Throwback Top Ten Tuesday | Childhood Favourites

I wasn’t daft on this week’s TTT prompt, so I decided to go right back to the start and relive some past topics when the current prompt didn’t inspire me!

Here are some of my favourite books as a child/very early teenager.

The “Wild at Heart” series – Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson is, famously, my favourite YA author and one of my favourite authors full stop. My aunt used to send these over from the US because I loved animals, and I devoured them. It wasn’t until years later – once I’d read LHA’s YA books – that I realised she wrote some of my childhood favourites. A lovely little realisation.

The Princess Diaries series – Meg Cabot

Easily one of my favourite book series of all time. Like I don’t even have anything else on top of that, they’re funny and even now like meeting up again with old friends.

Pig-Heart Boy – Malorie Blackman

Everyone knows Malorie Blackman for Noughts and Crosses, but the story of Cameron, who’s about to receive a heart transplant from a pig, was the well-thumbed book of hers that I read when I was younger. Definitely worth picking up if you haven’t read it yet!

Children Just Like Me – Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley

I have no idea how dated this book is by now but honestly I think everyone should be given a copy of this as a child. It’s basically a guidebook of different cultures presented by children between the ages of five and eleven (if I remember correctly). I absolutely adored reading it – the photography is brilliant and it’s great for showing kids what it’s like to grow up around the world.

The “Mates, Dates” series – Cathy Hopkins

Even though they touch on serious subjects (racism, teenage pregnancy, family illness are the few that I remember), these are just the most positive, warm and funny YA books I think I’ve ever come across. They’re on my list of old favourites to rebuy.

For a slightly more sobering point, I was desperately, desperately lonely as a teenager and craved the kind of fun and supportive friendships I read about in YA books. These filled a really bad void in my life.

The “Girls” series – Jacqueline Wilson

I remember reading these and being completely blown away that they were Jacqueline Wilson books – for late primary school/early high school me they were dark, dangerous and edgy compared to what I was used to from JW. They were my introduction to high school pressures and teenage experiences.

Almost Home – Nora Raleigh Baskin

Another gift from my aunt, this is a sweet MG novel about finding your place in a family and the wider world.

The “Animal Ark” series – Lucy Daniels

I ADORED these books. It was another series that tied together my love of animals and reading and they were so easy to read and moreish and emotional. I’m pretty sure I had the entire series and I read them again and again and again.

The Famous Five – Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton is one of those authors that I tend to cringe a little when I go to wax nostalgic about, because there are various examples of racism, xenophobia and classism in her work, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include The Famous Five in a list of my favourite childhood books. I read them from cover to cover when I was in primary school, and actively wanted to be George.

(I’d like to thank my mum for, whether intentionally or not, keeping the particularly grim Blyton stories away from me.)

The “Nancy Drew Case Files” series – Carolyn Keene

I managed to unlock a memory from some deep recess of my brain while compiling this list. My mum produced a selection of these from the local library one week when I was ill (I think she thought they were the original Nancy Drew books, rather than Teenage Nancy Has A Boyfriend And Solves Mysteries). Literally had not thought about these for about twenty years and now I am DESPERATE to read them again.


I’m putting most of these on my TBR now, partly so I can have them for my daughter when she gets older and partly because I want to read them again. Dying to revisit my bookish youth…

Books I Can’t Wait To Read To My Daughter

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I have a baby daughter. If you follow me on literally any social media, you may have picked this up already. I am obsessed with her.

We’re big on books in my family, and as a result Edith’s already got more books than I have room for. I ordered one of those cool display things that looks like a library book rack to put up on the wall, but I’m not convinced it’s going to be enough.

I’m not too clued-up on kids books – particularly for really young kids – so I’m drawing a lot on my own memories, as well as some I’ve seen on social media in passing. This is in no way an exhaustive list, and by the time you’re reading it I’ll inevitably have found more…

The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson

My mum used to work in a nursery before she retired and she is a huge Julia Donaldson fangirl – she’s already started buying them so Edith can have the full collection. I didn’t know there were so many! I have at least two copies of the Gruffalo that my friends with older kids have given me and we inevitably end up watching it every Christmas morning (even though my sister and I are in our mid to late 20s) so it’s going to be one of Edith’s first stories.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

I am, and have been for some time, an Angry Woman. Before Edith was born my husband joked that every time she she was battering my organs she was practising fighting TERFs, reply-guys on the internet and other assorted wrong’uns.

Okay so some of these have aged terribly (JK Rowling, anyone?) and there are some stories I would have liked to see included (Marsha P. Johnson, for example) but on the whole they’re full of incredible stories and role models. Some of them I know shamefully little about, so it’ll be a learning experience for me too.

Both were a gift from one of my best friends just after Edith was born, and she’s kickass and strong and always beside me whenever I need her. We’re rebel girls, and I know with her help Edith will be as well.

Look Up! – Nathan Bryon

Look Up! appeared on my radar when it was awarded the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year. I was BIG into space when I was younger and I still think it’s incredibly cool, plus I’m all for seeing girls being represented in STEM hobbies and ambitions. Definitely one I’ll be picking up on my next trip out.

Old Bear Stories – Jane Hissey

These books are basically perfect – nice, cosy, wholesome, with adorable characters. There will be books to teach my kid she can do anything, books to teach her about the world and about compassion and humility, but these are the books I’m going to read her when she needs to close the door and be safe for a while.

Plus if you follow Jane Hissey on Twitter she posts adorable illustrations of characters from the series and cute animals.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea – Judith Kerr

A classic from my childhood, and one that was beloved by the kids my mum had in the nursery. It’s just fun, it’s the right level of absurd (a tIger coming to tea and eating ALL THE FOOD IN THE HOUSE) and features the most absurdly exciting thing I could possibly have imagined as a young child: a late -night trip to a cafe for tea.

If you’ve written a children’s book in 1968 and it’s still being read to kids in 2020, I think the general consensus is that you’ve absolutely nailed it.

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy – Lynley Dodd

One of the criticisms I saw of this book on Goodreads was that it had “very little plot”. Honestly, who cares? It’s got funny dogs, rhymes – kids love rhymes – charming illustrations and a villain. It’s top tier.


Right now she’s too young to do much more than grab at the pages – we have a soft crinkly picture book that she LOVES – but when she’s able to sit up by herself (thus freeing up my hands for turning pages) I’m going to be reading to her whenever we have a quite few minutes.

What other books should I have on my shopping list? Let me know! I love books that focus on diversity and social issues, as well as rhymes and fun pictures.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for when I’m sick of reading.

Nobody’s ever sick of reading, really, but the term “reading slump” makes my teeth grind involuntarily so…

Anyway, as I’ve spent god knows how many weeks now reading nothing but fanfiction, this seems appropriate. If you’re also a victim of this particular pit, my sympathies.

Since I’m rusty I’ve only done five books that I can pick up to get back into the game. I suggest reading it twice.

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

I can’t remember the last time I became so heavily invested in a series and a character. The only thing stopping me from reading this again right now is that there’s a whole series of them I haven’t read.

It definitely helps that the books are set in Edinburgh. As someone who works in the city I love trundling past places I’ve read about

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

This is the most deliciously dark and all-consuming and evocative story I’ve read for a long time. Leigh Bardugo has created such a grubby yet gorgeous universe and set of characters.

The Disaster Artist 

the disaster artist

I’ve read this account of the filming of cult movie sensation The Room several times, and it’s still one of the few books that makes me actually wheeze with laughter. Knowledge of the movie isn’t necessary but strongly recommended.

Additionally, if you haven’t seen The Room, I’d thoroughly recommend gathering some of your closest friends and watching it. It’s the only time in my adult life I’ve come close to peeing myself.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson is my ride or die. She’s my idol. Speak is a book that not only shuts me up for at least a day, but it also reinforces my belief that YA is the most vital of all genres.

The Pellinor Series – Alison Croggon

the singing

Everyone’s heard me screaming about this series by now, but I love it so much and it’s my go-to when I really can’t be arsed reading anything else. I always have time for Maerad and Cadvan.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

on the road

Jack Kerouac typed the manuscript for On the Road on a single, continuous piece of paper. In three weeks. Goals.

Because of this, the language feels like it’s dropped straight out of Kerouac’s brain into the pages, and it’s so authentic and glorious that every time I read it I feel completely alive with how great writing can be. Hugely pretentious sounding, but true.

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What other books are good for when I hit the wall? GO.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Loved but Will Never Re-Read

“Loved” isn’t the right word. If I really loved a book I won’t have an issue re-reading it. Here’s ten books that I enjoyed well enough but wouldn’t be upset if they went missing.

Wuthering Heights

wuthering

I didn’t dislike Wuthering Heights. I was expecting more gothic-horror-ness than I got out of it, I found the characters so distinctly unlikeable there were only two I liked (fortunately one of them was the primary narrator) and I couldn’t make myself even slightly care about what happened to them. I really must look up some analysis of it because I’m sure I’m being dense about what it all MEANS but for now, I remain underwhelmed.

Game of Thrones

game of thrones

I’ve read the first book twice, made it to halfway through the second and admitted defeat. Will I go back to it? Probably. High fantasy isn’t usually my jam, but I’m discovering a slight taste for it. Will I read the first book again? Unlikely. Twice was quite enough, thanks. Plus I’ve seen the first series of the TV show. I know the story.

Never Let Me Go

never let me go

I loved this book, but reading it was a very bizarre experience. Not just because it’s got a pretty effed up plot hiding behind the beautiful writing, but because I am ninety-nine percent sure I have read this book twice now. I couldn’t have told you what happened or what was going to happen during the last read-through, but the sense of déjà vu that came with me as I read it was so pervasive that it made the book very surreal.

At least this time I can remember that I’ve read it.

Fangirl

Fangirl

I really liked Fangirl. Anxiety and struggling to find your place in the world at university? Hello. But it was long, and if I’m ever going to read a long book again, it needs to batter me round the head and leave me lodged in between worlds until I don’t know which way is up. As much as I enjoyed it, Fangirl didn’t. Sorry, Rainbow Rowell fans. Please don’t egg my house.

Blackbird

blackbird

I bought Blackbird purely on the fact that it’s based in Scotland (Orkney) and I am absolute trash for anything set in Scotland. It was enjoyable enough, but I was expecting more mystery than I ended up getting, and the setting wasn’t enough to catapult me there and keep me.

The Fandom

the fandom

One of the most hyped books I’ve seen in the UKYA sphere. It wasn’t a bad book, but it a) had had its flames fanned so much that it couldn’t help but fall a bit flat, and b) wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I find myself turned off more and more by dystopian-future books, and that was what the Fandom turned out to be for me, above all else.

The Hunger Games

hunger games

Ditto. Although I promised Sean I’d read them again because he says the second one is incredible and I’ve only read the first, so this might be cheating.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

loneliest girl

TLGITU is another case study for not going on the internet, ever. All I heard about before I read it (which, in fairness, took me a long time after I first noticed it and then bought it) was about how SHOCKING the TWIST was, and when you’re reading a book and you know a twist is coming, you inadvertently turn into Poirot. Now that I’ve read it all the way through, I think the impact will probably be even less.

The Cursed Child

cursed child

Yes, I didn’t hate this the first time I read it. But I think my brain has rejected it as canon, because I can’t remember much about it. Maybe it’s an absolute belter on the stage, but I remain unconvinced, and I can’t work up the motivation now to have another go.

The Square Root of Summer

square root summer

Enjoyable enough. It’s a holiday book: would read it on the plane, but I’m not going to start climbing the walls raving about it. Not for me.

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What’s on your list? What sort of burglars are robbing my house and taking ten specific books? Weigh in!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn’t Get To

So this is a bit of a cop out for me. Mainly because my previous Top Ten Tuesday of “Books I’m Planning on Reading Over Winter” sees me knock about…three off the list, namely A Christmas Carol, Blackbird and A Shiver of Snow and Sky.

At the risk of repeating myself, I suggest you go back and read that post. However, to make up numbers, I’ve got another three books that have been glaring at me for months until I want to die from the shame.

Wing Jones – Katherine Webber

wing jones

I’ve got a signed copy of Wing Jones that I picked up at the Edinburgh International Book festival this year, because a) I’ve heard literally NOTHING but good things about it, and b) I love signed books and sprayed edges. It’s been “next on my TBR” for so long and I always end up with something else that I want to blog about or want to read for a Twitter chat, but not this year because this year I am actually GOING TO READ IT.

Orangeboy – Patrice Lawrence

orangeboy

I’ve heard SO many good things about Orangeboy. And Patrice Lawrence in general, actually. This one is a book I picked up as part of a mad spree and it’s been sitting in my bookcase for a shamefully long time. I’m going to read it, and them I’m going to buy and read Indigo Donut too.

Babylon Berlin – Volker Kutscher

BABYLON BERLIN AW.indd

I’d never heard of Babylon Berlin until not too long ago. Apparently it’s a major TV series, which shows how on the pulse my finger is. Or isn’t. I’ll hold my hands up and say I wanted to read this for AGES before I even found out what it was about purely because it’s got a really cool title. I’m a marketing team’s dream.

Fortunately it only got cooler when I read the synopsys. Plus the English language version has been released by a Scottish publisher, Sandstone Press all the way up in Dingwall! Marvellous.

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Thus begins my TBR list for 2018. What else should be on it? Hit me!

Friends Reunited: The Lost Book

Gather round everyone, it’s time for the heartwarming story of a boy who loved a book, and why occasionally the internet isn’t a total cesspool.

A couple of years ago, while on a weekend away in Peebles with Sean, the conversation turned to a book he’d read and loved as a child. He couldn’t remember the title or the author, just a few fragments from his memory. The front cover, a young boy doing his homework while scenes from the game dance around him. The main characters. Plot points.

“Let’s Google it!” Said I, because obviously Google has all the answers.

We uncovered a plethora of books vaguely matching the description. None of them were the right ones. We spent a long time trawling the internet, me adamently refusing to believe that this book could be impossible to find, but it certainly looked that way.

peebles
You’d never guess we’d been up half the night on a book hunt.

Every now and then in the following months and years it would come up in conversation and we’d look again, dozens of different search terms, wording them slightly differently, scrolling through Goodreads and forums and Google Images. Sean had started to wonder if the book was something he’d made up, a writing prompt that had snaked its way into his subconscious. I wasn’t so sure. The details he could reel off to me were too precise.

It was hugely annoying. I’m a stubborn crow and I have great faith in the internet, both of which were being tested strongly by this bloody nameless, formless book.

After it raised its head again late last year, I suited up and went in. But this time, I had a different plan: Reddit.

There’s a subreddit called r/tipofmytongue, where you post things you can’t remember the name of with a few descriptive details and hope that someone will recognise what you’re talking about and enlighten you. Reddit can be a…questionable place, so I wasn’t sure how well this would work. Or if it would at all. Or if I’d be soundly flamed.

But would you believe it, within a few hours I had a single, solitary response, from a user called GitaTcua.

It must be Gameplayers by Steven Bowkett.

I looked it up. Immediately checks out.

gameplayers 2

If I’d been alone, I would have screamed. As it was, I was with my Granny, and I didn’t want to give her nervous breakdown.

For the grand total of £3.72, I was able to secretly acquire a copy (HUGE shout out to Abe Books and The Children’s Bookshop for stocking it and delivering it so promptly) and present it to Sean as a belated Christmas present. He’s notorious for not doing big emotional displays but the level of carefully contained joy he exuded was high.

Basically, tenacity pays off and I am the best fiancée ever. Happy Christmas Seanathon!

gameplayers
His childhood book with his childhood teddy bear. Glorious.

Book review | A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke

asosas

On the frozen island of Skane, the sky speaks. Beautiful lights appear on clear nights, and their colours have meaning: Green means all is well, and the Goddess is happy. Blue means a snow storm is on the way.

And then there’s red. Red is rare. A warning.

Seventeen years ago, the sky turned red just as Ósa was born, unleashing a plague that claimed the lives of hundreds of villagers, including her own mother. This time, when the night sky once again bleeds crimson, she must discover how to stop the onslaught before so many lives are lost again.

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Buying books based on the cover can be a hit and miss approach. I’ve read some turgid books because they look pretty. Fortunately, A Shiver of Snow and Sky is both stunning AND excellent.

There’s fantasy, there’s magic, there’s heart. Beautiful book, beautiful words. Lisa Lueddecke dumps you headfirst into a crisis and it doesn’t really let up until the end.

The heroine, Ósa, will break your heart and have you punching the air in the same breath. The world is so deliciously chilly and evocative that you can imagine every burn of he snow and boat on the water. The switch between the points of view in the narrative is awesome because it lines up the contrast between Ósa’s surreal journey and the much more grim events in the villages. My only negative takeaway was that I thought the ending was a little abrupt, which was disappointing, but it was a very minor blip in what was a brilliant debut.

There’s still time to pick one up as a gift for a reader you know – it’s the perfect book for a chilly holiday night. It reminded me in a lot of ways of Skyrim, so if you know anyone who’s ever had their life consumed by The Elder Scrolls, why not send them a copy of this for the holidays?

Serving suggestion: Christmas tree lights, hot chocolate and Baileys, gentle snowfall.

asosas pic

My Winter TBR: an update, or “oops I accidentally went Christmas shopping for myself”.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a Top Ten Tuesday blog post on the books I was planning on reading over winter. I went for a day trip to Edinburgh with my mum to hang out at the Christmas market – my motivations had more than a little bit to do with the sloe gin apple toddies – and me being me, I nipped into Waterstones to get some books for Christmas presents.

I wasn’t including myself in that but Y’KNOW WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO.

book blog

These are three books that I’ve been DYING to read for ages, so I’m looking forward to cracking open the bottle of ginger nut liqueur I’ve got and getting stuck in. I’m considering doing some book reviews in the new year – although I might have to work on turning down the sarcasm and bitterness a wee bit – so one of these might be the inaugural entry in the PBPR Book Review series.

I was sliiiiiightly worried when I posted that TTT entry, as I’d forgotten that the new Destiny 2 expansion Curse of Osiris came out on December 5th and I was mentally prepared for it to be a major timesink for me. So many space children, so little time, and I have to fit my colossal TBR in as well!

Much to my dismay, I don’t think that’s a risk anymore…but that’s a blog post for next week.

Have a good weekend folks – and let me know if there’s any other books I should be throwing my debit card at this winter!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Reading Over Winter.

It’s Top Ten Tuesday! This week, it’s the top ten books on my winter TBR list. This list in general is longer than a Disneyworld ride queue, so it’ll need a cold snap of Game of Thrones proportions for me to make a dent in it, but these are the ten books that have come out on top.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

I bought Six of Crows as part of my pre-holiday haul, and promptly fell asleep on the red-eye flight home with the book open. Not a commentary on the book, more a commentary on my ability to handle gin in the middle of the night.

I’ve heard nothing but heaps and heaps of praise for Leigh Bardugo, so I’ll be drinking a few “special” hot chocolates (add Baileys liberally) and getting stuck in.

A Shiver of Snow and Sky – Lisa Lueddecke

a shiver of snow and sky

Oh man, the cover for this one. I judge books by their covers all the time, and just LOOK at it. Have you ever seen a more wintery book? I’m pretty sure if you lick it it’ll taste of brandy, posh cheese and the way pine smells.

I need it, and the next time I bundle myself up in more wool than a sheep and head into town I will have it.

The Northern Lights – Phillip Pullman

northern lights

I’m preparing for everyone to windmill slam the “Unfollow” button, but I’ve never read any of His Dark Materials.

I know. I can hear my mother preparing the emancipation papers as I type.

I’m going to “acquire” them from the bookcase in my parents’ house over Christmas and read them in order to rectify this situation. Plus the Book of Dust hype is real at the moment. My mum has that too. Bingo.

The Gift – Alison Croggon

pellinor

This is a reread, but I’m including it because it’s long overdue. I love these books. I talk about them whenever I can. I’m sure everyone’s sick to death of me talking about them but I don’t care. They’re awesome and I could read them again and again. So I’m going to. Sorry TBR list.

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

I am slightly ashamed that I’ve never read any of Ian Rankin’s books, given that he’s so local I’m surprised I haven’t bumped into him. Crime fiction isn’t a circle I usually move in, however given my taste in comfort TV (as I talked about last week) I’m starting to think that I should explore it. And what better place to start than a local legend?

Killing Floor – Lee Child

killing floor

My dad’s a massive Lee Child fan and has all the books in hardback. In the spirit of widening my horizons, this is another one I’ve picked up. I read Killing Floor years ago and never got round to getting to the rest of series, so let’s whack on some Slade and go for it.

The Cost of Living – Rachel Ward

cost of living

I was turned onto the Cost of Living through the Sunday YA Twitter chat. Reading everyone’s reviews and hearing (or reading!) Rachel Ward talking about it has hyped me up, plus after years and years in retail I’m so ready for some retail worker sleuthing. Gimme.

Blackbird – ND Gomes

blackbird

Um hello, mystery novel set on Orkney. I am already obsessed. I’ve seen this one all over Twitter and had resolved to read it before I realised where it was set, and as someone who loves Scotland and loves books set in Scotland and thinks there should be more books set in Scotland…

Plus the cover is awesome and I love mysteries. Sold.

Daughter of the Empire – Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts

feist

This is a Sean book. High fantasy really isn’t my thing at all, and I got less than a quarter into Magician by Raymond Feist before I had to admit defeat, but this was recommended to me as being “sort of entry level” by Sean, so I’ll give it a go. I’ve already read a few pages but I sort of…drifted away and read something else, so I really need to go back to the start and slog past the slow start and hope that I can be persuaded!

 

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

dickens

I’ll hold my hands up and say I’m not a fan of the classics. I never have been. I’m trying to read more widely, even though they don’t particularly inspire me. Dickens is a bit too old and dusty for me, but since it’s Christmas, this seems appropriate.

Also the Muppet movie version. Obviously.

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What are you reading over Christmas? If you’re sitting going “Oh my GOD she’s not reading my favourite winter book” let me know. Scotland is cold and I don’t go outside, so I have plenty of time.

A round up of books

I keep thinking “Right, Kirsty, given that you’ve got the word ‘Paperback’ in your blog name, maybe you should talk about books some more”. I keep meaning to review books that I’ve read and liked, but of course I never get round to it. Life and all that.

So to start off a trend of actually talking about books, here’s a quick run through some Books I Have Read And Thoroughly Enjoyed In The Last Few Months And Not Talked About Yet.

Editing Emma – Chloe Seagar

Editing Emma

Rare is the book that makes me ugly laugh out loud in the middle of the night, but Editing Emma managed it. I won a copy through Twitter after sharing my most embarrassing teenage moment. (My orange stripy hair has finally redeemed itself after over a decade.)

Editing Emma is of the best YA books I’ve read this year. As well as being hilarious, it’s refreshingly honest about what it’s like being a teenage girl in the social media age. (I hate writing that, because it makes me feel like an old lady, but it’s true.) It’s refreshingly honest about what it’s like being a teenage girl full stop, actually, and there’s things touched upon that are very rarely, if ever, mentioned in YA. I loved it.

There was a particular scene involving a Facebook messenger mishap that made me cringe so hard I nearly turned myself inside out. WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. DON’T TELL LIES.

Hings – Chris McQueer

Hings

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Hings. Having finished, I’m not entirely sure what I’ve experienced. It’s the most bizarre series of stories I have read in a long, long time. I loved it.

‘Korma Police’ features a house raid in a curry-prohibition world. There’s a story where the world wakes up with backwards knees. ‘Bowls’ is a crime saga set against the backdrop of Glaswegian bowling greens. There’s a story called “Pish The Bed”. It’s like a series of Burnistoun sketches on a cocktail of drugs. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated, but I would thoroughly recommend if you like surreal escapades through working class Scottish communities. You probably do. Even if you don’t know it yet.

Plus some stories are written in Glaswegian dialect. Why not leave a copy of Hings on your coffee table to intrigue and perturb any non-Scottish friends or relatives? It’s the ultimate Christmas party game.

Beneath the Skin – Sandra Ireland

Beneath the Skin

Sandra is a fellow University of Dundee creative writing graduate whose writing I always thought magnificent, and it took me a shamefully long time to pick up Beneath the Skin. I went out on a mission at the Edinburgh Book Festival with my plastic glass of wine this year and picked up a copy

It checks all the important boxes. Army vet suffering from PTSD takes a job in a taxidermists. Set in Scotland. Creepy, mysterious characters. Sweet characters that warm the heart. Chilly sense of unease that never really goes away and means you have to keep reading to find out how all the loose ends tie up. Added points for stuffed birds. Everywhere.

Oh, and just in case you thought I was biased, Beneath the Skin has been shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year Award. It’s marvellous. Ask for a copy for Christmas.

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

I knew of The Outsiders before I saw it in Barnes & Noble in Orlando. I’d seen it described as the first “real” YA book – in that it was among the first, if not THE first to deal with realistic teenagers and their peers and surroundings. S.E. Hinton was only fifteen years old when she started writing The Outsiders (and eighteen when it was published), which explains why it’s so authentic – and in the author notes of my copy she says

“At that time realistic teenage fiction didn’t exist. If you didn’t want to read Mary Jane Goes to the Prom and you were through with horse books, there was nothing to read.”

It’s gritty, unforgiving, controversial then and now because of its depictions of violence and gang culture – but I’m a firm believer in “controversial” books for young adults, because teenagers deserve not to be patronised by people telling them they’re not old enough or mature enough to deal with difficult topics in literature, and the controversial books are the ones that often deal with issues that affect young people. They deserve to be read and discussed.

I read The Outsiders in one sitting on the plane back from Orlando. I adore it.

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

Fangirl is the first RR book I’ve read, but the first time I heard of Rainbow Rowell was a Tumblr post criticising Eleanor and Park for the way it portrayed minorities. So I picked up Fangirl based on the title – I, a fellow fangirl, can appreciate a kindred spirit when I see one – but not without a little trepidation.

I loved it.

Rowell has a really glorious prose style that’s warm and witty (as horrible and cliché as that sounds, it is!) and so evocative without ever feeling like it’s layering it on thicker than

It was sweet, it was relatable, the characters were so vibrant I felt like they were my friends after I’d finished the book. It’s up there with the best impulse book purchases I’ve ever made.

I’m not sure about E&P, but we’ll see.

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What’ve you read recently? Let me know!

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