September 2017 Newsletter
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September's News from Bookbag Towers
Oh man, Bookbaggers. Summer is over. Did you go on holiday? If so, we hope you had a lovely time and got to read a book or two. If you didn't, we bet you managed to get some reading time in anyway, didn't you? Which summer book did you enjoy the most?
The latest figures tell us that children are driving book sales. Sales of children's titles rose 16% last year alone. This is such great news. But it does lead us back to that drum we like to bang from time to time - the Cover Kids Books campaign. Why does a third of the market get only 3% coverage in newspapers and magazines? It's as though children, and the authors who write for them, don't matter at all. Do better, British press, do better.
Not much about Donald Trump makes us laugh but this article in the Independent raised a despairing chuckle. Can you guess which 17 books could fix the 45th president's ignorance of history? It's an honourable list and an honourable intent but sadly we all know the chances of his reading even one of them are vanishingly small. But you might want to read one or more from this list - it's a great one.
Since the film adaptation starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland is now in production and looking pretty exciting, we thought we'd remind you of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness as our blast from the past this month. First in Ness's Chaos Walking series, one of YA's best ever dystopian sequences, it's compelling, compulsive, funny, heartbreaking, thought-provoking and all sorts of other good things. Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown. There are no women in Prentisstown, a human colony on another planet. The women all died when the Noise came - a virus unleashed on the unsuspecting human settlers by the native species, the Spackle. Oh, Todd knows the history of Prentisstown alright. He can't avoid it. Noise is other people's thoughts, you see, and every man in Prentisstown can hear every other man's thoughts. Life is a continuous shock of Noise from one's own, to one's neighbour's, to one's pet's and even from the squirrels in the trees and the crocodiles in the swamp. This is a fantastic book and if you haven't read it already, no matter how old you are, you should.
Books of the Month
And on to to the new... . In fiction, and for crime fans, Sue recommends These Darkening Days by Benjamin Myers. Somewhere in his brain Tony Garner knew that getting hold of the knife was a mistake, but he liked knives and had quite a collection until they were all taken away after the accident which had left him, well, not quite as he ought to be. The problem with this knife was that it was beside the woman who was lying in the ginnell, one leg twisted under her rather strangely and with blood coursing down her face... There comes a point in this book when you'll question all that you've read: an absolutely brilliant plot, superbly written.
For those who enjoy literary fiction, Luke suggests The Waking by Matthew Smith, in which Isabel Sykes, 23, recounts the recent attempt she made to come to terms with the loss of her mother, the acclaimed but psychologically disturbed novelist Marianne Sykes. It's a beautiful novel of grief, death and art from an exciting new writer and an equally exciting new publishing house, Wundor.
In non-fiction, Louise recommends Owls: A Guide to Every Species by Marianne Taylor, a beautiful encyclopedia of owls. It covers all 225 known species, most accompanied by glorious, full-colour photographs. Whilst the word owl may conjure up a certain image in the mind, there is a startling amount of diversity in the owl kingdom. And you can see that diversity in all its glory in this fabulous, high quality, beautifully-produced book.
Also in non-fiction, Megan fell in love with The Smell of Fresh Rain by Barney Shaw, a a provocative, evocative and emotional journey through our most elusive sense, taking in the history and the hysteria of smell and the biological and psychological impact of scent on our lives. It's a fascinating, engrossing adventure guided by passionate and thoughtful insights from Shaw which will keep you riveted throughout. A must have for those of you who have ever looked past the end of your nose and wondered about it's olfactory brilliance.
For the littlest of little ones, Anne brings you Mrs Noah's Pockets by Jackie Morris and James Mayhew. When Mr Noah builds the ark, he makes two lists - one for all the animals who will come on board and one for those troublesome creatures he will leave behind. Meanwhile, Mrs Noah gets out her sewing machine and makes a coat with very deep pockets. Lots of pockets. One of the most familiar of the biblical stories is retold with a surprising twist in this beautiful book. A thoughtful text is accompanied by stunning illustrations, making it a charming and satisfying read.
For middle grade readers, Linda gushed over A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge. What a wonderful title! Once again the vivid and decidedly quirky imagination of Frances Hardinge has produced a story which grips the reader while he or she is reading it, and remains in the memory long after the book has been replaced on the shelf. Set during the English Civil War, it has luscious phrasing, a mind-bogglingly original premise and another of those sturdy young heroines who face all manner of perils with courage, determination and ingenuity.
And of course we won't forget our YA readers. Jill was blown away by The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles. Lux went to a party. Then she woke up in hospital. And she can't remember what happened. Her worried parents hover. Doctors of the body do scans. Doctors of the mind conduct therapy sessions. But nothing works. And what Lux wants is to get back to school. She's sure that the answers will come if only she can do that. Every now and again a YA novel comes along that defies your expectations and really isn't like anything - in either form or voice - that you've read before. The Taste of Blue Light is such a novel. It feels new and fresh and original and powerful.
We've had our reporter's pads out again this month and there are some great author interviews for you to read. Ani was quietly moved by Returning Home and there were several points she wanted to discuss with author Stephan Santiago when he popped in to Bookbag Towers to chat to us. Stephen's best piece of advice for us is to live a life that strives to aid and unite instead of separate and differentiate. And we couldn't agree more with that.
Very few people believe that dogs can talk so it was something of a relief when Sue met author Annie Ingram. She has lengthy conversations with her cocker spaniel Kammie and has shared them with us in her book. There was a lot to talk about when Annie called by. Annie says that being owned by a pet is a privilege and a delight and Sue heartily agrees.
Jill thought that The Grumpface by B C R Fegan and Daniela Frongia was sweet, funny and vividly illustrated. She had quite a few questions for author Bryce Fegan and he was kind enough to answer them. Bryce has another five children’s picture books at various stages of the publishing process and we are very much looking forward to seeing them.
Luke enjoyed the combination of compellingly-written science fiction which blends themes of innocence and growth with some well depicted moments of horror in My Name is Sam and so he was looking forward to talking with author Wes Stuart when he lit up the door to Bookbag Tower. Wes sees his writing as a selfish indulgence as he writes for his own pleasure. We think he also provides plenty of pleasure for the rest of 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 .
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