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December 2016

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#FoylesFive: Graphic Novel Gifts
1st December 2016 - Matt Blackstock

Graphic Novel Gifts

#FoylesFive Graphic Novel Gifts

Matt from our web team shares his great graphic novel gifts, that will make someone's Christmas extra special.

 

Last Look by Charles Burns

This collection of Charles Burns’ trippy trilogy will make an excellent gift for anyone who likes to be freaked out a little, takes pleasure in stories that unravel on you and feed your imagination… just before destroying it. An unworldly mix of true life and an ugly underworld, this book will stay in your mind for a very long time.

 

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

Love and a wicked sense of humour guide us through the most gorgeous graphic novel I’ve read in years. Beautiful drawn and written, follow this epic journey of stories within stories, gods, wicked men and brave women. Isabel Greenberg’s story is told from the heart and doesn’t shy away from being a bit dark, scary and heartbreaking. An absolute must!

 

Angel Catbird – Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood & Johnnie Christmas

Margaret Atwood makes her graphic novel debut with this devilishly dark and witty superhero comic book. When genetic engineer Strig Feleedus is involved in a horrid accident, his DNA is combined with that of an owl and a cat! Action and adventure follow in this blisteringly exciting page turner that you will want to re-read over and over.

 

Unbelievable Gwenpool by Christopher Hastings

Meet Gwen Poole comic book fan until one day she wakes up in the world of superheroes; I know it happens to us all! Perhaps the craziest, out of control and zany graphic novel Marvel have produced in years. Pitting our newest untrained and untested hero against the world’s mightiest heroes, what could possibly go wrong?

 

Literary Life Revisited by Posy Simmonds

Posy Simmond’s classic work is the perfect gift for that very literary person in your life, with a charming and frankly hilarious take on the life of authors. This new edition is brimming with extra cartoons. It will be more than enough to keep the avid reader (or writer) happy and laughing way past Christmas Day.

 

 

#FoylesFive: Stocking Fillers
28th November 2016 - Jay Moran

 

Beautiful Stocking Fillers

Jay from our Birmingham branch shares his Christmas stocking fillers.

 

The Stocking: the first port of call on Christmas Day. Usually, they're full of chocolates, socks, a satsuma. For the book lovers in your life, here are some petite little treats to make their stockings a bit more personal this year (as well as get them pondering where on earth these tiny books will go on their shelves).

 

The Christmas Truce  by Carol Ann Duffy

This is an ideal gift for anyone; no matter their age there is something to be appreciated - be it the artwork, the prose, or simply the meaning of the stories. In The Christmas Truce, Carol Ann Duffy takes a tremulous scene of friendship between enemies, and delivers a truly heart warming story that will resonate with any reader. Accompanied by sweet illustrations by David Roberts, this a truly beautiful book.

 

Five Historical Miniatures by Stefan Zweig 

If I'm recommending books, I always try to squeeze in at least one by Stefan Zweig. This charming book is perfect for any lover of history, covering events such as Lenin's journey across Europe before the Russian Revolution and the discovery of El Dorado. His writing, as ever, flows beautifully, and I firmly believe this will make a wonderful festive gift.

 

Soppy by Philippa Rice or The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming 

We all know someone who is becoming increasingly obsessed with graphic novels. If you want to treat them but don't have a lot to spend, these two are great picks. Soppy is so endearing and adorable that this would be great for your other half, smitten friend or the hopeless romantic in your life. If not, The Trouble With Women is a hilarious graphic novel that looks at the absurdity of sexism throughout the ages. A genuine rib tickler, this will be one book to share.

 

Rabbit Warren Peace

Sometimes your literary chum is just too hard to buy for. They appear to own every book. You spend hours squinting at photographs of their bookshelves on their social media pages, trying to discern what the somewhat blurry titles are. Sometimes you just have to get them something silly, something they wouldn't get for themselves but will definitely earn either a hearty chortle or a look of confusion (which is perfectly acceptable around Christmas time). I confess to having a soft spot for these books. I can't resist a good pun and a literary pun is almost too much for me to bear. A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice or Oliver Twist are delightfully silly although I do admit to liking Rabbit Warren Peace even more. 

 

 

 

#FoylesFave: Jim Henson's Labyrinth Tales by Cory Godbey
25th November 2016 - Andi Yates

Foyles Fave

Jim Henson's Labyrinth Tales by Cory Godbey

 

If, like Andi, Labyrinth is one of your favourite films, you won't want to miss this gorgeous book.

 

LabyrinthWho can believe it's been 30 years since Labyrinth exploded into our hearts and minds?! Like a lot of people in their mid-thirties, this has always been one of my favourite films. (I even have a ferret called Sir Didymus), and I can  recite practically all the words and sing  all the songs - although, not very well!

 

I've been on tenterhooks waiting for this beautiful picture book to come out (I almost lost my head) and I'm so happy to say that it does not disappoint. Written and illustrated by the talented Cory Godbey, it really captures the essence of the film and the whimsical feel of all the characters. Split into three small but perfectly formed tales, with cameos from many of our beloved goblins, this really takes me back to my childhood. I couldn't stop myself smiling as I read it and saw many of my favourite friends again.

 

A wonderful, fantastical read for children, but a necessity for fans.

 

 

 

#FoylesFive: Beautiful Picture Books
23rd November 2016 - Matt Blackstock

#FoylesFive: Beautiful Picture Books

 

Matt from our web team talks about one of his most favourite things, picture books, and why they make a great festive gift.

 

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Two turtles find a hat, they both like it, they both want to wear it. What follows is a funny, sad and touching story, beautifully told and drawn by Jon Klassen. This is one of those rare books that will appeal not just to the little ones in your life, but to everyone… especially if they love turtles. Finally, the last part of the greatest trilogy ever written is now complete!

 

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

What is that? An all important question posed at the beginning of this gorgeous bug filled story, told in bug language, of course. Here we delve in to the drama of a common, everyday garden and what we are greeted with is utter delight! In Carson Ellis’ follow up to the amazing Home we find an imagination that will bring a smile to all.

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton

Who wouldn’t love this fantastic book based on the famous Christmas/Halloween film by the genius director, Tim Burton. Illustrated and written by Burton himself, this is a fantastic way to celebrate Christmas (or a late Halloween) be it a very alternative and scary one.

 

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. And accompanying  the astonishing art work by Levi Pinfold is a deeply woven story of a young girl and a secret she must keep, the secret of Briar Hill.

 

An Artist’s Alphabet by Norman Messenger

What a delightfully engaging and visually stunning book. Transforming the ABC into an adventurous collection of natural objects, flowers and more! This is the kind of book that will keep you entertained for hours, one of those incredible books that you will return to year after year. 

 

 

Amsterdam’s seedy side: a rich source of literary inspiration
23rd November 2016 - Daniel Pembrey

Amsterdam’s seedy side: a rich source of literary inspiration

 

Daniel Pembrey grew up in Nottinghamshire beside Sherwood Forest. He studied history at Edinburgh University and received an MBA from INSEAD business school. He then spent over a decade working in America and more recently Luxembourg, coming to rest in Amsterdam and London — dividing his time now between them. He is the author of the Henk van der Pol detective series and several short thriller stories, and he contributes non-fiction articles to publications including The Financial TimesThe Times and The Field. In order to write his latest novel, The Harbour Master, he spent several months living in the docklands area of East Amsterdam with an undercover team for the Dutch National Crime Squad.

Below, exclusively for Foyles, Daniel describes how he came to be invited on an undercover operation in Amsterdam's Red Light District and how what he learned there found its way into his novel.

 

 

 

 

A couple of years ago, I was working on a feature article about the way the Dutch tackle human trafficking, and I got invited on an undercover operation with the Dutch National Crime Squad into the Amsterdam Red Light District.

In Holland, sex work is legal, so I assumed the Red Light District would be well regulated if not exactly above board … which is not the case. Most sex workers are there from elsewhere. One street in the Red Light District, Molensteeg, is known locally as Little Hungary because all the sex workers are from that source country.

Leading the operation that night was Henk Werson, Holland’s most senior anti-trafficking cop. A clear-eyed and shaven-headed police veteran with a background in psychology and the study of trauma, Henk looked Buddhist, or like a biker maybe. Both, even. 'I do sometimes need to hit the open road on my Yamaha 900 to clear my head,' he confided in me. Henk struck me as unusually reflective and thoughtful; he reminded me of Nicolas Freeling’s fictional policeman Van der Valk. He would become the inspiration for my lead detective character Henk van der Pol (I would give Van der Pol a BMW motorbike).

One night revealed many dark truths. There was the Hungarian sex worker’s cabin that we entered; the bruise on her leg and the talk of traffickers using physical violence less, preferring blackmail and psychological methods – 'better for business'.

There was the old adage follow the money, in a novel guise: the police’s ability to question anyone with over €1,000 on their person using tough money laundering laws. How pimps and traffickers increasingly make themselves scarce, preferring pick-up and drop-off points further afield – a five-star hotel beside Centraal Station, even. Safe houses whose locations could not be disclosed (given how determined traffickers are to recover their ‘investments’, one even posing as a newspaper reporter; the safe house in my novel I’d need to entirely fictionalise). A female police officer surprising me by remarking that sex workers felt most safe around a man carrying a gun, who they believed might protect them…

There was something else that made my experience that night uncomfortably tense: the discovery that British men are the most represented among foreign visitors to the Red Light District. 'We have a lot of people from France, Italy, Russia… but the UK is definitely number one in numbers,' commented Mariska Majoor, of the Prostitution Information Centre. Amsterdam has always been a popular destination popular for British stag parties.

But there may be another explanation for this. There may be more British people in the Dutch capital overall, given its strong feeling of familiarity. Both countries have a maritime history and a glorious, colonial past. Both have an often uneasy relationship between traditions and present-day challenges (from immigration to anxieties over waning influence overseas). London and Amsterdam became major trading, now trafficking, hubs.

Behind this popular destination lies an uncomfortably seedy business, and yet, when approached with a certain stoicism and wry sense of humour, it forms a rich and relevant source of literary inspiration.

 

 

  

 

 

 

Mark Lawson on the William Hill Sports Book of the Year
23rd November 2016 - Mark Lawson

Mark Lawson on the William Hill Sports Book of the Year

 

As the winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year is announced, novelist, critic and journalist Mark Lawson, celebrates the shortlist and revels in his role as one of this year's judges.

 

 

Although rules are an important part of any sport, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year is paradoxically the literary award that gives the judges and referees most leeway.

In my time, I have helped to choose most major UK prizes for writing - including the Man Booker, Costa and the David Cohen Prize - and, in all of them, there is a tendency to prefer, officially or unofficially, a certain sort of book or author.

But, this year, finally being included in the William Hill Sports Book of the Year squad - a call-up about which I had fantasised as fervently as a school student hoping to play for their nation one day - I was confirmed in the belief suggested by reading or reporting on previous shortlists: that this prize is genuinely open to all kinds of writing - novel, biography, memoir, history - and to any sport.

Of our seven 2016 contenders, two concern football, with one representative each from horse-racing, swimming, cricket and athletics. All of those events are commonplaces of back-page reporting, but the seventh book - Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan - covers what is arguably not a sporting discipline at all, a view which, in one passage in the book, the author himself supports. One long-serving judge made the startling point that no previous shortlisted book contained so little competitive sport, as the writer is usually on a personal quest against some desired wave in a particular place.

Finnegan, though, is always competing against the sea and himself, and so the book deals with the pursuit of physical and psychological perfection that is one of the core subjects of the award. The same applies to another solo competitor who features this year: Diana Nyad, whose Find a Way: One Untamed and Courageous Life describes her successive attempts, up until the age of 64, to swim the shark and jellyfish-infested waters between Florida and Cuba.

But, as this year’s selection also shows, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year acknowledges that failure is also part of the sporting story. Oliver Kay’s Forever Young reconstructs the short career and early death of Adrian Doherty, a brilliant but eccentric member of the Giggs generation at Manchester United, who fell out of (and out of love with) the game due partly to injury but also perhaps because of some inner absence.

And a cricketer who died tragically young and personally and professionally unfulfilled, Peter Roebuck, is the subject of Chasing Shadows by Tim Lane and Elliott Cartledge, which seeks to explain how a talented Somerset batsman fell out with county (over Viv Richards and Ian Botham) and country (following an embarrassing court case) before ending up dead on the awning of a South African hotel after a visit from sex crime police.

Intriguingly, Chasing Shadows has faced twin attacks: from members of the Roebuck family, who consider it too intrusive and hostile, and rival investigative journalists, who accuse it of sanitising aspects of the events. We, though, could only judge the story we were given, and it is drainingly captivating.

A notable trend among the seven 2016 contenders is that - at a time when sports stars can have been the subject of many books by their early 20s - is that the Czech runner Emil Zatopek, remembered in Endurance by Rick Broadbent, is the only one of the subjects to have become a sporting celebrity.

Many readers of these books will be introduced for the first time to Roebuck, Finnegan, Nyad and Doherty, while Mr Darley’s Arabian by Chris McGrath is a sort of equine-DNA biography - tracing the bloodline of wonder-horse Frankel through two centuries of history - and Rory Smith’s Mister brings to attention the English football managers who worked influentially in foreign countries long before more fabled exports such as Terry Venables and Roy Hodgson.

Judging any literary prize reminds you that a book has two essential elements - content and style - and, if only one of those is present, the volume is likely to disappoint. We had to decide between considerable feats of research - McGrath, Kay, Smith and Lane / Cartledge have all made discoveries previously unpublished - and titles in which the motor was their prose: Barbarian Days was honoured in America’s most prestigious literary awards, the Pulitzers, and its surfing subject-matter attracted the attention of the Hawaii-born (whatever some Donald Trump supporters have tried to claim) President Obama for his summer reading-list.

Presented in late November, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year has come to play an important role in solving the problem of what to give sports-loving relatives for Christmas. Since I alerted some cousins of mine to the shortlist, my Uncle George may well have become convinced that Santa Claus has some sort of sponsorship deal with the prize. He and many others, though, will be well served this year if the William Hill Sports Book of the Year list is used as Santa’s little helper.

And, for me, being one of the judges was Christmas come early. The winner is a worthy choice from a shortlist that veteran judges felt to be of exceptionally high quality.

 

 

 

 

                                                        

Latest Blog
#FoylesFive: Graphic Novel Gifts
01/12/2016

Matt from our web team shares his great graphic novel gifts, that will make someone's Christmas extra special.

#FoylesFive: Stocking Fillers
28/11/2016

Jay from our Birmingham branch fills us with Christmas cheer, and is on hand to help fill your Christmas stockings with gorgeous books.

#FoylesFave: Jim Henson's Labyrinth Tales by Cory Godbey
25/11/2016

If, like Andi, Labyrinth is one of your favourite films, you won't want to miss this gorgeous book.

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