May 2010 Newsletter

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May's News from Bookbag Towers

The good: huzzah! The sun has finally come out.

The bad: spending cuts are upon us.

The ugly: there's worse in the offing.

But fret ye not: there is a silver lining in every cloud and we at Bookbag Towers see a good book as the best response to all of the above. Books don't cost a great deal of money and most of us can afford to buy them, even in these straitened times. And even if we can't, we can always go to the library. And what better way to spend an afternoon than reading a good book in a sunny garden? You see? A good book. The answer to everything. And there's plenty to choose from on the site at the moment, so if you haven't paid us a visit lately, do come along and have a look. We've reviewed 84 books this month alone.

Features

We've been talking to Gregory Hughes. His book Unhooking the Moon came straight at us out of leftfield and is one of our favourite books of the year so far. It's a bittersweet road trip of a novel, featuring a loyal brother, a street hustler, a cigar smuggler, a chart-topping rapper, some goddamn paedophiles, and the most entrancing central character you're ever likely to meet. Unsurprisingly, we jumped at the chance of asking Gregory a few questions. He's a lovely man and he even agrees with us on the best Mark Twain character.

We've also rounded up the Carnegie Medal Shortlist 2010 into one place for you. It's absolutely splendid, and we know that the judges have their work cut out as we would find it difficult to choose a winner.

Golden Hour

We're reaching back to 1978 this month, and the winner of that year's Man Booker Prize. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch, the lyrical tale of a theatrical celebrity who trades the bright lights for solitude by the sea. Magical, insightful and laugh out-loud funny, it is Murdoch at her best. Perhaps nothing is perfect - life, unlike art, has an irritating way of bumping and limping on reflects Charles, the book's central character - but The Sea, The Sea comes very close indeed.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new...

In fiction, we were spoiled for choice this month. In the end, we simply couldn't choose between two fabulous books, so they are deservedly sharing this space. Firstly, there's What the Day Owes the Night by Yasmina Khadra,an engrossing saga of childhood friends in colonial Algeria who grow up together – can their relationship survive both the beguiling Emilie, and the Algerian Revolt? It has gorgeously lyrical writing and a realistic depiction of teenage life. We also fell in love with Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. Susan receives a manuscript from her ex-husband and it draws her into its story with huge implication for her own life as she's forced to face her fears. It's a book within a book and both are masterful. Originally published in 1993, it should now get the recognition it deserves.

In non-fiction, we've chosen Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head by Rob Chapman - a biography of the 'lost genius', who formed Pink Floyd but left the group within a year of their initial success, and failed to – or perhaps never wanted to – sustain a career for the remaining 38 years of his life. Chapman has drawn several themes together to create a gripping book, written with insight, sympathy and remarkable objectivity, which is ultimately far more than just a biography of the subject.

For teens and young adults, we really couldn't do otherwise than choose Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking) by Patrick Ness, a wonderful end to a wonderful series. It's beautifully written, with characters that creep under your skin and right into your soul. It explores huge themes with an underlying and deep compassion that brings tears to your eyes. It's a big, special thing, this series, and you really shouldn't miss it. Your grandchildren won't.

For the little ones, we were delighted by the latest David Almond offering, The Boy Who Climbed Into The Moon. Paul lives in the basement of a large tower block. He's feeling lonely and out of sorts, so he feigns a headache and stomach ache and has a day off school. Spending his day wisely, he gets to know the eccentric people who inhabit the building, as well as embracing his own eccentric idea that the moon is actually a hole in the sky.

Reviewers

We're always on the look out for people to join our panel of reviewers at Bookbag. We need people who understand that the reader wants to know what the reviewer thinks about the book and not just what's written on the back cover. If you think that you're one of these special people that we're looking for, we want to hear from you. You can find details of how to apply here on the site. Don't be shy!

Competitions

We have competitions for some great books going this month, and every month, so get entering!

And that's about it for this month. If you're passing Bookbag Towers do pop in and see us – we're at www.thebookbag.co.uk.

All at Bookbag Towers

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