Book Awards: A Challenge Completed

I was delighted this morning when I discovered that Paperboy by Christopher Fowler had won the inaugral Green Carnation Prize.

It’s a lovely book more than worthy of prizes and attention.

And it brought me up to the total of ten books read and written about that I needed to complete the Book Awards IV Reading Challenge.

I’ve been rather lackadaisical in my approach to reading challenges this year. Signing up and making book lists was lovely, but I’ve read the books that called and they weren’t always the books on the lists or books that fitted the challenges I’d signed up for.

I’ll wind up a few more before the year ends, but a few I’m afraid have fallen by the wayside. I’m not going to name names, I’m just going to say that I mean no disrespect to the hosts and that I do appreciate all of the thought and hard work that they put in.

But back to the one I have finished – here are the books:

  1.  The Tin-kin by Eleanor Thom (Saltire First Novel Award) 
  2.  The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips (Barnes & Noble Discover Prize)
  3. Paperboy by Christopher Fowler (Green Carnation)
  4. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (SIBA Book Award)
  5. Haweswater by Sarah Hall (Commonwealth Writers’ Award)
  6. Echoes From The Dead by Johan Theorin (CWA New Blood Dagger)
  7. After The Fire, a Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld (John Llewelyn Rhys Prize)
  8. I Coriander by Sally Gardner (Nestlé Smarties Book Award)
  9. The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini (Orange Award for New Writers)
  10. Just Like Tomorrow by Faïza Guène (Scott Moncrieff Prize)

Some I picked from prize lists, some I read and they just happened to have awards and, maybe best of all, two I read and loved and then they won awards.

And now I’m off to read my final book for another challenge …

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

I don’t think that the world really needs another synopsis, another review of Garden Spells. There are dozens of them out there.

So I’ll just say that, for me, it was the literary equivalent of a lemon meringue pie. Light and sweet, with just enough sharpness to balance the sugar.

I like it, and I understand why others love it, but it’s not my favourite.

I favour the lemon over the meringue.

And I think that the nicest lemon dessert I’ve tasted was a lemon soufflé in a dark chocolate shell …

Once Upon a Time

“Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time IV criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.”

I couldn’t possibly  say no. It feels like I’ve been waiting for this challenge, pondering books for ever.

And here are the books:

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

“After twenty years of self-effacement as a maiden aunt, she decides to break free and moves to a small Bedfordshire village. Here, happy and unfettered, she enjoys her new existence nagged only by the sense of a secret she has yet to discover. That secret – and her vocation – is witchcraft, and with her cat and a pact with the Devil, Lolly Willowes is finally free.”

Witchcraft may suggest another, autumnal challenge, but this definitely feels like a magical springtime book.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

“Welcome to Bascom, North Carolina, where it seems that everyone has a story to tell about the Waverley women. The house that’s been in the family for generations, the walled garden that mysteriously blooms year round, the rumours of dangerous loves and tragic passions. Every Waverley woman is somehow touched by magic.”

I have heard so much good about this book, and I think that this is its time.

I Coriander by Sally Gardner

“Her idyllic childhood ends when her mother dies and her father goes away, leaving Coriander with her stepmother, a widow who is in cahoots with a fundamentalist Puritan preacher. She is shut away in a chest and left to die, but emerges into the fairy world from which her mother came, and where time has no meaning. When she returns, charged with a task that will transform her life.”

This has been waiting for me in the library for a while. Another book that has found its time.

The Mermaid’s Child by Jo Baker

“Growing up motherless in an isolated community, Malin Reed has always been made to feel different from everybody else. The fact that, according to Malin’s father, the absent mother was actually a mermaid only makes matters worse. When Malin’s father dies, leaving behind nothing but his stories, Malin’s choice at last becomes clear: stay, and never feel at home, or leave and go in search of mermaids and the fantastical inheritance that, up to now, has always seemed completely out of reach.”

I live by the sea, so there had to be a mermaid somewhere.

Iron & Gold by Hilda Vaughan

“Lured from her underwater home, to become a farmer’s wife in the Brecon Beacons, the fairy bride discovers that both her difference and her acquired familiarity breed marital breakdown and tragedy.”

I’ve been promising myself this book for this challenge for ages.

Five wonderful books. What could be better?

Library Loot

Both my libraries have been closed for four days over the bank holiday weekend and I was beginning to get withdrwal symptoms.

But I popped in after work today and borrowed three books, so I’m back on an even keel now!

Here they are


Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falones

“14th-century Spain, the medieval city of Barcelona is enjoying a golden age of prosperity. Its humblest inhabitants are building, stone by stone, a magnificent church to overlook their harbour. This is the Cathedral of the Sea: a church to be built for the people by the people. In its shadow, Arnau, a young serf on the run from his feudal lord, struggles to earn his freedom. After famine, plague and thwarted love, Arnau’s fortunes begin to turn when King Pedro makes him a baron as a reward for his courage in battle. But he is also forced to marry Eleonor, a ward of the King whom he does not love. His newfound status excites jealousy from his friends who plot his downfall with devastating consequences. Arnau’s journey from slave to nobleman is the story of a struggle between good and evil that will turn Church against State and brother against brother… “

I really don’t have the time for another big book but I couldn’t leave this one behind. I’ve looked at it in bookshops and it looks like it could be wonderful but it could be hard work. So I’m going to give it a try and of I like it I’ll probably get a copy of my own and if I don’t it’ll be going back to the library pretty quickly.


Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

“Welcome to Bascomb, North Carolina, where it seems that where it seems everyone has a story to tell about the Waverley women. The old house that’s been in the family for generations, the walled garden that mysteriously blooms year round, the rumors and innuendoes of dangerous loves and tragic passions. Eccentric, reclusive, or renegade, there’s not a
one that wasn’t somehow touched by magic. As the town’s successful caterer, Claire has always clung closely to the Waverleys’ roots in their enchanted soil, tending the family garden from which she makes her much sought-after delicacies. She has everything she thinks she needs – until one day she finds a vine of ivy creeping into her garden and knows that everything is about to change. Then her prodigal sister Sydney arrives with her five-year-old daughter and a dark secret she hopes to keep well hidden. And suddenly Claire’s carefully tended life is about to run gloriously out of control.”

I’ve read lots of positive reports about this book so when it turned up on the shelves I decided to give it a try.


Curtain Call: 101 Portraits In Verse edited by Hugo Williams

“In this collection, poets provide portraits of their fellow performers on the human stage, in homage and in satire. Personalities featured include Elvis Presley, Oscar Wilde and the Duke of Buckingham, as well as the less famous, including Butch Weldy and Waring.”

I saw this out of the corner of my eye and I was intrigued with the idea of a collection of portraits in verse form. And when I opened the book at the page with this poem I really couldn’t resist.

“And now the house-dog stretched once more
His limbs upon the glowing floor;
The children half resume their play,
Though from the warm hearth scared away;
The good-wife left her spinning-wheel
And spread with smiles the evening meal;
The shepherd placed a seat and pressed
To their poor fare the unknown guest,
And he unclasped his mantle now,
And raised the covering from his brow,
Said, voyagers by land and sea
Were seldom feasted daintily,
And cheered his host by adding stern
He’d no refinement to unlearn.
A silence settled on the room,
The cheerful welcome sank to gloom;
But not those words, though cold or high,
So froze their hospitable joy.
No–there was something in his face,
Some nameless thing which hid not grace,
And something in his voice’s tone
Which turned their blood as chill as stone.
The ringlets of his long black hair
Fell o’er a cheek most ghastly fair.
Youthful he seemed–but worn as they
Who spend too soon their youthful day.
When his glance dropped, ’twas hard to quell
Unbidden feelings’ hidden swell;
And Pity scarce her tears could hide,
So sweet that brow with all its pride.
But when upraised his eye would dart
An icy shudder through the heart,
Compassion changed to horror then,
And fear to meet that gaze again.
It was not hatred’s tiger-glare,
Nor the wild anguish of despair;
It was not either misery
Which quickens friendship’s sympathy;
No–lightning all unearthly shone
Deep in that dark eye’s circling zone,
Such withering lightning as we deem
None but a spirit’s look may beam;
And glad were all when he turned away
And wrapt him in his mantle grey,
And hid his head upon his arm,
And veiled from view his basilisk charm.”

(And Now The House-dog Stretched Once More by Emily Bronte)


What did you find in the library this week?

See more Library Loot here.