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'Book of the Month' selections for 2011

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Book of the Month December 2011

Coventry Tales

Coventry Tales
by Coventry Writers' Group

Greenstream Publishing
ISBN 978 1 907670 14 5

Being a small press freak, I think every writersí group should, sooner or later, have a go at producing and marketing their own book. This being the case, Coventry Writersí Group have just raised the stakes. ĎCoventry Talesí isnít just a box of delights writing-wise, itís also well produced and designed, and as well edited and proofed as most mainstream books. Illustrator Hilary Morrisís composition of the modern and the medieval on the cover is going to seduce the tourist office and gift shops, so I think Coventry Writers may have a local best-seller on their hands...

...but with ghosts, murders, mysteries, laugh-out-loud comedies and a message to the Coventry Cat Woman, there's enough to make this a truly enjoyable read even if you've never been sent to Coventry in your life.

 

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Book of the Month November 2011

Left of the Moon by Monica Tracey cover art by Cathy Edmunds

Left of the Moon
by Monica Tracey

paperback £7.49

ISBN 978 1 906451 35 6
Circaidy Gregory Press


ebook  Kindle Edition

Ď"Left of the Moon" is a novel that restores one's faith in human nature - not through rose-tinted spectacles, but through showing that, although we can't put back the clock, the past does not have to dictate our behaviour today or tomorrow . We are not victims of fate.

The story has as its main theme family relationships - mainly mother and daughter, but also father and daughter, sibling relationships and husband/wife. I'm sure almost every reader could find themselves somewhere here. The author, Monica Tracey, has a non-sensationalised and powerful way of writing, with genuine humanity and sympathy for her characters, despite their flaws. In addition to the well-drawn characters, the story is beautifully evocative of place - from Ireland to the Abruzzo region of Italy. I enjoyed the incorporation of real people and events which helped to make this a compelling and thought-provoking novel.

 

Review by SPI

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Book of the Month October 2011

The Onion Stone by Mandy Pannett - cover pic

The Onion Stone
by Mandy Pannett

Pewter Rose Press
ISBN 9 781908 136015

ĎThe Onion Stoneí has the age old question of who really wrote William Shakespeareís works as one of its themes ... an utterly absorbing tale of two women; Anne Cecil and Frances Goodbody; one young but centuries old, the other elderly but living today. Both have to deal with monsters...

So what happens when a poet writes a novel? Does she slip into rhyming couplets? Become wholly obscure? No, not even slightly. The poet creeps into the writing through the sense of place, the wonderful though brief descriptions of Sussex, Warwickshire, London etc. This feel for the countryside along with the pace of the story-telling put me in mind, quite randomly, of Margery Allingham. On the other hand, the depth of characterisation is much more Iris Murdoch. And running through it all, thereís more than a hint of Virginia Woolf. Three very different writers. Put them together, stir well, and out comes Mandy Pannett wearing her novelistís hat.

 

Review by Cathy Edmunds

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Book of the Month September 2011

The Onion Stone
by Mandy Pannett

Pewter Rose Press www.pewter-rose-press.com
ISBN 9 781908 136015

Little Troubleblossom Recommends... (I should specify, she is 17 months old) the Ladybird First Favourite Tales version of 'The Gingerbread Man, illustrations by Anja Rieger; it doesn't say who adapted the text, though an educated guess would finger Carol Ann Duffy, as it's got that same effect of rhymes and bits of rhythm turning up in odd places (above and beyond 'Run, run as fast as you can: you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!' of course). Little Troubleblossom brings this book to be read to her every time you sit down (and she has several dozen to choose from), and it is, at the moment, the only book that she'll always sit and have read to her from cover to cover, in the proper order of pages, rather than dodging randomly from page to page or losing interest half way through, saying firmly "No!" and sliding off your knee to fetch another book.

 

Review by R D Gardner

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Book of the Month August 2011

Macmillan Children's Books 2009

I think a lot of people may know this one anyway, since it's been around in some form since the early 80s, but it's been recently reissued with new illustrations, although by the same author/artist: I've seen an older copy, and I definitely like the new ones better. This is a lift-the-flap board book (a version with paper pages also exists) where the zoo sends you a different suggestion for a pet on each page, and the flap you lift is the crate it comes in. There's a problem with each of the animals: the elephant is too big, the lion too fierce, the camel too grumpy... and they all get sent back until you get to the perfect pet on the last page.

Review by R D Gardner

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Book of the Month July 2011

The Whale Road by Robert Low - cover pic

The Whale Road
by Robert Low
Pub Harper Collins

If you loved 'Viking's Dawn' but you're all grown up now, then you'll love 'The Whale Road'. I've come across a lot of wistful comments on various websites recently, reminiscing about Henry Treece's 'Viking's Dawn' and its sequels - well, this is the 18-certificate version, 'Viking's Dawn' with sex, swearing and black magic...

 

 

Review by R D Gardner

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Book of the Month June 2011

The Smile of Deceit cover pic

The Smile of Deceit
by Eileen R Elgey
ISBN 978-1-84923-503-7
published by YouWriteOn

The story starts dramatically with a guest at a lakeland hotel discovering a corpse in the bath. The inspiration came from a visit to a hotel where Eileen was surprised that her room didn't appear to have full en suite facilities until she opened what she assumed was the wardrobe to discover a bath inside it. Perfect.

After the discovery of the body, the tale is told in flashback so that the reader can find out who the body is, and how it came to be there. The plotting is convincing and the characters real.

 

 

Review by Catherine Edmunds

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Book of the Month May 2011

Bear in a Square
by Stella Blackstone
and Debbie Harter
published by Barefoot Books

Little Troubleblossom (now two years and nearly-two-months) has just learned to recognise and name shapes, and this is the best shape book we've come across.

 

 

Review by R D Gardner

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Book of the Month April 2011

 

Herm's Secret
by Kate O'Hearn
Circaidy Gregory Press
£7.49
ISBN: 978-1-906451-31-8

Hermís Secret is a thrilling tale thatís well and truly different from anything Iíve read before. It begins with the cruel, tragic death of members of a family of whales. We then meet Lori, a thirteen-year-old Canadian girl about to discover a terrifying secret of her own. She is summoned by a mysterious inner voice, calling her to the tiny island of Herm, neighbour to Guernsey in the English Channel. Together with her father, aunt and brothers, Lori sets out on the adventure of her life.

 

 

Review by Rosalie Warren

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Book of the Month March 2011

Bullycide: Death at Playtime
by Neil Marr & Tim Field
Available in paperback or ebook download from
BeWriteBooks
paperback ISBN: 978-1-906609-97-9
ebook ISBN: 978-1-906609-53-5

I used to be a kid. Iíve also been a dinner lady, a mum and a teacher and Iím now a grandmother too. In all those incarnations except the first, Iíve had severe doubts about whether individuals or institutions do enough to prevent children suffering bullying and/or violence. I had no doubts when I was a kid, though. I thought it was clear that adults didnít take terrified kids seriously. I couldnít even excuse them on the grounds of ignorance. It was clearly common knowledge because a large proportion of the novels and TV dramas for kids had plot-lines that relied on a child being isolated in the face of an apparently extreme threat....

If you're a parent, a kid, a teacher, a social or community worker, a policeman or any one of a hundred other people who can influence what goes on in the playground, reading this book might just save a life that no-one knew was 'at risk'

 

 

Review by Kay Green

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Book of the Month February 2011

 

Wheelbarrow Farm by Hilary Menos

Wheelbarrow Farm
by Hilary Menos
£4.50
Templar Poetry
ISBN-13 978-1-906285-27-2

Hilary Menos's 'Wheelbarrow Farm' was one of the winning pamphlets in the Templar Poetry Pamphlet and Collection Competition 2010. As her Seren-published 'Berg' also recently won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2010, I had high expectations.

Right from the opening poem, this pamphlet is full of strong characters, music and some fantastically quotable lines. In fact, the main reason I'm not just letting short snippets from the poems speak for themselves in this review is that I don't want to lessen their impact on readers by spoiling some of their surprise....

 

 

Review by Sarah James

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Book of the Month January 2011

 

Bear Ridge to Nettle Lane by Rachel Green

Bear Ridge to Nettle Lane
by Rachel Green
ISBN 978-1-4457-8900-2
£4.99

The table that houses my computer also groans under the weight of books to be read, to be reviewed, to be discarded, as well as miscellaneous junk. The books are a moveable feast. They are devoured in order, then consigned to bookshelves or charity shop bags, etc. A very small number, however, stay put. One is the current Writersí and Artistsí Yearbook. Another is Chambersí dictionary. And the third, ever since I bought it some months ago, is Rachel Greenís ďBear Ridge to Nettle LaneĒ. Why? Because I like reading it. Simple as that. I love to pick it up, open at random, and read a poem. Iím not ready to file it away on a bookshelf. Not yet...

 

 

Review by Catherine Edmunds

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