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The Book Gnome, a site for book reviews and reading ideas for teenagers

Book of the Month for November 2016

The Woman who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Makutsi persuades Mma Ramotswe to take her first-ever holiday because business is slow at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Just as she is about to leave, a new client arrives and Mma Ramotswe almost cancels her trip.

Mma Makutsi is adamant that she and Charlie have the situation in hand, leaving Mma Ramotswe unable to resist being sent for a holiday. Nonetheless, she has difficulty letting go and pretending to go on holiday, she investigates secretly leading to complications and misunderstandings that make the plot as intriguing and engaging as in all the rest of the series.

It is another delightful book in the series. Alexander McCall Smith handles his characters with such affection and respect that the reader can only follow. In addition, his plots are intriguing with their honest, gentle wisdom that the conclusion is always very satisfying.

Classic Suggestion for November 2016

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

The novel follows is eponymous heroine Jane Eyre and is narrated from her perspective. It begins with her difficult childhood living with her aunt and cousins, and follows her through boarding school to adulthood.

Orphan Jane is is emotionally and physically abused by her aunt and cousins before being sent to boarding school where despite her hopes, life is no better. Later, when she becomes governess at Thornfield, she falls in love with Mr. Rochester, a love which dominates both Jane and the novel.

The novel contains elements of social criticism and a strong sense of morality. It provokes the reader to rethink notions about religion, sexuality, class, and the value of women.

Charlotte Brontë draws heavily on her personal experience, family and friends for inspiration. Like Jane, she was a governor and set up a school. The book is enriched by knowing her history.

Visit KS Learning for articles and notes on Jane Eyre to further understand the book, either for personal interest or to assist with schoolwork like A level English Literature.

Teen Book Idea for November 2016

Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs

This book is part of a collection of books by Ransom Riggs that reveals the secrets of peculiar history.

If you are new to his work, this volume of short stories is an excellent place to start. While the book draws on Riggs' bestselling Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, it stands alone so it is not necessary to have read any other books in the series to enjoy it and become a scholar of all things peculiar.

Stories cover a wide range of creative ideas including wealthy cannibals who dine on the discarded limbs of peculiars, a fork-tongued princess, and the origins of the first ymbryne, as they reveal the secrets of the peculiar world.

Not only are the stories intriguing, but the stunning illustrations enhance the weird and wonderful characters and tantalisingly original plots. If you enjoy this brilliant book, you will want to read the entire peculiar world series.

Children's Book Recommendation for November 2016

My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons

The book follows Luke, who because of a five minute trip to the loo, loses out on the the chance to receive superpowers from a powerful alien, along with every superheroes dream, a mission to save the universe.

Luke, a comic-mad eleven-year old, shares a treehouse with his older brother, Zack, who knows nothing about superheroes, has no interest in superheroes, and has never read a comic. All Zack is interested in, is doing his homework and some girl at school, so Luke is angry and jealous when his brother receives superpowers instead of him.

Everything changes when Zack is kidnapped 5 days before his most important mission. Luke and two of his friends are left to rescue his brother, in order that he can save the world.

David Solomons won Children's Book of the Year 2016 for his debut children's novel, and rightly so. The book is exciting and funny, and will appeal to a wide range of readers and ages.

Author Suggestion for November 2016

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, starring Mma Precious Ramotswe in Gabarone, Botswana. With 17 extremely popular books about the Detective Agency, it is more of a phenomenom than a series, and has made him a household name having sold over twenty million copies in English alone.

The appeal of the No. 1 Ladies series, appears to be the gentle and affectionate portrayal of the people of Botswana, along with the kind wisdom of the central character, Mma Ramotswe, who solves numerous mysteries improving the lives of the people with whom she interacts.

Alexander McCall Smith is a prolific author of fiction, with several series to his credit including the Isabel Dalhousie and the 44 Scotland Street series. For many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the UK and abroad before turning his hand to writing fiction. He has an insightful and witty style that makes his books appealing and entertaining. His style is engaging and his characters are credible. This, along with plots that combine humour and interest, makes his books are a good read.

Prize of the month for November 2016

Man Booker Prize 2016

This year, the Man Booker Prize was awarded to Paul Beatty, American author, for his novel The Sellout. Beatty is the first American to win the prize - US authors only became eligible to enter for the prize in 2014.

The Sellout is a satire on race relations in contemporary America. It is narrated by African-American 'Bonbon' who lives in the run-down town of Dickens in Los Angeles county. Bonbon was raised by a single father who led him to believe that his memoirs would bring the family great wealth. When his father is killed, he discovers that there never was a memoir.

Intent on solving the problems of his town, Bonbon co-opts famous Hominy Jenkins. He implements a plan which involves segregating the local high school and the reintroduction of slavery. This lands him in the Supreme Court for challenging rights established by the US Constitution.

The book is populated with characters that parody racial stereotypes, and reflects race relations in the US today. Its themes are particularly topical, as Beatty attacks racial taboos relentlessly and searingly.

Poem of the month

This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
   They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
   And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
   By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
   And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
   It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
   And don't have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin Biography

Philip Arthur Larkin was born on 9 August 1922 in Coventry. He was the second child, and only son, of Sydney and Eva Larkin. Sydney Larkin was City Treasurer between the years 1922-44. Larkin's sister, some ten years his senior, was called Catherine, but was known as Kitty.

He attended the City's King Henry VIII School between 1930 and 1940, and made regular contributions to the school magazine, The Coventrian, which, between 1939 and 1940, he also helped to edit.

Read more from the Philip Larkin Society.

Kuljit Dhami

I am an English Language and Culture student in Groningen (NL) which means, more often than not, I can be found with my nose in a book. Or gallivanting around the country trying my hand at street photography, whilst successfully avoiding my responsibilities.

While my taste in literature is varied, which ranges from political satire to psychological thrillers, I definitely have a penchant for postcolonial literature. The amalgamation of unfamiliar settings, politics, and foreign cultures always make for truly distinctive and often poignant tales.

I am also a trustee of Porridge and Rice, a charity working to end extreme poverty in the Nairobi slums through education. As a result, Kenya and its people have found a very special place in my heart and I am constantly looking forward to the next time I can visit. Visit Kujit for book reviews that I have written.

Jude Hanlon

Jude Hanlon is a software development manager working and living in the North West of England.

Her hobbies include reading, writing, knitting, skating, gardening, cooking, films and TV (not necessarily in that order). This diversity of taste is reflected in Jude's reading materials, from chick-lit to sci-fi. As her children are now of an age where they watch and read independently, she is enjoying exploring grown-up culture again, and really likes a good twist in the tale.

Jude is also a trustee of the charity Porridge and Rice which supports education in the slums of Nairobi. She has visited Nairobi twice, and plans to be a regular visitor.

Read book reviews by Jude.

Gene Lopez

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and came of age during the turbulent 1960s. Very early on, I became interested in environmental and social issues, which continue to this day to shape my world view.

I enjoy fiction, music biographies, and political & military history, like (1) All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which deserved to win the 2015 Pulitzer Prize; and (2) All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, a masterpiece describing the impact of wars started by distant leaders on the people they purport to represent.

I recently set up Original Gravity Tours, a specialty travel company providing high quality beer tours turning my love of travel and beer into a business.

Visit Gene for book reviews that I have written.

Original Gravity Tours

Original Gravity Tours is a specialty travel company focused on providing excellent tours of the "Beer Capitals" of Europe like Munich & Bamberg. Their aim is to provide a high quality travel experience emphasising the history and methods of brewing, combined with local history and select cultural sites.

According to Gene Lopez, the founder of Original Gravity Tours, "... after 30+ years in the high-tech industry, it was time to focus on what I love, international travel and well-crafted beer", and Original Gravity Tours was born.

The Farm at 64

I don't really have a farm. I don't even have a small holding. I just keep a number of small animals as pets.

I live in Whitton in the UK about ten minutes from Heathrow between Hounlsow and Twickenham in Greater London. I live with my wife, three children, one dog, two rabbits, seven Pekin ducks, a flock of Pekin bantam chickens, four chinchillas, just over 20 guinea pigs, a group of African Pygmy hedgehogs, and numerous birds like a number of budgies, various finches, Diamond doves, Zebra doves, and Chinese painted quails (button quails).

Understanding Drugs

Drugs are a fact of life. Furthermore, drugs are readily available at all schools, plus temptation and peer pressure is huge.

Every parent, teacher, guardian, or person who has contact and/or responsibility for a child or young person should therefore know about drugs in order to be able to respond quickly and effectively should a young person or child be tempted.

UK National Drugs helpline: 0300 123 6600

The Secular Atheist

I describe myself as a secular atheist, hence the name of the site. I am also a committed humanist.

As an atheist, I actively oppose religious privilege especially when religion tries to force its values on civil society like the denial of equality for LGBQT people and limiting women's reproductive rights.

As a humanist, I am an avid supporter of human rights as defined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and in my own small way, promote them through the charity that I chair Porridge and Rice and my work teaching through KS Learning.





'They had issues': Sally Wainwright and Tracy Chevalier discuss the Brontës

Sally Wainwright's new drama To Walk Invisible offers a radical new take on the Brontës. She talks to novelist Tracy Chevalier about the siblings' extraordinary lives.

The 10 Best Books of 2016

The year's best books, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. 1 December 2016.

Charlotte Brontë, the filthy bitch

Enough of the Brontë industry's veneration of coffins, bonnets and TB. It is time to exhume the real Charlotte - filthy bitch, grandmother of chick-lit, and friend.

Beryl Bainbridge was nice as well as naughty - and a brilliant novelist

The fictions of Beryl Bainbridge's life were as important to her as the facts. As a novelist, she knew the dramatic exigencies of telling a tale.

Visit KS Learning for notes and articles on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë for A level English Literature essays and coursework.

Visit KS Learning for notes and articles on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for A level English Literature essays and coursework.

Visit KS Learning for notes and articles on Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote for A level English Literature essays and coursework.

Visit KS Learning for notes and articles on A Streetcar named Desire by Tennessee Williams for A level English Literature essays and coursework.

Porridge and Rice

Porridge and Rice is an education charity that supports children living in the Nairobi slums. The goal is to ensure that these children receive a sound education to enable them to break the cycle of poverty and deprivation.

At present, the charity supports 2000 pupils in 5 schools through its 7 programmes which do everything from providing sanitary pads to girls that have reached puberty and delivering text books for core subjects like Maths and English.

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