Tuesday, 29 December 2009

BOOK NEWS: JK Rowling the best selling author of the decade

The Harry Potter author has been confirmed as the biggest-selling author of the past ten years

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has topped the list of best-selling authors of the Noughties.

Following the release of her debut title, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the author went on to rack up sales in excess of 29 million copies, more than twice the number of books shifted by Da Vinci Code writer Dan Brown over the decade.

The Harry Potter series generated sales worth £225.9 million for its publishers, the end-of-decade figures from Nielsen Bookscan show, making Rowling the most profitable author, well ahead of second-placed Jamie Oliver in this respect.

However, while the usual suspects, including Terry Pratchett and John Grisham joined Rowling and Brown in the top ten sales list, there were a number of surprise inclusions.

For example, sales of 14 million helped Roger Hargreaves, the author of the Mr Men series of books, into second spot, while Jeremy Clarkson beat the best-selling US thriller writers Jeffrey Deaver and Lee Child, while Carol Voderman is placed one spot above William Shakespeare.

Just recently, the actor Michael Thompson donated his first edition copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to the British Heart Foundation to auction off.

For full article see lovereading.co.uk

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Book Review: Between Me and the River by Carrie Host

Genre: Personal Memoir

Publisher: Harlequin (Aug 2009)

Pages: 298 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 9/10

Between Me and the River: Living Beyond Cancer: A Memoir by Carrie Host


When told at forty, with her youngest child just ten months old, that she had carcinoid tumor, Host felt as if she'd been hurled into a raging river, stripped of all forms of potential rescue. The voyage of this strong-minded, openhearted woman out of that river and onto safe shores is told with uncompromising honesty and respect for the miracles that medicine and love can work.

While dealing with practical issues such as how to find the best medical team and what to tell the children, Host also recounts the many spiritual and eye-opening lessons that made her journey so bearable: how to see what is available rather than what is absent, how to free up energy to heal by letting go of anger and fear, and how to believe in the future.

My Thoughts:

This is an incredibly moving story of how Carrie Host deals with the most devastating news anyone could have.........being told that you have cancer, particularly when your youngest child is not even one.

One minute I was in tears as she was preparing herself for how to gently tell her two teenage children of her diagnosis and the treatment she would be having, and the next I was smiling as she describes her husband, Amory, getting the car ready --

Amory is already dressed and scraping ice and snow off the car, shoveling a clear path for me. Before I can even get my coat from the closet, I hear the engine turning over .............. sadly, he has become accustomed to my waking him at all hours........ he's never annoyed or put out, he's just constantly bailing out my boat as it begins to fill with water.

Throughout the book I kept thinking how lucky she was to have such a wonderful husband and loyal friends who looked after the children at the drop of a hat, even though some of her friends did disappear as some people just couldn't cope with seeing her battle. She was incredibly philosophical about this and understanding - which to me sums up her whole attitude to her situation.

As I followed this warm, likeable and very strong woman as she dealt with her cancer, I loved the way she constantly compared her life to being in a raging river -- sometimes she felt like she was being pulled under the water, at other times she felt as if someone was pulling her out.

This is a lovely, feel good story full of hope and compassion.

Special Thanks to Carrie Host and Lisa Roe at OnlinePublicist.blogspot.com

Monday, 21 December 2009

BOOK NEWS: Enid Blyton book sells for £600

An Oxfam charity shop strikes it lucky with rare donation.

A copy of Enid Blyton's Five on a Treasure Island has been sold on eBay for nearly £600, it has been revealed.

The book, which was anonymously donated to a charity shop in Oban, Scotland, was auctioned on the internet marketplace for £568 after it was identified as valuable by staff at the town's Oxfam store.

The book is a 1942 first edition reprint and still displays the original price – a less costly five shillings (25p).

Olwen Rowlands, store manager, said that the decision to sell the book on eBay rather than in-store was a good one as it fetched more than twice its minimum price of £250.

She said: "At the last moment there were a flurry of bids and it finished at £568. That's more than double what we estimated, and around half of what we would bring in a normal week.

"That kind of money will give us a real boost heading for Christmas."

Books by Enid Blyton include The Magic Faraway Tree and Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle.

Article taken from lovereading.co.uk

Sunday, 20 December 2009

BOOK NEWS: Philip Pullman disappointed over film prospects of His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman disappointed over film prospects of His Dark Materials

The author Philip Pullman has expressed his disappointment that the second two novels in his fantasy trilogy have not yet made it to the big screen

The Golden Compass

Once more, with feeling? … A scene from The Golden Compass

The author Philip Pullman has spoken of his disappointment over the failure of Hollywood to complete the film trilogy of his series of fantasy novels, His Dark Materials.

  1. The Golden Compass
  2. Production year: 2007
  3. Country: Rest of the world
  4. Cert (UK): PG
  5. Runtime: 113 mins
  6. Directors: Chris Weitz
  7. Cast: Dakota Blue Richards, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Nicole Kidman, Sir Ian McKellen, Tom Courtenay
  8. More on this film

The actor Sam Elliott, who starred in the 2007 adaptation of the first novel, Northern Lights (the film was called The Golden Compass), said earlier this week that books two and three were not being filmed due to a successful campaign by America's religious right. The Golden Compass grossed more than £230m around the world, but was less successful in America, where the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights called for a boycott on the grounds that Pullman's books introduced children to atheism.

Pullman, 63, told the Western Mail: "If Sam is right then I am very disappointed because it obviously would have been very good to have seen the other two films made."

Catholic League leader Bill Donahue has said he is "delighted" by the effectiveness of his religious boycott – "I knew if we could hurt the box office receipts here, it might put the brakes on the next movie."

Pullman said of Donahue's triumphalism: "It's disgusting, but only the sort of behaviour I expect of these people. It's rubbish [that the Golden Compass introduces children to atheism]."

He added that he was particularly disappointed because the film adaptation of Northern Lights finished about three quarters of the way into the book. "So there were a number of very important scenes that were shot and were very good, but we didn't see them in the film.

"Their justification was that they were going to use the scenes they'd shot, but at the start of the second film. It sort of made sense, but if what Sam Elliott says is true we won't see those scenes."

The failure to complete His Dark Materials, which would have continued with The Subtle Knife and finished with The Amber Spyglass, echoes the travails of film-maker Ralph Bakshi, who completed the first film in his two-part Lord of the Rings adaptation in 1978, but failed to find funding for the sequel due to poor box office receipts. The series was later completed - in three films - by Peter Jackson.

Article taken from theguardian.co.uk

Wednesday, 16 December 2009



Genre: Psychological Thriller

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (2007)

Pages: 432 (Paperback)

My Rating: 8/10

About the Book:

Sundial-maker Naomi Jenkins is used to living with secrets: three years ago something terrible happened to her, so terrible that she never told anyone...

Now, Naomi has another secret: the man she has fallen passionately in love with, unhappily married Robert Haworth. When Robert vanishes without warning or explanation, Naomi knows he must have come to harm. But the police are less convinced, particularly when Robert's wife insists he is not missing.

In desperation, Naomi has an idea. If she can't persuade the police that Robert is in danger, perhaps she can convince them that he is a danger to others. Then they will have to look for him - urgently. Naomi knows how to describe in detail the actions of a psychopath. All she needs to do is dig up her own traumatic past...

My Thoughts:

I read Sophie Hannah's debut novel 'Little Face' (which I loved) so I knew what to expect ....... each chapter alternating between the main protagonist and the police, the same high standard of writing, and the suspense being slowly and steadily built up.

The 2 police officers (Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer) who we were first introduced to in 'Little Face', didn't take her seriously at first until Naomi decides to take matters into her own hands with devastating consequences.

One of the things I love about Sophie Hannah's characters is that no-one is as they seem, so you're never sure what to believe and I was completely confused by the many twists and turns throughout until all the ends are neatly tied up.

Though not as gripping as 'Little Face' I was still turning each page eagerly.

Monday, 14 December 2009



An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson 8/10

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler (Audiobook) 5.5/10

Across the Pond by Storyheart 7/10

Hoodoo Sea by Rolf Hitzer 8/10

The Piano Teacher by Janice YK Lee 8.5/10

Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman (Audiobook) 8/10

I think my favourite book this month was probably Hoodoo Sea by Rolf Hitzer ....... a paranormal fantasy sci fi kind of book that pleasantly surprised me by how good it was ...... one I would definitely recommend

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Book News: Ringing the changes: phone box becomes mini-library

Village that was set to lose its traditional red phone box and library service comes up with plan to save both ....................

phone box The inside of the converted phone box/library in Westbury-sub-Mendip. Photograph: swns.com/ SWNS

When the mobile library stopped visiting, it was a blow for the villagers of Westbury-sub-Mendip. And when they found out they could lose their beloved red phone box, there was something of an outcry.

Happily a bright spark in the Somerset village (population 800) hatched a clever plan to tackle both difficulties. Why not buy the phone box and use it to set up a mini-library?

Today, the small but perfectly formed Westbury book box was doing a brisk trade. Adults were bringing in thrillers, romances and true-crime books, leaving them on the four wooden shelves and choosing another to take home. Young book fans were hunting around in the children's section – a big red box on the floor – for Roald Dahl and Horrid Henry favourites.

Parish councillor Bob Dolby, who cleans and polishes the phone box/library with his wife, Lyn, beamed with pride. "It has really taken off," he said. "Turnover is rapid and there's a good range of books, everything from reference books to biographies and blockbusters."

The scheme was the brainchild of resident Janet Fisher, who lives opposite the phone box. She floated the idea at a village tea party in August and the concept was accepted on the spot.

So the parish council bought the box, a Giles Gilbert Scott K6 design, for £1, and Dolby screwed the four shelves into place. A local business donated a sign and a wag added a "Silence please" notice. Residents donated books to get the project going and it became an instant hit, all for an outlay of just £30.

To read the full article in The Guardian click here

Saturday, 21 November 2009




The Skinny on Success is a compilation of the best thinking on the subject of success. Relying on thought leaders from ancient Rome to the present day, this book pulls back the curtain on success and separates the wheat from the chaff. If you want the real story, pick it up and invest one hour. It will be one of the best hours you have ever spent!!

Webster's Dictionary defines "success" as the "attainment of wealth, favor or eminence."

Success is, of course, different for each of us but for most of us, the obtaining of money, fame or power is right up there. Our book is about these kinds of tangible success. We take no position on the importance of material versus spiritual success (or even whether they are mutually exclusive). We believe that 99% of the world's success goes to those people who find the courage to pursue their dreams with everything they have.

Do you?

This book is part of the award-winning series The Skinny On, which I've never heard of but it's really different to other books as it's full of little pictures of stick-thin people. Looks a fun read!

Special Thanks to Chris Denham at RAND Publishing.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Pages: 245 (Paperback)

Published by: Bluewater Press LLC (June 2009)

My Rating: 8/10


The government of the United States of America is on the verge of startling the world. Billions of dollars had been invested in its space program . And now, the moment of truth had arrived… Scott Reed is the man for the historic mission. He is the Wing Commander chosen by the elite brass at NASA. The assignment to test flight the first speed of light craft, held top secret, was about to shock the world. The risk? Utter and complete failure. The reward? Being a part of the greatest human accomplishment ever known to mankind.

Major James Harrow, second in command of the four person crew, despised his Wing Commander. Harrow was a proud and patriotic American. What was NASA thinking when they selected a Canadian to pilot the voyage? There was no comparison as to who was the better skilled aviator. This was his time, his moment. Major James Harrow was about to prove to everybody they were wrong to bypass him as Commander.

The weather conditions were perfect and lift-off for the test flight was text book. The triumphant cheers from Mission Control in Houston were echoed all the way to Cape Canaveral. The silent fear of the first hurdle of the flight had been succumbed. All systems were go! That is, until the crew and SOLT-X1 entered the Bermuda Triangle…...

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book right from the start when the 4 main characters were given their briefing orders for this historic flight.

As their spaceship entered the Bermuda Triangle strange things happened to their instruments that they couldn't control, they lost contact with Mission Control, they were in total darkness and, as they were all beginning to feel scared and helpless, they were then surrounded by a bright blue light and appeared to descend to the ground. This seemed to be in the middle of a clearing surrounded by a forest.

We were then introduced to what seemed to be primitive cavemen hunters who lived there and who could talk English and even drank chamomile tea! I was constantly wondering where they had landed -- on another planet -- have they travelled back in time -- or among some long lost tribe deep in the forest? I loved the way that the author kept us guessing about this right to the end.

As the crew explored the area the story got quite scary, it actually seemed to be more of a horror book with some fairly graphic details (which I won't spoil by saying what they were!)

Overall, a confidently written story with some twists and unexpected turns, nice short chapters with cliffhangers at the end of most of them so you just have to keep reading!

Special Thanks to Tracee Gleichner of pumpupyourbookpromotion.com and Rolf Hitzer.

Monday, 16 November 2009

BOOK NEWS: Patricia Cornwell sues for lost earnings

Larceny, she wrote: Patricia Cornwell sues

Best-selling crime writer claims millions in earnings have gone missing

Patricia Cornwell

The $10m-a-year author Patricia Cornwell acknowledges she is 'much luckier than most', but adds: 'I don't want to complain about this, except that it's not right'

A flashy Ferrari disappears. Then the aggrieved owner begins to suspect that her bank accounts have leaked tens of millions of dollars without explanation. If this was the plot of an airport suspense novel, you'd expect violence before 20,000 feet. If it was real-life America, you'd expect a fat lawsuit.

We are in lawsuit territory here. But the plaintiff, as it happens, is none other than Patricia Cornwell, the crime writer who specialises in skulduggery and, indeed, the occasional murder. Better still, her latest book featuring, as ever, the forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta, called The Scarpetta Factor, is partly about victims of a giant crooked Ponzi scheme of the Bernard Madoff variety.

While touring for the new book, the 17th in the Scarpetta series, Ms Cornwell was peppered with questions about a lawsuit quietly filed last month against a New York-based financial management firm, Anchin, Block & Anchin, which looked after all her affairs until July. She is claiming that she should be about $40m richer than she is and is accusing them of mismanaging her funds.

Because the case is ongoing, Ms Cornwell, 53, has so far restricted herself to only the occasional, oblique comment about her cash reserves (she is reported to earn about $10m per year as one of the world's most prolific best-selling novelists) and what it was that the defendants may or may not have done.

The details of the complaint include: that since 2005, the company has been negligent in handling rental properties and other assets and that one of the partners of the firm wrote a cheque for $5,000 for the bar mitzvah of their daughter on funds in a Cornwell account. The writer had not even met the young lady.

And there is the revealing snippet that she blurted at the weekend to an interviewer with the Courier-Mail newspaper of Australia, about the vanished sports car. "We have no records of what happened to one of my Ferraris," she said. "You trust someone to sell it for you and you don't have any idea what you got for it."

To read the full article click here

Friday, 13 November 2009

BOOK NEWS: 100 Books That Defined The Noughties

100 books that defined the noughties

Zadie, Nigella, Steig and, of course, the boy wizard. The decade has seen publishing phenomenons like no other, but which books, for better or worse, have summed up the noughties?

Never in the history of bookselling has there been such a phenomenon as Harry Potter; JK Rowling’s series sold in tens of millions and appealed to adults as well as children. The great success of the British book trade this decade was the Richard & Judy Book Club. It ran in the late afternoon on Channel 4, and made instant bestsellers of Victoria Hislop, Audrey Niffenegger and Zoë Heller, among others. The 100 titles they selected sold 30 million copies.

Across the world, it was a decade defined in blood by al-Qaeda and the 9/11 att

acks on America, which precipitated the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – see books by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Ed Husain, Ahmed Rashid and Khaled Hosseini.

It was also the decade of often tawdry celebrities, such as Russell Brand and Ashley Cole, and those, such as Katie Price, who didn’t even pretend to write their own books. Alan Hollinghurst won the Man Booker Prize for an explicitly gay novel; Ian McEwan rose above his rivals as the country’s pre-eminent literary novelist; and a black man became president of the United States – and wrote two bestsellers.

For the full list of 100 books see this article at

Monday, 9 November 2009

Sunday, 8 November 2009


Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Pages: 117 (Paperback)

Publisher: Xlibris Corporation (2008)

My Rating: 7/10


First Line:

Burrrdonk! The wheels locked as the plane descended toward the airport.

This is such a lovely, feel good short story which starts as 14 year old Fred arrives in America (across the pond) to stay for two weeks with his father's best friend's family -- Phil, wife Julie and daughter Brittney -- as his parents have won a holiday of a lifetime to Australia and couldn't take him with them.

A romance soon develops between Fred and Brittney and Fred's time in America is full of ups and downs, including getting into trouble on more than one occasion by the difference in the meaning of words, a misunderstanding with Brittney's flirtatious friend, protecting her honour and how attending a baseball game has unexpected repercussions!

My only problem with this book is how quickly Brit and Fred 'fell in love' which I thought was a little bit unreal.

But, overall, a quick, easy read with some funny moments and one that I would recommend for teens.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


Genre: Historical Crime Fiction

Published by: Faber and Faber (Feb 2009)

Pages: 292 (Paperback)


My Rating: 8/10



"An Expert in Murder" is the first in a new series which features Golden Age crime writer Josephine Tey as its lead character, placing her in the richly-peopled world of 1930s theatre which formed the other half of her writing life. It's March, 1934, and Tey is travelling from Scotland to London to celebrate what should be the triumphant final week of her celebrated play, Richard of Bordeaux. However, a seemingly senseless murder puts her reputation, and even her life, under threat. Cleverly blending fact and fiction, "An Expert in Murder" is both a tribute to one of the most enduringly popular writers of crime and an atmospheric detective novel in its own right.

First Line:

Had she been superstitious, Josephine Tey might have realised the odds were against her when she found that her train, the early-morning express from the Highlands, was running an hour and a half late.

This is a very clever and unusual idea, using a real life writer (Josephine Tey) to help in solving a fictional crime set in the theatre world of the 1930's. It was full of believable characters with depth and richness and I was constantly changing my mind as to 'whodunnit'!

A very entertaining read which I would recommend for fans of Agatha Christie type novels.

Nicola Upson's website

Monday, 2 November 2009

BOOK NEWS: Chick lit offers fully rounded heroines for fully rounded women

Chick lit offers fully rounded heroines for fully rounded women

US publishing trend, 'bigger chick lit', booms as women respond to more realistic take on weight

"Chick lit" has relied for years on repetitive plot lines with heroines who agonise about their weight as they swig chardonnay, smoke cigarettes and have sex with their boss.

But the latest publishing phenomenon to sweep America, which has just arrived over here, features a new heroine: the young woman who is seriously overweight – and doesn't care.

"This is a completely new genre of chick lit and it's a breath of fresh air," said Mink Elliott, author of The Pi**ed Off Parents Club, which will be published next month by Little Brown. "These books are spearheading the revolution towards a more realistic perception of real women in easy-reading literature.

"Women are getting sick of the bullshit that has been perpetrated in chick lit until now. Bridget Jones, for all her agonising over her weight, was never heavier than nine-and-a-half stone, whereas the average weight of British women is well over 10 stone.

"This new genre is proof that women are finally learning to love each other and themselves – warts and all. Chick lit is finally holding a real mirror up to its readers, and they can't get enough of it."

A slew of books in which the protagonist is not just "curvy" or "voluptuous" but is actually "fat" are about to hit the bookshops. As well as The Pi**ed Off Parents Club, there is The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens, bestselling author of The Girls, which was the Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year in 2006 and a finalist for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction.

"It's classic wish-fulfilment: readers want to read about women learning to love themselves whatever their weight, because then they don't have to go through that pesky world of dieting themselves. There's a big market of people who want to hear that message," said Julia Llewellyn, author of Love Nest, to be published in February by Penguin, in which one of the central characters is overweight.

"Serious weight issues are a far bigger problem than they were in Bridget Jones's day," she added. "It's the most overwhelming issue in the life of many women. Which is precisely why it's something readers and authors are wanting to explore."

To read the whole article click here

Friday, 30 October 2009




The Smart family's lacklustre holiday in Norwich is turned upside down when a beguiling stranger called Amber appears, bringing with her love, joy, pain and upheaval. The Smarts try to make sense of their bewildering emotions as Amber tramples over family boundaries and forces them to think about their world and themselves in an entirely new way. The Accidental is at once a mysterious web of secret identities and a ruthlessly honest look at the silent cracks that can develop unnoticed in relationships over time.

I thought I'd do this review in a question and answer format.

Did You Enjoy This Audiobook? Not really

Why Not? I thought the overall story was quite boring, all the characters had a turn in the 1st person to talk about themselves and sometimes I couldn't understand which era they were talking about, whether it was past or present.

What Did You Think About The Characters? I didn't like or empathise with any of them, probably the only one I did like a little bit was the young girl Astrid.

What Did You Think The Author Was Trying To Say? I have no idea! I wondered if the story was too intelligent for me and I was too thick to understand it or whether the whole novel was just not very good.

How Did You Feel At The End? Apart from feeling glad that I'd finished it, I felt utterly confused.

Would You Recommend It? No. For me, too much was left unexplained, for example, who was Amber and where did she come from?

My Rating? 3/10

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Genre: Non-Fiction Memoir

Published by: Booksurge (April 2009)

Pages: 290 (Paperback)


My Rating: 9.5/10


Jack Alexander changed his name so many names as he ran away from one con to another that I'm surprised that he could remember who he was most of the time!

He dropped out of College in the late 1960's and married one of his fellow students who was extremely wealthy, they lived in a large house, Jack had a good job so why did he go down the criminal route? This book tells the whole amazing story of his criminal life.

From San Quentin prison -- where he was diagnosed as a 'criminal genius' -- to living the high life with beautiful women, fancy houses, drugs, alcohol -- mixing with drug dealers -- at one time holding down a job where he travelled the world -- and all the while not caring about who he scammed and hurt in the process.

I'm Jack Alexander, the notorious stolen jewelry salesman, airplane thief, trickster ... a professional con artist. ........ It's the same guy who three years ago blew 50 grand a month on whatever he wanted, usually **** he used only once.

As Jack relied more and more on drink and drugs to get him through the day, his life slowly descends to hell and he realises that "I could always get more money; it was the years that a guy could never buy back".

I don't want to spoil the ending but I thought this was such an inspirational book while Jesse Stretch brought this whole fascinating account of one man's rise and fall to life. I was absolutely engrossed from start to finish.

Special Thanks to Jeff Andrews and Bostick Communications.

Monday, 19 October 2009

BOOK NEWS: New Film 'Where the Wild Things Are' sends parents into a 'rumpus'

The screen adaptation of Maurice Sendak's 1963 morality tale has sparked a debate about the merits of frightening our children

Scene from Where the Wild Things Are

Max (Max Records) encounters the monster Carol (James Gandolfini) in Where The Wild Things Are.

When Jess Hyde picked a copy of Where the Wild Things Are from the bedroom shelf last week, her seven-year-old son, Arthur, pointed to it and said: "That gives me nightmares."

"He had never mentioned it before," says the mother of three from Frome, Somerset. "But it is a tricky one because the monsters are quite scary. They are not friendly pictures. It is something about the colour – they are brown and grey and not very endearing." Arthur's mother, who was given the book by friends, asked her son if he wanted her to read it. "He still said yes," she laughs.

The spooky palm tree fronds and twisting vines that invade the bedroom of naughty Max in this nursery classic will soon be invading the imaginations of young children anew, as a film version of Maurice Sendak's book heads for the cinema. A modern morality tale, Sendak's story sees little Max reject his parental home for a world where he can become "king of all wild things". It has been brought to the screen this autumn by director Spike Jonze and writer Dave Eggers, who adapted the screenplay. Their film has won plaudits from many critics, but some parents have been troubled by the ferocity of the story, and by the power of Jonze's new interpretation. As a result, they are advising other families to stay away.

The protest, or "wild rumpus" to borrow a phrase from the book, that has greeted the release of the film echoes disquiet about the bleak message embedded in Disney/Pixar's latest animated release. Entitled Up, it has been viewed by many parents as anything but.

A handful of American educationalists, including Professor Holly Willett, of Rowan University in New Jersey, have rushed to defend Sendak's 1963 book, but the new film stands accused of presenting unsettling images that, although popular, are likely to breed nightmares. A public debate about whether or not a child's appetite for being frightened should be indulged is now in full swing.

"This is a classic hero's story in which the protagonist undertakes a journey and returns a wiser person," Willett, an expert on children's literature, has argued in the American press. And Sendak's original tale has certainly stood the test of time: it is a reliable classic on the shelves of middle-class toddlers on both sides of the Atlantic and in 1983 composer Oliver Knussen turned it into a one-act opera that has joined the modern repertoire.

"I remember reading the Sendak book to my children and it frightened the pyjamas off them," Roger McGough, the poet, said this weekend. "But they went back to it. It is a scariness that you can control and that ends happily."

To read the full article in The Guardian click here

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Genre: Non-Fiction

Published by: Thomas Nelson (April 2009)

Pages: 380 (Hardback)


My Rating: 8/10


1st Paragraph:

"I always told Fred that he had a picnic in Italy. I said to him, 'You complained that sometimes you had too much soup, while I was lucky to get a few spoons of some dirty water,' " recalled Edith Moskovitch Birns. Edith is a survivor of Auschwitz, while the man who would become her husband, Alfred (Fred) Birns, survived the Holocaust in Italy.

For me, these opening lines sum up the theme of this amazing and almost unheard of story. Compared to the millions of Jews who perished in the Concentration Camps in Germany and Poland, many more thousands would live a life of luxury (almost) in Italy in Internment Camps.

Elizabeth Bettina's life was changed when she was give a book by a relative when she visited Italy a few years ago. In it was a picture of a rabbi standing next to various people, including a bishop, on the steps of the Catholic Church in the small Italian village called Campagna where her grandparents were married. The year was 1940. Elizabeth, who had no idea that any Jews were in her village during the War, resolved to find out what happened and this book is what she discovered.

It is made up of peoples stories of their lives in the Camps, how they got there, how they lived, some even got married there! The book contains so many fascinating pictures - they do say that pictures speak a thousand words! It tells the story of how they were helped by Italian people who risked their lives to keep them from the hands of the Nazis.

Somehow she even arranged for some of the survivors to re-visit the small towns where they were interred all those years ago, which was lovely to read.

Though it was incredibly interesting reading about something that was so little known, I just wish the author didn't keep repeating how wonderful the Italian people were, I'm afraid it got quite annoying reading it for the umpteenth time.

Having said that I think this is definitely recommended reading for anyone interested in the Holocaust and the role of Italians in WWII.

Special Thanks to Thoma Nelson Publishers for sending me this book to review

Friday, 9 October 2009


Genre: Crime Thriller

Published by: Gemini Press (May 2009)

Pages: 314 (Paperback)



1st Lines:

LOUD! The music was loud! The bass thunderous! The singing exhilarating! The catchy, finger-popping, toe-tapping music was heart pounding; but there was no party.

The Prologue is spoken by Myra Barrett, who is lying on the floor of her apartment, and in terrible pain due to the many stab wounds inflicted by her boss, Norris Yoshito, who she has been dating in secrecy. As she is lying there wondering why he's tried to murder her and hoping that someone will help her, her room-mate is lying dead near her.

So, from the beginning of the story we know who did it ............. or do we?

In the next chapter and from then on the story is told in the 3rd person and we meet Sassy, a popular romantic novelist, who is busy signing copies of her new book. She looks up and meets the eyes of Norris Yoshito and Sassy believes she has met the man of her dreams. After meeting for a drink, they start dating and gradually fall in love. Can this wonderful, charming, polite man really be the same person who stabbed Myra?

This sets the premise for the rest of the novel. The suspense was maintained throughout as we discover that other people who knew Norris are murdered, and when the police started closing in the last quarter of the book was incredibly gripping.

But I felt that it did slow down a little in the middle due to a long conversation in the bedroom of Sassy's cousin, Bernard who was dying of AIDS; it just dragged on and on and on, which drove me mad.

However, I do think this is a decent crime thriller. The character of Sassy was very likeable and the other people in her life seemed real enough for me to care about what happened to them.

For more on Gloria Mallette her website can be found here.

Special Thanks to Gloria Mallette and Bostick Communications for sending me this book.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

BOOK NEWS: Hilary Mantel named Booker Prize Winner for Wolf Hall

Author Hilary Mantel has been named 2009 Man Booker Prize winner for her historical novel Wolf Hall.

Mantel, 57, beat five other shortlisted authors, including Sarah Waters and JM Coetzee, with her book based on Henry VIII's adviser Thomas Cromwell.

Judges praised the "extraordinary story-telling" of Mantel.

The author, who received the £50,000 prize at a ceremony at London's Guildhall, said it had taken her about 20 years to decide to write the book.

"I couldn't begin until I felt secure enough to say to my publisher - just what a publisher always wants to hear - 'this will take me several years you know'. But they took it on the chin," she said.

Mantel, who is now working on a sequel, also beat AS Byatt with the novel The Children's Book, Adam Foulds for The Quickening Maze and Simon Mawer for The Glass Room.

Waters was shortlisted for her book, The Little Stranger, and Coetzee had been in the running for his fictionalised memoir, Summertime.

"When I began the book I knew I had to do something very difficult, I had to interest the historians, I had to amuse the jaded palate of the critical establishment and most of all I had to capture the imagination of the general reader," Mantel said.

Chairman of judges James Naughtie said: "Our decision was based on the sheer bigness of the book. The boldness of its narrative, its scene setting."

"The extraordinary way that Hilary Mantel has created what one of the judges has said was a contemporary novel, a modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th Century.

"We thought it was an extraordinary piece of story-telling."

Despite that, he revealed it had not been an "unanimous decision, but it was a decision with which we were all content".

For full article see bbc.co.uk

Monday, 5 October 2009


Genre: Historical Fiction

Published by: Orion (October 2009)

Pages: 272 (Hardback)


Do you believe in ghosts? Yes, that age old question is asked once more in Kate Mosse's re-working of her recent Quick Reads release, The Cave, and if you've read that then I wouldn't recommend you read this as it is so similar.

The year is 1928 when Frederick Watson crashes his car in a snowstorm in the foothills of the Pyrenees. He thinks he hears a woman's voice: 'The Winter Ghosts'. He abandons his car and walks down the hillside path to the small village of Nulle, which seems to have a sadness hanging over it, and where he finds a friendly hostelry to spend the night.

He is invited to a yearly feast in the local Ostal where he meets the beautiful Fabrissa and tells her of his unhappiness at losing his brother in WWII. She too has a terrible tale to tell...........

This was an okay book, but it wasn't gripping enough for me, the characters were sympathetic without me caring too much about them, the storyline was a little predictable, it left me thinking "Is that it?" On the positive side, Kate Mosse's usual wonderful descriptions, especially of the snowy mountainside and deserted villages were a joy to read.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery

Published by: Quercus (2008)

Pages: 542 (Paperback)



This intelligent mystery centres around the disappearance of 14 year old Harriet Langer nearly 40 years ago. Her elderly uncle wants to discover once and for all exactly what really happened to her and he employs disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist, together with his unusual sidekick Lisbeth Salander to try and find out.

The story started incredibly slowly building up the characters back stories and the events leading up to Harriet's disappearance. But once these were established and Blomqvist delved deeper and deeper into the family's dirty secrets the story was gripping, and the complex character of the under-estimated Salander was the main reason this story has such a clever ending.

I will definitely be reading the other books in the trilogy.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Genre: Gothic Mystery

Publisher: Orion (2006)

Audio CD read by Juliet Stevenson



Vida Winter, the most famous novelist in England and quite possibly the world, has never been forthcoming when it comes to her past. Her entire life is a secret, and for fifty years reporters and biographers have attempted to discover the truth. With her health quickly fading, Ms. Winter enlists a bookish amateur biographer named Margaret Lea to bear witness to the tragic story of the Angelfield family, their eccentric beginnings as well as their demise. Margaret, who has family secrets of her own, must unravel the mysteries of the past in order to reconcile not only Miss Winter with her ghosts, but also Margaret with her own.

This story only came alive for me about half way through, up until then I found it quite slow and wasn't sure where it was heading but as soon as Margaret started to unravel Vida Winter's family secrets I was engrossed. I also loved the character of the mild and friendly Aurelius Love who lived alone and was well known in the local village for his baking skills, which I thought was quite unusual!

Juliet Stevenson's narration was perfect and easy to listen to.


Monday, 28 September 2009

BOOK NEWS: Lorrie Moore's first novel in 15 years takes US literary world by storm

To the casual observer, the big publishing event of the summer in America was Dan Brown's new thriller, which sold hundreds of thousands of copies and saw fans queue outside bookshops across the country.

But to the nation's literary classes, the fervour surrounding Brown's The Lost Symbol was a mere blip on the cultural radar compared to the reaction to an altogether different sort of author: Lorrie Moore.

Moore, a 52-year-old midwestern female academic, is frequently hailed as one of America's best modern writers, especially as a master of the short story. But the mildly reclusive writer had not written a novel for almost 15 years. Until now. The reaction to her return has been ecstatic.

"This is a really big event. It is a major work by a major literary figure," said Carolyn Kellogg, who writes for the Los Angeles Times' book blog, Jacket Copy. "For literary people it's wonderful because they were afraid Dan Brown's book had sucked a lot of the air out of the summer. But the reaction has been great."

Moore's book, A Gate at the Stairs, has even entered the bestseller lists, something that is rare for a literary novelist and for a work that is aimed squarely at the high end of the market. It follows the life of Tassie Keltjin, a young woman coming to terms with becoming an adult in the wake of 9/11.

The critical reaction has been impressive. "On finishing A Gate at the Stairs, I turned to the reader nearest to me and made her swear to read it immediately," wrote a gushing Jonathan Lethem in the New York Times.

"Lorrie Moore has a unique gift. She can be screamingly funny – and in the very next paragraph, able to convey terrible grief," said critic Deirdre Donahue in USA Today.

Some have even compared Tassie's progress of emerging into the modern adult world with that other famous coming-of-age literary figure, Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye. "Hey Holden Caulfield, don't look now but somebody's sitting in your seat on this bus. Her name's Tassie Keltjin," wrote Chris Watson of San Jose's Mercury News.

Moore certainly inspires affection in American literary circles. Her short stories have appeared regularly in the New Yorker and her previous novels – particularly Anagrams and Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? – have been widely praised. She has honed a style of writing that laces sardonic humour with moving tragedy, with neither element detracting from the impact of the other.

"The Lorrie Moore voice has been extremely important. In her best works, she can be brutally funny and heartbreaking at the same time," said Michael Gorra, an English professor at Smith College, Massachusetts.

But where has Moore been for the last decade and a half? In a proper mystery story – especially one written by Brown – there would be a dramatic tale behind Moore's curiously protracted absence from the novel-writing scene. But the truth seems to be prosaic. Writing literary novels is not a surefire way to riches in America, even for the most successful, and it appears Moore has simply been busy struggling through a painful divorce, living life as a single mother and working hard at her day job as a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin.

A particular drain on her time has been raising her adopted black son, Benjamin Borns-Moore. Though she writes in her new book of the difficulties faced by those who adopt a baby of a different race, in real life it has been a spectacular success. Borns-Moore is a rising star of American soccer, having recently been named to a national junior squad.

Often grilled in interviews about her long absence, Moore has recently taken to poking fun at the subject. "I was captured by space aliens," she told one blogger recently.

"I have a list of prosaic reasons and excuses, such as being a working, single, book-reviewing mom, but I grow vaguely but perceptibly hysterical when I recite them, so I've decided to go with the space alien tale."

Many in the literary world hope that the attention now being showered on Moore's return to novel-writing will see her work spread to a more popular audience. But even the bestselling literary writers in America are still likely to remain unknown in terms of mass popular culture.

"Hopefully a lot more people will get to know her, but even John Updike could have walked through a mall and 99% of people would never have recognised him," said Professor John Wenke of Salisbury University, Maryland. It would seem Dan Brown's global fame remains unchallenged for the moment.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography

Published by: WW Norton & Co. (2008)

Pages: 329 (Paperback)



1st Paragraph:

Just before the Civil War tore America asunder, a young boy named Henry McCarty was born. During his short life he acquired other monikers, including Henry Antrim, the Kid, Kid Antrim, the Wandering Kid, William H Bonney, Billy Bonney and El Chivato. Just months before his death he finally became known as Billy the Kid, really more of a title than a name and one that would last for eternity.
When Pat Garrett shot and killed Billy the Kid on July 14th 1881 in New Mexico Territory a legend was born.

From the corrupt streets of New York to the corrupt towns of the Wild West, Billy the Kid's 21 short years are brought vividly to life by this fascinating biography.

So few actual facts are known about him that historians do not even agree about his birthplace or even his real name. Michael Wallis has painstakingly sifted through all the exaggerated stories and outright lies that have surrounded him over the years and through a mixture of anecdotes from people who knew him, reliable sources, historical documents, and his own meticulous research, he has debunked many of the myths of his murderous ways and discovered that
"the truth of the young man was neatly covered up through sleight of hand with historical facts by a host of dime novelists, journalists, and hacks.......he was then and forever a mirage."

Some of the many surprising facts that did emerge are that Billy shunned tobacco and seldom drank, was literate (in fact there is documentary proof of a letter he had written), loved reading especially the popular 'dime novels' of the day, could speak fluent Spanish and loved singing and dancing, an appreciation that came possibly from his mother's Irish background.

Until his mother's death in 1874 when Billy was only 14, he was a normal mischievous boy. Afterwards he became a young man who had to fend for himself and grow up very quickly by living on his wits and eventually turning to horse stealing and gambling to live.

This is not just a history of Billy the Kid, but also a history of the Old West during the late 19th century, of the lawlessness and corruption during his short life, including the infamous Lincoln County War.

I particularly enjoyed the photographs dotted around the book, which included many of the characters and places mentioned, and the cover of the book shows the only documented photographic image of him, taken in late 1879 or early 1880. Paulita Maxwell, one of Billy's lady friends, said in later years, "I never liked the picture, I don't think it does Billy justice". The young man's image is forever frozen in time - just like his myth.

For more about Billy the Kid an excellent website can be found here.

Special Thanks to W.W. Norton & Co. for sending me this book to review.

Friday, 18 September 2009


Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Orion (2009)
Pages: 466 (Paperback)


1st Line:

Derek figured, when the time came, the crawlspace would be the best place to hide.

When the Cutters' neighbours, Mr and Mrs Langley and their young son Adam, are brutally murdered in cold blood everyone is shocked and when the police discover that 17 year old Derek Cutter was hiding in their house at the time of the killings he then becomes the prime suspect. His friend Adam's computer is missing; what has that got to do with his mother's boss; and could a young man's suicide somehow be linked to the novel that was on the missing computer? Did the killers go to the wrong address - should they have been looking for the Cutters house instead?

Derek's father, Jim Cutter, is determined to prove his son's innocence and it seems that everyone has secrets to hide, even Jim...........

This is the 2nd Linwood Barclay book I've read - his debut novel was No Time For Goodbye which was a Richard & Judy pick. This is very similar in many ways: it starts with a mystery and the reveal is very slowly and tantalisingly uncovered with twists and turns along the way. The main narrator, Jim Cutter, was incredibly likeable, honest, protective of his family, talked in mono-syllables, and did not suffer fools lightly; sounds like my kind of guy!

I always think that with these kind of books (suspense, mystery) that the reveal is never going to match up to all the build-up throughout the novel, and Too Close to Home is no exception. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it, Linwood Barclay's fast writing had me hooked from the start, and I didn't guess the plot, but I just felt there was something missing and I'm not sure what it was!

However, if you enjoyed No Time for Goodbye or Sophie Hannah's books then I think you'd like this just as much.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

BOOK NEWS: Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol breaks hardback record in 36 hours

Dan Brown's new book The Lost Symbol has sold more copies in its first 36 hours of release than any other adult hardback novel has managed in its entire lifetime, the publishers said.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
The Lost Symbol has beaten the previous record set by Hannibal

The long-awaited follow up to The Da Vinci Code hit the shelves on Tuesday and has already more than 300,000 copies in the UK, compared with the previous best-selling adult hardback, Thomas Harris' Hannibal, which has sold 298,000 copies since it was published in 1999.

Publishers Transworld said they were on the lookout for websites offering pirated copies of the new novel, after reports that two sites had already posted material from the book.

A spokeswoman said: ''We have a very vigilant team who are constantly scanning the web to investigate potential piracy issues. If and when they do find any rogue material out there we will issue 'take down' notices.''

Like The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol features Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, and had a UK first print run of a million.

Transworld said the book had already sold more than a million copies worldwide and was now being translated for release in non-English-speaking countries.

Despite this early success, the book has a long way to go to match the astonishing success of The Da Vinci Code, which has sold 81 million copies around the world, and is the UK's biggest-selling paperback of all time.

The book's popularity sparked huge interest in Brown's previous novels - Angels and Demons, Deception Point and Digital Fortress, which became multi-million-copy international best-sellers.

They also spawned two hit movies. The film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks was a worldwide number one hit, as was Angels and Demons, the adaptation of the first of Brown's thrillers featuring Langdon.

Taken from www.telegraph.co.uk

Friday, 11 September 2009


Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Outskirts Press (2009)
Pages: 256 (Paperback)


Martha Taylor was a young white girl living in the Deep South in the mid-fifties when her curious nature led her to follow her caretaker Lucy (a young black woman) into the woods one day where she finds Lucy's family living there. As she visits the family more and more she comes to realise that the color of her skin does not matter to them, they welcome her for who she is.

Set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, the story revolves around Martha and Silas, Lucy's nephew, who become good friends and eventually fall in love, despite the racial tensions at the time.

One of the many instances of segregation and fear is outlined here:

I ...... remember getting in serious trouble with Nannie......... She was at the sales counter talking to the clerk and I took less than 20 steps behind her to get a drink from the fountain.

"What are you doing? Can't you read that sign? Do you want to get sick from some disease?" Nannie was livid and remarkably upset.

It scared me so bad I didn't look at the sign until I was standing back beside her. Of course, the sign read 'Colored Only'. I couldn't imagine what all the fuss was about but, everyone was staring at me. What I did must have been despicable. I did notice that the water wasn't cold like the water in the 'regular' fountains. I began to understand that we were special and the colored people weren't.

This was such a fascinating story and as the time moves on into the sixties, Martha and Silas gradually have to move away from each other but still maintain their relationship during all the turbulance of the changing era, leading them both to self-discovery.

This would be a great fictional story on its own but, because it is true, it is all the more moving and one that I found hard to put down. A recommended read for anyone, especially if you're interested in the civil rights movement during the late 50's to late 60's.


Special Thanks to Martha A Taylor and Bostick for sending me this book to review

Kris at Not Enough Books has also read it, you can find her review here

Sunday, 30 August 2009


Genre: Crime Thriller
Publisher: Three Rivers Press (May 2009)
Pages: 293 (Paperback)


First Line:

Jack Palms walks into a diner just south of Japantown, the one where he's supposed to meet Ralph.
Jack Palms is a washed-up movie star with one big hit to his name three years ago, he's also managed to kick his drug habit and hasn't had a drink in 2 years. His healthy lifestyle can get pretty boring though and when his old friend Ralph calls on him to help some Czechs to have a good time "where that mug of yours can still get us past a few red ropes" (and get paid for it) and be the go-between for drug dealer and buyer, he's more than ready, especially when the banks are on his back about his missed mortgage payments.

But when Ralph turns up dead, Jack gets himself beaten up, there's a crazy mix of Colombians, Russians, ex-KGB agents and a beautiful and sexy barmaid to tempt Jack that things really get interesting! He has to keep reminding himself that this is real life and not the sequel to his last movie, as he tries to find out who murdered his friend as well as still helping the Czechs.

The author, Seth Harwood described this story as 'an action movie between two covers' and I think that describes it perfectly. This was fast and furious, with the action never slowing for long, just long enough to take a breather till the next shooting or drug deal, and I just wanted to keep turning the pages as Jack lurched from one wild scene to the next, always hoping that the good guys would win in the end.

I guess this kind of novel would appeal mainly to young men, but, even though I'm neither young nor male, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed all of it, yes, there is bad language and, yes, there are some gory scenes but nothing too graphic, and I would certainly recommend it if you want to read a story that doesn't take itself too seriously.


Saturday, 22 August 2009


Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd. (Aug 2009)
Pages: 408 (Paperback)

The moment that Lady Elizabeth Woodville (27 year old widow of 2 young sons) meets the handsome King Edward IV "who has beautiful women flinging themselves at him every night of the week," their lives are irrevocably changed forever as the young Yorkist King is smitten by the beauty and grace of the daughter of one of his Lancastrian enemies.

The Wars of the Roses is the backdrop to this compelling love story where, after secretly marrying, the King and Queen of England's many children include the 'princes in the tower', a mystery which has baffled historians through the centuries.

Elizabeth is the main character throughout and is not without her flaws, she can be a very loving wife and mother, but also very strong-willed. She also enjoys the power that the Throne provides, indeed her own brother says to her that "you distribute favours and wealth to your favourites, not to the deserving".

I was completely absorbed in this story, I thought it had everything: bloody battles, treachery, treason, romance, witchcraft, family feuds, murder, and at the heart of it the mystery of the two young and innocent little boys who are caught in the middle of a tussle for the Kingdom.

This is the first in Philippa Gregory's new Historical Fiction series - I can't wait for her next!


Friday, 21 August 2009

BOOK NEWS: Dan Brown tops Oxfam's chart of most-donated books

Oxfam bookshop

Where to send your old Dan Brown books ... an Oxfam bookshop. Photograph: David Sillitoe

Dan Brown might be one of the world's bestselling authors but it turns out that readers aren't too keen on keeping his special blend of religious conspiracy and scholarly derring-do on their shelves once they've bought it.

Brown, who has sold more than 81m copies of The Da Vinci Code worldwide, has been revealed as the most donated author to Oxfam's 700 high street shops. With just four books to his name – although his long-awaited fifth The Lost Symbol is published next month – Brown did well to see off competition from John Grisham, author of more than 20 and the second-most likely writer to be ditched in a charity shop by readers.

But as secondhand bookshop shelves flood with battered editions of Angels and Demons and Digital Fortress, Brown can comfort himself with the fact that he's also Oxfam's 2nd most bought author: there are, apparently, still readers out there who have yet to follow the adventures of the dapper symbologist Robert Langdon. There's no such consolation for Grisham, whose legal thrillers fail to make Oxfam's bestseller charts at all.

"There's no question that when you go into the back room of Oxfam shops there are many Dan Brown books," said Oxfam's director of trading David McCullough. "But he's also very high on the bestseller list so there is a useful recycling exercise going on – it's not just people saying 'I've read The Da Vinci Code and now I must get rid of it'."

Ian Rankin, whose dour, boozy detective John Rebus is no Robert Langdon, tops Oxfam's bestseller list, which the charity says is the first ever high-street secondhand bestseller chart. "It's always good for an author to know that their books are popular," said the Scottish author, who will unveil a new policeman hero, the teetotal Malcolm Fox, next month. "With Oxfam, it's also heartening to realise that each book donated and bought is helping such a worthwhile organisation."

Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series and instigator of myriad teenage crushes courtesy of her sparkly vampire hero Edward Cullen, is also sitting high in Oxfam's charts, nestling between Bernard Cornwell and Terry Pratchett.

Margaret Atwood, meanwhile, winner of the Booker prize and author of a host of critically acclaimed works of fiction, scrapes into the list in 8th place, keeping unlikely company with thriller powerhouse James Patterson – currently producing at least 8 books a year thanks to a horde of co-writers – and Jodi Picoult, never afraid to jerk a tear or pile on the plot twists.

"We just need to dispel the idea that we are sitting there in Oxfam with only first editions of literary gems – actually we've got shelves of really good fiction," said McCullough. "Waterstone's might be more upset than secondhand booksellers," he added, referring to the recent slew of complaints from secondhand booksellers that the charity is stealing their business.

Oxfam, Europe's biggest high-street retailer of secondhand books and the third-biggest bookseller in the UK, launched a drive for book donations in May ahead of its first national book festival, Bookfest, in July. Authors including Joanna Trollope, Philip Pullman and Jonathan Coe all lent a hand in shops across the country as part of the festival, and the drive saw book donations rise 40%, with sales up by more than 10%.

Rare books and first editions have also been pouring into shops since May. Ten of the most sought-after editions have raised more than £4,500 for the charity between them. A first edition of Lord of the Rings sold for £800, a first edition of Watership Down brought in £500, Sylvia Plath's Ariel sold for £350, Ian Fleming's From Russia With Love for £300 and a second printing of Martin Chuzzlewit for £200.

Oxfam, which has more than 130 specialist bookshops and stocks books in almost all of its 700 stores, sells £1.6m-worth of books a month – equivalent, it says, to 50,000 emergency shelters, 64,000 goats or safe water for 2.1 million people.

The most donated authors to Oxfam shops so far this year:

1. Dan Brown

2. John Grisham

3. Ian Rankin

4. Danielle Steel

5. Helen Fielding

6. Stephen King

7. JK Rowling

8. Catherine Cookson

9. Patricia Cornwell

10. Mills & Boon

The Oxfam shop bestseller list:

1. Ian Rankin

2. Dan Brown

3. Bernard Cornwell

4. Stephanie Meyer

5. Terry Pratchett

6. Khaled Hosseini

7. Helen Fielding

8. Margaret Atwood

9. James Patterson

10. Jodi Picoult

The top 10 most valuable donated books since May:

1. JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings – first edition, sold for £800

2. Don Giovanni sheet music – first edition, sold for £750

3. Sowerby's Catalogue of Shells – sold for £600

4. Richard Adams, Watership Down – first edition, sold for £500

5. Handbook of Indian Dances - first edition with hand-blocked prints, sold for £500

6. Richmal Crompton, Just William - first edition, sold for £440

7. Sylvia Plath, Ariel – first edition, sold for £350

8. Ian Fleming, From Russia With Love – first edition, sold for £300

9. Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit – second print, sold for £200

10. WE Johns, Biggles in Australia – first edition, sold for £150


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