Thursday, March 26, 2015

The winner of the UK YA Book Prize is...

This week the winner of the UK's first ever Young Adult (YA) Prize was announced - so we thought it was a good idea to catch up with our newly-established YA Book Group, led by our own Imogen Hargreaves, recently shortlisted for 'Young Bookseller of the Year'...

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So at the beginning of February, we started up the YA book group in the shop, with the aim to read a few of the shortlisted books on the YA book prize this year.

The winner was announced last week, so we thought it was a perfect time to talk about the book group and YA books.

So the three books we, as a book group looked at were 'Half Bad' by Sally Green, 'Say Her Name' by James Dawson and 'Ghosts of Heaven' by Marcus Sedgwick.

'Half Bad' was a wonderful book to talk about. There were only the three of us the first week, but we had a long conversation about good and evil, and the way we view them both. What is good, and is anyone actually completely 'good'? If they believe they are doing the right thing, does that make them good? Questions, really, that don't have answers, but we tried to find them anyway. (and we are all not-so-patiently waiting to read Half Wild, published this week).

'Say Her Name' was great fun as well. It creeped us all out enough that we didn't even want a water jug on the table, thinking a hand would suddenly reach out of it towards us. This was also the week we found out we are all Harry Potter fans, so I guess that's a plus as well!

Finally, we read 'Ghosts of Heaven', and I think this was the one we all thought might win. It was a brilliant book, one that had something for each of us. Divided into four parts, this book also divided us; which parts we liked, which part was the most effective, and what on earth the ending meant. Also, we all read it in different orders so each of us had a different view on it.

But none of these were the eventual winner. It was, in fact, a book I had read a week earlier. 'Only Ever Yours' is a book about a terrifying future, where girls are genetically made to be perfect and beautiful; because girls are not people. They are objects. Only Every Yours is a book I would definitely recommend to older teenagers and adults; but probably not one we will not be reading with the younger teens that are members of the book group.

So that's the past three weeks: what about the future?

Well, we still have space if you are interested in coming along and being a part of the group (Does bribery work? If anyone else wants to join, I might start buying biscuits. Because what's better to start a Saturday than books and biscuits?)

On Saturday March 28 we are taking a step away from the Book Prize and looking at a historical novel called 'Black Dove, White Raven', by Elizabeth Wein (the author of Carnegie-shortlisted 'Code Name Verity'), and on the April 18 we are looking at a fantasy book called The Young Elites by Marie Lu.

Why, I hear you cry, should I join this book group? Well, it will get you to read different things, and it might allow you to discover your next favourite author. And you get 15% off any books we read, and cheaper books is always a plus.

Monday, March 09, 2015

See Inside Your Head!

This year's Abingdon-on-Thames Science Festival ATOM! takes place between March 18 - 21. As part of the festival, we're excited to host an inspiring event for all the family at Abingdon's Guildhall entitled 'See Inside Your Head' on Saturday, March 21 at 1.30pm.

Take a tour through your brain! Science writer Alex Frith explains the intricacies of the human brain. From the simple science of synapses to more complex brain functions such as how memories are stored, discover the world of neurological science in this informative, fun and interactive event that makes a complex subject easy for inquisitive minds to understand.


Neuroscientists Chris and Uta Frith, expert consultants on the book, will also be on hand to answer questions about how the brain works, and describe what brain discoveries remain for the next generation to find…

Tickets cost £4 per person, and will be ideal for ages 5-11. Tickets are on sale at Mostly Books, and we expect demand to be strong, so please email us to reserve tickets as soon as you can!

This year ATOM! will coincide with the partial solar eclipse across the UK on Friday 20 March. There will be loads of inspiring science events and it all takes place as part of the Oxfordshire Science Festival.


It’s a great chance to see live demonstrations, hear about cutting-edge research  - and provide inspiration for young and old in one of the country’s science hotspots. Find out more on the official website here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Detectives, Desperados and Dr No: Caroline Lawrence at the Abingdon Joint Author event 2015

Yesterday nearly 600 children from ten Abingdon schools were inspired by tales of Greek heroes, locked-room mysteries and sharp-shooting Wild West cowboys...

The annual Abingdon joint-author event took place at Abingdon School's Amey Theatre with bestselling children's author Caroline Lawrence. The event is a bit of an Abingdon institution, and previous authors have included Alan GibbonsMarcus SedgwickJulia Golding and The Two Steves

Caroline enthralled the audience with tantalising mysteries to solve and how she came to write her own books. She also shared some top screenwriting secrets and powerful tips on how to write compelling stories that work in any medium, from books to films.

Caroline is best-known as a writer of some of our best-loved historical mystery stories. She has a reputation for distilling her passion for art, history, language and travel into cracking mysteries for children. She published her first book, The Thieves of Ostia, in 2001 and there are now seventeen books in the series. It was also filmed as a highly successful children's series for the BBC.
Her latest series, the P.K. Pinkerton Mysteries, are set in Virginia City, a Nevada town that grew up in the years after the California Gold Rush. Whatever images are conjured up by the phrase 'The Wild West' you would have found them in Virginia City - so when 12 year Old P.K. Pinkerton sets herself up as a Private Investigator she's in one of the most wild, unruly, unholy and downright dangerous places in America...

Caroline explained that she was not allowed to bring her six-shooter (or possibly a seven-shooter) in to show the children (something to do with health and safety) but she did display slides of various artifacts from the period, including something called a spittoon that - if you really want to know more about, you can go visit Caroline's website.
Caroline signed copies of her books afterwards...
...as well as posing for photos of one of her infamous roman artifacts - a sponge on a stick.
Everyone had a chance to guess *exactly* what this might have been used for in Roman times, but we'll give you a clue: it wasn't for brushing your teeth...

Naturally we took the opportunity to find out more about the California-born author who we now happily claim as our own...


Five Questions with...Caroline Lawrence's Writing Life
1.    What are you working on at the moment?
Well, it's very exciting. I'm about to sign a four-book deal for a new series called 'Seekers' set in Roman Britain. It involves five children, and it takes place in 94 AD (towards the end of the reign of the emperor Domitian). The first book is called 'Escape from Rome' and they will be investigating all kinds of mysteries!

2.    What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?
Oh wow, I've got lots of writing tips! But only one? OK - read your work out loud as a form of self-editing. You've got to know how your words sound when read out.

3.    What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?
The best thing is the children! I love writing for children, and I'm basically a permanent 11 year old. I love the response you get from children, and when they give you feedback on your books. The worst thing? I really can't think of anything (when I suggest some authors hate the fact that kids read in a day what took a year to write, she exclaims "No, I love that! We need more children reading like that!")

4.    Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing or snack essential before you can start work?
Not really, but it's always a challenge to stay off the Internet. I'm training myself to go into a different room or work on a different machine. But I'm not like Shakespeare (in 'Shakespeare in Love') where I have to turn around three times and spit on my hands. The other challenge I have when writing is not to start snacking!

5.   What was your biggest breakthrough?
When I was introduced to a man called John Truby who is a script doctor. He has something called the 22 steps (or beats) to telling a powerful story. Seven of these are absolutely key. and once I knew these, I have been guided by them in all of the books I've written.

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Thanks very much to Caroline, and on a personal note - having seen it many times on the Internet - I feel incredible privileged to have been photographed with her and the famous sponge stick!