Category Archives: Books

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch a review

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Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of PC Peter Grant or the Folly, even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But Lady Ty’s daughter was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favour.

Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the house and dangerous, arcane items are bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean. But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.
 
He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect.
 
Assuming he survives the week . . .

 

Important notice to readers: If you are considering picking up this book without reading the first five in the series you will enjoy it but you will derive greater enjoyment if you start with Rivers of London – the first Peter Grant novel and read them in order because they are brilliant and you will avoid spoilers!

The presidential election and other gloom-inducing occurrences around the world last week left me at a rather low ebb! The Hanging Tree helped to restore my sense of humour and kept me going through the days with something to look forward; in this instance going to bed and reading about PC Peter Grant’s misadventures in policing the Demi-monde.

The Hanging Tree answered several questions that have been hanging around since the series started but unfortunately (for me) added about a dozen new questions and made me hungry to find out more about the history of English magic, how magical systems around the world differ and when Peter will be heading off overseas on an international Falcon case.

Look let me be perfectly honest with you, this series is brilliant! Like a fine wine or cheese the story and Ben’s writing style has matured and improved as the series has developed, now with The Hanging Tree Ben has displaced Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files as my favourite urban fantasy series. I often get accused of saying that the book I am currently reading is my favourite thing but with this series it is true, partially because it is set in and around London – and I recognise a number of the locations that Peter and his allies have been to, through or blown up and it has a lot to do with Ben’s writing, which has brought to mind the work Terry Pratchett; he is the first author that I have read since the great man passed away that has combined humour with serious intent in such a way that made me laugh out loud and then giggle for a few pages thereafter.

Trust me*, if you have even the slightest interest in urban fantasy or reading about a London imbued with magic, black British Goddesses and mixed race protagonists then Rivers of London is series you need in your life!

*I am a Librarian!

GIVEAWAY: The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

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The latest book in Ben Aaronovitch’s best-selling Rivers of London series is now available!

Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of PC Peter Grant or the Folly, even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But Lady Ty’s daughter was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favour.

Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the house and dangerous, arcane items are bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean. But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.

He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect. Assuming he survives the week . . .

How to win a copy:

Ben’s publisher Gollancz has very kindly given me three copies to give away to celebrate the launch. So if you would like to win a copy of this amazing book all you have to do is tweet me! (I am @mattlibrarian on Twitter) Say something like “I would like to win a copy of The Hanging Tree!” or words to that effect using the hashtag #THTgiveaway so I can keep track of entries.

The competition will close at 5pm on Friday 4th November, all names will go into a hat and the winners will be announced on Monday 7th November.

Boo! by Ben Newman

Ok this book is aimed at younger readers but it gets a review as I am a bit of a Ben Newman fan! Mostly down to his illustrations of the Professor Astrocat books!

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No one is as brave as me and nothing, I mean nothing, scares me… YOU’LL SEE!

How anyone can pick up a book that he has illustrated and fail to be impressed by his artwork I will never know (mainly because everyone I have met that has also read his works are also fans)!

Boo! is a circular tale of terror and how even those that think they are the bravest ever have something that will make them jump!

Perfect for reading out loud to groups of small children or just on a one to one basis Boo! is a story that can inspire fright or audience interaction during reads and rereads.

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez

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Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings that cover her room.

One day, Morpie, a mysterious pale girl, appears at school. And she knows all about Sandy’s drawings…Nightlights is a beautiful story about fear, insecurity, and creativity, from the enchanting imagination of Lorena Alvarez.

It is hard to categorise Nightlights, an achingly beautiful graphic novel about a young girl, her imagination, school, friendship, belonging and a spiral into terror with phantasms coming to life to steal away her away for her creative spirit.

This is another book by Nobrow a publisher that is rapidly becoming known for the wonderful aesthetics and physical beauty of the books they publish as well as the quality story-telling found on the pages. Nightlights is a nigh perfect work of art! Lorena Alvarez is a superlative artist and the story she has crafted and created is a wonder to behold!

I have read Nightlights several times and each time I turn a page my eyes catch something new, there is so much detail I can lose ages just staring at the pages!

You need this book in your lives! It is suitable for readers of all ages and will make a wonderful (and creepy) shared reading experience if you have any small readers in your lives!

13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt

I have to make a confession: this review post is a year late! I do have a really good reason though, on Halloween last year my daughter was two days old and everything that I had planned to do went out the window in the run up to (and after) her birth so to Leo I do apologise, this has been weighing on me since then as 13 Days of Midnight is a truly excellent book and creepy as hell!

It was one of the few books I broke my ban on reading non Carnegie & Kate Greenaway books for last year and I have no regrets! It worked as a chilling break and I loved it!

Seriously if you want a book to keep you up all night and give you chills down your spine then 13 Days of Midnight is it!

Seriously how can you read this:

When Luke Manchett’s estranged father dies unexpectedly, he leaves his son a dark inheritance: a collection of eight restless spirits, known as his Host, who want revenge for their long enslavement. Once they figure out that Luke has no clue how to manage them, they become increasingly belligerent, and eventually mutiny. Halloween (the night when ghosts reach the height of their power) is fast approaching, and Luke knows his Host is planning something far more trick than treat. Armed with only his father’s indecipherable notes, a locked copy of The Book of Eight, and help from school outcast Elza Moss, Luke has just thirteen days to uncover the closely guarded secrets of black magic and send his unquiet spirits to their eternal rest—or join their ghostly ranks himself.

…and not want to read the book itself!

There is a sequel out already titled 8 Rivers of Shadow and, the third book 7 Trees of Stone is also on the way!

So grab a digital copy and start your Halloween reading tonight or find a bookstore and get a physical copy and maybe you can start reading it on Dia de Muertos!

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The Nightmare before Christmas by Tim Burton

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For many people of a certain age (if you grew up in or after the ’90’s), Tim Burton’s The Nightmare before Christmas is the quintessential Halloween movie!

For many years in the circles that I move in the title has been a topic of discussion when all others have been exhausted – the main bone of contention being why is it Tim Burton’s when it was directed by the awesome Harry Selick.

I recently learned the answer, and a very prosaic one it is at that! Tim Burton had actually written and illustrated a picture book of the same name and I am lucky enough to own a new edition with more illustrations, it is to put it simply: GLORIOUS!

Told in rhyming verse it is the story of Jack Skellington, his search for meaning beyond Halloween and how his journey takes him to Christmas Land and the near ruination of everything. If you have seen the film you will know the story but to read it and gaze upon the illustrations by Tim Burton takes it to another level! The illustrations are wonderful, sketchy and skeletal but imbued with a vitality that makes them leap off the page (sadly it is not a pop-up book).

Truly The Nightmare before Christmas is the perfect book for Halloween AND Christmas!

You should get it now – in fact get two, one for YOU and one for the rest of your family or friends!

Women are Awesome!

This is something I have known for a very long time but it can sometimes be difficult to persuade small boys and also many adults that this is a statement of fact (see Donald Trump for more information).

Fortunately there are two new books out that can help educate the misinformed. The brilliantly titled Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst (and yes she IS actually a descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst)

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The women in this book didn’t set out to be thought of as ‘great’. They achieved extraordinary things simply by following their hearts, talents and dreams. They didn’t listen when people said they couldn’t do something. They dared to be different. And some of them couldn’t resist a crazy adventure, or three.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst is published by Bloomsbury Books
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Wonder Women by Sam Maggs and illustrated by Sophia Foster-Dimino is an amazing collection of 25 biographies of wonderful women from around the world and back through time. Five phenomenal chapters detailing Women of Science, Women of Medicine, Women of Espionage, Women of Innovation and Women of Adventure show that although it may have been a man’s world, women have been at the forefront of the action, discoveries and adventure even though their contributions have, at times, been overwritten by patriarchal society.

Written in a humorous and engaging style Wonder Women is perfect for dipping in and out of for interest and education and is also gripping and interesting enough to read from beginning to end with no drop of interest.

Wonder Women by Sam Maggs is published by Quirk Books

Both of these books should be in all Libraries and possibly, if the publishers read this sent to Donald Trump to help educate him and expand his sadly limited world-view.

Get Crafty with Ada Lovelace Day

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, if you still do not know who she was or what the day is about check out this post from a few years ago.

ALD is centred around remembering Ada Lovelace as well as celebrating the advances women have made in STEM subjects historically as well as encouraging more young women to get involved in them now.

As a feminist icon celebrating Ada Lovelace Day can be more than putting together a display on careers, great women of technology or even fantastic science fiction written by women.

Why not branch out and do something crafty in the Library, Quirk Books has a fantastic book called Crafting with Feminism, stuffed with 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy.
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One example from the book is:

EM-BROAD-ERY HOOP ART

Needlework has long been considered a dainty art for well-behaved women, but we think it could use a 21st-century update. Bring some fresh ’tude to homespun wisdom with these fun and fierce wall hangings.

Supplies

Colorful patterned fabric (1/2 yard per 8-inch hoop)
Self-adhesive felt letters
Ruler and fabric chalk (optional)
8-inch embroidery hoop
Scissors
Embroidery floss and needle

Instructions
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1. Attach self-adhesive letters to fabric to spell out the saying of your choice. (For maximum precision, use a ruler and fabric chalk to draw straight lines, attach letters on the lines, and then gently brush away the chalk.)

2. Place fabric in the embroidery hoop, positioning the slogan in the center. Pull fabric taut and firmly secure hoop.

3. Separate 3 strands of embroidery floss. Use them to thread the embroidery needle, then knot one end. Starting from the underside of the fabric, poke the needle through so that it comes up on the side of the first letter in your saying. Take a big stitch over the letter and bring the needle down on the other side of the letter, so that the thread wraps over the letter’s surface. Bring the needle up again just underneath your first stitch, and repeat this stitch process to cover the whole surface of the letter in long stitches (A).

4. When you’ve finished with one color of floss, secure the thread on the back of the fabric: bring the needle to the back of the hoop (B), then slide the needle through previous stitches and pull thread so it is caught underneath your stitchwork. Trim excess thread, then rethread needle with a different color and repeat steps 3 and 4 to cover remaining letters.

5. Trim excess fabric around the hoop. Display proudly.

Fierce Hoop Art Slogans:

-Females Are Strong as Hell
-Bitches Get Things Done
-Watevz
-Go Away
-Women Belong in the House…and the Senate
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Excerpted from Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy by Bonnie Burton. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.

A Thing of Beauty: Arthur and the Golden Rope

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Imagine a vault so cavernous that it could contain the world’s greatest treasures, from mummified remains of ancient monarchs to glistening swords brandished by legendary warriors. How did Professor Brownstone come into possession of such a collection?

Hear the tale of the very first Brownstone and his quest for the golden rope as we travel back to the land of the Vikings. A place filled with magical objects, powerful gods and legendary beasts to be conquered!

I am a bit of a fan-boy when it comes to Flying Eye Books and Nobrow and not just for the amazing stories they are publishing but for the frankly amazing care and attention to detail they put into creating books that are beautiful to look at as well as read.

Arthur and the Golden Rope continues in that vein, the cover is one that I spent several minutes admiring before opening it, the golden highlights of the title and on the strands of the rope glinted in the sun distracting me from the beast fading into the shadows of the background, it’s slavering jaws lit up by a burning brand held by the small figure, looking back at the reader as if unsure of what they were doing there.

Opening the book revealed still more treasures – maps on the endpapers, the first of Iceland showing Arthur’s town and the second showing Yggdrasil – the World Tree connecting Valhalla with Midgard and Helheim. The Æsir: Thor, Baldr, Freyja and Odin appear in the map corners of the front and the giant monsters Nidhoggr, Fenrir, Jotnar and Jormungandr appearing on the back.

The true treasure is the story itself, tied in with the wonderfully intricate illustrations with each page rewarding the reader that closely examines each wonderful work of art.

As you may have guessed this story is steeped in Norse lore and focuses on Arthur Brownstone the first adventurer of the famed and legendary Brownstone family and his quest to save his village.

Arthur is not your typical adventurer, looking like he would be more at home with his nose stuck in the pages of a book he is nevertheless an ardent explorer and brave beyond his years and size, living in a world replete with gods and monsters.

Professor Brownstone’s Mythical Collection would give Hogwarts a run for its money, brimming as it is with gods, monsters and all manner of marvellous artifacts.

Written and illustrated by the sickeningly talented Joe Todd-Stanton, Arthur and the Golden Rope straddles the line between picture book and graphic novel comfortably and will appeal to readers of all ages.

Arthur and the Golden Rope, the first book in Brownstone’s Mythical Collection is available from good book shops everywhere from September.

Andy McNab: the Street Soldier Interview

streetsoldierGood afternoon Mr McNab, welcome to the Teen Librarian site and thank you for giving up your time to answer a few questions!

Not a problem, I’m stuck at my desk doing the final edit to my new Nick Stone thriller, so this is a nice distraction!

I have been a fan of your work since I read Brave Two Zero way back in 1995 but am really behind with the Nick Stone novels.

Get reading then, you’ve got some catching up to do!

Are any parts of Street Soldier based on your experiences prior to and after joining the army?

Yes, quite a lot of this book is autobiographical, and as a result of that it’s a book that feels very personal to me. Like Sean, the main character, I got in with the wrong crowd as a teenager in London, ended up in prison and from there got into the army. Like him, that experience changed my life.

As an addendum to the previous question, are any of the characters based on people you know or knew?

Well, Sean is based in part on me I guess, although only the good bits. I’ve used bits of people i served with in the army for some of those characters, and also a few old mates i remember from my days getting into trouble in Peckham have influenced the characters who made up Sean’s ‘family’ of gang members before he got sent to prison.

andy-mcnabWithout giving out spoilers, some of Sean’s early decisions with his Corporal made me want to smack him upside the back of his head – are you aware of any such activities happening in the army?

There’s always going to be the danger of a few dodgy characters in any large group of similar people. The army is no different, they aren’t all angels, and they don’t all come from the easiest backgrounds, Sean included obviously. There is a big difference between wanting to make a few quid on the side and being part of something much worse, and the problem is that people might think they are doing the first of those things, when in fact they are involved in something much more dangerous, both to them and to others.

Street Soldier is the first book in a new series for teen readers, will it be a finite series or is it going to be open-ended?

Depends whether people like it, and whether Sean has more stories to tell. I’m already working on a follow up to this, so he isn’t going anywhere quite yet, but beyond that, you’ll have to wait and see.

Will any characters from your other works cross paths with Sean or is his universe self-contained?

That’s a great idea, it’s interesting to introduce characters where you don’t expect them. I haven’t done it yet from my adult books to the young adult ones, but if I do, I’ll bung you a credit at the beginning.

There were some threads left dangling at the end of Street Soldier can you drop any hints as to where will Sean end up next?

It’s a secret! If I told you I’d have to kill you. No, just joking, and it might all change, but all I can tell you at the moment is that he’s continuing with his army career for the foreseeable future and that the army will take him to new and exotic locations.

While reading the book I thought there were several similarities with the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz and CHERUB by Robert Muchamore but with a more realistic protagonist and lack of slick secret agent techniques and glamour. Can you recommend other books for readers who have enjoyed Street Soldier?

Yes, I hope my writing is more fact based and authentic than unrealistic spy stories. I’ve got nothing against those, they are all fantastic entertainment, but I guess that because of my background it wouldn’t work for me. I have done the gritty stuff, but not so much of the James Bond cocktails and fast cars. My highlight was a Peugeot 205 turbo when I was serving in Northern Ireland. Not quite the same as an Aston is it.

I am aware of your work with literacy charities, specifically Quick Reads and the Six Book Challenge, if you had one piece of advice on getting young people reading what would it be?

It doesn’t matter what you read, just get reading. If you don’t like it, bin it and pick something else up. Reading really can change your life, it did for me. It gives you knowledge and knowledge gives you power to make decisions and do what you want with your life.

I have heard that you sometimes visit schools and reading groups, if this is something you still do what is the best way to go about organising a visit?

Yes, I feel really passionate about getting out there and encouraging young people, and less young people, to make the most of education and opportunities being offered to them. Best way to organise something is through my publicist Laura. Her email is laura@laurasherlockpr.co.uk. Bet she’ll thank me for shouting her email address in an interview, ha!

Lastly can you describe Street Soldier in six word or less to grab a potential reader’s interest?

Offender turned soldier, Sean Harker, must protect the streets of London from a terrorist threat. Ok, bit more than 6 words, sorry.

Thank you again and all the best

No problem, thank you for the questions!

STREET SOLDIER, PUBLISHED BY DOUBLEDAY, IS AVAILABLE NOW!