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The Book of Dust on BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime

The Book of Dust on BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime



From Monday 23rd of October, listeners of Radio 4's Book at Bedtime will be treated to an abridged reading of Philip Pullman's La Belle Sauvage - Book One of the Book of Dust.

Considering that this novel has not even hit the shelves yet (it's due to be released this Thursday) I find this rather impressive, and am certainly looking forward to listening in as I settle down for the night.

This series will comprise of ten episodes, which will be broadcast Monday to Friday at 10.45pm. Find out more on this dedicated page on the BBC website.
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Amanda Kennedy
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Hide a Book Day - September 18th 2017

Hide a Book Day - September 18th 2017



As part of the Ten-Year Anniversary Celebration, Goodreads is teaming up with The Book Fairies for a special Hide a Book Day on Monday, September 18.

Everyone has a favourite book (or in my case, a pile of favourites!). To share the love of these books, Goodreads and The Book Fairies invite you to hide your own favourite book for others to discover.

You may have heard that Emma Watson did this earlier this year when she shared copies of Our Shared Self. Hiding best-loved books for others to discover has been a "thing" for quite some time now, publicised and promoted by The Book Fairies. But Monday the 18th of September will be a special event, where book lovers from all corners of the world will be hiding their favourite reads for others to discover.

Will you get involved?

All you need to do is choose a book, and find somewhere safe (and preferably, dry) to hide it. To enhance your finder's experience, you could purchase stickers from the Book Fairy website, or write a handwritten note to slip inside.

Once you've hidden a book, take a picture and share it with your fellow Goodreads members and Book Fairies on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtags #goodreadsturns10, #hideabookday, #ibelieveinbookfairies. This will help those local to you discover your hidden favourite read.

I'm yet to select which book(s?) to hid next week, though I'm sure whoever discovers them will enjoy them too.
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Amanda Kennedy
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Penguin' Season of Stories Begins Anew

Penguin' Season of Stories Begins Anew



Sign up to The Season of Stories this month to receive bite-sized tales delivered daily direct to your inbox.

Season of Stories returns in September, with three more months of hand-picked short stories from acclaimed authors such as Lee Child, James McBride, Jenny Zhang, Charles Yu, Denis Johnson, and Aimee Bender.
Each week, you’ll get a new short story delivered to your inbox in four instalments sent daily from Tuesday until the conclusion on Friday. The bite-sized newsletter will give you just the right amount to read while commuting, waiting in line, or during your lunch break.
Summer might be over, but a whole season of awesome is coming your way.
Once you have signed up and confirmed your email address, you should be able to read any instalments you may have missed using the link in the emails sent from Season of Stories. Head on over to the SoS website to learn more.
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Amanda Kennedy
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Complete List of Penguin Clothbound Classics (Updated for 2017)

Complete List of Penguin Clothbound Classics (Updated for 2017)




Since 2008, Penguin have published classic literature in a beautifully packaged format: the Clothbound Classics series. Each edition is bound in cloth, with covers individually designed by the talented Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Several new titles have been published since I first created a complete list of this collection, including all three volumes of Proust's Rememberance of Things Past and Jule's Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So I decided to update the list to include these new titles, along with a free printable download with full details of each title to assist in completing your own collection.

In order of publication, here is the complete list of Penguin Clothbound Classics to date (August 2017):
  1. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  4. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  5. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  6. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  8. Crime and Punishment* by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  10. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  11. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  12. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  13. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  14. The Odyssey by Homer
  15. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  16. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
  17. Emma by Jane Austen
  18. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  19. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  20. The Sonnets and A Lover’s Complaint by William Shakespeare
  21. A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens
  22. Inferno: The Divine Comedy I by Dante
  23. Gulliver's Travels - - by Johnathan Swift
  24. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  25. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  26. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  27. Middlemarch by George Elliot
  28. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  29. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  30. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  31. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  32. Jabberwocky by Lewis Carrol
  33. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  34. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  35. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery
  36. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  37. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  38. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  39. Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
  40. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  41. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  42. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  43. Metamorphoses – by
  44. Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
  45. Paradise Lost by John Milton
  46. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  47. Madame Bovary (Re-Print) by Gustave Flaubert
  48. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  49. Love and Friendship by Jane Austen
  50. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  51. The Iliad by Homer
  52. The Travels by Marco Polo
  53. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  54. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  55. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  56. Naked Lunch by William D Burroughs
  57. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  58. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  59. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  60. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  61. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
  62. Remembrance of Things Past: Volume 1 by Marcel Proust
  63. Remembrance of Things Past: Volume 2 by Marcel Proust
  64. Remembrance of Things Past: Volume 3 by Marcel Proust
  65. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
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Amanda Kennedy
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The LastDays of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp - Book Review

The LastDays of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp - Book Review



The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
Reviewed by Amanda Kennedy on August 21st, 2017
Published by Orbit

Jack Sparks died while writing this book. This is the account of his final days.

A rebel in the writing world, Jack Sparks is controversial, unrelenting, and an atheist. Despite his infamous drug habit, everyone was shocked when he died while writing and researching his latest novel, Jack Sparks on the Supernatural, though believers will be forgiven for feeling it was deserved after he laughed during an exorcism in Italy and mocked the event on social media...

Then there was that mysterious video on Youtube, those forty seconds of "found footage" he claimed to know nothing about. Many considered this to be the most convincing evidence of the supernatural yet, which is odd considering this was something Jack had hoped to debunk.

The novel tells the story of the final forty days of Jack Sparks, beginning with the exorcism and ultimately ending with his (untimely? fated?) death. What an exhilarating, dreadful and utterly entertaining read this is, seamlessly blending humour with the most gruesome horror and sense of impending doom. At times, I was genuinely scared.

Aside from NOS4A2, this is my most favourite horror story to date. It is, in parts, absolutely gruesome. Should a movie ever be made of this novel, I'm sure the violence will NEED to be toned down! I particularly enjoyed the growing sense of unease, at times wanting to grab Sparks by the shoulders and shake him just to make him see what's really happening to him, though there is a slight twist which makes the final outcome even more delicious to read.

Of course we know what's going to happen to Jack - the clue is in the title - but how we get there is a wonderful reading experience. I particularly enjoyed how characters and events from real-life play a part in the narrative (Google "The Philip Experiment" when you get to the appropriate part, for example, and pay attention to the names of movie directors). I love how all loose ends are tied up by the end...

Read this if you would like to be shocked and scared, yet still retain a sense of frivolity and humour.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
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Amanda Kennedy
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Midnight's Children - Dramatisation on Radio 4

Midnight's Children - Dramatisation on Radio 4



Born at the stroke of midnight, at the precise moment of India's independence, Saleem Sinai is destined from birth to be special. For he is one of 1,001 children born in the midnight hour, children who all have special gifts, children with whom Saleem is telepathically linked. 
But there has been a terrible mix up at birth, and Saleem’s life takes some unexpected twists and turns. As he grows up amidst a whirlwind of triumphs and disasters, Saleem must learn the ominous consequences of his gift, for the course of his life is inseparably linked to that of his motherland, and his every act is mirrored and magnified in the events that shape the newborn nation of India. It is a great gift, and a terrible burden. 

An ambitious dramatisation of Salman Rushdie's magical novel is currently available to listen on Radio 4. This seven part drama features a full cast of characters to bring the classic novel to life.

Catch up now on BBC iPlayer.
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Amanda Kennedy
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Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips - Book Review

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips - Book Review



Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
Reviewed by Amanda Kennedy on 1st August, 2017

Fierce Kingdom was truly a joy-ride of a read. I simply could not put it down! It tapped into the very core of just how far a mother would go to protect her child, how people react in such a tense and terrifying situation. The REALITY of it, the raw terror and emotion. What a wonderfully executed story, I sincerely hope to read more from this author!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Amanda Kennedy
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The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley - Book Review

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley - Book Review



The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley
Published by Bloomsbury
Reviewed by Amanda Kennedy on 1st June, 2017

In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg. On the sprawling, crumbling grounds of the old house, something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather's pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.

Thus begins Merrick's expedition to Peru in search of quinine. Despite knowing that every previous attempt has resulted in death, he yearns to escape his English home and discover some truth about the tales of his father and grandfather concerning the fairy-tales he'd heard as a child. The further he explores, the more mysterious and magical the environment becomes. Until he meets Raphael, who claimed to have known his grandfather. How can that be when Raphael appears so young, and with Merrick's grandfather so long departed from this life?

The Bedlam Stacks is the epitome of a slow-burning novel. In contrast to Pulley's initial venture in this trilogy, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, it's pace is leisurely, serving to draw readers in slowly in order to acclimatise with the fantasy in parallel to Merrick's journey to deepest Peru.

World-building in this novel is delicious and satisfying. We are presented with beautiful descriptions and smooth character development, with a smattering of cameo appearances from Pulley's earlier work. I believe this is the second of a trilogy of novels set in he same universe. Those who loved The Watchmaker will not be disappointed having reached the novel's conclusion, though may feel a little different about the method used to get there.

I did truly enjoy this book, which I was invited to read for free as an ARC from the publisher. While it took a while to get going, I was enthralled when it did and felt a sense of loss as Merrick's story came to a close.

Natasha Pulley is cementing her reputation as an author to watch out for. I sincerely cannot wait to read her third novel and see how the characters and threads return for the final story.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Amanda Kennedy
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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - Book Review

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - Book Review



Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Reviewed by Amanda Kennedy on May 1st, 2017
Published by Crown Publishers
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
Generally speaking, I avoid science-fiction novels. Not that I have any particular aversion to the genre; it's just not really my thing.

However, RPO was highly recommended by by book group. I was urged to give it a try, particularly as most members rated it as one of the top reads in 2016. (This, by the way, is a group which focuses mostly on historical fiction and contemporary thrillers). I soon realised there was something special about this book.

A review on Goodreads describes Ready Player One as "80's nostalgia porn". Certainly, this is an accurate description. It is also so much more: a "coming of age" story; a reflection on our ever-increasing reliance on "screens"; a dystopian warning of the future; a love story... And it is absolutely saturated with references to the popular culture of my childhood.

In addition to puzzles, of course. I do love puzzles.

Unfortunately, I discovered this gem of a novel a little too late to participate fully. Back in 2012, Ready Player One author Ernie Cline has decided to give away a 1981 DeLorean automobile, complete with a Flux Capacitor, as promotional stunt for the paperback release of his novel. The challenge, in true RPO style, began with an Easter Egg hidden in the text of the newly released books, followed by three video-game challenges of increasing difficulty. In all honesty, I have no idea what I could have done with a DeLorean (hardly a practical car for a mum of three!), though I would have so enjoyed puzzling away with others in extension of the world RPO had opened up to me!

It does seem though, that a new ARG has opened up on the back of marketing for Spielberg's forthcoming film. You know, if you're interested...

I recommend Ready Player One to anyone and everyone, regardless of whether or not Sci-Fi is a genre you appreciate, and particularly if you grew up during the 80's.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
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Amanda Kennedy
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[name=Amanda Kennedy] [img=https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-nW5UR23ytjA/WKxWbZ4PGbI/AAAAAAAALUE/k0NHVKX1ScINTuCLcuUa7pHIvzPz8QFWwCLcB/s100/IMG_0163.JPG] [description=Amanda is a lifelong lover of literature, particularly charming novels and stories with a touch of magic! In addition to her musings on Pretty Books, you can find Amanda's writings on Blogger Buster and Glamumous. She has also edited and produced the Harvard Classics 365 project in addition to other ebooks which you can find on Amazon.] (facebook=http://www.facebook.com/allmyprettybooks) (instagram=https://www.instagram.com/allmyprettybooks/)

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