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

Book of the Month for March 2017

When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant

In the spring of 1946, Evelyn Sert leaves the East End of London for Palestine by lying her way onto a ship. Recently orphaned and only 20 years old, she finds herself caught up with the idea of a jewish homeland.

She joins a kibbutz but finds the life so hard that she leaves for the city of Tel Aviv with a young jewish man Johnny, who becomes her boyfriend.

In Tel Aviv, she finds herself a flat and learns that she is seen as more English than Israeli which is a problem, as the English are the enemy. She builds a fake persona, the english hairdresser Priscilla Jones, with an absent policeman husband. She struggles with the new language, the heat, the food, and the new way of life.

Evelyn is drawn into a world of uncertain identities, lies and secrets by her new life especially her enigmatic Zionist boyfriend Johnny. She never seems sure which side about who she is, and where she belongs.

Linda Grant writes with purpose of a herione wrestling with the complexity of a nation being born.

Classic Suggestion for March 2017

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations follows the life of the orphan nicknamed Pip, set in Kent and London in the 19th century.

On Christmas Eve, the seven-year-old orphan Pip is in the churchyard visiting the graves of his parents and siblings, when he encounters the escaped convict, Abel Magwitch. He frightens Pip into stealing food and a file for him as.

Pip lives with his severe sister who appears to resent having inherited the responsibility for him upon the death of her parents. By contrast, her husband Joe Gargery, a blacksmith by trade, treats Pip with kindness and fondness.

Pip's life changes when he meets Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter, Estella. Miss Havisham, a bitter wealthy spinster, arranges for Pip to visit her home, the dilapidated Satis House, where he falls for Estella on sight, and a tale of heartache begins.

Dickens is a skilful author who captures Pip's emotions effectively, taking the reader on a emotional journey with him. Published in 1861, the book is as powerful and relevant today as it was nearly 150 years ago.

Teen Book Idea for March 2017

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Growing up, Nix has accompanied her father on his ship Temptation around the world, however, her father's ship is not any ordinary ship.

With her talented but addicted father and a mixed group of individuals for a crew, Nix travels with her father through time and space, and between fantasy and reality.

The ship Temptation is a "time traveling pirate ship" which as long as her father has an original map that has been signed by its creator and has never been used before, the ship can follow the map to its destination whether it is part of real history or from a mythical world.

She travels to nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, and a mythic version of Africa meeting people and making friends.

Every journey is subjected by her father's obsession to find the 1868 Honolulu map which he hopes with take him to Nix's mother, the love of his life. As much as Nix would love to meet her mother, the journey could have more far reaching consequences erasing her completely from time.

Children's Book Recommendation for March 2017

Gangsta Granny by David Walliams

Ben's Granny has white hair, false teeth and tucks tissues up her sleeve, like most other grannies but she is not like other grannies. The thing is that Ben's granny is an international jewel thief.

At first, Ben does not know this about his gangsta granny and finds visiting her each Friday night, very tiresome and boring.

When he does find out, he discovers something even more amazing.

His gangsta granny is planning her greatest jewel heist ever - stealing the crown jewels from the Tower of London.

Friday nights with Granny suddenly become the most exciting part of Ben's week, and he cannot wait for them to come around.

Ben's ballroom dancing obsessed parents, his Granny's nosy neighbour and their attempts to steal the crown jewels make for an entertaining and amusing story.

However, the book is not only funny, but thoughtful, reflecting on parents expectations and relationships between grandparents and grandchildren.

Author Suggestion for March 2017

Lionel Shriver

Lionel Shriver's career took off with We Need to Talk About Kevin. It won the 2005 Orange Prize, and provoked considerable controversy by examining the impact of an ambivalent mother in her son's killing spree.

She was Margaret Ann Shriver in North Carolina, to a deeply religious family. She did not like her name and thought that as a tomboy, a boy's name would suit her better. She started calling herself Lionel at 15.

We Need to Talk about Kevin was not her first book, in fact, she wrote seven novels and published six before this one. While We Need to Talk about Kevin is extremely well crafted, so are her earlier books.

She is an experienced journalist, having written for The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, The Economist, and many other publications. In July 2005, Shriver began writing a column for The Guardian.

Shriver studied at Columbia University, and has lived in Nairobi, Bangkok and Belfast. She now lives in London with her husband.

Prize of the month for March 2017

Waterstones book of the year 2016

Sarah Perry won the Waterstones Book of the Year Award with her novel The Essex Serpent in November.

The Essex Serpent is Perry's second novel. Her debut novel, After Me Comes the Flood, was published in 2014 to considerable critical acclaim. It tells the story of John Cole who goes looking for his brother during a drought and discovers a strange world.

It is set in Victorian London in 1893, and begins when Cora Seaborne's husband dies. She is not sad but pleased to be free from an unhappy marriage to a bully, and decides to move to Essex with her only child, son Francis, to start a new life.

In Colchester, she learns about the mysterious Essex serpent and is intrigued by the possibility of its return. This brings her into conflict with the local vicar, William Ransome, who is determined to end superstition in his parish.

Inspired by the myth of a sea-serpent on the Essex coast, the novel is written in a gothic style. It is told with intelligence and exquisite grace that will please the reader enormously,

Poem of the month

Mrs Reece Laughs

Laughter, with us, is no great undertaking,
A sudden wave that breaks and dies in breaking.
Laughter with Mrs. Reece is much less simple:
It germinates, it spreads, dimple by dimple,
From small beginnings, things of easy girth,
To formidable redundancies of mirth.
Clusters of subterranean chuckles rise
And presently the circles of her eyes
Close into slits and all the woman heaves
As a great elm with all its mounds of leaves
Wallows before the storm. From hidden sources
A mustering of blind volcanic forces
Takes her and shakes her till she sobs and gapes.
Then all that load of bottled mirth escapes
In one wild crow, a lifting of huge hands,
And creaking stays, a visage that expands
In scarlet ridge and furrow. Thence collapse,
A hanging head, a feeble hand that flaps
An apron-end to stir an air and waft
A steaming face. And Mrs. Reece has laughed.

by Martin Armstrong

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.





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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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