Mailer’s account of the famous Ali-Frasier Rumble In the Jungle in 1974. Mailer was one of the great men of American letters, and many of his novels are undisputed classics. What people don’t often realise is that he was a very good journalist too, and that one of his main passions was writing about boxing, something he did for most of his life. This works as a great insider scoop of the fight, but it’s also an intimate portrait of the two fighters (there’s a lovely bit where Ali takes Mailer for a run on the eve of the fight, for example) and he captures the madness of 70s Zaire beautifully as well.

stu-fupFup by Jim Dodge.

I can never resist an opportunity to plug this one. So small you can read it in half an hour, this novella is a lovely little zen-like fable about a ninety nine year old man who keeps himself alive with home-made Death Whisper whiskey, his grandson and their pet duck Fup, who they rescue from the clutches of the crazy wild boar that’s terrorizing their ranch. Jim Dodge is an absolute magician with words and it’s a shame that his whole printed output only amounts to three novels – Stone Junction and Not Fade Away are both pretty mind-blowing too – and a single book of poetry/shorter prose. There’s a bit of magic realism going on here which adds to the mystique, but really it’s just a great story, beautifully told, and with a real heartbreaker as an ending. It’s one of those books that you’ll read once, go back to the beginning, read again, then start buying copies for all your friends. Wonderful.

Librarian Top 10 – Books for Bedtime

This list come from Rachel, our children’s librarian based at Central Library.

We read to our 18 month old daughter every night before bed. Some nights she’ll close the front cover after one page and other nights she’ll cry for more after four stories, either way is fine. We have been reading to her since the day she was born and she loves books, in fact they are her favourite toy. Bedtime stories don’t have to be about going to sleep and some of the nicest picture books to curl up with when you’re winding down before sleep aren’t. The one thing my list of favourites has in common is a gentle rhythmic text that flows well, often with a lovely positive message. Over the months we have found a selection of favourites and this is our list of top 10 stories at bedtime that are great for the adult as well as the child. In no particular order:

snail and the whaleThe Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson

This Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler combo is definitely underrated compared to the ever popular Gruffalo books, having said that it is by far one of my favourites. The words and story flow beautifully in a relaxing way as you go on an adventure discovering the marvels of the planet. This story depicts friendship, being caring and helpful as well as bravery to dream big and experience the world. It is a window to lovely dreams.

Smelly LouieSmelly Louie by Catherine Rayner

The illustrations in this book are just gorgeously scruffy. It takes you on Louie’s journey to get his smell back after his owners have given him a bath and shampooed him in roses and apple blossom scent. It’s a lovely fun story to fall between bathtime and bedtime.

LoveLove… by Emma Dodd

I absolutely adore the pastel illustrations of this book as they flash and shimmer with shards of gold. The story breezes through lots of different ways that love is presented. One of my favourite sentences from the book is “Sometimes love is quiet and it needs no words at all”. The text is beautiful and perfect for snuggling up at bedtime.

TidyTidy by Emily Gravett

Emily Gravett is one of my favourite illustrators; I think her style is amazing! Tidy is a fab and funny story about a badger that has to keep tidying up the forest. I really like how the story goes into autumn; the leaves start falling and the colours are all gorgeous browns and oranges. We always play a quiet little game where we point to the animals that are hidden all over the pages in the forest.

Peace at lastPeace at Last by Jill Murphy

This book is great to cuddle up with and it really engages the attention of my daughter. I particularly like that the words get you to act out the sound effects throughout the story, which makes it really easy to read in a fun way. It’s also all about being tired and I often find myself yawning along with Mr Bear whilst reading it in dimmed light. That’s OK though, because they won’t know it’s not part of the story. Peace at Last is a well-loved classic by many and never really seems to date.

worstprincessThe Worst Princess by Anna Kemp

This book appeals to me greatly and hopefully my daughter will grow to enjoy the spirit of the character. I really like this alternative take on the ‘traditional princess’, the text is funny and bounces along really well. It’s an excellent message to go to sleep with for a strong growing girl in a modern world.

Extra yarnExtra Yarn by Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are a really interesting and unique author/illustrator combination. This story is just lovely where the girl warms and brightens up the dull and cold little town by knitting jumpers for everyone including the animals. It’s a gentle magical tale where good prevails and includes an odd yarn bomb here and there. Brilliant!

Love is my favourite thingLove is My Favourite Thing by Emma Chichester Clark

I adore this story; it’s told through the eyes of a very enthusiastic little dog called Plum and all the things she loves to do. The story is so gushing and fun to read and the illustrations are cute too. It reminds me of our dogs and the things they get up to which they know are naughty but just can’t but help doing anyway. This is a really great book to snuggle up and read at the end of the day.

The paper dollsThe Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson

I love this book and we’ve even made up our own tune to sing the little song that repeats throughout this story. It puts into words so well that sometimes things can be gone but will always stay in your memory and heart. Discovering some of the things that are in the little girl’s memory is just lovely and the ending is so touching. In true Julia Donaldson style the words flow in such a beautiful and relaxing way as you read this book and the calming illustrations and plain background make for a great bedtime read.

How to catch a starHow to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers

It’s wonderful to sit and imagine that you can catch a star. The little boy in the story is so patient as he waits for his moment, and when the opportunity comes to catch his very own star he grasps it. What a lovely underlying message! This is a story to encourage gazing up at the night sky and it finds a fun way to relate to the stars that twinkle up there.

Top 10 – Horror

These are the Top 10 horror titles borrowed from Leeds Libraries this month.

UndergroundUnder Ground by S L Grey

A global outbreak of a virus sends society spinning out of control. But a small group of people have been preparing for a day like this. Grabbing only the essentials, they head to The Sanctum, a luxury self-sustaining underground survival facility where they’ll shut themselves away and wait for the apocalypse to pass. All the residents have their own motivations for buying into the development. A mix of personalities, they are strangers separated by class and belief, all of them hiding secrets. They have only one thing in common: they will do anything to survive. The doors close, locked and secured with a combination that only one man knows. It’s the safest place they could be. But when a body is discovered, they realize that the greatest threat to their survival may be trapped in The Sanctum with them.

RevivalRevival by Stephen King

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs – including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

The house on cold hillThe House on Cold Hill by Peter James

Moving from the heart of the city of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside is a big undertaking for born townies, Ollie Harcourt, his wife, Caro, and their twelve-year-old daughter, Jade. But when they view Cold Hill House – a huge, dilapidated, Georgian mansion – they are filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, Ollie has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being removed from all her friends. But within days of moving in, it soon becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents in the house.

Bazaar of bad dreamsThe Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

A collection of twenty stories – some brand new, some published in magazines, all assembled in one book for the first time – with a bonus: in addition to his introduction to the whole collection, Stephen King gives readers an introduction to each story with autobiographical comments on their origins and motivation.

Night MusicNight Music by John Connolly

A decade after ‘Nocturnes’ first terrified and delighted readers, John Connolly gives us a second volume of tales of the supernatural. From stories of the monstrous for dark winter nights to fables of fantastic libraries and haunted books, from a tender account of love after death to a frank, personal and revealing account of the author’s affection for myths of ghosts and demons, this is a collection that will surprise, delight – and terrify.

A cold silenceA Cold Silence by Alison Littlewood

Ben Cassidy has strict instructions from his mother, Cass, never to return to his childhood home of Darnshaw. But when an old friend dies, he returns to investigate a computer game she was playing named Acheron. Acheron claims it will give you all that you ask for, something Gaila, Ben’s sister, knows all too well. But there is a price, and hers is to get Ben to London. As Ben and his friends delve ever deeper into the world of Acheron, good motivations and morality begin to slip, and they find themselves falling further into corruption. Ben and Gaila could save them all, but the price for doing so might just be too high to pay.

77 shadow street77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

Old Silas Kinsley is the self-appointed resident historian of the Pendleton, a 19th-century building which has now been converted into a number of luxury apartments. He has discovered that there is a cycle of strangeness and tragedy in the Pendleton’s past – and it is about to head into another of its disturbing cycles.

BroodBrood by Chase Novak

Adam and Alice Twisden are not ordinary children. Along with hundreds of other rich and desperate couples, their parents tried an experimental fertility treatment, and paid a horrific cost. The twins’ aunt has finally won her fight for custody, and is determined to give them the love and stability that they have never known. But outside the refuge she is trying to create, dark forces are combining.

The undesiredThe Undesired by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Aldis is working in a juvenile detention centre in rural Iceland. She witnesses something deeply disturbing in the middle of the night and soon afterwards two of the boys there are dead. Decades later, single father Odinn is looking into alleged abuse at the centre, following the unexplained death of the colleague who was previously running the investigation. The more he finds out, though, the more it seems the odd events of the 1970s are linked to the accident that killed his ex-wife. Was her death something more sinister?

The deepThe Deep by Nick Cutter

Part horror, part psychological nightmare, ‘The Deep’ is a novel fans of Stephen King and Clive Barker won’t want to miss.

Top 10 – Romance

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

Can I tempt you with a little love?

Tempting of Thomas CarrickThe Tempting of Thomas Carrick by Stephanie Laurens

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

Mastered by LoveMastered by Love by Stephanie Laurens

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

second chance summerSecond Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis

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

Let Love find youLet Love Find You by Johanna Lindsey

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

This matter of marriage

This Matter of Marriage by Debbie Macomber

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

Claimed by the LairdClaimed by the Laird by Nicola Cornick

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

Cowboy Xmas TreeA Cowboy Under my Christmas Tree by Janet Dailey

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

when i met youWhen I Met You by Jemma Forte

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

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

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

slightly sinfulSlightly Sinful by Mary Balogh

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

 

Librarian Top 10 – Sapphia’s Best Illustrated Books

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

My favourite illustrated books.

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

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

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

Dear DiaryDear Diary by Sara Fanelli

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

hungry caterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

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

MatildaMatilda by Roald Dahl – Illustrated by Quentin Blake

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

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

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

Smelly LouieSmelly Louie by Catherine Rayner

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

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

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

wolvesWolves– Emily Gravett

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

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

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

Dear ZooDear Zoo by Rod Campbell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Librarian Top 10 – Matt’s Best Reads 2015

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

The Red PonyThe Red Pony by John Steinbeck

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

Boxer HandsomeBoxer Handsome by Anna Whitwham

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

One.jpgOne by Sarah Crossen

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

PhysicalPhysical by Andrew McMillan

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

Black CountryBlack Country by Liz Berry

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

HappinessHappiness by Jack Underwood

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

Bunny vs MonkeyBunny vs Monkey Book One by Jamie Smart

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

The Gorse trilogyThe Gorse Trilogy by Patrick Hamilton

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

LanarkLanark: a life in four books by Alasdair Gray

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

UlyssesUlysses by James Joyce

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