Waiting on Wednesday: More Than This

Today’s Waiting on Wednesday is this beauty. I received it today in the workplace, and may well end up reading during the break between bands at the gig I’m at. It’s not just excessive coffee consumption that I share with Rory Gilmore.

It seems like an absolute age since A Monster Calls came out, and while we have had The Crane Wife in the intervening period, there’s noting quite like Patrick Ness’ YA output. Easily my most anticipated book this year.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Read So Far in 2013

…in reverse order! *drum roll*

Also including a couple of re-reads. The because of which is for another day. Thanks as ever to the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish for hosting.

10. Sarah Dessen – The Moon and More

I think I’ve written already about my long-time love of Sarah Dessen’s work. The Moon and More isn’t literary, or ground-breaking, or genre-defying or anything like that. But what it is, is exactly what I wanted it to be (and more!) and that’s what’s significant. I think it’s important to have some variety in what you read – to go from the profound coming of age stories, to the dystopian texts, to historical fiction, to humour – from heavy to light and to appreciate everything for what it is. When I began this book, I wanted hopeful escapism with characters I could care about, and that’s exactly what this was. Long may it continue.

9. Louisa Reid – Black Heart Blue

I’m not sure I’d have read this, had it not been shortlisted for the Teen/YA edition of the awards I booksell at each year; it’s the tale of twin sisters, one with a facial disfigurement, who stuffer at the hands of their abusive father and passive mother. While enjoy is never the right term for this kind of book, it was utterly gripping (I read it in one sitting at silly o’clock in the morning having just finished another book and in no way intending to complete another), very affecting, and superbly well written. When discussing it in the book club I take part in with friends from work, there was the argument that the narrative was resolved a little too neatly; however, I loved the spark of hope that came through, and it’s certainly stayed with me since.

8. Cassandra Clare – City of Bones/Mortal Instruments

Because it is the whole series, really. On one hand, I think Ms Clare should have kept the six books down to a trilogy, and ended it on a high note. I do understand the criticisms of formulaism, and reading the Infernal Devices books, they too fit the pattern established in the orginal series. However, I trust Walker Books to publish good quality stories, and I was sucked right into this fictional world from the very beginning. An author is certainly doing something right when you find yourself sneaking off from…everything else you should be doing to read. And shouting at the book when things don’t go as you’d like. Plus all of these books have Magnus Bane, and if that doesn’t get a book on a list, I don’t know what does. I LOVE Magnus Bane.

7. Brian Selznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I actually think that I prefer Wonderstruck to TIOHC – the narrative is more developed, and the characters more rounded, plus I loved the way the stories intersected. However, that being said, TIOHC  is amazing. It is a genuinely ground-breaking book within the mainstream YA sphere – it showed that illustrations in novels for older kids weren’t just ok, but works of art to be cherished (glad to see that there is actually a trend now for illustrated YA), and that paper books still have something over their e-counterparts. Plus I like that it does a little something different to most other books in the section – ok, so there’s steampunk in Philip Reeve’s work, but where else would you find George Melies and the history of film?

6. Patrick Ness – The Crane Wife

People who know me are probably shocked to find a Ness book so low on one of my lists. And only halfway through the year at that. Though with More Than This due out in September, plenty of time for things to change! As much as Mr Ness would argue that he doesn’t change his writing style when writing for teens (and in a positive, teens are better than most people give them credit for kind of way), I certainly found The Crane Wife to be a more literary, writer-y (if that’s a word) book, where he took the opportunity to play around a little more with the language and take more time over the narrative. And while I didn’t necessarily identify with the characters as much as in previous works (Todd from Chaos Walking is up there with Charlie from Perks in my ‘Top 10 Fictional Characters’ List), the book was shot through with enough of the world view I’ve come to love from him that it makes this list. Plus, any book that makes you laugh out loud on public transport is always a winner.

5. Lydia Syson – A World Between Us

Having finished reading the Carnegie Medal shorlist shockingly ahead of time, I decided to work my way through the books on the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize shortlist – beginning with this. Having spent almost half of the last year of a history and politics degree studying the Spanish Republic and Civil War in one guise or another (half my history course that year, and a politics research project that took the place of a dissertation), a YA novel that covered the subject was always going to appeal. I think this book is thoroughly researched, excellently written, and certainly conjures what I imagine being in Spain was like at this time. It’s one I’m recommending to everyone I know at the minute. And I’ve definitely enjoyed stretching my sadly-ignored academic muscles in keeping up with Lydia Syson’s historical writings and the books she recommends on the subject. Yay!

4. Laura Jarratt – By Any Other Name

It makes me happy that 2 of the higher placing books on this list were written by UKYA authors starting to make a name for themselves. And doing something different with it – in Lydia Syson’s case 20th Century historical fiction that wasn’t about WW2, and in Laura Jarratt’s case, well-written, ‘realistic’ romance without the constructs of a dystopian or paranormal world. I loved BAON – I found Holly a little tiresome at first, but her growth as a character was very realistic within the confines of the story, and her relationship with Katie, her autistic sister, had a lot more shades of grey than the usual offerings. I like my characters flawed and real, and she was certainly that. And Joe. I loved Joe (did anyone else imagine him as Jethro Cane from the Midnight episode of Dr Who?). Loved the entire thing. More like this please!

3. John Green and David Levithan – Will Grayson Will Grayson

The one downside to reading so much (75 novels for the year and counting) is not remembering as many details about other books as I’d like. However, it then turns into an upside, when re-reading seems like the most sensible option and you get to enjoy the book again. Having lent this to a friend, and wanting to discuss it in depth and compare significant passages, that was indeed my situation. I love everything John Green has written and pretty much everything in David Levithan’s back catalogue. So this was always going to be a winner. Again. It’s funny, it’s touching, it has music love…it’s just awesome. And I will take great joy in re-reading it again someday.

2. Elizabeth Wein – Code Name Verity

Another re-read, as it formed part of this year’s Carnegie shortlist. (though it was beaten to the award by Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon, a book that deserved the win but didn’t quite sneak on to this list because I’m difficult like that). I loved this book even more on second reading. Where I found Julie’s character hard work on the first go around, knowing what happened in the story gave me a better sense of perspective. The foreshadowing was really well done (and made me well up a few times), and in our shadowing group we certainly had interesting discussions about what was truth and what wasn’t and how it all came together. But as with the first read, all of that was just a frame on which to hang that incredible friendship, which I really don’t know how to do justice to in words – I think it has more emotional depth to it than a lot of romances in fiction these days, and I’m not embarrassed to say that I cried my eyes out like a baby when I finished it. Again.

1. Rainbow Rowell – Eleanor and Park

However, there was only one candidate for my book of the year so far. Like most people who read in the same circles as me (is that a thing?), I came across this book thanks to a glowing review by John Green, which was then backed up by the afore-mentioned Louisa Reid, who I had the great pleasure of meeting when I booksold(is that the past tense of bookselling?) at the awards in January. In the snow. Either way.

This book. I have some theories in life – one of which is that something is definitely significant if it acts as a framework in reminding you of the time when you expereinced it. Like the Olympics – I remember those weeks last year in so much more detail than any other of the others, precisely because of the games – I remember where I was and what I did, specific interactions with people at work, and this book is like that. It also helps that it was record store day. But I don’t think I’ll forget reading this in a hurry – another one-sitting affair, where I sat outside in the garden all afternoon, listening to my new records, reading while I ate, even, and then that realisation, the audible ‘oh,’ that I’d encountered something a bit special.

Again, it’s one of those books where people can argue that a couple of things happen a little too conveniently, or characters acted in a convenient fashion. But. Like all of my favourite books, it’s one where the emotional connection is such that all of my attempts to explain that fall hideously flat. If you like Perks, When You Reach Me, or John Green, then all I can do is recommend this book.

And then read Rainbow Rowell’s blog post on the playlists that accompany it. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love music, and one of my favourite things is when that feeling is precisely conveyed in the books that I read. What I love about Patrick Ness’ work is that he tries to capture the feeling of a song in his works (beady eyed readers will notice that it’s mainly song lyrics included at the beginning of each of his books), and the same is true of Rainbow Rowell – it’s clear that they both get it on that level, and that they have both succeeded in that aim. In short – Eleanor Side B, Blackbird, all of the tears.

Cake to anyone who persevered on reading that entire thing. Oops.

Bank Holiday Bike Rides

While 2013 hasn’t been a classic year for weather in the UK, May has by and large been a pleasant month, with the two bank holiday weekends in particular being quite warm. I was lucky enough to not be working on each of these occasions, and took the opportunity to get out on my bike and do some photography. As well as being a green mode of transport and a good way to keep active, one of the highlights of cycling (for me at least) is the opportunity to get to places that are too far to walk to, but inaccessible by car.

Since I began cycling properly again last year, I’ve rediscovered some places I forgot about, found places I didn’t know existed, and discovered a new appreciation for my little slice of the North East.

06/05/13: Preston Park, Ingleby Barwick and Thornaby

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As Ingleby Barwick and the surrounding area has been developed, lots of work has gone in to the infrastructure around it and the surrounding area. Heading out of the grounds of the always brilliant Preston Park, it was incredibly pleasing to see dedicated cycle routes and walkways encouraging exploration of the area. And also to see people using them.

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My first visit to the marshes in the area.

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I’m a fan of signage.

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…and also of industrial structures such as power lines.

25/05/13: Tees 8 Bridges Way

If there’s one thing Teesside does well, it’s bridges; so much so that the main cycle/walkway between Stockton and Middlesbrough is known as 8 Bridges Way. I’ve yet to incorporate them all into one trip, however a round trip of almost 12 miles that takes in the Tees Barrage, Newport Bridge and Teesquay Millenium Bridge is one of my more regular routes.

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Newport Bridge

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Growing up in an area where heavy industry sits so close to nature has clearly influenced my aesthetic leanings; my eye can’t help but be drawn to structures like this and the shapes and textures within them. As the spring (hopefully) turns into summer, I fully intend to continue my bike-based exploration of the area and practice my photography while I’m at it.

Top Ten Tuesday (+1): Book Covers Of Books I’ve Read

Late again! Written yesterday as I was on the train (without signal), FirstTranspenine definitely need to get some wifi sorted. Thanks as ever to the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish for hosting. Book titles link to each book’s goodreads page.

1. Dave Shelton – A Boy and a Bear in a Boat (hardcover). Shortlisted for this year’s Carnegie medal, this book has one of the more intriguing covers I’ve seen in a while; a simple blue checked grid accompanied by a tea cup stain. It gives the feeling of a travelogue, or adventure documentation, which I guess it is. Either way, it’s a refreshing change from the norm that has probably attracted readers who may not have picked it up otherwise, it’s a shame the paperback is so different.

2. Rainbow Rowell – Eleanor and Park. The US cover as opposed to the UK’s copy (damn transatlantic discrepancies). However, this is the one I love. Spare yet super-effective, it’s an image that goes to the heart of the story and how it makes me feel.

3. Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie – Dogs Don’t Do Ballet. I probably need to do a ‘top 5 dogs in fiction’ post at some point, because Biff (the hero of our story) would certainly be in there. His face. This book is mainly on this list because of his face.

4. Patrick Ness and Jim Kay – A Monster Calls. I’m not sure if choosing illustrated books is cheating in some way. However, I think Jim Kay’s illustrations in this book are superb, they suit the narrative perfectly, and the image of the monster used on the cover is just awesome. Definitely something I’d put on the wall, given the chance.

5. Sally Nicholls – Ways to Live Forever. It’s always interesting when books move through a number of different covers in a short space of time as with this book – 6 years since publication, and we’re already on to its third cover. While I don’t mind the current incarnation, I’m certainly glad we’ve passed the misery-memoir cover debacle. But it’s the original that I love. The lovely purple binding feels lovely in your hands, and the simple silhouette of the tree against the moon is a lovely image that recalls one of the more moving moments in the book.

6. Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale. I love Vintage’s covers, and this book is no exception. An incredibly striking image, it just looks great.

7. Ned Vizzini – Its Kind of a Funny Story. One of my favourite things about trips across the pond (excesses of coffee and cinnamon flavoured everything aside) is visiting new bookshops; my trip to the famous Powell’s (Block of Books) while I was in Portland a few years ago is the perfect example. Working where I do, a shop’s YA section has to do a lot to impress me, but theirs, wow. IKOAFS had a kinda cute cover, different to what’s usually about in the UK, and somehow I found myself going home with it.

8. Oliver Jeffers – Lost and Found. Ok, so Jeffers’ boy character has spindly legs and a nose that doesn’t look quite right. However, the penguin is so beautifully captured, and the whole thing is just lovely. Jeffers’ at his best, in my opinion.

9. Sue Hendra – Barry the Fish with Fingers. Sparkly fingers, made to look like the foodstuff. Barry is a surreal and genuis invention.

10. Stephen Chbosky – The Perks of Being a Wallflower (the MTV cover). The best part of a decade on, and I still don’t know how to do justice to this book in words that make actual sense. Suffices to say that while I own all the covers I’m aware of (beside the film cover, bleurgh), this is the one that recalls the magic of reading this most special of books for the first time.

 

Book Review: Rainbow Rowell – Fangirl

I am very grateful to both John Green (yes, that John Green) and Louisa Reid (author of Black Heart Blue) for their enthusiastic reviews which prompted me to purchase Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, and begin what I imagine will be a long and happy relationship where she writes books and I read them.

I adored Eleanor and Park. Loved it. In fact, at this time it’s probably my favourite book this year, that’s how much I liked it. So I was incredibly happy to discover that not only were there more books where it came from (Attachments will be the first book of my next paycheck), but that Fangirl, Rowell’s newest, was available on NetGalley.

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Fangirl is the story of Cather (Cath) Avery, fan of Simon Snow (fictional wizard, just not THAT fictional wizard) as she adjusts towards a new life at university; dealing with snarky roommates, confusing boys, and a growing distance in her relationship with her twin sister Wren (LOL is perhaps the most appropriate word at this point?). As the book blurb asks, ‘Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?’

I loved it. I’m a huge sucker for coming of age stories, so that’s no real surprise. I thought the characterisation of Cath was perfect; frustrating at times, yes, but appropriately so – having been that very shy and socially awkward university student, Cath’s reluctance to step outside her boundaries and to play it safe wasn’t unrealistic to me, and the slow build  of her relationships with the rest of the ensemble cast fit this world perfectly.

While the other books I’ve read about/referencing fandom have been something of a mixed bag (I liked Nick Hornby’s Slam, wasn’t a fan of C.J. Skuse’s Rockoholic), I thought that Rowell handled it well, and it wasn’t a surprise to learn that she had thrown herself into the world before writing about it. The sections featuring excerpts from the Simon Snow ‘novels’ and Cath’s fanfiction slotted in seamlessly  and while I was a little confused at first as to whether the aforementioned Snow was a copyright-appropriate way of writing about the Harry Potter phenomenon, The Boy Who Lived is also discussed by name, so who knows. A question I’d like to ask, given the chance.

Either way, this was a very well written book that I devoured in a sitting and a bit. Less immediate than its predecessor, and by the very nature of each’s subject matter it didn’t pull at my heartstrings quite so much; it felt a bit more like a comfy hug of a book than anything else. However, sometimes that’s just what you need, and this book did not disappoint. No doubt I’ll be buying a real copy of it once it’s out.

Many thanks to NetGalley.com and St. Martin’s Press for the advance copy.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Thought I’d Like More/Less than I did

A couple of hours later than intended; I had most of this written yesterday afternoon, then time got ahead of me and I needed to head out across London for a gig.  So, hosted by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish, here is my Top Ten Tuesday for this week, just a day late!

Books I liked less than I thought:

1. Gayle Forman – Just One Day. I loved (LOVED) If I Stay and Where She Went; given the importance of music in my life, I set the bar high when it comes to how it’s represented in fiction, and in those books she manages to get to the heart of it perfectly. So I was quite disappointed with Just One Day, I don’t seem to have ‘got’ it in the same way as everyone else. I liked Allyson; I thought her shyness and growth were realistic. I loved Dee. But I really didn’t understand the attraction of Willem, and found the ending to be somewhat out of kilter with the rest of the second half of the book. I’ll still be interested to read Just One Year, to see what it adds to the story, but this didn’t quite hit the (high) heights of Forman’s previous series.

2. Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan – What Happened in Peru (Bane Chronicles 1). Having realised mid-way through book 4 of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series that the warlock Magnus Bane was my favourite character (shouting at the book you’re reading makes that clear!), I was really quite excited to hear that along with Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson she was writing a series of short stories about him. However, the first short story was supremely disappointing. It didn’t have the same tone or feeling as the rest of the series, and actually felt quite lazily written. There were too many unnecessarily repeated phrases, especially those relating to Magnus’ bisexuality – I think the target audience certainly gets that by now. I’ll try again when the Mortal Instruments characters become involved, but until then, this is something I won’t be bothering with, sadly.

3. Moira Young – Rebel Heart (Dustlands 2). I loved Blood Red Road; very engaging read, well written, really strong but empathetic lead female character…and was disappointed not to find the same in the second book in this series. Middle books in a series are traditionally tricky, so I’ll be reserving some judgement until I’ve finished the series, but I just felt that Saba wasn’t the same character I’d come to know and love. She was still hot-headed and impulsive, yes, but that very much overawed the other facets of her character that came through in the previous novel. It’ll be interesting to see what Moira Young does in book 3.

4. Joe Dunthorne – Submarine. I’m not very good at enjoying films of books that I love, so I prefer to watch before reading, as it allows me to appreciate the differences in each media’s representation of the story. In the case of Submarine, I actually felt more of a sense of the characters in the film; sometimes the book was just a little too much. Plus I loved the colour palette used by Richard Ayoade – Jordana in red made such a striking image, and the end scene with the two main characters stepping into the sea was just beautiful.

5. David Levithan & Jonathan Farmer- Every You, Every Me. I’m a massive fan of David Levithan; barring some short stories, I think I own everything else he’s put out. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy when he changes the format; The Lovers’ Dictionary is just beautiful, and The Realm of Possibility is definitely fighting it out for the title of my favourite by him. I really liked the idea behind this book, I just didn’t find the characters as identifiable as his other works.

6. Paolo Giordano – The Solitude of Prime Numbers. I picked up this book on my last big solo adventure; something about the concept of prime numbers appealed to the maths geek in me, and the representation of the two lead characters as twin primes seemed like a potentially heartbreaking, but wonderful idea. I enjoyed the first half of the book, but as the characters aged, and didn’t really grow, it became quite frustrating.

Books I liked more than I thought:

7. Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races. I love Maggie’s work. But given my usual apathy towards such horse-centric books, I wasn’t sure how well this would go down. In fact, it actually shares with Shiver the lofty title of my favourite of her books. The world she creates feels so real (I imagined it being the west coast of Ireland), and with only two narrators, there’s a much stronger sense of each character. I loved both Puck and Sean, and must admit there was a little something in my eye towards the end.

8. George Eliot – Middlemarch. I’m not usually one for classics; a) the language and world can sometimes be off-putting, and b) I don’t always like the assumption that they’re necessarily better than books being released today. So it was with some trepidation that I began reading this (it being 800+ pages probably helped), and I was quite pleasantly surprised. Once I settled into language and style, I found that it actually related shockingly well to today, and grew to love Dorothea more and more as the novel progressed. Plus there’s this: “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” Just genius.

9. Melissa Marr – Carnival of Souls. As much as I tried, I really wasn’t a fan of Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series; the idea was great, but I always struggled to get into the books. So Carnival of Souls was a very pleasant surprise – it was a much smoother read, and the balance between world building and creating a likeable character was much more organic. In the author’s note, she states that she didn’t intend to write the book, it just happened, and I think that this comes across in the best possible sense.

10. Margaret Atwood – The Year of the Flood. It’s not that I didn’t think I’d like this, I just didn’t realise how much. I liked The Handmaid’s Tale, and the same with The Year of The Flood’s predecessor Oryx and Crake, but in a pleasant way, where once I’d finished, that was that, and I moved on. This book has really stuck with me; I’ll be reading other dystopias and something will spark a reminder, or, more worryingly, there’ll be something in the news, or in general conversation that will make me think of the events in the book. Both the female leads are well-written, well-rounded characters – I really can’t wait to see what happens to them in the conclusion of the trilogy.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Recommend The Most

School holidays and a very busy Seven Stories have kept me away from blogging for a little while, something I’d like to rectify, so I thought I’d break my writing fast with my first Top Ten Tuesday post.

Top Ten Tuesday was started by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish and as I’m a fan of both books and lists, this works out quite well!

This week: Top Ten Books I Recommend The Most

Working where I do, talking about and recommending books is one of the essential and most enjoyable parts of the job. While it’s mainly YA fiction that I read in my own time, I end up recommending books across a variety of age ranges, so thought I’d reflect that in the list.

In no particular order:

1. Viviane Schwarz – There are Cats in This Book. One of my all time ‘go-to’ books for story time at work, this is just genius. While the art of page turning is an integral part of any picture book, this one takes it to another level. The titular cats encourage the reader through their adventures both forwards and backwards through the book, prompting interaction throughout. It’s packed with quirky humour and bright colours, and is a great reminder that READING IS FUN!

2. Mo Willems – Elephant and Piggie (series). From the man who won Emmy awards for his writing on Sesame Street during my pre-school era, a brilliant series for ‘developing readers’ (our term of choice in the workplace for those first read-on-your-own books). Made up entirely of the dialogue between the two complementary lead characters, these books are bright, perfect in their simplicity, and just so funny. Gerald (the elephant) is one of my favourite characters in fiction.

3. Mark Walden – HIVE (series). Documenting the adventures of Otto Malpense at The Higher Institute of Villainous Education, this series is my classic recommendation for boys/tomboys/non-reader of classics who are looking for a series to fill that Harry Potter/Artemis Fowl/Stormbreaker void. There’s aweseome technology and battles a-plenty, plus some strongly-written friendships that aren’t quite as villainous as you’d expect. Book 8 is due out this year sometime, I can’t wait to read it.

4. Patrick Ness – Chaos Walking trilogy. My favourite set of books, I’ll recommend this to anyone I can – I’ve even acquired ‘reading/lending’ copies over the years as I share this with people. The most breathtaking, compelling, captivating story, that I felt genuinely bereft once I’d finished the last book and the series came to an end. Years on, I still can’t quite do the books justice in words, but I think the body language and enthusiasm in my voice does the trick every time. If I was putting together a Louise ‘starter pack’, these would most certainly be in there. For actual sensical (beautifully written) words that summarise my views on the trilogy (and make me feel a little jealous), check out the reviews at Books Time and Silence

5. Alex T. Smith – Claude. A step on from the likes of Elephant and Piggie, this series is aimed at more confident readers, but those who still enjoy a helping of illustrations with their stories. Claude is a dog, a dog who wears a beret, a dog whose best friend goes by the name of Sir Bobblysock (and is indeed, a bobbly sock). The series is filled with unlikely adventures, hilarious gags, and the kind of utter ridiculousness that has me laughing out loud when I read the books with my godchild. For more laughs, try Alex T. Smith’s twitter feed.

6. Rebecca Stead – When You Reach Me. Sometimes, you just need a good, well written story that isn’t fantasy, historical fiction, dystopia, or any other of the main genres doing the rounds at the moment. While it’s set in 1970s New York, the time period of this book is happily irrelevant, as the characters and their interactions are allowed to come to the fore. I’m a sucker for a coming of age story and books with great friendships, so this made for a great read.

7. Gemma Malley – The Declaration. Having said that, the dystopian books from the YA section at work tend to make their way home to my bookshelf more than any other, and this is the forgotten gem of the section that I like to share with customers. The two sequels let this first book down quite badly, but taken on it’s own, its future of over-population and drug-aided immortality is a scarily realistic probability.

8. Elizabeth Wein – Code Name: Verity. Another brilliant story that serves as a great framework on which to hang that rarest of things, a well-written female best-friendship that develops as the story progresses, and isn’t based on reactions to school, clothing or boys. It’s something of a slow burner, but had me utterly engrossed, and then inconsolable as it ended. If you like your historical fiction with kick-ass female leads, this is the book.

9. Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright – The Night Pirates. Little girl pirates, rough tough grown-up pirates, and a treasure-stealing adventure that uses the front of a little boy’s house as a disguise for a ship. With text that inspires expression in the reading, this is another of those ‘go-to’ books that works equally as well for boys and girls, and often gets a laugh from the parents. Perfect!

10. Oliver Jeffers – The Heart and the Bottle. More of an out of the workplace recommendation, this is one of my favourite picturebooks, ever, and really shows that the format isn’t strictly for kids. There’s some gorgeous spreads that really showcase Jeffers’ eye, and the mixed media works well with the story, without feeling unnecessary. The text is beautifully spare, and reading it never fails to bring a tear to my eye. His best work, in my view.