Book News · Book Review

Not a Review: The Child by Sebastian Fitzek.

Every now and then a book comes along that I get really excited about, and then when I come to read it something just doesn’t click and I have to give up part way through. Sadly this is exactly what happened when it came to The Child. Rather than not cover it I thought I’d still write about it – just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t me it won’t be for you.

For starters this is no ordinary book. It’s an audiobook, produced by Audible Studios as a multi-cast recording. This appealed a lot to me, I’ve found audiobooks don’t always keep my attention but radio plays do so I thought this would be something I’d get on well with. The audio cast has some great names – Rupert Penry-Jones, Emilia Fox and Andy Serkis to name a few.

childFINAL

The synopsis:
Defence attorney Robert Stern can scarcely believe his eyes when he meets with the mysterious client who has summoned him to a godforsaken industrial park. To his astonishment, the defendant is a ten-year-old boy, a fragile child with a chronic illness who insists that he was a murderer in a former life. Robert Stern’s surprise turns into horror when he searches the cellar described by Simon and finds a human skeleton whose skull has been split by an axe.

Mystifying, thrilling and often terrifying, German author Sebastian Fitzek’s international bestseller finds a perfect medium in this multi-cast audio dramatization, featuring an all-star cast.

The trailer:
In addition to that synopsis Audible have produced a trailer to whet your appetite for the book

My experience:
My attention was grabbed immediately by this audiobook, and for the first thirty minutes or so I was hooked. Then unfortunately I started to become increasingly disturbed by the subject material and before the first hour was up I had to make the decision to stop listening. I’m usually pretty unflappable when it comes to content but this was just too strong for me. It’s hard to talk about what I didn’t like because I don’t know how spoilery it would be (if you’d like to know more specifically do please feel free to email me.)

Other experiences:
For balance I thought I’d find a couple of alternative reviews from bloggers who did listen to the whole book, it gets good write ups at both Crime Thriller Girl and Jack Croxall’s blog.

The link:
If you are interested in The Child it is available from Audible here.

Book News

Trouble’s coming.

TroubleA boy. A girl. A bump. Trouble.

Hannah’s smart and funny … she’s also fifteen and pregnant. Aaron is new at school and doesn’t want to attract attention. So why does he offer to be the pretend dad to Hannah’s unborn baby?

Growing up can be trouble but that’s how you find out what really matters.

One of the 2014 books I’m already most excited about is Trouble the debut novel from Non Pratt who until the end of tomorrow is the commissioning editor at Catnip Publishing. I got to meet Non at a YA event last summer and was thrilled to discover she was as lovely as I’d heard, hearing soon after about her book I had a feeling it was going to be good. The early copies of the book are out and about already and I’ve been hearing uniformly brilliant things about it, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

The lovely people at Walker Books want to make sure as many people hear about this book as possible. They’ve worked with Thinkjam on this, and today have launched a dedicated Tumblr account – you can find it here. That wasn’t sufficient, so they’ve also launched a search to find VIP readers to read Trouble early and join in with spreading the word.

(Click to make it bigger and more legible.)
(Click to make it bigger and more legible.)

This is a great opportunity for readers to get to read the book early – why not get emailing?

Book Awards · Book News

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal nominations.

CKG
It’s that time of year again, today the nominations for the Carnegie Medal (list here) and Kate Greenaway Medal (list here) have been released. This year things are being done a little differently – the judges will meet to decide, based on the medal criteria, the longlists which will be announced on 4th February 2014. Following this the shortlists will be decided upon and announced on 18th March 2014 with the winners being announced at the ceremony in June. This year the lists of books nominated are once more the longest ever with 76 books nominated for the Carnegie medal and 61 books for the Kate Greenaway Medal.

Both lists are chock full with exciting books, I’m thrilled to see books on the lists that I’ve heard loads about and books on the lists that I’ve never heard about – I think these lists are always such a great education, every book is on the list because at least one librarian felt passionately enough about it to nominate it.

Last year I watched as school librarian Caroline Fielding read her way through the entire 2013 Carnegie longlist before the shortlist was announced, and became increasingly inspired by her commitment. So in a moment of rashness I decided that I would like to try and match her efforts. The combination of the new process and the extremely long list of nominations means that whilst I definitely want to do some sort of reading based on the lit I think I need to rejig my plans for this year. I’ve actually only read the following 7 of the nominated 76 books so far:

Cousins, Dave. Waiting for Gonzo (Oxford University Press) [my review]
Dockrill, Laura. Darcy Burdock (Corgi Children’s Books)
Kessler, Liz. North of Nowhere (Orion Children’s Books) [my review]
Murdoch, Emily. If You Find Me (Indigo)
Pitcher, Annabelle. Ketchup Clouds (Indigo) [my review]
Smale, Holly. Geek Girl (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
Syson, Lydia. A World Between Us (Hot Key Books)

I’d very much like to read my way through the other 69 books, but I think doing this by 18th March is a challenge bigger than I can manage – I have my degree to finish in the same time period, and I’m sat writing this whilst looking at my “to be read” bookcase that is stuffed full of exciting books (sadly few of them are on the list of nominated books).

I think therefore that this year I will pledge to read more of the nominated books, and that I will absolutely definitely read the shortlisted books. I’ll also make a concerted effort to read more new releases so that when it comes to this time next year and the nominations for the 2015 medal I’ll be in a great place to take on and complete the challenge of reading every nominated book (and I’ll have no pesky degree competing for my reading attention!)

Book News

Book Review: The Unquiet Grave by Steven Dunne.

In a first today I’m handing the blog over to my dad. He’s a keen (though not speedy) reader of British set crime thrillers so I knew he was the perfect person to offer a couple of review copies of books to, in exchange for a review.

UnquietGraveThe Cold Case crime department of Derby Constabulary feels like a morgue to DI Damen Brook. As a maverick cop, his bosses think it’s the best place for him.

But Brook isn’t going to go down without a fight. Applying his instincts and razor sharp intelligence, he sees a pattern in a series of murders that seem to begin in 1963. How could a killer go undetected for so long? And why are his superiors so keen to drive him down blind alleys?

Brook delves deep into the past of both suspects and colleagues unsure where the hunt will lead him. What he does know for sure is that a significant date is approaching fast and the killer is certain to strike again…

This was my first Steven Dunne as far as I know, but as I get most of books either as gifts or from my daughter’s review pile it may not be. There was nothing familiar about the style or content so lets assume it was! (JJ – It was.)

I probably read crime and psychological thrillers more than anything else but have a distinct preference for UK based stuff. I like to be able to place locations and language in my mind. I am the same with TV. This book did just that being based around Derby, an area I know quite well.

It was a variation on the usual theme, in that the lead character D.I. Damen Brook is moved from active policing into a cold case review role. This, following a period of recovery from a previous case and more importantly a bit of a punishment for various run-ins with his bosses. It leads to some interesting sub-plots around police officers, both active and retired, who see him as some form of pariah because of his history and methods. Dunne writes these diversions well and you find yourself siding with Brook as intended, and hoping he will deck one or two of them.

The main plot revolves around a set of initially unlinked Murders and, as it is cold case, the time-span covers several decades. These are briefly but adequately explained in flashbacks to support the main plot, and overall the book moves smoothly on, so I rarely got lost or confused. Pleasantly for me I also didn’t solve the mysteries early on in the book, and the twists and turns kept me interested to the last chapter.

Whilst I enjoyed the story for what it was I did find some of the content a little unbelievable, unless the police are endemically corrupt. Unfortunately this seems to be a common plot technique which for me crops up too often, both in books and TV. The extent of corruption in this book sustained over such a long period and involving a number of characters and plot lines just went a little too far to be real.

In summary this is a book I would recommend if you like a gritty and thought provoking police drama. It was a great introduction to the writer for me, and I would have no hesitation in reading the other books in this canon, which have up till now passed me by.

The Unquiet Grave is published by Headline. Whilst he was provided with a copy of the book for review all opinions expressed are my Dad’s.

Book Awards · Book News

Booktrust’s 100 Best Books: 12-14 year olds.

In this final look at the Booktrust’s list of 100 books children should read before they turn 14 the books are aimed at 12 – 14 year olds, the cut off point imposed by Booktrust as “beyond that, children tend to progress to more adult literature”. I may come back to this idea in a later post, but for now will concentrate on the list.

This is the full list, with the books I’ve read made bold.

Watership Down by Richard Adams
NoughtsCrossesNoughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Forever by Judy Blume
– The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
– Junk by Melvin Burgess
Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
MaggotMoonMaggot Moon by Sally Gardner
– The Owl Service by Alan Garner
– Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
– The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
– Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
WitchChild– Witch Child by Celia Rees
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
– Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The Fellowship of the Ring by J R R Tolkien

For this final list I have read 17 out of the 25, similarly to yesterday’s 9-11 years list there are 4 books that have been on my need to read list for some time. There are a couple of books I’ve never heard of, ones I must definitely investigate.

It’s interesting that in comparison to the three other sections of the list this is the one with more modern and recent releases than the other lists. There are only a small handful of books that were already relatively old when I was a child, compared with much bigger portions of previous lists. I read some of the books on this list when I was in the target demographic but have read far more of them since, some due to their publication dates and some because they just weren’t in my awareness.

Like all of the lists there are books I’m surprised to see, and books I’m surprised not to see. I think this is the list I am probably most curious to see the voting results for, once the public have chosen a favourite. I think it’s probably the hardest to predict out of all four lists.

Book Awards · Book News

Booktrust’s 100 Best Books: 9-11 year olds.

In this third post looking at Booktrust’s list of the 100 books children should read before they’re 14 the focus moves to books aimed at 9-11 year olds, a book demographic I particularly enjoy.

Here’s the list in full, books in bold are the ones I’ve read.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
SkelligSkellig by David Almond
Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden
– Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
– Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
The Witches by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake
Matilda by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake
Flour Babies by Anne Fine
– Once by Morris Gleizman
The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé
– Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
StigStig of the Dump by Clive King
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
– Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
TruckersTruckers by Terry Pratchett
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling
Holes by Louis Sachar
– The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

With 18 out of 25 books read from this list, this is the list I’m most familiar with (just). Of the 7 books I haven’t read 4 have been high on my radar for quite some time – I just haven’t got to them yet. Of the books I have read there are some titles that were real favourites when I was young, 6 or 7 of them would appear on my most re-read books list. I’m very pleased to see some far more recent “classics” appear on the list, and thrilled that last year’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals winner A Monster Calls has a very justified inclusion.

Book Awards · Book News

Booktrust’s 100 Best Books: 6-8 year olds.

Today my attention is shifted to the 25 books aimed at 6-8 year olds that Booktrust have included on their list of 100 books children should read before they’re 14.

Again, here’s the list in full with the books I’ve read in bold type.

EnchantedWoodThe Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond and Peggy Fortnum
The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook by Joyce Lankester Brisley
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown and Scott Nash
– Clarice Bean, That’s Me by Lauren Child
– That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton
The BFG by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake
– The Story of Babar by Jean De Brunhoff
My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards and Shirley Hughes
Asterix the Gaul by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
AmazingGrace– Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch
Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson (translated by Elizabeth Portch)
The Queen’s Nose by Dick King-Smith
The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith and Mike Terry
– Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (translated by Tina Nunnally)
Winnie-the-Pooh by A A Milne and E H Shepherd
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
– The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
– Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon and Tony Ross
TheArrivalThe Arrival by Shaun Tan
– Charlotte’s Web by E B White and Garth Williams
– Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
– Mister Magnolia by Quentin Blake

This time I’ve read 15 out of the 25, and of the ones I’ve read virtually all of them were books I read myself as a child – the notable expection being Shaun Tan’s excellent The Arrival which I’ve only recently read. Of the books I have read there are a few that I read repeatedly as a child – I re-read most books by Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl a fair few times, and my mom became so fed up of my repeated borrowing of Milly-Molly-Mandy from the library that she bought me my own copy.

I’m a little surprised that there are so few books published in the last decade or so on the list. I personally haven’t read many books in that time period aimed at the 6-8 year old reader, but my Beaver Scouts all bring exciting looking books with them to sleepovers so I’m aware they exist – I think I’d better start borrowing some of them so I can judge them myself.

Are there any books you’d have expected to see on this list?