October 2012 Newsletter

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October's News from Bookbag Towers

Woohoo! Jill's personal favourite, Bring up the Bodies won this year's Booker Prize, making Hilary Mantel the first woman AND the first Briton to win twice. We are very happy about that, as we are about Mantel's rehabilitation of Thomas Cromwell. Which of the shortlist would you have chosen?

And now, we suppose, thoughts will turn to Christmas. Will you be buying books as gifts? How about a Kindle? The Kindle Fire is out later this month. Are you going to buy one? We're still thinking about it but will let you know what we think if and when we plump for one. You let us know, too. We'd be interested to hear your views.

Golden Hour

For our blast from the past this month, we're choosing an autobiography written for children but which is as enjoyable a read for adults. Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl will make everybody laugh, as does everything written by Roald Dahl. More than that though, it provides rich and arresting detail and some of the inspirations for all those other, fictional stories written by the master. It goes some way towards explaining that disgust at the adult abuse of authority that pervades all of his books. Perhaps, with Boy, Dahl wanted finally to win the argument. Grown ups are naughty. You will love it. They will love it.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new...

In fiction, Robin recommends The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally. Expectations are high for this story of the World War I experiences of the Australian, Durance sisters who volunteer for nursing duties in far off Europe. It's an expertly researched story, full of compassion and human spirit, and a fitting tribute to the brave volunteers - and with an ending that you will want to talk about with other readers.

Crime fans should listen to John, who loved I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Three people – a couple and another young woman – get ferried across the fjord to one of western Iceland's most remote outposts, with the aim being to renovate an old building as a guesthouse. It might be Nordic, but this is not just another thriller – this is one of the most spooky reads you could wish for.

In non-fiction, Robert loved On The Map by Simon Garfield. You might think that there's not a lot which could be said about maps - but you'd be completely wrong. Garfield's engaging style and the sheer variety of maps discussed here make what could have been a dry subject into a staggeringly entertaining read. You might even say that it deserves to put Simon Garfield on the map!

For the younger ones, Linda thinks you should look no further than Tales from Schwartzgarten: Osbert the Avenger by Christopher William Hill. The teachers at the Institute are extremely cruel. It gets so bad that in this story, the first of four about the city of Schwartzgarten, a studious and highly intelligent boy feels compelled to take action. And he isn't just thinking of a stern letter to the Board of Governors. He wants something a little more decisive. And painful. Yes, this book is dark, but it is also comic, and it has a clear moral message.


Two brilliant young adult authors have called into Bookbag Towers this month. It's always fascinating to find out what makes an author write a book in a particular way. We've loved Keren David's series about Ty Lewis since we first read When I Was Joe so the opportunity to hear her tell us about about the third book in the series was not one we were prepared to miss.

If that weren't enough, the brilliant Luisa Plaja has also waxed lyrical about contemporary series for young adults. When she read a great post about series at YA Contemporary, my first thought was, But I have shelves full of YA contemporary series! Surely there are lots of memorable ones still being published? Y'think?

We've also had our interviewing hats on. Last year we were delighted by Rob Keeley's first collection of short stories. This year it was a real pleasure to read The (Fairly) Magic Show and Other Stories. We had quite a few questions to ask him when he popped into Bookbag Towers. We've been thrilled by Stephanie Burgis' Magick series and delighted that she was able to find the time to pop into Bookbag Towers to have a chat with us.


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 last year?

All at Bookbag Towers

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Alison Layland said:

You asked readers' opininos about the Kindle so I'm taking my opportunity to have my two-pen'north. When I got a book reader a couple of years ago I considered all the options and finally went for the Sony Reader. Mine was the PRS-350 at the time, but I understand their models have changed. 2 years on and my trusy PRS-350 is still going strong. It doesn't have wireless connection (though I think all the new Sony models do) but I'm quite happy to download and synchronise my books by computer - in fact I feel I have more control that way. And when I got it, it was one of the first touch screen book readers (long before Kindle introduced that feature), which I love.

I think Amazon has such a huge share of the book market, and with the rise in e-publishing it scares me to think that "Kindle" is becoming synonymous with "e-book reader". So why not feature some other readers - Sony, Nook, Kobo, etc. - in your reviews?

I'd be happy to give a review of the Sony but as I said my model is old now and I'm not familiar with the new ones. But I don't think the factors that influenced my choice have changed - the fact that I can read a wide variety of formats (mainly ePub files, but it handles PDF, Word/rtf files and others), but also the fact that it has a touch-screen dictionary, and in fact the Sony - I think uniquely? - also has foreign language-to-English dictionaries (French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch) which are useful to me, not only for reading foreign books, but sometimes even when reading English-language ones (e.g. Spanish for Hemingway or some of the Cormac McCarthy novels). I have looked at friends' Kindles and find it easier to navigate pages and/or search for words or terms on the Sony. I also think it's easier to control your library of e-books on your computer than it is with the Kindle automated system.

Please join me in my fight to stop "book reader" from being swamped by "Kindle" in the English language!

In the meantime I look forawrd to browsing the reviews you have in store for us this month!

Thanks and all the best, Alison