Friday, 31 December 2010

Festive Fifteen - Best Books of 2010 (Part 3)

 To round-off the year, here is the final part of my Festive Fifteen top reads of 2010. (You can read Parts One and Two here, if you missed them.)

Rowan The Strange by Julie Hearn. 
It's September 1939 and war has just been declared. Rowan can hear his sister in the house, playing the piano. That's when the voices start – telling him a bomb will fall on them if she doesn't stop. When Laurel refuses to listen to his warning, Rowan slams the lid down in desperation, breaking three of her fingers in the process. This isn't the first time that Rowan has done something strange, so while other children are being evacuated to the country, Rowan is sent to a psychiatric hospital where the latest treatments are available – but nobody predicts the effect they will have on him …

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay. 
Basketball-mad Andi hopes her long lost half-brother, Bernardo, will turn out tall and just as mad on basketball as she is. Sixteen-year-old Nardo isn't just tall – he's a giant. He lives in a village in the Philippines and is desperate to go to England, but there is a problem. Everybody in the village believes that he is the legendary Bernardo The Giant, and local superstition states that his presence is the only reason the town has not been destroyed by an earthquake.

When I Was Joe by Keren David. 
When Ty witnesses a stabbing, his own life is in danger from the criminals he identifies, so he and his mum have to go into police protection. Ty is given a new name, a new look and a cool new image. Life as Joe is good, especially when he gets talent spotted as a potential athletics star, special training from an attractive local celebrity and a lot of female attention. But his mum can’t cope with her new life, and the gangsters will stop at nothing to flush them out of hiding.

Witchfinder by William Hussey. 
When a violent storm rages around the little village of Hobarron's Hollow, a young boy is sacrificed to prevent an apocalyptic disaster known as the Demontide. Twenty-five years later, another boy, Jake Harker, finds himself drawn into the nightmare of the Demontide. Witches and demon familiars stalk his every move, while his dreams are plagued by visions of a 17th Century Witchfinder. When his father is abducted, Jake must face the terrible secrets kept by those closest to him and a shocking truth that will change his life forever . . .

Wolf by Gillian Cross. 
He came in the early morning, at about half past two. His feet padded along the balcony, slinking silently past the closed doors of the other flats. No one glimpsed the shadow flickering across the curtain or noticed the uneven rhythm of his steps, except Cassy. The following morning, Cassy is packed off with no explanation, to stay with her mother. But Cassy knows something is wrong – she's being followed. And the wolf who stalks her through her dreams, is much more dangerous – and real – than she realises.

I hope my Festive Fifteen has been of interest, and that there are a couple of titles you've not read, but might try out as a result. Thanks to everyone who left comments and suggestions of their own. 

For more book recommendations, check out Candy Gourlay's blog and the comments that follow it.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Festive Fifteen - Best Books of 2010 (Part 2)

Well, the goose is well and truly cooked, the pudding ignited and devoured, the base of the tree just a barren land of pine needles and scraps of torn wrapping paper – can Christmas really be over, so soon? Not likely! I'll be wearing my paper crown until the first chimes of Auld Lang Syne.

So, pour yourself another sherry, crack the seal on that tin of Roses and enjoy the second part of my Festive Fifteen favourite reads of 2010. (Part One can be viewed here, if you missed it.)

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. 
Daisy is sent from New York to England to spend a summer with cousins. She's never met anyone quite like them before and, as a dreamy English summer progresses, Daisy finds herself caught in a perfect timeless bubble. But their lives are about to explode. War breaks out – a war none of them understands, or really cares about, until it lands on their doorstep.

No Worries by Bill Condon. 
Brian Talbot, seventeen, virgin, high school dropout, nightshift worker at the local dairy, in love. When life is kicking you down, you need to kick back, but when your old man lives in the shed in the backyard, and your mum has problems of her own, that's not always easy. Sometimes though, you just gotta hang in there – you never know what might happen.

That Eye, The Sky by Tim Winton. 
When Ort's father is seriously injured in a car crash, his isolated outback world is thrown into disarray. As he, his sister, mother and grandmother are struggling to come to terms with what has happened, a stranger appears in their midst. Preaching God’s word, Henry Warburton’s unexpected arrival seems eerily prescient – and Henry quickly makes himself indispensable. But Ort is suspicious – who is Henry really and what does he want with them?

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick. 
It's 1910. In a cabin north of the Arctic Circle, in a place murderously cold and desolate, Sig Andersson is alone, except for the corpse of his father – and then there's a knock at the door. 
As an extraordinary story of gold dust and gold lust unwinds, Sig's thoughts turn more and more to his father's Colt revolver, hidden in the storeroom – a revolver just waiting to be used.

Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks. 
Late one night, two brothers learn that their sister has died in the worst way imaginable. She's found, strangled, in a desolate place hundreds of miles from their East London home. Ruben, though younger, is the smarter of the two, with a gift for getting into other people's hearts; Cole is a devil's angel who doesn't care if he lives or dies. Together, they retrace Rachel's final journey to an end neither of them anticipated.

Right … who's had the last Hazel Whirl then? Come on, it's no use hiding the wrapper …

Friday, 24 December 2010

Calvin and Hobbes Christmas Cake

This year's Christmas Cake – lovingly created six weeks ago by my youngest and I. This is our third attempt at making our own cake, with varying degrees of success it must be admitted. This time we're trying the Halsey School 1972 House Craft Christmas Cake recipe – copied from her original school exercise book by a friend of mine. We've been administering a fortnightly double tablespoon of brandy – so fingers crossed it will be a good one. 

My lad's favourite part of the process is the always the decoration, and this year he wanted to pay homage to Bill Watterson's brilliant Calvin and Hobbes

Seems a shame to cut into really …
Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Festive Fifteen - Best Books of 2010 (Part 1)

In honour of its being Christmas and in memory of the late great John Peel I thought I’d compile a Festive Fifteen list of books I’ve enjoyed most this year.

(What follows isn’t a chart – just an alphabetical list.)

Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer. 
Criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl has summoned an elite group of fairies to Iceland. But when he presents his invention to save the world from global warming, he seems different. Something terrible has happened to him – Artemis Fowl has become nice. And now the subterranean city of Atlantis is under attack from vicious robots and nice Artemis cannot fight them. Can fairy ally Captain Holly Short get the real Artemis back before the mysterious robots destroy the city and every fairy in it?

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd. 
Digging for peat in the mountain with his Uncle Tally, Fergus finds the body of a child, and it looks as if she’s been murdered. As Fergus tries to make sense of the mad world around him – his brother on hunger-strike in prison, his growing feelings for Cora, his parents arguing over the Troubles, and him in it up to the neck, blackmailed into smuggling mysterious packages across the border – a little voice comes to him in his dreams, and the mystery of the bog child unfurls.

Catch Us If You Can by Catherine MacPhail. 
Rory and his grandad only have each other. But that's fine – they can manage. But then the fire happens, and Rory is told that grandad needs to go into a home, and that he will be fostered. So they go on the run together – a real adventure like something out of the war movies Grandad is always going on about –  but how will it end?

Exposure by Mal Peet. 
Revered as a national hero, married to the desirable Desmerelda and cherished by the media, soccer star, Otello, has it all. But a sensational club transfer sparks a media frenzy, and when he is wrongly implicated in a scandal, the footballer’s life turns into a tragic spiral of destruction. South America’s top sports journalist, Paul Faustino, witnesses the power of the media in making and breaking people's lives.

Freak The Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. 
Max is used to being called Stupid, and he is used to everyone being scared of him – on account of his size and looking like his dad. Kevin is used to being called Dwarf, and he is used to everyone laughing at him – on account of his size and being some cripple kid. But Greatness comes in all sizes, and together Max and Kevin become Freak the Mighty and walk high above the world … for a while, at least. 

More to follow …

I always like personal book recommendations which is why I thought I’d share my list. It would be great to hear about other people’s favourite reads of 2010, so please leave a comment with your book(s) of the year below.

Finally, a very Merry Christmas one and all, and many thanks for your support this year. Hope to see you again in 2011.

Best wishes

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Breakfast Poem of the Week - Ready Salted by Ian McMillan

Mornings are fairly frantic affairs in our house – cats to feed, PE kits to find and sandwiches to make … but if I do manage to sit down long enough to grab a bowl of cereal, I sometimes have a leaf through one of my poetry books. Most of the poems are short enough to read in the time it takes to eat and I like starting the day with some words in my head.

I found this one last week and it made me laugh, so I thought I'd share it. I was expecting something to happen, but still wasn't prepared for the ending. Brilliant stuff.

Ready Salted by Ian McMillan

Nothing else happened
that day.

Nothing much, anyway.

I got up, went to school,
did the usual stuff.

Came home, watched telly,
did the usual stuff.

Nothing else happened
that day,

nothing much, anyway,

but the eyeball in the crisps
was enough.

copyright Ian McMillan

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Why libraries are important

For the want of a library, a book was lost.
For the want of a book, a reader was lost.
For the want of a reader, a story was lost.
For the want of a story, empathy was lost.
For the want of empathy, understanding was lost.
For the want of understanding, an idea was lost.
For the want of an idea, a future was lost.
For the want of a future, everything was lost.
And all for the want of a library.

Please take a moment to read the following thoughts on the future of our libraries:

Alan Gibbons
Candy Gourlay and Teri Terry
KM Lockwood
Keren David
Jon Mayhew
Nick Cross
Philip Ardagh
Bryony Pearce
Lucy Coats
Kathryn Evans
Nina Killham
Sarwat Chadda
Nicky Schmidt
Voices for the Library
Mike Brownlow
Julie Day

Finally, this inspiring post by Mary Hoffman, who has been campaigning for AND SAVING libraries for over twenty years.

For a full list of UK libraries under threat, see Public Libraries News