July 2014 Newsletter

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July's News from Bookbag Towers

Hi, hello, how are you? Happy summer! Got your holiday reading sorted out yet? If not, read on. We have plenty of recommendations for you.

Guess what? We have some great news! The weekend of Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th July saw the UK's first ever YA Literature Convention, held as part of the established London Film and Comic Con. Curated by Malorie Blackman, Children's Laureate and author of many of our favourite books, including Noble Conflict, and organised with the help of Booktrust, LFCC organisers Showmasters, and many of the top YA publishers around, the event, held in Earls' Court 2, was a staggering success. Our man Jim was there and had a wonderful time. If you want to read more about, you can read all about his adventures over the weekend. Let's hope it all happens again next year!

There's been some sad news, too. Rest in peace, Nadine Gordimer, Nobel laureate and chronicler of apartheid, who died aged 90 this month. You will be missed.

Golden Hour

Our blast from the past this month is 1986's Staring at the Sun by Julian Barnes. The book follows Jean Sergeant from her days as a girl before WWII right up to her centenary years around 2020. The story of a centenarian's life? An existential search for truth and meaning? Who knows? But re-reading it, we can ponder Barnes's meanings at our leisure, whilst enjoying the prose, the ideas and the cleverness of it all. There will never come a time when Staring at the Sun is not worth reading. Its themes are ageless.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, and for the perfect holiday read, Loralei is recommending Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Georgie McCool has always known what she's wanted and pursued it until she has it. She got her dream job writing comedy, she's about to get her own show, and she got her dream guy, Neal. Only, she's not so sure she has him any more. It's a really enjoyable read that bridges the gap between fluffy romance and a true to life examination of a challenging relationship.

And Leslie thinks you should read Happiness is Easy by Edney Silvestre. When Olavo Bettencourt, spin doctor to the Brazilian political elite hears that his son has been kidnapped, he has one thought - he knows for sure that the boy taken is not his son. Silvestre's second novel is as hard-hitting as his first and delicately pulls away at a web of political corruption in a Brazil struggling to establish genuine democracy. It's sharp, insightful and extraordinarily well-written.

In non-fiction, John thinks you could look at Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died by Dylan Jones. An assessment of how Elvis Presley's life and death shaped popular culture, and the influence of his legacy, it's an absolute gem of a book. Ultimately the story of Elvis is a sad one, that of a prisoner of his own success, just going through the motions until his sadly inevitable premature end. Jones paints it in all its darkest horrors, and he pulls no punches in his documentation of the phenomenon which became tarnished all too soon. Yet he is clearly a fan, a thoroughly objective one, demonstrates convincingly that the man’s influence never wavered and is still just as strong today.

For middle grade readers (and everyone else), Jill is raving about Boy In The Tower by Polly Ho-Yen. It's a wonderful, wonderful story about a lonely boy, his agoraphobic mother and building-eating plants. That could never work, right? Wrong! It's a must read and you won't ever have read anything quite like it before. While the plot is part sci-fi, part fantasy and part dystopian, this little book is really a fable. It has a dreamlike quality and it's about love, friendship, loyalty and sacrifice.

For the little ones, Zoe thinks you should look at Bluebird by Bob Staarke, the story of a boy and a bluebird in New York. Comic strips are supposed to be exciting, action packed adventures. Full of bright colours, buzzing characters and onomatopoeia. This book is different in every way. For a start, there are no words. Not one single bang or crash or wallop. But it's absolutely stunning. Don't miss it.


We have some interesting features for you this month. Jim was very impressed by Sarah Skilton's High and Dry particularly because it was very different to her last novel. So he was very interested in her piece about writing it. Should her male narrator spend time describing girls' bodies? Should he swear more than a girl would? Talk about sex more? Should she nix any and all descriptions of clothes or hair? (Is the fact that she even asked herself these questions ridiculous and sexist?)

Ani thought that The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull was a beautifully crafted mesh of conquering adversity/hist-fict/ghost story with a murder investigation slipped in for good measure and a satisfying novel that's worth every penny and, indeed, every moment spent in its company. So she persuaded Rebecca to tell us all about her process in writing historical fiction.

We've been out and about with our reporter's pads interviewing authors, too. On a warm summer's day Sue sat in the garden and sank gratefully into Jam Tomorrow by Lorraine Jenkin. There were quite a few questions she wanted to ask Lorraine when she popped into Bookbag Towers. Sue was also blown away when she read Stalemate, a reworking of the unsolved murder of Julia Wallace in Liverpool between the wars. Even knowing how it had to work out she still couldn't put the book down - and she had a lot of questions for author Alan Hamilton. Jill thought that The Secret Dinosaur: Giants Awake was a super-fun adventure and she had quite a few questions when author N S Blackman came to see her.


We're always on the look out for people to join our panel of reviewers at Bookbag. We need people who understand that the reader wants to know what the reviewer thinks about the book and not just what's written on the back cover. If you think that you're one of these special people that we're looking for, we want to hear from you. You can find details of how to apply here on the site. Don't be shy!


We have competitions for some great books going this month, and every month, so get entering!

And that's about it for this month. If you're passing Bookbag Towers do pop in and see us – we're at www.thebookbag.co.uk.

What were we reading a year ago?

All at Bookbag Towers

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