Tag Archives: Eoin Colfer

Other People’s Bookshelves #30 (Part Two): Kate Neilan

Hello and welcome, to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves which sees the series of posts turning 30! So to mark this special occasion we are heading to the delights of Essex for a big old party (grab your streamers, some cupcakes, a glass of fizzy and a paper hat) as we are hosted by one of my favourite bookish couples in the whole wide world. Today we join Rob and Kate from Adventures with Words, who I have the pleasure of joining along with Gavin every month to make Hear… Read This. Less about me, and more about them as I hand over to Kate (breaking the tradition of ladies first as I let Rob share his shelves earlier as they haven’t merged shelves yet, I am not judging their relationship on this basis though… much!) to introduce her lovely self and her shelves and all other bookish shenanigans…

I’m Kate – you might know me as @magic_kitten – and I’ve always been a huge reader ever since I can remember, and even before that if you believe my parents.  I work full time as Head of Citizenship and PSHE at a secondary school in Essex, although I originally trained as an English teacher at Cambridge, after doing my English Lit degree at Durham.  While I was there, I took the (very popular) Children’s Fiction module, which reignited my love for Young Adult books, to the extent that I wrote my dissertation on His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. I’m now one half of Adventures With Words, alongside Rob Chilver. He began the blog to discuss books, films, games and stories in general and in 2012 we started recording a weekly podcast too. Recently, I’ve branched out with my own ‘Young Adult Edition’. Do go to www.adventureswithwords.com and have a look.

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Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I’m a dreadful hoarder and, until recently, I kept every book that I bought, even if I’d read it and not really thought much of it.  My book collection fills three ‘Billy’ bookcases and more; I’ve got two boxes of books that have yet to be unpacked since Rob and I moved in together over a year ago. Lately, though, I’ve had to be more ruthless.  We now have a ‘To go’ pile of books where books I know I’m not going to read again go, although, as yet, they’ve not actually gone anywhere yet! If I’m being honest, these aren’t even all my books. I still have a shelf in my old bedroom at my parents’ house full of all my Point Horrors and teenage reads. I’m thinking about retrieving them but where would they go?!

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

Before my most recent house move (I worked out recently I’ve moved more than ten times, taking into account university, teacher training and various flats and houses since moving out), I had my bookcases very carefully organised. I had three big red ‘Billy’ bookcases, one ‘half’ bookcase with three deep shelves, and one totally non-matching white one. That one housed my (excessive) CD and DVD collection, then my half-bookcase was for YA, and one large bookcase housed my university books (a mixture of textbooks, anthologies, Complete Works of Shakespeare/Chaucer etc and various novels, plays and poetry). The other two bookcases were organised roughly by genre, then by author; you could glance at the shelves and easily see the Tolkien, Iain (M) Banks, Isabel Allende and so on.

All this lovely system was completely destroyed when we last moved house; putting two sets of things into one house just doesn’t fit, so I gave up my white bookcase…and so it began! As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got two boxes of books that haven’t even seen the light of day yet – there wasn’t any urgency as they’re mostly university texts – but I’m sure I’ll want them one day… Eventually, during as summer holiday, I’ll take all these lovely stories off the shelves and rearrange them. I promise. We do have a “Blog TBR” bookcase (because piling them on the floor was becoming a little impractical) and some of these will graduate onto my own bookshelves after being read, reviewed and enjoyed.

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What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

Short answer? No, I’m really not sure, although I did spend quite a lot of my summer holiday aged 12 buying Point Horror books for a couple of pounds each from the second hand book stall in Norwich covered market… Still got them!

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I have very varied taste in books – I read literary fiction, lots of genre fiction and Young Adult – and I’m not really embarrassed about any of my choices; as far as I’m concerned, it’s fine to read something that’s a bit cheesy or clichéd as long as you enjoy it. I do own the entire Twilight series (and have read them all) and I’ve got The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. No, they’re not literary masterpieces, but yes, they were enjoyable in their own ways.

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then given to me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

I have a lovely set of Tolkein’s fiction with matt black covers and a small picture on the front of each one, which I really love, and a fantastic set of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy in hardback, all first editions. These were from my parents and they’re very precious to me. I also have a very well-loved secondhand copy of Feersum Endjinn by Iain M Banks, my favourite of his science fiction novels, which was sent to me by the wonderful Gav of No Cloaks Allowed, The Readers and Hear Read This. He found it while browsing, opened up the cover, and saw that it was signed. After buying it, he tweeted about it and I jokingly tweeted back saying it would make my day (life) if I’d found it, and he sent it to me! What a lovely guy. Finally, I have one of only eight comb-bound preview copies of the final Artemis Fowl book, Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian. Rob knew I’m a huge fan of the series and managed to get hold of it, without letting on; as you can imagine, I was absolutely thrilled.

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What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

A bit like me, my parents have a house full of books, so I always remember them being there. One of the first “proper” books I read was Jane Eyre, aged 11, but I swiftly graduated to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and then The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is absolutely hilarious when you’re supposed to be asleep but in fact you’re reading about sweary robots under your duvet using a torch…

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

Neither a borrower or a lender be! Well, I’m not, anyway. I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about pre-read books; library books always have that slightly funny smell to them, other people crack the spine or turn over the corner of pages, a habit I managed to kick. I’m a huge recommender to others, especially my mum, but she buys her own copy rather than borrow mine because she doesn’t want to give it back in less than pristine condition! I’m very aware that this is all a bit weird; libraries are brilliant, they’re just not how I read. Plus, the last time I lent a book (a first edition hardback of the first in Isabel Allende’s YA trilogy) I didn’t get it back… #fuming

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What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

Funny you ask that, Simon – you may recognise the titles I’m about to mention.  Only earlier today, Rob came home from work with a lovely bookish goody bag for me. My newest acquisitions are Magda by Meike Ziervogel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough and The Gigantic Beard The Was Evil by Stephen Collins. I’ve also got a fantastic little Reading Journal. I find, when I’m reading, that I’d like to jot down ideas but I don’t fancy ‘texting’ them into my phone, so I’m looking forward to using this from now on. Hopefully, it should improve my reviews, too!

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

To be honest, I think I’m extremely lucky when it comes to books; there are very few that I don’t have but do wish for. I’d love a hardback copy of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales for Young and Old and I’m awaiting the arrival of All the Birds Singing by Evie Wyld, but, other than that, it’s books that haven’t been published yet. I know they’re coming, because they’re part of series I’m reading: the final Heroes of Olympus book by Rick Riordan, and the next book in Charlie Higson’s The Enemy series, not forgetting the conclusion of Tom Pollock’s Skyscraper Throne trilogy and James Dawson’s new book, Say Her Name.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

I’m sure they’d think I’ve got very eclectic tastes – there’s a little bit of everything – but hopefully I’ve picked some great books from every genre, and hopefully they’d see things they’d love to try themselves.

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A huge thanks to Kate for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, though she really had no choice! If you haven’t go and visit Rob’s shelves, imagine all those books in one house, here! Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Kate’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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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