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.

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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?

Book Awards · Book News

Booktrust’s 100 Best Books: 0-5 year olds.

Today I’m going to look at the 25 books for 0-5 year olds selected by Booktrust for their list of 100 books every child should read before they’re 14.

Here is the list in full, I’ve bolded all of the books I’ve read.

EachPeachPearPlumEach Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Gorilla by Anthony Browne
– Would You Rather? by John Burningham
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
IWillNotEverNeverI Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child
– Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
– Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
– Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury
– Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett
Where’s Spot by Eric Hill
Dogger by Shirley Hughes
– Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
– Not Now, Bernard by David McKee
MegAndMogMeg and Mog by Helen McNicholl and Jan Pienkowski
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
I Want My Potty! by Tony Ross
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
– The Elephant and the Bad Boy by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs

I’ve read 17 out of the 25, which is actually a few more than I’d expected. I think this reflects the relatively broad nature of the list – there are plenty of books here that were around when I was younger so I either read them as a young child myself, or to younger family friends. Of the books I haven’t read I had heard of most of them, I just haven’t come across them on one of my visits to the picture book section of the local library.

What do you think of the list? Are there any surprise inclusions or omissions?

Book Awards · Book News

Booktrust’s 100 Best Books.

BooktrustLogo
Today sees the start of Children’s Book Week 2013, the annual celebration of reading for pleasure for children. Booktrust have really kicked off the week well, they’ve announced their ultimate list of 100 books every child should read before they’re 14. They have split the books into four sections of 25 books, these are aimed at the age bands 0-5 years, 6-8 years, 9-11 years and 12-14 years.

This post about how they narrowed the list to 100 books is very interesting, and well worth reading. It puts the selection process into context and rightfully acknowledges that such a process is always a subjective one and any list is never going to garner universal agreement.

Booktrust are opening the debate to everyone, they’re inviting everyone to vote for their favourite book from the list for each of the four age bands. Voting closes on 15th November and they will announce “the nation’s top books” on 25th November.

For the rest of the week I’m going to focus on this list of 100 books. I will feature one section a day, listing the books in the section and my thoughts about them.

Book News

Humble eBook Bundle 2.

I was aware of the first Humble eBook Bundle last year, but I didn’t get round to buying it in time. When I saw today that they were doing a new eBook bundle I went straight to the site and liked what I saw.

The Humble eBook Bundle is a collection of eBooks that you can buy on a pay what you basis. The money that you pay can be split between the authors, three nominated charities and Humble Bundle themselves – it’s up to the individual to choose how their money is split (for the authors and charities you can even specify how much of the portion you allocate to that group goes to each one if you so wish). All of the books are DRM free and you can download them in a range of formats.

imageimageIn this second eBook bundle there are four automatically included books – Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Spin by Robert Charles Wilson and Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. If you pay more than the current average ($9.54 at the time of blogging) you get two additional books – The Last Unicorn (Deluxe Edition) by Peter Beagle and Just A Geek by Wil Wheaton. Three of these books were already on my mental list of books I’d like to read so it seemed like a really good buy for me.

I shall be reading these books over the next few weeks so expect a couple of Recent Reads posts dedicated to the second Humble eBook Bundle.

Edited to add:
Today (10th July) 4 additional books have been added to the Bundle; Machine of Death edited by Matthew Bennardo, Ryan North and David Malki, The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black, Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, and xkcd volume 1 by Randall Munroe. So that’s a total of 10 books, all DRM free, on a pay what you want basis.

Book News

Diary of a Mall Girl by Luisa Plaja.

Long time readers of my blog will know that I’ve been a huge fan of the interactive digital books being put out by Fiction Express. They started out by publishing YA novels, I reviewed them as the chapters went live – you can see my thoughts here. Since then they’ve gone on to publish books aimed at schools, and are continuing to tell wonderful stories interactively.

New publisher Curious Fox will be publishing four of the YA novels as complete books, they started last month with Sharon Gosling’s The Diamond Thief (previously Rémy Brunel and the Ocean of Light) and still to come are Soul Shadows by Alex Woolf in April, and The Soterion Mission by Stewart Ross in May.

Today however, the focus is entirely on Luisa Plaja’s brilliant Diary of a Mall Girl as it is published today.

DOAMG

From the back of the book:
The mall is the heart of the fifteen-year-old Molly’s suburban town. Most teens hang around with friends there, get their first job there, and experience their first kiss there. And Molly? She actually lives there, in the complex’s residential wing.

But living in a massive shopping centre isn’t as much fun as it sounds. That is, until mysterious twins Jewel and Jasper move into the flat upstairs. Suddenly life is a lot more exciting – and complicated. Will Molly get what she wants, or will it all come crashing down?

Find out the whole truth in Molly’s private diary!

I really enjoyed returning to Molly’s story, and spending time in the mall again with her. This book is so much fun, I found myself laughing lots as I read. There are also some truly brilliant cringey moments, the kind that make you remember your own similar experiences as a teen. One of the things I really love about Luisa’s books are the characters she creates, they’re wonderfully vivid – you really get the feeling that you’ve spent time with them. If you’re looking for a fun YA contemporary read then I’d say you would be fully satisfied by Diary of a Mall Girl.

To celebrate the publication of Diary of a Mall Girl there are a number of exciting things happening, you can see all of the details on Luisa’s website here.

Book News

You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly by Lee Barnett.

A slightly different post today, I’m not going to be reviewing a book but instead introducing you to an exciting story serialisation that’s currently taking place.

Lee “Budgie” Barnett is currently serialising his novella You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly with a new post every week day. He started this last Monday (7th January) so the first five parts are all now on his blog along with the first piece of artwork from the book posted on Saturday. On top of this he’s also offering the entire novella as an eBook (formatted for ePub and Kindle) for just £4.99.

I love Budgie’s writing, it was his Fast Fiction Challenge that first led me to discover him a few years ago. The wonders of the internet meant I got to know him more over time and I was able to finally meet him in person at the Thoughtbubble comic con a couple of years ago. We chatted about You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly then, and he showed me the wonderful artwork that some brilliant artists had contributed to its original form. I knew he was hoping to do something new with the story so I’m thrilled that it’s come to fruition.

I’ve really enjoyed being able to read a new bit of the story each day, I will definitely be buying the eBook but not until the serialisation is finished – I don’t trust myself to not read the whole thing in one sitting if I buy it now!

Budgie’s introductory post to the book can be found here, and part one can be found here. I really recommend giving it a go.

And of course you can find the man himself on Twitter as @budgie.

Book News

Booktrust’s Best Book Guide 2012.

Cover of Booktrust Best Book Guide 2012
Booktrust have just released their Best Book Guide 2012. It gives the details of what they consider the best books of the year in four age bands; 5 years and under, 5 – 8 years, 9 – 12 years, and teen and young adult. For each book along with the book details and a picture of the cover they give a description of the book and age ratings for both interest level and reading age. There are some wonderful books listed in each category, I’ve added a few to my wishlist and a few to my shopping list for young relatives this Christmas. If you’re interested in children’s books I’d say it’s well worth a look.