Monday, November 28, 2016

Books for Christmas 2016: Grooving in the jungle and stuck in the chimney - no boring picture books for Christmas!

A few months ago there was a bit of a hoo-ha when a very well-known music media mogul (who shall remain nameless) declared that he was writing his own picture book, because he found the current picture books 'boring'.

Difficult to know where to start with that one. On the one hand, huge kudos for setting a great example to Dads and reading to your child (just five minutes a day folks, huge impact, remember that). On the other hand, I would hazard a guess that his 'domain expertise' when it comes to the canon of picture books may not be as broad as perhaps his five minute search on the Internet might have turned up.

Anyway, at Mostly Books we are surrounded by incredible works of art and imagination in picture book form, and of course for every book on display there's a score or more that we can recommend and order in the next day. Picture books are some of our most cherished children's books.

Here are our recommends and books we feel have the 'X Factor' for Christmas 2016. They soar across magical worlds, and stimulate young imaginations like nothing else. Boring? You're having a laugh...
A Child of Books - Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Difficult to overstate how wonderful Oliver Jeffers is, with his sparse but incredibly expressive illustration style and huge drama and emotion packed into his illustratins. 'The Day the Crayons Quit' and 'Lost and Found' are modern classics (we recommended 'Crayons' to a local primary schools, and they have used it as the basis as a whole host of writing exercises).

In 'A Child of Books' Jeffers has joined forces with typographical artist Sam Winston to create an inspiring, lyrical tale about the rewards of reading and sharing stories. A little girl sails her raft "across a sea of words" to arrive at the house of a small boy. There she invites him to come away with her on an adventure. Guided by his new friend, the boy unlocks his imagination and a lifetime of magic lies ahead of him...But who will be next? With real wow-factor, it's a wonderful gift for a young child from any book-lover.

Help - Sally Grindley
An interactive version of a classic fairy tale that follows the success of the bestselling 'Shhh!'. Based on 'The Three Little Pigs', 'Help!' physically involves the reader in the narrative and adventure. There's a wolf inside this book and the pigs need to catch him. Can you help them? Don't let him escape! Young children can lift the flaps and peep through the holes as they follow the adventure.

Anyone who has to read to a child should definitely discover Sally Grindley. Her books are almost as fun to read aloud, as to listen to...

Meg in the Jungle - David Walser and Jan Pieńkowski
Meg and Mog are as popular as ever - still illustrated by Jan Pieńkowski, since Helen Nicoll's untimely death in 2012, the stories are now written by David Walser - and they are just as engaging for young readers, with bright, bold shapes and colours.

In this new adventure, Meg, Mog and Owl explore the jungle, meet a friendly elephant, a sinister snake - and a tiger without any stripes! But can Meg's spell help or might things get a little more tricky for our hapless heroes?

Moomin and the Ocean's Song - Tove Jansson
It was a day that really ought to be filled with adventure...Moomintroll and his friends have heard of the legend of the Ocean's Song - held inside a shell, which only its finder can hear. Snufkin takes them to the island of the Hattifatteners but the friends have to turn back to escape a thunderstorm! Will they find the Ocean's Song, and get home in one piece?

This is a brand new picture book adventure based on the beloved Moomin characters by Tove Jansson - perfect for all Moomin fans young and old!

Nuddy Ned's Christmas - Kes Gray and Garry Parsons
Santa's sleigh was on its way just leaving Lanzarote. "Goodness Gracious," Blitzen cried. "Did I just see a botty?"

Yes, it's Nuddy Ned, running riot, completely starkers. Kes Gray does humour brilliantly for young readers (probably best known for his 'Daisy' books, and doing brilliantly with 'Oi Frog' at the moment). At Christmas, Nuddy Ned is desperate to meet Santa Claus, so let's hope there's a few flaps to protect Nud's modesty en route to the North Pole...

Oi Dog - Claire Gray, Kes Gray and Jim Field
Talking of 'Oi Frog', if you haven't already discovered it you must come in and take a look. And then take a look at this hilarious sequel which really will have children rolling around with laughter. After the indignities suffered in the first book, Frog's had enough, he's changing the status quo! Cat insists that there are rules - only mules sit on stools, no one but hares should sit on chairs and however irritating, dogs MUST sit on frogs.

'Well, I'm changing the rules,' said the frog. 'From now on, dogs sit on logs, not frogs!' And everyone else is going to have to sit somewhere else too. Will Cat want to sit on gnats instead of cushy mats? Will spiders like sitting on gliders? Will whales be happy to sit on nails? And, most importantly, where is FROG going to sit?

The Storm Whale in Winter - Benji Davies
It's winter time and Noi's island is covered in a blanket of snow. Even the sea is icing over.

Noi is worried about the little whale he saved last summer: Can he survive the harsh conditions? Little does Noi know that it's the little whale's turn to save him. A magical and touching story about a lasting friendship. A truly beautiful work packing a real emotional punch.

Hugless Douglas and the Great Cake Bake - David Melling
Who can resist Hugless Douglas. The big bear with the big heart can be found making sweet treats for his friends, and just like in his earlier adventures, things are not going entirely to plan...

The honey cakes are taking far too long, and the sheep are getting restless. There is some incredibly naughty behaviour, but the result is that Douglas doesn't have anything to eat. But help is at hand...containing an actual recipe for honey cakes, and David Melling's dynamic and mischievous illustrations, this is another Hugless book to treasure!

Tell Me a Dragon - Jackie Morris
Everyone has their very own dragon, and this book describes many different varieties of the beast, showing in words and stunning pictures exactly why their owners find them so entrancing. They range from a dragon as big as a village to a tiny dragon with whisper-thin wings, from a snaggle-toothed dragon to a sea-dragon which races dolphins on the waves - ending in a page inhabited by every dragon in the book!
Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa - Valerie Thomas
Korky Paul spent a magical afternoon in the Mostly Books garden earlier this year, so we were very excited to see this fabulously festive story with a spectacular pop-up ending! Winnie is going to be making her television debut early in 2017, so it's going to be a big year coming up for Winnie and and her long-suffering cat Wilbur...

When Winnie and Wilbur write their letters to Santa they never imagine that they are actually going to meet him on Christmas Eve! After the crisis of Santa getting stuck in their chimney, Winnie and Wilbur join him on his sleigh in a desperate race against time to make sure children everywhere wake up to stockings filled with presents on Christmas morning. What a magical memorable night! It's a fun and festive Winnie and Wilbur adventure!

Magnificent Creatures - Sue Tarsky
Anna Wright's stunning introduction to non-fiction and the natural world is enlivened by her gorgeously sophisticated and fun art style which mixes pen and ink, watercolour and fabric collage.

Find out what 'pronking' is and how one jellyfish can become two in the humorous descriptions. Both educational and beautiful Anna's unique picture book shows the character of these animals beyond their familiar forms.

Ollie's Christmas Reindeer - Nicola Killen
When a jingling sound wakes her from her sleep, a little girl's dreams come true when she meets a lost reindeer in the forest. Setting off on a magical adventure together it soon becomes a Christmas never to forget.

Nicola Killen's evocative illustrations are sure to enchant in this beautiful book with die cut pages, foil and flashes of festive red colour.
The Darkest Dark - Chris Hadfield and The Fan Brothers
After Buzz Aldrin, possibly the famous astronaut in the world is Commander Chris Hadfield, he of the guitar-playing exploits on the International Space Station, and regular commentator on space and science. This is his first picture book, and is based on the fact that Chris, when he was very young, was afraid of the dark.

It's a poignant story of a young boy who dreams of wanting to be an astronaut. And he's very busy; saving the planet from aliens is much more important than taking baths or going to bed. Because at bedtime the worst sort of alien appears - darkness. But when Chris watches the first televised moon landing, he discovers that there is a dark out in Space that is much darker than he's used to. It's the darkest dark ever, and he realises that the unknown can be ...exciting! 

Blue Penguin - Peter Horacek 
A heart-warming fable about a friendship and belonging from the award-winning illustrator Petr Horacek. "I feel just like a penguin," says Blue Penguin. "But you're not like us," said the other penguins and they left him all alone.

Poor Blue Penguin. Will he be able to convince the other penguins he is one of them after all? A moving and beautifully illustrated story from Petr Horacek, an illustrator described by the Washington Post as "the thinking tot's Eric Carle".

Coming Home - Michael Morpurgo
Yes, we know this is the story that the Waitrose ad is based upon, but the picture book is so-o-o much better! 

This is the story of the little robin's migration, as he endeavours to be home for Christmas. Few people do animal stories as well as Morpurgo, and this has all the makings of a modern classic.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Books for Christmas 2016 - Magic, Murder and Clover Moon - middle grade mayhem for Christmas

This has definitely been the year of 'middle-grade', awesome stories for those 9+ confident readers who devour great books, but aren't quite ready for the gritty reality of teen titles. For most of us, what we're talking about here are "proper children's books" - and every year we're on the lookout for new classics to take their place alongside The Secret Garden and Swallows and Amazons, Stormbreaker and Skulduggery Pleasant.

Technology's relentless march seems to threaten reading for pleasure at every turn, and yet access to original stories and the highest quality books just for the fun of it has never been more urgent. Stories help all of us, and young people in particular, to navigate an increasingly complex and bewildering world. We grown-ups hold the key to children's reading, because our sharing of books put down deep roots of literacy and a love of stories is born. Just five minutes of reading a day with your child is powerful and transformative.

The world of middle-grade is about as competitive as it gets in publishing, but the upshot is that some of our best books anywhere in the world can be found right here. And here are our picks for Christmas. Let's go!

Cogheart - Peter Bunzl
When 13-year-old Lily's inventor father vanishes after a Zeppelin crash, Lily is determined to hunt down the truth behind his disappearance, helped by Robert, the local clockmaker's son, and her wily mechanical fox Malkin. But shadowy figures are closing in and treachery lurks among the smoky spires of London - along with a life-changing secret.

Be prepared to be swept away by airships and flabbergasted by dastardly plots in this extraordinary and wildly imaginative debut, bursting with invention and adventure.

A Most Magical Girl - Karen Foxlee
Magical machines, wizards, witches, mysterious underworlds, a race against time - and two most magical girls. Annabel Grey has been brought up to be a very proper Victorian young lady. But being 'proper' isn't always easy - especially when you can sometimes see marvellous (as well as terrifying) things in puddles.

But parlour tricks such as these are nothing compared to the world that Annabel is about to enter. After the rather sudden departure of her mother, Annabel is sent to live with her aunts. They claim to be Shoreditch witches, and from a very old family line of them too. They're keen to introduce Annabel to their world of transformation, potions and flying broomsticks (which seem to have strong personalities of their own) but are horrified when Annabel announces not only does she not know any magic, young ladies shouldn't believe in such things.

This is an original, sparkling and enchanting story - full of dark magic, complex plot,humour and adventure. Definitely one to curl up with in front of something warm!

Beetle Boy - MG Leonard
One of our favourite books of the year, this tale of Darkus, his missing Dad, and a mystery for which beetles hold the key is both original and totally absorbing.

Darkus is miserable. His dad has disappeared, and now he is living next door to the most disgusting neighbours ever. A giant beetle called Baxter comes to his rescue. But can the two solve the mystery of his dad's disappearance, especially when links emerge to cruel Lucretia Cutter and her penchant for beetle jewellery? A coffee-mug mountain, home to a million insects, could provide the answer - if Darkus and Baxter are brave enough to find it...

"...a fizzing, delightful debut" - Piers Torbay

Mistletoe and Murder - Robin Stevens
Every so often a series of books comes out which become the new 'must read' amongst children, and the Murder Most Unladylike series is a definite candidate, with children eagerly coming in to get the latest book. At its heart is the pairing of Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, two 1930s schoolgirls from very different backgrounds who develop an unlikely bond - and a penchant for solving murderous crimes.

In the latest story 'Mistletoe and Murder', Daisy and Hazel are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms - but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College. Three nights before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. But was it an accident. Before long, the girls are up to their necks in intrigue and mystery, irritating grown-ups and very real danger. This is a must for fans - of which we know loads!

Murder in Midwinter - Fleur Hitchcock
Talking of superb murder mysteries for children, we love this from children's author (and friend of Mostly Books) Fleur Hitchcock. Sat on the top of a bus days before Christmas, Maya sees a couple arguing violently in the middle of a crowded Regent Street. They see her watching, she looks away, and the woman disappears. Maya goes to the police, who shrug and send her away.

Then a body turns up...Now convinced she is a vital witness to a crime, the police send Maya into hiding in rural Wales. She resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery. Then the snow comes and no one can get out. But what if someone can still get in? Thrilling and twisting, and utterly satisfying - don't miss Fleur's other book out in paperback 'Bus Stop Baby' as well.

Clover Moon - Jacqueline Wilson
With over a hundred books behind her, and her status as a national hero of children's reading, Jacqueline Wilson's place in literature's pantheon is assured - and yet she still continues to write powerful novels, and in 'Clover Moon' introduces us to a brave new heroine to fall in love with.

Clover Moon's imagination is her best escape from a life of hardship in poverty-stricken Victorian London. When tragedy plunges her into a world of grief, Clover realizes that everything she loved about the place she called home is gone. Clover hears of a place she could run to, but where will she find the courage - and the chance - to break free? 

Finding Black Beauty - Lou Kuenzler
Told from the point of view of a young girl who masquerades as a boy in order to become a groom, this is the other side of the classic horse story Black Beauty.

Aspiring groom Jo comes to love Beauty and when they are separated she travels to London to find him - on the way solving the mystery of her long-lost mother. A sweeping tale of a young girl and her love for a horse, and the circumstances that divide them - in a wonderful gifty hardback edition.

Henry and the Guardians of the Lost - Jenny Nimmo
Jenny Nimmo's first book - The Snow Spider - was published in 1986, (this year available in a special - and sparkly - 30th anniversary edition!) but we've gone for the Charlie Bone author's latest fantasy offering 'Henry and the Guardians of the Lost'.

A harmless-looking yellow letter arrives at Henry's home, and within 10 minutes of the devastating news it contains, Henry is on the road - because he has a secret, and powerful forces are after him to get it. Desperate, his only hope is the protection of the Guardians of the Lost. Fast-paced, wildly imaginative - and a great new series.

Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor - Rick Riordan
Thor's hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon - the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn't just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can't retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn.

Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer's return is the gods' worst enemy, Loki - and the price he wants is very high...

The Magnus Chase novels are doing for norse mythology what Percy Jackson did for the Greeks...

The Return of the Young Prince - A.G. Roemmers
The 'Little Prince' eventually became the young prince, and no longer content with his tiny planet, he sets off once again to explore the universe. And so begins another remarkable journey into the secrets and joys of living a meaningful life...

There have been many sequels to 'classic' children's books in recent years (some more successful than others). The Little Prince is such a cherished classic that we fear too many people will place too many expectations on this sequel, and instead miss a wonderful story in its own right, which needs to be approach with an open mind...and heart! As with the original, this is a fable about choosing to live a fulfilling life, and we think Antoine de St Exupéry would have approved.

The Song from Somewhere Else - AF Harrold and Levi Pinfold
We are huge fans of AF Harrold at Mostly Books, and not (just) because his beard is one that makes Philip Ardagh redouble his efforts. Harrold brings a poet's eye for language with a special talent for storytelling, and a surprising amount of edginess that really pulls you into the story.

Harrold is also blessed with working with some wonderful illustrators ('The Imaginary' featured Emily Gravett) and this is a sublime partnership with Levi Pinfold, whose illustrations add powerfully to the story, one of friendship, compassion and courage in the face of danger.

When Nick Underbridge rescues Frank from bullies one afternoon, she's not sure what to think. After all, no one likes Nick. He's big, he's weird and he smells - or so everyone in Frank's class thinks. And yet, there's something nice about Nick's house. There's strange music playing there, and it feels light and good and makes Frank feel happy for the first time in forever. But there's more to Nick, and to his house, than meets the eye, and soon Frank realises she isn't the only one keeping secrets.

The Song of Seven - Tonke Dragt
Deep in the woods, in a crooked house full of stairs, a young boy is kept prisoner by his uncle. He cannot meet other children, or have any friends. He holds the key to a secret.

Frans the schoolteacher, on the other hand, invents incredible stories of perilous deeds, shipwrecks, desert islands, and haunted castles to entertain his pupils, in which he is the hero. Then one stormy evening, a mysterious letter blows onto his doormat, summoning him to a meeting. Suddenly, Frans is on a real-life mission, one in which he will learn the secret of the Seven Ways, find seven allies and make a fearsome enemy...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Books for Christmas 2016 - across courts, circuses, time and space - top teen and YA reads for Christmas

Ah Christmas! But wait - you need to buy a gift for a teenager, and you'd love to get him or her a book? What do they read? What would they like?

Relax, we've got you covered. Perhaps a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat adventure? Or a beautifully written fantasy novel filled with magic. Whether you are buying for a teen chomping at the bit to become an adult, or someone who still is really a child at Christmas - just pop into the shop and ask.

We've got some great titles to get teens reading - here's our pick for Christmas!

Crooked Kingdom - Leigh Bardugo
Imogen’s book of the year and the sequel to Six of Crows, this carries on the story of Kaz Brekker and his gang. After pulling off a seemingly impossible heist in the notorious Ice Court, criminal prodigy Kaz feels unstoppable. But life is about to take a dangerous turn - and with friends who are among the deadliest outcasts in Ketterdam city, Kaz is going to need more than luck to survive in this unforgiving underworld. The city closes in on them, with old enemies and new alike trying to hunt them down and stop them all, the cost of freedom is high in the sequel- and the cost of survival may be even higher.  With more twist and turns than the last book, as well as action, schemes and every single thing going wrong, it will have you on the edge of your seat and guessing right up until the last moment.

Beck - Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff
Both harrowing and life-affirming, the final novel from Carnegie Medal-winning author Mal Peet is the sweeping coming-of-age adventure of a mixed race boy transported to North America.

Born from a street liaison between a poor young woman and an African soldier in the 1900s, Beck is soon orphaned and sent to the Catholic Brothers in Canada. Shipped to work on a farm, his escape takes him across the continent in a search for belonging. Enduring abuse and many hardships, Beck has times of comfort and encouragement, eventually finding Grace, the woman with whom he can finally forge his life and shape his destiny as a young man. A picaresque novel set during the Depression as experienced by a young black man, it depicts great pain but has a truly uplifting, inspiring and hopeful conclusion with lessons for us today.

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
This is a new, redesigned  version of The Night Circus, specially produced for teenagers and YA readers, with extras in the back for any lover of the book and of magic.

The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Against the grey sky the towering tents are striped black and white. A sign hanging upon iron gates reads: Opens at Nightfall Closes at Dawn. As dusk shifts to twilight, tiny lights begin to flicker all over the tents, as though the whole circus is covered in fireflies. When the tents are aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign lights up: Le Cirque des Reves.
The Circus of Dreams. The gates shudder and unlock, seemingly by their own volition. They swing outward, inviting the crowd inside...

But the circus is not as we imagine it to be - it is transformed in this novel, where two magicians are tied together in a challenge. The circus is their creation and their stage, and the book is beautiful and dreamlike, the writing just as stunning as the story itself.

Lydia - Natasha Farrant
A spirited, witty and fresh reimagining of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice! Lydia is the youngest Bennet sister and she's sick of country life - instead of sewing and reading, she longs for adventure. When a red-coated garrison arrives in Merryton, Lydia's life turns upside down. As she falls for dashing Wickham, she's swept into a whirlwind social circle and deposited in a seaside town, Brighton.

Sea-bathing, promenades and scandal await - and a pair of intriguing siblings. Can Lydia find out what she really wants - and can she get it? This is a fantastic idea, brilliantly realised. Lydia is perhaps the most appealing character for teens in Pride and Prejudice - but of course, nothing is ever that simple when you are young, head strong and imagine yourself to be in love...

Maze Runner: The Fever Code - James Dashner
The world has ended: the earth is scorched, and fever rages through the population. Out of the chaos, a boy emerges with the power to change everything: Thomas. This is the start of his story...

This is the second prequel to the original 'Maze Runner' trilogy, and there's plenty in here to satisfy fans, providing key pieces of the puzzle as to how the 'Maze' came to be built. And we have signed editions to make it an extra special gift.

Under Rose Tainted Skies - Louise Gornall
Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother. For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a 'normal' girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths...

Full of twists, snark and unexpected humour, whilst this may be difficult reading for anyone who has experienced a social anxiety disorder, it's nevertheless a fantastic achievement and an uplifting, entrancing story.

Alpha: Abidjan to Gare du Nord - Bessora and Barroux
Alpha Coulibaly is just one of millions on the move, at the mercy of people traffickers, endlessly frustrated, endangered and exploited as he attempts to rejoin his family, already in Europe. With a visa, Alpha's journey would take a matter of hours; without one he is adrift for eighteen months. Along the way he meets an unforgettable cast of characters, each one giving another human face to the crisis.

The book is presented in graphic novel format, with artwork created in cheap felt-tip pen and wash, materials Alpha himself might be able to access. A powerful and important book.

Reckless 3: The Golden Yarn - Cornelia Funke
This is the third book in the thrilling adventure series 'Reckless' from German children's author Cornelia Funke, author of 'Inkheart'. As you might expect, there is violence, magic and the darkest of dark fairy tale at its heart - with amazing writing, and a story you really can't put down. The first two books have been re-issued with updated artwork as well.

After a perilous encounter with an Alder Elf - an immortal, trick-turning creature to whom he owes a great debt - Jacob must journey back into the enchanted Mirrorworld once again. Together with Fox, his beautiful shapeshifting friend, Jacob has no choice but to follow his brother on the trail of the Dark Fairy, who has fled deep into the East: to a land of folklore, Cossacks, spies, time-eating witches and flying carpets. But what exactly is the Dark One running from? Could it be the same danger that threatens Jacob and Fox? 

Stealing Snow - Danielle Paige
Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn't belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door - and Snow knows that she has to leave.

Channeling the spirit of Maleficent and Frozen, this is a great twist on 'Snow Queen' for YA readers, as Snow discovers where she is from, and the choices she has to make in a strange, icy land...

Our Chemical Hearts - Krystal Sutherland
This is a bittersweet, funny, sad story of friendship, first love, and heartache, all rolled into one spellbinding debut tale - think John Green, Rainbow Rowell and E. Lockhart.

Henry Page, a hopeless romantic and film buff, is smitten as soon as Grace Town walks into his classroom. But Grace - who looks in need of a good bath, is dressed in guy's clothing, and walks with a cane - is unlike any leading lady he's ever obsessed over. And when Henry and Grace are both offered positions as editors of their high school newspaper, the mystery of Grace begins to captivate him.

Why does she visit a graveyard every afternoon? What secret does she keep locked away in her bedroom? Above all, why is Grace Town so deeply sad? Before he knows it, Henry is sure that he is the one to unlock her happiness. But Grace is capricious, changeable, infuriating, and, above all, damaged. Henry will need to be the strongest he has ever been to survive this particular love story.

The Diabolic - SJ Kincaid
This is a brilliant, imaginative book packed with twists, turns, and viciously vibrant characters - and not only that, it comes with two different editions so there will always be a surprise what you get. 

It's the story of Nemesis, a Diabolic. She was made to protect Sidonia. So when Sionia's life is in danger, Nemesis goes in her place to meet their power hungry emperor at his Galactic court. But plans have been in motion for longer than anyone realised, and there is another reason all the heirs have been gathered together in one place. Sidonia was meant to be little more than a hostage to keep her father’s rebellion in line - or so they all thought.

Nemesis must protect her real identity while protecting those that she has learnt to care about, at the same time as gaining revenge on those that have hurt her. But the humans around her just as dangerous as Nemesis herself, and her humanity that might be the only thing that keeps her safe...

Girl Online: Going Solo - Zoe Sugg
This is book three of the wildly bestselling series from blogging superstar Zoella - and we have signed copies sure to thrill any fans you are buying gifts for!

I’ll be home for Christmas
The UK's top teen authors join together in this collection of new stories and poems on the theme of home. Contributors include: Holly BourneSita BrahmachariKevin BrooksMelvin BurgessCat ClarkeJulie MayhewNon PrattMarcus Sedgwick and Lisa Williamson - and others too.

£1 from the sale of every book will be donated to Crisis, the national homelessness charity.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Books for Christmas 2016: Five Splash out in the Bookshop - subversive gift and humour for (not quite) grown-ups

It may seem a strange thing to confess, but at this time of the year we often get asked for book recommendations for 'people who don't read'. This may seem slightly paradoxical, but it's actually code for 'people who don't read a lot, probably not fiction, but I love books, and I really, really want to buy them a book'.

And of course - we can help.

This time of the year there are some innovative and imaginative books which work brilliantly as gifts, either because they are 'dip-in-and-outable' (that's an actual bookselling term), or they are packed full of facts, or puzzles - or just plain funny.

Humour books are perhaps the trickiest of titles to recommend as gifts. After all, a book says as much about you as it does for the person you are buying for. So here at Mostly Books, we want to help you walk that fine line between big smiles and strange looks by offering up our favourite funny books around this Christmas. And let's face it, after the year we've all had, we could do with a chuckle...

If last year was the year of the Ladybird spoof title, this year it's the Famous Five parodies. There are five titles, all written as a homage to Enid Blyton's originals (by ex-bookseller and author Bruno Vincent), with titles like 'Five Go Parenting' and 'Five Go Gluten Free'. Join Julian, George, Dick, Anne and Timmy the dog as they are thrust into the dilemmas of contemporary life with their 1950s morality intact.

Our pick is 'Five on Brexit Island'. If you've fallen out with someone over politics this year, this might just be the book to start a rapprochement...

Following on from the phenomenon that was the Ladybird spoof titles last year, this year they're back with titles such as 'the Ladybird Book of the Meeting' and 'The Ladybird Book of the Zombie Apocalypse' ("note: during a zombie apocalypse the police will be busy, and Wi-Fi might be patchy").

Brilliantly done, we reckon the 'Ladybird Book of the Sickie' is this year's stand out title. Remember: imaginary food poisoning is a great reason to be off work. It lasts for a short time, and no-one likes to hear about toilet details...

Whether this year's political developments have left you depressed, euphoric or just plain baffled, relive the rollercoaster ride of 2016 via the Private Eye Annual 2016. Top of our 'go on, take a sneaky look whilst browsing in the bookshop' titles, we actively encourage you to do this next time you're in.

All your favourites are here: Poetry Corner, Celeb, Nursery Times. And the year in 'Private Eye Lookalikes' is worth the entrance fee alone...

Last year, we loved Ranjit Bolt's collection of limericks, 'A Lion Was Learning' and this year Michael Palin - who has penned limericks privately for years - has decided to publish his favourites in a gem of a book entitled 'A Sackful of Limericks' (the ex-Python star is decent enough to admit his eye is firmly on the Christmas market in the extremely funny foreward, bemoaning the fact that none of the Christmas cracker companies had responded to his phonecalls, so he was forced to publish them himself).

The only thing that could make this book better would be copies signed by the great man himself - and we are delighted to say we have signed copies in the shop. Email us to reserve a copy...

An author we know well - and who has been to Abingdon several times - is writer Mark Forsyth, whose previous books such the Etymologicon have been previous Christmas bestsellers. So it's very appropriate that his latest book - 'A Christmas Cornicopia' - is again obsessed with origins, only this time, the origins of many of our Christmas traditions that often have the most bizarre and troubling beginnings.

For example, villagers would often go around guizing (basically "wassailing in masks") and anyone engaged in guizing was known as a 'guizer' (short for disguising) - and that's where we get our Cockney term 'geezer' from. This is full of 'well I never knew that' moments and a great gift. We have signed copies as well - whilst stocks last.

If you are buying for someone who a) loves little-known facts about famous people but b) wouldn't appreciate a Christmas theme, then we thoroughly recommend 'Rest In Pieces', a macabre-sounding and curious-looking book about the curious fates of famous corpses by Bess Lovejoy. It features the strange and sometimes wildly bizarre tales of what happened to a huge range of famous people - after they were dead.

From the theft of Haydn's skull (that took 150 years to solve and remedy), what the CIA did with Che Guevara's corpse and the frankly weird last request of utilitarian Jeremy Bentham, it all goes to show that death really can be the start of the next great adventure...

Talking of secret service personnel (strictly speaking, the CIA only advised the Bolivian government about Che), have you got what it takes to join GCHQ? Find out in what we feel will be the sleeper hit of Christmas, the 'GCHQ Puzzle Book'. Apparently (according to the blurb on the back of the book) British cyber-spies 'love a good puzzle'. Whether they're recruiting new staff, challenging each other to the toughest Christmas quizzes and treasure hunts imaginable, or engaging in disinformation with the popular press, puzzles are at the heart of what GCHQ does. Now they're opening up their archives of decades' worth of codes, puzzles and challenges for everyone to try.

A must-have for anyone in the family who loves puzzles - or fancies themselves as a cyber-sleuth!

If Lords and The Oval are more up your street than Cheltenham and Bletchley Park, then the 'Test Match Special Quiz Book' contains over 3,000 questions from the commentary box.

Pit your wits against Aggers, Tuffers, Boycs and Johnners - and try not to get caught out!

To some people, mention the following words "Viking, Fisher, German Bight" and their eyes will glaze over, and a happy smile will descend upon their face...

Yes, there can be nothing more comforting or British than 'The Shipping Forecast' on the BBC, and this beautiful little miscellany by Nic Compton tells the stories, people, poetry and imaginations that have been inspired across the globe by this most British of institutions - as well as providing a very real service for the nation's seafarers who might fall prey to storms and gales.

And finally, if you long for Britain that has long since disappeared, we have one final recommendation for you - this year's 'Giles Collection 2017'. A whole generation had their political awareness aroused by Giles in the 60s and 70s, and Giles himself was voted the 'best cartoonist of the 20th century'. This year's collection celebrates his most awesome creation, the curmudgeonly Grandma, as she battles power cuts, dockers strikes, and underperforming jockeys in the 3.30 at Haydock. A true legend.

For more inspiration, take a look at last year's recommendations on a similar theme - and here are the best of the rest:
  • The Best of Matt - in our opinion, the worthy successor to Giles in the 21st century.
  • Haynes Explains - the creators of 'The Haynes Manuals' have produced these little guides to explain complex aspects of life, such as Babies, Marriage, Pensioners and Teenagers
  • Speaking In Tongues - Ella Frances Sanders follow up her sublime 'Lost In Translation' with more untranslatable expressions from around the world.
  • The Brexshit Book - if you are having difficulty coming to terms with Brexit, lining up behind Farage, Johnson et al in 'turning your frown upside down' and 'making the best of it', this book may help. Or not. Happy Christmas, eh?