Category Archives: Prizes

Looking for a book recommendation? Try the Costa Book Award shortlist

You can find the whole list of short-listed books here.

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Get a taste for award-winning Sci-fi in this short story collection.

Cixin Liu is China’s bestselling science fiction author and one of the most important voices in world SF. His novel, ‘The Three-Body Problem’, was the first translated work of SF ever to win the Hugo Award. Here is the first collection of his short fiction: eleven stories, including five Chinese Galaxy Award-winners, form a blazingly original ode to planet earth, its pasts and its futures.

Discover this collection.

Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: The Dark Circle – Linda Grant

My final #BaileysPrize book and interestingly the one I might have picked first if I hadn’t gone for random selection. Grant is an author I’ve read and liked before and the book with a just post-war setting and family saga to boot really ticks all my reading boxes!

I enjoyed this book and raced through it but apart from being a good read I don’t have a lot more to say. The characters were all fine and the bulk of the plot interesting but after the five other books on the shortlist this just felt a little flat.

It was interesting to read about the change in medical approaches at the very birth of the NHS, and also the, sadly still relevant, battle over the need for new drugs but their expense. I was also a little shocked at the post war antisemitism portrayed – in my naiveté I did think that after the shocking images from Germany at the end of WW2 that this wasn’t an issue in Britain but I am always pleased to learn things and have my assumptions challenged!

The ending of the book did seem out of kilter with the majority of the book but reading an online Twitter q&a with Grant I can now see the point of this so I am more accepting.  I suppose that as I am still thinking about this book a week after finishing it that it was a good book and a worthy contender for the Bailey’s Prize but it did feel like any other historical fiction book in many ways and certainly not as stand out as the other 5 on the short list.

I’m now weighing up my thoughts on all 6 books and trying to decide which one I really want to win the 2017 Bailey’s Prize. I’m also tempted to go back and read all of the longlist to see why it was these 6 that made the cut!

Sarah

Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

As none of the books that arrived in by #BaileysPrize shadowing box were books that had currently featured on my “to be read” pile I have approached them all with some level of caution – I might be reading well out of my comfort zone after all!

This level of trepidation rose when the fifth book I read was Adebayo’s Stay With Me but this time because of the Nigerian setting – one of my favourite books of all time is Half a Yellow Sun by Chimomanda Ngozi Adichie and could any other Nigerian set book live up to the standard of that one?

In brief the answer is yes – this was a wonderful book that for the most part managed to capture both the wide scope of Nigeria and the intimate setting of one couple’s marriage.  Yejide is desperate for a child – as it seems are her whole extended family and from this starting point an intricate tale that keeps you on your toes unfolds.

I’m not going to say more for the twists and turns, which are all believable and well written, are what make this book and I do think that coming at it with no ideas makes the best reading experience.

My only wish for this book is that perhaps sometimes there was more of the background story – I’d love to have known more about the politics driving the plot in so many ways, however with this would have come the loss of the intimate tale…

I loved this book and I hope it does well at the Bailey’s Prize on the 7th June – it is stunningly well written, thoroughly readable and has some great discussion points for book groups. Need more convincing? Ayobami Adebayo is a graduate of UEA’s Creative Writing Programme so there is a local link!

Sarah

Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

From a short book to an epic – my fourth Bailey’s Prize read was the massive tome Sport of Kings. 500+ pages set in and around a ranch in Kentucky which raises race horses.  The book covers many themes including (but not limited to) racism, sexism, evolution, horse breeding and slavery. The prose is dense, rich and flowery. It is being billed as a modern American classic.

For me it felt a bit of a slog to get through. The basic story lines were all great and I wanted to know more about all of the characters but the language and the style just kept bogging me down and disappointingly the slow build was ruined by a too fast ending. I also just didn’t quite buy the main twist.

I admire this book without loving it, the racism and sexism alienated me and I never felt close to the characters – it was like they were all behind a pane of glass. I’m glad that the Bailey’s Prize introduced me to this book, I’d never have read it otherwise and there is much to admire.

Sarah

Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: First Love by Gwendoline Riley

This was a real pace change from the first two books sent to me by the Reading Agency, it is a slender book with lots of white spaces – both on the cover and surrounding the text. I changed my reading style for this book by instinct. Usually I am a fast reader, swallowing books whole but something in this one made me slow down, to read each section then take a pause and I think that this made the book better.

The story is slight, it is about Neve and her relationship with her husband. On a quick read it seems that she is in a bad relationship – one that borders on being abusive and your sympathy is all with her. As you read on however you see that in this case the situation is quite as black and white as you’d think, Neve does come with her own baggage.

On the whole I admire this book without loving it. It doesn’t excuse domestic abuse but in some ways it does apologise for it – and I don’t like this.  For a small book this packs a deceptive punch and while it isn’t one that I’ll return to I think that it does deserve its place on the Bailey’s Shortlist as it is fresh and different.

Sarah

Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: The Power – Naomi Alderman

My Bailey’s Book Prize reading as a 2017 Library Ambassador continued with The Power by Naomi Alderman and this was possibly this one I was looking forward to reading the most. For a start I’d heard about it and it was also about turning the world as we know it on its head without being an obvious dystopian/post-apocalyptic tale.

Sadly the book didn’t live up to my expectations – and even a week on I can’t quite explain why, it really should have ticked all my reading boxes. Strong women characters, alternative history…what’s not to like?

That I am still thinking so hard about this book must mean something but I think deep down I think that this would have made a brilliant short story or novella but that it was just a little too stretched into novel form.  The framing device also didn’t quite work for me, although it did deliver up the best last line of a book I think I’ve ever read.

When I read and then reviewed the book straight after finishing it I was possibly more ambivalent than I am now. I’ve chatted about it with more people, in the real world and online, and while this is never going to be my favourite book I think I can cope if it wins – I think the problem is with me. I wanted the book to be more than it was.

Sarah

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

My adventures as a Bailey’s Book Prize ambassador started with Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien and I reviewed it shortly after turning the last page on my own blog

A week on I have to say that I am still totally blown away by this book. Sweeping novels covering interesting periods of time from a personal view point are personal favourites of mine but the ‘voice’ of the narrator is very important.

With Do Not Say… I quickly got under the skin of our modern day narrator, Marie, and at first I wanted to know more about her and resented the times when the story flipped to China.  However as the links between past and present became clearer I just wanted more and more of all of the stories.

I knew the broad strokes of Chinese history during the twentieth century but this really brought home just what the phrases ‘Cultural Revolution’ and ‘Great Leap Forward’ actually meant for the general population. I also liked very much that the book continued up to and beyond the events of Tienanmen Square in 1989.

This book has left me with a real ‘book hangover’ and I’m finding it hard to get into any new book – let alone the other five Bailey’s titles!

Sarah

Bailey’s Book Prize: Library Ambassador

I’m very excited that I have been picked as a Library Ambassador for this year’s Bailey’s Book Prize.  Previous winners of the Bailey’s Prize (and previous incarnations of the prize) feature highly in my list of ‘favourite books I’ve ever read.’

Norfolk has just had a hugely successful reading campaign Norfolk’s Most Wanted and this has shown just how popular reading is still and to have the chance to read all six of this year’s short listed titles and share my thoughts on them as I read.

This year the six books on the short list are not ones that had really been on my reading radar, I think I’d heard bits of Naomi Alderman’s The Power when it was read on the radio but that’s as far as it goes.  I’m really looking forward to discovering six new books and sharing my thoughts.

The first book I picked out of the box was Do Not Say We Have Nothing and my thoughts on that one are coming soon.

Look out for displays around the Bailey’s Prize in a library near you and I hope to have the final details of an event celebrating the Bailey’s Prize at the Millennium Library very soon.

You can read more about the library ambassadors here and I’d love to hear your thoughts on my progress and the books either here or on twitter where I am @norfolkbookworm

Sarah, Millennium Library

Costa Book Awards

Just in case you missed out seeing which books won the category prizes here is a roundup.

Details from Costa about the Award Winners

Reserve copies:

DadlandDadland COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD WINNER

 

 

 

days

Days Without End COSTA NOVEL AWARD WINNER

 

 

 

fallingFalling Awake COSTA POETRY AWARD WINNER

 

 

 

goldenGolden Hill COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD WINNER

 

 

The Bombs That Brought Us Together COSTA CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARD WINNERbombs

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