June 2012 Newsletter

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June's News from Bookbag Towers

Wow. First we get a mini heatwave then the skies open and hundreds of people are flooded out of their homes. Where else but Blighty, eh? On the upside, though, we're loving the Sky Arts TV channels at the moment and in particular their coverage of the Hay Festival. For those of us unable to get our diaries in sufficient order to book accommodation a year in advance, it's been great. We almost, but not quite, felt as though we were there.

And what do we think to the Education Secretary's overhaul of literacy strategies? Do primary school children really need an acquaintance with Wordsworth and his lonely clouds? An acquaintance would be nice. But rote learning and reciting? It doesn't seem particularly literate to us. It seems like a memory exercise. And bound to put kids off. What do you think?

In other news, the wonderful Ray Bradbury died - aged a venerable 91 - earlier this month. He said many wise things, and one of them was this: There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them. He will be missed.

Golden Hour

Our look back this month centres on Saturday by Ian McEwan. First published in 2005, this book is constructed on a very simple premise: let's put a model rationalist and privileged professional into a situation challenging morally and emotionally; and we'll see if he and his whole seemingly solid character structure survives or collapses. McEwan keeps us unsure until the end. And the resolution is very satisfactory. Themes of happiness, political engagement and rationalism make this a book you really should read.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Sue recommends Dirt by David Vann. We're back in the mid-nineteen-eighties in a suburb of Sacramento and Galen lives with his mother on the family walnut farm. The farm's not what it was, largely having been left to its own devices since the death of Galen's abusive grandfather some years before. This is a dark and violent look at how a mind is tipped into madness. It's not an easy read but it's certainly compelling. David Vann also popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.

In non-fiction, Sue thinks you should look at the centenary edition of a biography of brilliant mathematician Alan Turing. To celebrate the anniversary of his birth Cambridge University Press have reprinted a short biography written by Turing's mother and included a memoir written by his older brother, John. This look at the father of modern computer science is a great read.

For teens, Jill brings you Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, a harrowing and powerful novel about two brothers fleeing the violence in Zimbabwe that has left them orphans. By turns horrifying, sad, funny and uplifting, it's a fantastic achievement and comes highly recommended by all at Bookbag. It's easy to read but tremendously affecting. And it talks about important issues - Zimbabwe matters, but Now is the Time for Running has something to say about how we treat refugees taken in by this country, too.

Features

There are just three books on the shortlist for the Desmond Elliott Prize for Debut Fiction this year and we'll know the winner on 28 June. Read all about the shortlisters here.

Melissa Wareham popped around to tell us how she became an accidental author. Here at Bookbag Towers we love dogs and people who love dogs, so we knew we'd love Melissa even if she wasn't such a good writer. We've really enjoyed our trips around Hal Goodman's afterlife universe, with its dark comedy and glossy plot. He wanted us to think about who we would be in an alternate reality when he popped in to see us

We thought that Charmed Summer was the 'charming' start to what looked like an exciting new series. We couldn't resist having a chat to the author. Kathryn James caught our attention last year with her wonderful portrayal of Nell Beecham, the 13-year-old heroine of her first novel, Mist. We're far from being the only ones who are impressed - in fact, just two days ago she won the Dorset New Horizons Award - congratulations, Kathryn! While we're eagerly awaiting book 2, Frost, we managed to persuade her to take a little time out from writing to answer some questions. We enjoyed End Game by Allan Hendry, a fast-paced and action-packed eco-thriller to make you think exactly where we're going - and who is likely to do something about it. We had quite a few questions for the author when he popped in to see us.

We reviewed, and really enjoyed, Stephanie Guerra's Torn earlier this year. She was kind enough to do this interview for us. It's nearly three years since we first discovered the work of David Vann and we're impressed by his latest book. The opportunity to ask the author a few questions was not one to be missed. We loved Moon Chase and Moon Crossing and when author Cathy Farr popped into Bookbag Towers we asked her all about fellhounds, Thesk, and how she feels about being a writer.

Reviewers

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!

Competitions

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.

All at Bookbag Towers

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