Tag Archives: Lancashire Book of the Year

Torn

David Massey

Admittedly, when I heard that David Massey had won the Lancashire Book of the Year with Torn, my immediate internal comment was ‘oh, so it’s that good then, is it?’ My reply, which I will share with you, is ‘yes, it is. Really, really good.’ David, who was at the Chicken House breakfast a couple of months ago, was one of the authors present who didn’t read from their book (presumably because it was published last year).

I wish he had. But luckily I helped myself to a copy anyway, and as I didn’t have time to go to Preston for the award yesterday, I read the book instead. I’m not at all surprised he won.

Set in Afghanistan in the current war, the main character is a female soldier. Ellie has just arrived and everything is new. On her first morning some male soldiers play a prank on her, and she doesn’t get on with the girl she shares her quarters with.

But this isn’t selfish moaning, and Ellie and her fellow soldiers do the work they’ve been sent there to do. They encounter some local children with weapons, and there is a mysterious girl who appears in the middle of gunfire and bombs going off.

There is fun and there is romance, but above all this is a war thriller mystery, and it is very exciting. People die. You have to be prepared for that, and it’s not only the bad guys either, because this is war.

What I found so refreshing was that it’s not an ‘issues’ kind of story. Yes, we may have doubts about the governments who sent these soldiers there in the first place, and so do these characters. But above all this is an adventure, and most of us have probably seen some film or other which helps us picture what it’s like.

Torn will win more awards, given the chance. Look out Teri Terry and Barry Hutchison!

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Bookwitch bites #109

If my bites didn’t already have such an excellent title, I’d call today’s post Hoffman & McGowan. It’s got a nice ring to it. Solicitors. Or television cops. Yes, that’s more like it.

Ladies first, so we’ll go to Mary Hoffman who has a new website design. Again, you could say, but that’s OK. Mary has been writing books for a while, and needs to go through a few web designs. They are like shoes. You must have them. They wear out. And with so many books, Mary simply has to be able to organise all the information sensibly. And beautifully. Like the shoes.

We’re not leaving Mary yet. Earlier this month she wrote this beautiful blog post on the History Girls blog about her mother-in-law. I find it fascinating to read about the lives of ‘reasonably ordinary’ people. Because once you start looking at an individual, you soon discover that many people have something special or exciting in their past.

The Knife That Killed Me

On to Anthony McGowan, who is excited about his upcoming film. Or more correctly, the upcoming film of one of his books; The Knife That Killed Me. I gather it’s just appeared at Cannes, which in itself is pretty exciting. I’m a little wary of knives, so I don’t know how I feel about watching the film. I found the build-up in the book almost unbearable. Well done, but hard to cope with.

And from the topic of knives, it’s a short step to bullying, and to another couple of ‘solicitors/cops;’ Morgan & Massey.

Nicola Morgan blogged about cyber bullying on the Huffington Post. And about teenage stress, also on Huffington. (I suppose I need to find out how to get blogging there…)

Finally, awards time! You remember how I mentioned David Massey a couple of weeks ago? Like, he was at the Chicken House breakfast, and I helped myself to a copy of his book Torn? Now he’s just gone and won the Lancashire Book of the Year, which just proves I move in the right chicken circles. The ceremony isn’t yet (can’t find when…), but the announcement came yesterday.

Sam’s day

You don’t really have to worry about what to blog about after meeting an author. Something is bound to pop up, every time.

So there we were, on my hall floor, trying to cellotape Sam Mills’s suitcase handle back together again. We were on the third roll of tape by the time it almost seemed to work. And I don’t know what happened after that. I called upon the services of the Resident IT Consultant to take our visiting author away, along with her suitcase and her emergency egg sandwich. I’m guessing she went the same way all the rest of them did…

My sleuthing hasn’t gone well this year. I only found out about the winner of Key Stage 4 in the Stockport Schools Book Award, and that’s Sam with Blackout. We decided to meet up, so I went to her hotel. Only, her train ran late (what a surprise!) and we had omitted to exchange mobile numbers, but with the assistance of Lucy Coats and the hotel, we were reunited.

In fact, I took matters into my own hands and told her to stay on the train until it stopped outside my house and spirited her away for a cup of tea, before the cellotape incident. I had also omitted to hoover (for longer than you really want to know), so Sam’s careful avoidance of dropping biscuit crumbs on the floor was extremely unnecessary.

The biscuit was a meagre offering for someone who had not only won an award, but whose birthday it was. I should have baked a cake. I would have, if I’d known. But at least I foisted some surplus books onto her, into her crippled suitcase.

What did we talk about? And who? Wouldn’t you like to know? Incest, sex and swearing, mental health, book awards, school events (I’m sure Sam’s two schools today will be just fine) and a few other things. I’m very pleased for Sam, seeing as we met at the Lancashire Book of the Year in June, where she was the eternal bridesmaid, as she put it.

Sam Mills

This way I didn’t get to see Sam in her posh frock, but at least she has her Rapunzel hair for a true princess look. She claimed to have chopped a bit off, but you wouldn’t know it.

Here’s hoping the event at the Plaza was every bit as special as all the winners – and the voting children – deserve!

Stockport School Book Award

Whisper My Name

‘Pass me that book,’ said Daughter. We’d returned home and she was totally done in, and we were sitting around the tbr pile in companionable exhaustion. ‘That book’ was Whisper My Name, by Jane Eagland, whom we had met at the Lancashire Book of the Year Award earlier in the summer. Daughter was tired, but the book didn’t last long in her hands, so I’d say it was a successful read.

Set in the 1880s, it’s got a lovely flavour of India, despite taking place in London. Meriel has been sent ‘home’ from India after her mother died, because her father couldn’t keep her. She goes to live with her maternal grandfather, who turns out to be weirder than weird.

Meriel isn’t allowed out, and she has to study all the time, and her – wealthy – grandfather measures her every year and keeps the results in a book. One day she rebels a little, and comes into contact with India again, and begins to make friends.

Jane Eagland, Whisper My Name

Through séances (the Victorian era seems to be riddled with them) Meriel discovers something else, something that will change her life even more than the unwanted move to London from India.

I found it a little hard to take to Meriel, and I suspect the reader is meant to see her as a flawed human being, rather than as the perfect literary heroine. But I can’t help feeling that her friend could have had a bigger role to play, and horrible though he was, I wanted to see more of the grandfather, as well.

Like in Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather, it’s interesting to see Victorian England in a different light. And I wouldn’t have minded reading more about India. Jane paints a charming picture of the place where Meriel grew up, which made me greedy for more.

Blackout

Sam Mills, Blackout

Beware of author events in Waterstone’s! This book begins with the author being shot while doing a reading.

And it’s a worryingly topical book. The Resident IT Consultant had bagged it right when the riots began last month. Curfews for the young. ‘Overenthusiastic’ measures taken by the authorities. The one thing the book ‘got wrong’ was the Waterstone’s incident. In our real riots no one went close to bookshops, whereas in Blackout it’s books and reading that are illegal. At least reading the wrong books.

I have to disagree with the Resident IT Consultant on one point, however. I don’t think Sam Mills wrote Blackout, expecting her readers to know the classics she incorporates into the plot. I believe she wants to tease her young readers into going off and trying these books afterwards. And I imagine they will want to.

Blackout was the book I came away from the Lancashire Book of the Year award feeling I simply must read, because almost every teenager mentioned this as their second favourite after the winner, Keren David.

So, after Stefan shoots the author in the bookshop, we learn what has happened up until that moment. We’re in the future, but not all that far off. His father owns a bookshop, and Stefan gets impatient with his Dad at times, because he’s old-fashioned and keeps talking about ‘real’ books. He’s especially fond of Paradise Lost, for some reason.

At school they read books (on their e-readers), and Stefan was very taken with the happy ending of 1984. Maybe it’s only us oldies who will know that something isn’t quite right here, but Stefan slowly realises that the re-written books they read at school have been very drastically changed.

And there is Catcher in the Rye which will be there to tease him throughout the book. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Sex is bad. So is drink. Children are shocked when they hear how rude young people were to their teachers in the olden days. The government really cares about people, which is why they protect them from all that is truly horrible.

So it’s up to the freedom fighters of the Words (or terrorists, if you like) to try and change things. Banned Books are dangerous. You could end up in the Institution, and maybe you’ll get yourself some new, better parents in the process. Or at the very least, a bottle of Good Behaviour Pills.

Public executions are a regular and popular public entertainment. All for the greater good, of course.

What makes Blackout so scary is that it feels as if society has barely moved from what we know today. I can visualise the caring government. And what could be worse than books? This is an exciting read, and until the last five pages or so, I couldn’t even begin to guess how it would end.

Always share your banana

If you don’t, you can’t be sure of where literary history will lead. In this case it always comes back to Preston and Lancashire.

Lancashire Book of the Year 2011

As you well know, Keren David won the Lancashire Book of the Year award, and yesterday we travelled to Preston to see her receive her prize and to hear her speech. It was a good one, and it features UMIST and non-iron fabric for the Royal family and several generations’ worth of romance in her family. And the banana.

Keren David

With space at a premium I can’t tell you the whole story, but rest assured that coincidence is not dead and it really is a small world. And had Keren’s mother not been the type to share bananas, we might not have had When I Was Joe to read and enjoy and to reward with huge cheques (physical size, mostly) and art.

Chris Higgins

Joseph Delaney

This was a good year, with nine out of ten shortlistees  present; C J Skuse, Chris Higgins, Hilary Freeman, Jane Eagland, Jim Carrington, Joseph Delaney, Keris Stainton, Sam Mills and Keren. And as ever, Adèle Geras, overseeing the young members of the jury. Unfortunately, I have only read Keren’s and Keris’ books. Fortunately, those excellent child readers have read every single book on the longlist, and some of them have read and re-read their favourites on the shortlist several times.

Hilary Freeman

Jim Carrington

When the witch and her photographer arrived, Adèle was busy drinking coffee but took us round to meet everyone. To my horror some people had heard of me, which makes you wonder what they had heard. It was lovely to meet super-publicist Nicky for the first time, and now she will be not simply a name at the end of my email line.

County Councillor Geoff Roper

The place was heaving. The place being the plush home of Preston’s councillors. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel important, and those men wandering round with fancy necklaces add to the style. Pleased to see the efficient Sue and Elaine of the SilverDell Bookshop providing books for sale, at this oldest of book awards.

Jake Hope

More than one speaker reminisced about 1987, when the award started, and whereas I can remember much further back than that, I suppose it was quite long ago. Especially if you weren’t born. Super-librarian Jake had dressed to impress, and he certainly did. It’s not just a jacket; it’s a whole suit. Note his ‘cheeky’ 25!

Jane Eagland

C J Skuse

As always, the children spoke about everything to do with the award and the reading, and I’m glad the boys realised that some books might be pink, but the reading of them ‘has to be done’.

Keris Stainton

The authors, too, had to speak, and they pointed out how important it is to have reviews by children, and not just by us boring adults. Awards like these can also save authors’ careers, for which we have to be grateful.

Adèle Geras

Adèle spoke, and she mentioned her predecessor Hazel Townson, who died this year, and who had supervised the readers for 21 years. And finally it was Keren’s turn, and as I’ve mentioned, she spoke of bananas. If I’d been her, I’d have died of nerves by that time, so it’s to her credit that she was both alive and completely lucid. She was pleased to hear the other shortlisted books praised so often, since that made her win even more valuable. It also seems that Keren had always wanted to marry someone from Lancashire. (No need to propose. She’s already married.)

Keren David

The cheque Keren received was beautiful, and so was the work of art by Hayley Welsh, which came in the shape of a defaced book. But it was beautifully done, and seeing as it even had a picture of me, I wholeheartedly approve.

Art by Hayley Welsh

Keren wasn’t the only one to receive prizes, with the children each getting a signed copy of When I Was Joe. And despite her dislike for attention, the hardworking librarian Jean, who is retiring was also on the receiving end of speeches and flowers and a hug from Keren. She admitted to always being bossy. Well, how else do you get something like this award to happen? So, thank you Jean for telling so many dignitaries how and when and where to sit, stand, do, or whatever. They need that kind of thing.

Jean with Keren David

It’s funny how after my last and only presence at these awards two years ago, how many friendly faces I recognised, and who recognised me back. It was like coming home. Julie was another hardworking ‘face’, so it must have been the power of the Js. Jake. Jean. Julie.

Jane Eagland

Joseph Delaney and Jim Carrington

And I talked quite a bit to author Jane (Eagland), so she was another J for the day. Also Joseph and Jim and C J. There was a signing afterwards, and even more afterwards there was that lovely lunch they do so well in Preston.

Then it was time for us to catch trains home in all directions. Luckily Preston offers through trains to my back garden, so there was no need for any broomsticks at all.

Sam Mills

Of all the admirable books yesterday, the one that was praised the most, besides When I Was Joe, was Blackout by Sam Mills. I might have to try and read it.

Shortlist

Bookwitch bites #54

So many awards, so many winners. So hard to keep up. But please keep writing and keep winning! It’s what we like.

Keren David has just won the Lancashire Book of the Year for When I Was Joe. Yippee!

Chris Priestley - sort of

Earlier this week the Leeds Book Awards took place. I realised something was up when so many authors appeared to be travelling to Leeds, all on the same day. First I got confused because many of them seemed to be winners, but they do several categories in Leeds. Hence lots of winners. David Gatward won one, Lee Weatherly won another and Jon Mayhew won a third. The runners-up were awarded what looked like huge diamonds, so all did very well. Candy Gourlay was there, and so was Helen Grant, Laura Summers and Teresa Flavin. And Chris Priestley, who is nowhere near as horrible looking as we had been led to believe. Phew.

Another kind of winner, although not of an award this time, is Mal Peet and his marvellous piece about Martin Amis and the brain damage. Thank god for people like Mal. I feel the need for a little quote here: ‘And when, as I do (I can’t help myself) I read the adult books shortlisted for the big prestigious prizes I find myself thinking “Really? This is ‘ground-breaking?” My editor would never let me get away with toss like this.’ That will be why Mal has won one or two things himself.

Football scene, Celtic fans

And because Mal likes football, I’ll leave you with some ‘winning’ football pictures from the world premiere this week of Divided City by Theresa Breslin. Those who were there said it was phenomenal and fantastic and amazing. I’m willing to believe them.

Football scene, Rangers fans