Category Archives: Bookboy Reads

Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town – The Bookboy Reports

Wigtown is world renowned as Scotland’s National Book Town. You hear those words and frankly, if you love books as much as we all do, you feel like you might have died and gone to heaven, or you need to book a ticket and run there just as fast as you can. A while back The Bookboy was lucky enough to be taken up that way with his grandparents, and so went undercover to discover if this was a book lovers haven, or a town cashing in on book lovers everywhere, here is his report…

During the recent holidays, I went up to Scotland, and stayed in the county of Wigtownshire, which is home to Scotland’s national town of books, Wigtown. Throughout the course of the week, I had several opportunities to check out Wigtown, and take full advantage of the spending money I had to invest in a possible bulging carrier bag full of books.

We visited most of the bookshops in Wigtown, and found that quite a lot of them dealt in specialist books, but that a few were really good. Also, most of the staff in the bookshops were working on computers when we entered and did not even look up, which I thought was rather hostile. Anyway, I’ll go on to describe each bookshop we visited individually. First port of call was ‘The Book Corner’…

This bookshop was clearly a specialist bookshop, and you could tell just by walking through the door. It did have a quite big children’s section for a specialist bookshop, which was an added bonus. I managed to pick up a copy of Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson and Snake Dance by Anthony Horowitz, although they were £3.50 each, which was, I think, a bit of a rip off considering this was a second hand store!

The Old Bank Bookshop, which, sadly, I don’t have a picture of, was clearly another specialist bookshop, which mainly dealt in wartime diaries and historical volumes. However, I did manage to pick up a copy of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, with a classic cover, of which Simon is very envious! (Yes, I blinking am!)

Reading Lasses was, as it said on the leaflet, a shop that specialises in books about and by women. It also said that it was the only specialist women’s bookshop in the UK, but to be honest it wasn’t up to much, and I didn’t buy anything!

Byre Books, I’m afraid, also went down with a resounding no. The stock was out of date, even for a second hand book shop, and worse the woman there only answered our questions briefly, before her head swivelled back to her computer screen!

This bookshop, called ‘The Bookshop’ is the largest in Scotland, and boasts nine rooms, but the children’s section was, once again, well past it’s sell by date! Do bookshop owners not think children read books anymore I wondered?

The Creaking Shelves Bookshop (which is Simon’s favourite name for a bookshop yet) was well organised, had new, just published, and in some cases, children’s books, but they were still charging full price for them, so I didn’t indulge!

The Box of Frogs was by far the best for me, as it was a children’s specialist bookshop, and I picked up a couple of Alex Rider’s, including a signed copy of Eagle Strike for £2.50, Bargain Alert! I also picked up three old Doctor Who books for my friend, and as an added bonus the staff were lovely! In fact I was surprised overall just how unfriendly the staff were in a lot of these shops, you want friendly staff who want to help once you have meandered through all the shelves.

Altogether, I wasn’t too impressed with Wigtown, but if you happen to be in the area, and you love books its worth a visit. Maybe I just had too high expectations, but wouldn’t we all? Plus, I did come back with a book or two, or eleven. I just bought them from the friendlier stores. These books were…

  • The Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz
  • Loser by Jerry Spinelli
  • The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nightime by Mark Haddon
  • Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson
  • The Diary of a Doctor Who addict by Paul Magrs
  • The Da Vinci code by Dan Brown

Has anyone else been to Wigtown? What did you think of it? Did we just catch it on an off week?

Until next time, BookBoy out!

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Filed under Book Spree, Book Thoughts, Bookboy Reads

The Bookboy Reads #4

Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to my next post. The books I am going to talk about today include, Mortal Engines, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and The Incredible Luck of Alfie Pluck.

‘Mortal Engines’ by Philip Reeve is the most spectacular steam punk scented book I have ever read, the noise and clutter of Industrialised London almost flows from every page. It tells the tale of humble and meek 3rd Apprentice historian Tom Natsworthy, who is completely in awe of his guild’s head, the gleaming and magnificent Thaddeus Valentine.

One night Tom is on duty in the lowest tiers of London, when he meets Thaddeus valentine in the office of historian on duty. Tom is stunned and delighted to have finally met his hero, and Valentine seems as delightful as the tales of him depict. Suddenly, a girl appears wearing a scarf around her face, as if to hide a scar, and tries to attack Valentine, intending to kill him. Tom intervenes, and saves Valentine’s life. Valentine then proceeds to push Tom into a hole with the girl, Hester Shaw, and they find themselves in the wastelands, alone and friendless. It is then that Tom releases what a savage beast Valentine really is, and he plots revenge with Hester. Valentine must pay for what he’s done! If you like the steam punk Genre/ futuristic books, then this is the series for you. Not suitable for readers under 10, due to language, plot development, and explicit scenes! It is very gripping, and i read all 4 of the series in 4 days!

‘Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief’ by Rick Riordan is a marvellous take on the traditional Greek myths, but with elements of the modern era. The hero is Percy Jackson, who is a regular schoolboy, until one afternoon when something special happens. He is on a school trip, when his maths teacher Mrs Dodds, asks to speak to him alone. To his utter astonishment and horror, Percy finds out she is actually a Fury, one of Hades’ deputies. Percy doesn’t know what to do, until Mr Brunner, his Latin teacher, throws a ballpoint pen to him. Percy uncaps it, and finds a celestial bronze sword, with which he vaporizes Mrs Dodds.

Afterwards nobody remembers a Mrs. Dodds, not even Percy’s best friend Grover.  After a series of events, including him being attacked by a Minotaur Percy arrives a t a, mysterious mythological camp, minus his mum. Percy finds out his Dad is Poseidon, that Grover is half goat, Mr Brunner is a centaur called Chiron, and that he has a quest to fulfil, and only a week to do it. With the help of Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena, and Grover, he must return the Mater bolt of Zeus or war will break out on Olympus! This book was excellent, and I found it very informative, combining legend with reality. A perfect match for this series is Pegasus and the Flame by Kate O’ Hearn! Probably suitable for ages 9 and plus, due to language and the plot developments.

‘The Incredible Luck of Alfie Pluck’ by Jamie Rix was kindly sent to me by Orion publishers last July, and I am finally reviewing it. I apologise for the delay!This is a fantastically funny book, and is an all time great read. The book involves a young boy, Alfie Pluck, who is kept as a household drudge by his plump, cruel and beauty (though they posses none themselves) obsessed Aunts. Alfie has to work for his food, as Hecate and Mohana spend it all on Beauty and cosmetic products! Alfie is fed up, so when a person called Dr. Shard invents a lucky hen, Alfie is determined to posses it. But others are as well, the vote crazy Prime Minister Marjorie Lentless, called the world’s worst Prime Minister ever in power. Alfie attempts to steal the hen and devour it, and so begins a ring of people obsessed with getting the egg from the boy who just wanted freedom. 

This book is hilariously funny, and allows you to be drawn into the very depths of the story, always contemplating what might happen next. There are also many unexpected twists and turns, which are also very good. There are really no books to compare it to, as it is really that unique and good!

Thank you for reading and until next time, which I hope Simon will allow to be soon, BookBoy Out!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Bookboy Reads

The Bookboy Reads #3

I am very sorry that I have not had time to do a blog of late, but I have been inordinately busy. In response to some of your comments on my last blog, I love the Harry Potter books and am a massive Harry Potter geek (has anybody had chance to see the latest film?). If you have, I‘d love to hear your comments about it, and hear if or how you think it differs from the book. Also, I am a very big fan of classics, and in a future blog, I will feature some of them. I am not the biggest fan of graphic novels (but if there is one of the Harry Potter series, I might just be persuaded!) Thank you, as well, to Kristen.M for her recommendations, and I will look them up in due course.

Now to my first book, it is called ‘The Valley of Secrets’ and is by Charmian Hussey. The main character is a boy called Stephen who was abandoned at birth and lives in a care home. He goes on a course for people who struggle with academic subjects, but who excel at biology, zoology and wildlife conservation. There, he receives a letter from a lawyer called Albert Postlethwaite telling him to come to his office at a time that is suitable, and so Stephen pays him a visit. He learns, to his astonishment, that he had a Great Uncle who has died and left him his entire estate in Cornwall. So Stephen travels to Cornwall and settles into his new house. Once there, he finds a diary, which turns out to have been his Great Uncle’s from when he took a trip to the Amazon in 1911. Stephen discovers something that will turn his world upside down, but will it be to his advantage or disadvantage?

I found this book a joy to read and I think that it’s appropriate for 9 year olds and above. If you have read ‘Journey to the River Sea’ by Eva Ibbotson, then you will find this book enjoyable.

My second choice is ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning’ by Lemony Snicket. This book is about three siblings called Klaus, Sunny and Violet Baudelaire. They live with their parents in a mansion until it is burnt by an evil villain. A banker by the name of Mr Poe is put in charge of their affairs and comes to inform the children that their parents are dead. They are then put in the care of Count Olaf, who claims to be their distant relation, though the children doubt that this is true. Whilst Count Olaf displays no clear cruelty, he is not a loving guardian and does not really care about them at all. The only thing Olaf is after is the children’s fortune, which was left to them by their parents. Olaf schemes, plots and tries all manner of things to get his hands on their fortune. However, the only snag is that Violet (the eldest Baudelaire) inherits the fortune when she is 18, by law. Will Count Olaf get the Baudelaire fortune, or will he and his despicable henchmen fall at the last hurdle?

I would recommend this book to people over the age of 8, but there is simply no book on this planet (in my opinion) that you could compare it to.

Next on the agenda is ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’ by Trenton Lee Stewart. The main character in this book is a boy by the name of Reynie Muldoon, and he is exceptionally clever. He lives in an orphanage, but when he sees an advertisement in the paper that reads, “Are you a Gifted Child looking for special Opportunities,” he just can’t resist the chance to find out what it’s all about. He goes to the designated place and is put through a series of rigorous tests, and, finally, gets through to the final stages. He meets the person who put the advertisement in the paper, and, also, the other children who got through to the final stages of the test. Mr Benedict (the man who put the advertisement in the paper), brought the children together to form a society. This society would try and defeat a man who was threatening to invade people’s minds. Will they defeat this evil nemesis, or will he prevail?

Anybody who likes mystery, danger and slightly weird ideas will like this book, and I think it is best suited to people of above 10, as the plot is slightly complex.

Second to last is a personal favourite of mine, ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R Tolkien. Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit. Hobbit’s do not like adventure, and would rather stay in their warm houses smoking pipes and eating second breakfasts. So when a wizard called Gandalf turns up on his doorstep with a horde of dwarves, he is astounded and confused. They inform him that they are on the way to The Lonely Mountain to seek the treasure that is rightfully theirs, but is being guarded jealously by a dragon by the name of Smaug. They want Bilbo to join them as a burglar, as he is small, nimble and light. They force Bilbo to accept, and so begins a quest of much peril and danger. Who could have imagined that a mere Hobbit could become such a hero?

‘The Hobbit’ is a classic, and there is only one book I can think of that it compares to, and that book is, ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ by Alan Garner. I would recommend it to age groups of 11 and above.

Lastly, I am going to review ‘The Higher Institute of Villainous Education’ by Mark Walden. This book begins with Otto Malpense waking up with a blinding headache in a helicopter with an observant boy by the name of Wing Fanchu. Otto is not sure how he got there, but the last thing he remembers is a woman clad all in black kidnapping him, as he publicly humiliates the Prime Minister of Britain. Otto and Wing arrive at H.I.V.E, where their life being trained as villains begins. They are taught all kinds of things, stealth and evasion, criminal history and tactical education. But Otto and Wing’s primary aim is to escape from H.I.V.E, I mean, how hard can it be?

This book is the first in a fantastic series, and if you have read any of the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, then you will like this book. I would recommend it to people of over 9.

Thank you very much for reading my blog (I hope you enjoyed it), and watch this space, as around New Year, I’ll be publishing my top reads ever which you might want to indulge in during 2011.

So long for now! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Bookboy Reads, Egmont Books, Harper Collins, Hodder & Stoughton

The Bookboy Reads #2

Hello and welcome to my second book blog. Hope you will enjoy it and thank you very much for the response I got for my first blog.

My first book today is going to be a newly released book. A couple of weekends ago, I went to one of my favourite bookshops and had £35 to spend. I had already picked up, Dido by Adele Geras, Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce, Titanic 2010 by Colin Bateman and The War of Jenkins’ Ear by Michael Morpurgo, when I spotted Johnny Swanson by Eleanor Updale, lying with a magnificent newspaper style front cover.

The main characteris an 11~12 year old boy called, as you may have guessed, Johnny Swanson. It is set in 1929. Johnny is very small for his age and therefore is teased at school. He also has a lot to live up to, as his father (Harry Swanson), died a war hero. Johnny and his mother are poor and Johnny wants to change that, but when he sees an advertisement in the newspaper for “The secret of Instant Height”, he steals the money from his mother and sends off for the answer. Only four words are written on the piece of paper. What are the four words and what will his course of action be?

I had never heard of Eleanor Updale before and was pleasantly surprised by how good the book was. I was shocked by some of the events that occurred in the book and it really did open my eyes as to how unjust things can be. I would recommend this book only for children of ten years of age or over as some of the language is unsuitable and some portions of the book may be harder for younger children to understand.If you have read and enjoyed Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, then this book will definitely be for you.

My next book is Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. I have only recently read this, because I’d been putting it off and off. I thought it wasn’t going to be any good, but it was fantastic.The main character is a 12 year old criminal mastermind called Artemis Fowl. Fairies exist, and they aren’t just sweet ladies with wings, a lot are tough policeman with guns. However, Artemis knows that each fairy carries a book, with the laws of the fairies within it. Artemis gets the copy of a book and is able, with amazing technology, to decipher it. His intentions are to kidnap a fairy, but will he succeed or fail miserably?

This book was excellent and I enjoyed its many twists and turns and variety, of shall we say colourful characters. I would recommend it to anyone above ten, simply because there is a slight use of bad language and also, because the ideas are very slightly complex for children of younger than ten. Anyone who has read The Higher Institute of Villainous Education by Mark Walden will enjoy this book immensely.

My final choice today is Harry and the Wrinklies by Alan Temperley. I know this may sound very immature and silly to you, the readers, but this book was glorious. The main character is a small boy called Eugene Augustus Harold Montgomery Barton, I think. But, he prefers to be called Harry. Harry lives in London in his Parents’ mansion, however, his parents are never there. Instead, to look after Harry, they have employed a horrible woman called Lavina Mcscrew, whom Harry has nicknamed Gestapo Lil.

In a tragic accident, Harry’s parents are killed and Harry is packed off to live with two great aunts in the country. One, Aunt Bridget, is tall with hair tied back in a bun, whilst the other, Auntie Florrie, has wild blonde hair, wears baby pink lipstick and drives cars at over a hundred miles an hour. On his first evening, Harry hears something that will change his time at Lagg Hall forever. Perhaps, Harry’s aunts and their pensioner friends aren’t quite what they seem? This book was hilarious and it swallowed me up into a sort of bubble of my own, where nothing and no one could penetrate it. I would recommend it to adults and children alike; however, you do have to watch for bad language at times.

I would also like to hear from you what Teenage Fiction or young adult books you’d like to see me review in the near future?

Bookboy.

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Filed under Bookboy Reads, Puffin Books, Scholastic Books

Introducing… The Bookboy Reads

I have mentioned that I come from a fairly book loving family, and as you have seen Granny Savidge Reads has already done a blog post (and is currently working away at her second) been grilled and shared her top ten books for Savidge Reads. In a week or two my mother (who teaches English and reads heaps) will also be sharing her top ten and getting grilled. I was delighted when one of my younger members of the family asked if he could please write a blog post every now and again with regard to children’s and young adult books. How could I say no? After all though I have seen a few adults concentrating on those genre’s but no youngsters (though I could be wrong). Now as this is a younger member of my family we decided a pseudonym would be best for safety etc, it also adds a certain mystery (and as I said means he can be harshly critical with no come back, ha) to it all.

 So without further ado I shall hand you over to The Bookboy, who after reading his reviews has left me rather worried that I could have some serious competition in a few years time both on book reviewing front and possibly journalism too…

“Allow me to introduce myself, I am eleven years old. I really enjoy books and, therefore, asked Simon if I could do a blog. I am now so glad that I did because it was great fun to write. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The first book I am going to review is ‘The Ruby in the Smoke’ by Philip Pullman.

This book is the first in a quartet by Philip Pullman, which is set in the late Victorian era.  The heroine is a young girl of sixteen called Sally Lockhart, who has just heard that her Father, a shipping agent, has drowned. She goes to pay a call upon her late father’s business partner, Mr Selby. After this, Sally decides to investigate the death of her father. Along the way, Sally finds that her Father’s death is intertwined with many other murky events. She makes an enemy of Mrs Holland, an evil landlady and befriends a youthful photographer, plus his actress sister. This book has many twists and turns, just where you least expect them. It had a slightly sinister feel and it made me want to know more about the Victorian period.  Some of the language and features are at times unsuitable, so I would not recommend this book to children of under the age of nine. If you have read any ‘Sherlock Holmes’ by Arthur Conan Doyle, you will enjoy this book.

 My second choice is ‘Goodnight Mister Tom’, which is set during the Second World War, and is by Michelle Magorian.

The main character in this book is a small boy called William Beech. He lives in London, but is evacuated to the countryside due to The Blitz.  William is evacuated to a small town set deep in the country; its name is Little Weirwold.  He is left in the care of a gruff, old gentleman named Tom Oakley.  Will, as William now likes to be called, is starting to settle in, however Tom is not the best person he could have gone to for tender, loving care. Tom, though begins to care for Will as if he was his own. Tom notices a lot of cuts and bruises on Will’s body. Just as he is beginning to feel at home, Will receives a dreaded summons back to London from his mysterious mother. Will he ever see Tom or Little Weirwold again?

This book made me feel excruciatingly sad in some parts, yet exceedingly happy in others. It is without the slightest doubt one of the best books I have ever read. Again, it does have some unsuitable language and scenes, so, I would recommend no younger than ten year olds should read this book.  If you have read ‘A Spoonful of Jam’, also by Michelle Magorian, or ‘The Boy in Striped Pyjamas’ by John Boyne, then you will like this book.

My third and final book for now is ‘Gatty’s Tale’ by Kevin Crossley Holland.

This book is about a farm girl called Gatty, who works on a manor called Caldicot.  She is all alone in the world and greatly saddened by it. This book is set in the medieval times. Then, an opportunity arises for Gatty to accompany the lady of another manor on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Gatty accepts and a long, perilous journey begins. But, before they set off, Gatty must learn to become a chamber maiden to Lady Gwyneth, the lady who is in charge of the Pilgrimage. Many dangerous things happen on the way and one of the number nearly perishes. All is going well for the pilgrims, until two of them miss the boat.  Is one of them Gatty? This book is excellent. I love the way that he describes everything so vividly that it’s almost as if you’re standing right there beside the characters. Some of the language in this book is rude, so I think only over nine year olds should read this book. If you’ve read the Arthurian trilogy, by Kevin Crossley Holland, you will love this book as it is based around the same sort of thing, and some of the characters are the same.”

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Filed under Bookboy Reads, Kevin Crossley Holland, Michelle Magorian, Orion Publishing, Philip Pullman, Puffin Books, Scholastic Books