Book Reviews: August - September 2013

23 August 13 words: LeftLion
A teddy's jaunt to Buckingham Palace, a woman seeking the truth about her father's death, alliterative and lacy poems
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Poetry Bear: Illustration Sarah Tallon

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Tethers
Jack Croxall

£1.85 (Kindle), SP

Tethers has all the ingredients for a great children’s book. A hunt for a magical artefact, swash-bucking lessons and a mysterious diary. It’s practically a pirate story with all their travels through waterways and Jack Croxall gives his readers a book following Karl and Esther as they are pursued by a vicious set of twins and their henchmen. I desperately wanted the author to write a bumpier road- to really make me sit up and listen but I felt I was following rather than being a part of the action. In books, children sneak off and save the day, but here they follow orders from the adults. While the danger steadily grew, I still felt like I was in the back seat. I’d happily recommend it for a rainy afternoon. Emily Cooper

Jack Croxall official website

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Blood Tracks
Paula Rawsthorne
£6.99, Usborne


Gina Wilson is running, but is she chasing the truth, or running from something too terrible to accept? The second young adult thriller from award winning author Paula Rawsthorne, packs a stronger punch than her previous book. The story of a girl who refuses to believe the official explanation of her father’s terrible death at the chilling end of chapter one. As Gina turns from promising athlete to relentless sleuth, Rawsthorne spins a tale that keeps us on Gina’s side one moment, then questions her account of events the next. There are some dark issues raised in the story but the content steers towards being teenager appropriate throughout. Rawsthorne’s research and attention to detail adds to the authenticity of her storytelling, with pacey writing and cliffhangers that pull you into ‘just one more chapter’ mode the more you read. Another award winner? Andy Kells

Usborne website

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Teddy Goes to Buckingham Palace
Susan Beecroft (Illustrated by Howard Barton)
£5.99, SP


When Susan Beecroft set out to write this sweet little picture book about a Teddy who goes to London to visit the Queen, she could have had little idea she would one day see it stocked on the shelves of the Buckingham Palace visitor shop. But it’s clear to see why it caught the attention of St. James’ Palace. It’s quintessentially English: steeped in history and tradition, charming and witty... and just a little bit eccentric. Think Paddington Bear combined with the Tellytubbies, with a few dancing corgis thrown in for good measure. Its inventiveness and humour are enhanced by Barton’s imaginative illustrations that had my little one tickled pink. Beecroft is obviously a storyteller who knows what captures the young imagination. Your Majesty, if one reads Leftlion, it would make a great first present for the new Royal baby. Clare Cole

Susan Beecroft on New Writers UK

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Stories in Sandstone
Ed Kirsty Fox & Luiseadh Morgenstern
£5.95, Celandor Books


The short story is an often-overlooked art form, but done right it can be a breath of fresh air. From fables and parables to folk tales and fairytales, it’s an ancient and intuitive medium. Stories in Sandstone, a collection of short stories from the Notts Writers’ Group, continues in that tradition. The stories, while diverse in genre and style, all take place against the familiar backdrop of Nottingham. Some, like A Plot! A Plot! by Hugo Beaumont, are set in Nottingham’s rich past, while others, like Unaccustomed Coldness by David Thompson and After the Storm by Luiseadh Morgenstern, imagine its possible futures. As is usually the case with collections such as these, the stories can be hit and miss, but there’s definitely something for everyone to be found here. All profits from the book are going to The Nottingham Women’s Centre, so don’t be stingy. Elizabeth Matter

Celandor official website
 

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Bizarre Barrio
Daniel Campbell
£Free, Self-published

This East Midlands based illustrator-come-poet wins the award for most inventive letter in our ten-year history. A beautiful package full of drawings and witty self-deprecating comments fell through our letterbox and made us chuckle so much that we thought he deserved a place on this page. This illustrated nonsense poetry book, the first in a series of four, has a random character for each letter of the alphabet and goes something like this: Zero tolerance Zach/tried to attack/a busker for being too loud/he stole the guitar/but didn’t get far/as he couldn’t get past/ the crowd. Daniel is an NTU Graphic Design graduate who produced this collection as part of his final year coursework. It’s a limited run of 140 so contact him through his website if you fancy a copy. Now it’s time to end this ridiculous review: Jubilant James/likes ridiculous names/and this collection has its fair share/the author’s called Dan/and he thinks you’re a man/ if you’re able to grow facial hair. James Walker

Bizarre Barrio website

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Waiting for Bluebeard
Helen Ivory
£9.99, Bloodaxe


Helen Ivory’s fourth collection presents a darkly compelling portrait of a woman’s transition from formative childhood years to her half-life as the consort of the eponymous Bluebeard. The dream-logic of fairy tales suffuses the 95 poems of the sequence, but there’s an inescapably adult sensibility at work here: Ivory’s Bluebeard is every controlling husband and dubious father figure made flesh. Narrative often weakens book length sequences, but Ivory is confident enough to allow the through-line of these poems to reveal itself organically. Nor is her first person heroine by any means a victim. Empathy and intelligence are to the forefront, while a talent for succinct but potent versification give the book a gnarly energy. These are poems that loop hooks into the mind and don’t let go. Helen Ivory is adjudicating this year’s Alan Sillitoe Memorial Poetry competition and on this showing she’s not letting the Bluebeards grind her down. Neil Fulwood

Bloodaxe Books official website

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The Nottingham Lace Anthology
Young’uns
Free, Self-published


This isn’t a book you can buy but it’s certainly one you need to know about as it’s full of lovely stuff. A collection of winning poems and stories from the 2013 Lace Competition, run as part of the Nottingham Festival of Words. All of the entries respond to the theme of ‘lace’, be it the industrial process involved in producing it or the feeling aroused by touching it. Katrina Dewale’s entry epitomises the value of such projects, imagining life as a factory worker at Heymann & Alexander on Stoney Street back in the cold winter of 1856. The narrator just wants to earn a living so that she can support her family. I wonder how much looking back on the past made the writer reflect on the present. Times may have been hard then but at least they had a job to go to, which may not be the case for these writers when they graduate. Needless to say, none of this collection takes ‘Superman’, the ‘Conga’ or ‘Agadoo’ as inspiration. So perhaps things aren’t so bad after all. James Walker

Notts Words official website


 

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