Congratulations to the Winner of the Rubery Book of the Year
My life as a Bench
We are delighted to announce the category winners for 2017
Non Fiction Winner
Impact of an Ancient Nation
Lena Adishian and Nareg Seferian
Young Adult Winner
My life as a Bench
Rosie and Rufus
The 2017 Category Shortlists
Congratulations to all those listed!
Impact of an Ancient Nation Lena Adishian and Nareg Seferian
This is a beautifully produced, full colour coffee table book which does what it sets out to do.
It is the outcome of a project remembering the centennial of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.
The book comprises 100 short factual articles about Armenian culture, history and memories of the genocide itself, each with a photographic illustration, all easily accessible to the reader. It is aimed at the Armenian diaspora but is equally fascinating to the general reader with little knowledge of the country. Although it is factual and non-judgemental, it raises awareness not only of Armenia and Armenian people but of present political dilemmas.
Mila’s Meals: The Beginning and the Basics Catherine Barnhoorn
A gloriously illustrated book of recipes for a baby in its first year – all of which appear to be suitable for the entire family. It includes extensive information on every aspect of nutrition: additives, GM, allergies and food intolerances among many more. It’s packed with delicious recipes, all accompanied by mouth-watering pictures.
Wilde's Women Eleanor Fitzsimons
An extremely well-researched and accessible biography, which is also an entertaining read. I had no idea Oscar Wilde had even married, so it was a surprise to learn about his many relationships with women and how so many women influenced his work. Wilde’s mother was particularly fascinating. She was a highly intelligent, intellectual woman who not only campaigned for the rights of women, but for the independence of her native Ireland from British rule. She was an accomplished writer herself, publishing many poems and books on Irish Folklore. This biography is full of wonderful anecdotes about some of the most dazzling society figures of the day and contains some beautiful photographs, as well as many previously unknown facts about Oscar Wilde.
Walking the English Coast: A Beginner's Guide
A book written by a GP who decided to follow her own advice about fitness and embarked on the ambitious project of walking all 5,500 miles of the British Coast. Written in a deceptively straightforward style, it offers practical advice that you feel you ought to know, but actually don’t, from what shoes to wear to how to deal with cows. It’s the kind of book you glance at, intending to pick out a few sections, then can’t put down.
How to Befriend, Tame and Manage and teach your Black Dog Called Depression Dr James Manning
This is one of several books presented for the award, all of them written by experienced psychologists. Dr Manning disarmingly reveals his own mental health problems and wants to share the self-knowledge he has acquired as a result of his own research. The books deal with a variety of conditions that can be helped by CBT. This one is aimed at people who suffer from depression and has a particularly pleasing device - a little box introducing each chapter where the black dog gives a simple piece of advice. The book is superbly presented with clear, easily understandable language and well-designed diagrams. It’s well-researched and full of practical ideas and advice. There are plenty of carefully drawn-up charts and questions that lead forward in a series of small steps. It should be required reading for anyone in the health-care profession or working with children and young adults.
Goodbye to Italia Marisa Parker
A lovely personal story from a married couple, with alternate chapters told by each partner. It’s a book with enormous charm, covering the childhood of Mariolina in Italy during the second world war and Eugenio’s six years in a POW camp, right through to their wedding in 1955. There’s a photo at the beginning of each chapter, and you find yourself delayed endlessly by examining these delightful photos. It's a wonderful story, very well written, told in a nicely informal, accessible prose.
My life as a Bench Jaq Hazell
A memorial bench to seventeen year old Ren still contains her spirit. An aching sense of loss is wonderfully conveyed in this contemporary novel, as Ren tries to come to terms with her new situation, her own untimely death and the loss of her first real love, Gabe, who is blamed for her murder. Ren is visited in succession by her friends and family and touchingly struggles to communicate with them. She relives the events of her short life. There are no stereotypes here. Ren finds herself next to the crusty Lionel (another, much older bench-presence) yet their relationship becomes powerful and moving; the step mother, Susannah, is supportive, her half-sister is sensitive to Ren’s voice. The teenage language and humour, the rivalries, obsession with boys, music (Amy Winehouse) and parties are completely persuasive. Moving and unforgettable.
Backjump Carmen Henderson
This is an engaging story set on Dartmoor. Jake and his sister, Mel, jump back to early medieval times as a result of buying an old ring from a market stall. The historical details are well-researched, and there’s a good sense of danger as they use their ingenuity to find ways of adaptingto the prejudices of the period. They help the local community to fight corruption and danger, while still managing to form friendships and alliances. The return to modern times offers a pleasing resolution to the dilemmas they left seven hundred years in the past.
Blood Dragons Rosemary A Johns
The novel moves between the 1880s and 1960s. For all this time, the narrator, Light, has been the lover of Ruby, who first introduced him to their vampire world. But when he falls in love with Kathy, a human, he begins to understand that humans should not be treated as prey, and he no longer wants to kill them. This is not just a novel about vampires. Its strength lies in its unsentimental tenderness. Light is telling the story to Kathy who has aged and is now suffering from dementia. Although she no longer recognises him and is slowly dying, his love for her has not changed. The book deals with the poignancy of losing someone to dementia movingly and sensitively.
Poetry and Short Stories
Sea Wall Jennifer Hunt
This is a slim collection of slightly linked poems and prose poems, attractively illustrated (with woodcuts or linocuts) by the author, referring to walks on the South Dorset Ridgeway. Most of the poems are very spare and beautifully to the point. There's terrific metaphor & simile, as in: High path / narrow / as sheep's hooves / a way cloven / through flint. By contrast, the prose poems are more autobiographical and less successful. Overall a lovely volume.
Mariage Map Owen Lewis
This is a collection full of excitement and the unexpected. Lewis is a Jewish-American doctor and poet. His themes, in particular, are divorce, death and love. For example, see "Cut" as a bitter and memorable comment on divorce. Our reader was excited about this collection and felt it was well worth reading over and over again.
Wild Quiet Rosin O'Donnell
This is an interestingly cosmopolitan collection of stories, mostly set in Ireland. Some, like "Ebenezer's Memories" are very Irish (childhood memories of a "mixed marriage" Catholic & Protestant offspring). Others are about incomers, from Nigeria, Japan and Somalia amongst others. “Titanium Heart" is a magic realism piece. Some are narrated from beyond the grave. So there's an ambitious writer here. Not everything she attempts works well, but it's mostly a varied and entertaining collection in a well produced book.
llama Sutra Melanie Whipman
This is a varied collection in terms of genres (fantasy, crime, romance) and themes, tending towards YA characters in an attractive and very well produced hardcover volume. There are entertaining characters and compelling plots here, dealt with in a skilful and subtle manner. The writing is assured and striking with some wonderful turns of phrase. Some of the stories are quietly moving. The reader particularly enjoyed the title story and "The Deer".
Whirligig Richard Buxton
A sweeping saga set in both 19th century rural England and the American South and reminiscent of Gone With The Wind. The narrative is both fluid and engaging, although there is rather too much focus on the American Civil War and the politics surrounding it, which sometimes gets in the way of the story. Whirligig is the first in a series (Shire’s Union) and is the story of a young Englishman thrown unwittingly into the American Civil War. He is on a quest to keep a promise to his childhood friend, Clara, and save her from making a disastrous marriage. She’s the daughter of a Duke, Shire is a village schoolteacher, yet they’re both stubborn, brave and driven by their beliefs. Clara is to marry an estate owner in Comrie and finds herself trapped there when the Civil War begins. She struggles to fit into a world where her maid is a slave and her fiancé treats the estate workers as possessions.
This is the story of Sophia, an Olympic champion swimmer from East Germany before the fall of the iron curtain, and the free use of steroids by the authorities. Sophia is now a police officer in the western side of a unified Germany, and when she has to investigate the death of a former friend, she returns east to encounter once again the power of the former Stasi and secrets that lead her back to the heart of her own family. It’s a fast-paced thriller, but also a thought-provoking study, still relevant, of the exploitation of young athletes and the ethos of winning at all costs.
Uncertain Light Marion Molteno
An epic novel centred round Rahul, a UN peace negotiator, who is reported missing at the start of the novel. The characters are strong and nuanced, the plot clever and the scope ambitious. The reader gradually meets all of Rahul’s close friends who eventually make contact with each other. It’s set in a lawless mountainous region of Tajikistan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, where the UN has the impossible task of keeping the peace among tribes who have no desire to accommodate each other. The descriptions of this troubled part of the world, so unfamiliar to most readers, is both fascinating and terrifying, and the interaction between the characters movingly and skilfully portrayed.
Confessions of Socrates R. L.Prendergast
While Socrates sits in prison in Athens awaiting his death sentence he writes to his sons telling them of his varied life as a stone mason’s apprentice, a soldier and teacher. One soon comes to like the self-effacing philosopher and to begin to understand the complex society in which he lived. The characters are fascinating and distinctive - Crito the hero, the loving slave Diotima and Socrates himself who risked unpopularity by logical questioning - but never single-dimensional. There are exciting battle scenes, philosophical disputes and shamings, all culminating in the famous trial. The book is written in beautifully clear prose so that what might seem distant in time and relevance is brought to life.
Baby X Rebecca Ann Smith
Dr Alex Mansfield is on the run with a newborn baby, with more sinister forces than the police and media on her trail. Alex is the doctor heading the controversial project to grow a human foetus in an artificial uterus; Baby X is the result of the first closely-scrutinised trial. But, after a promising start, something has gone wrong with the process and, as the narrative moves forwards and backwards in time, the reader wants to keep turning the pages to find out why.
A real page-turner of a medical thriller set in a fertility clinic and a scandal involving stem cell research. The novel is well structured and the characters are memorable. I had no idea that a foetus could develop in an artificial womb and found the whole subject matter fascinating. I like the way Rebecca Ann Smith focuses on the contrasts between hard, cold medical science and the emotions connected with maternal love. The medical information is completely outside my sphere of knowledge, but it's not too difficult to understand and the author doesn’t get bogged down in the detail.
Slipping John Toomey
What has ‘slipped’ in John Toomey’s excellent novel is any sense of reality in the mind of its subject, Albert Jackson. As he goes about his daily life as a teacher, Albert appears normal enough, but contemptuous and distorted thoughts seethe in his brain as he pursues his delusion of love for a pretty young teacher on whose account he (partly) decides he must murder his wife. While serving his sentence in the local psychiatric hospital, he enlists the aid of a young fiction writer, Charlie Vaughan, to help him present his view of this event. Albert’s account, sent in episodes, makes compelling reading, both for Charlie and ourselves. Albert is clearly insane, but his fierce intellect, playful humour and tender observations both intrigue and disarm us as he draws us into the complex workings of his mind. At the end, Charlie is not sure if Albert deserves a public voice. There is something self-serving about Albert’s request, something that makes us feel uneasy, even complicit. And yet the story is told. And we can’t help but be thoroughly entertained. The prose is beautiful and the whole thing is a superb tour de force.
My Sister the Superhero Emily Do-Quang
This is an interesting little book aimed at families who have an autistic child – probably on the milder end of the spectrum. It’s told from the point of view of a sibling who understands that his sister is different and puts a positive slant on her unusual response to life. It shows how she sees and hears things he can’t and how everything quickly becomes overwhelming. The illustrations are simple and gentle and capture the sense of difference. A valuable way of helping children cope and learn tolerance and resilience.
The Rare Monkey Joanne Gail
A simple, gentle book about a monkey who doesn’t feel he can do anything. He visits other animals – an elephant, a lion and a tortoise amongst others – and is frustrated by his inability to copy their ways. He eventually discovers what he can do and learns that every animal is different and has its own way of doing things. It’s a lovely book with a valuable lesson demonstrated in a pleasing way.
Piccadilly and the Waltzing Wind Lisa Anne Novelline and Nicola Hwang
A lovely energetic book about a young girl who wants to fly with the wind. It’s full of colour and movement, with animals creeping round the corners where they’re least expected and having conversations with Piccadilly. It’s a happy book with pictures that can be studied endlessly for fresh surprises and small details that constantly delight.
Delivering Dreams Lori Preusch
A large, gloriously lavish book about a girl waiting for letters from her Grandpa. It’s about journeys, about strange, exotic places, beautifully illustrated with original images. The ties and love between the two generations shines out as. The story is told in rhyme and the artwork clearly the product of a mature, gifted artist. This is a book that will reward frequent visits and remain fascinating to children of all ages (including grown-up children with a love for adventure and fantasy), offering up new insights and hidden delights the more you study it.
Tara Binns, Eagled-Eyed Pilot Lisa Rajan and Eerika Omiyale
This is one of a series of books about Tara Binns, clearly intended to encourage young girls to aspire to interesting and adventurous careers. This one has two strands: the result of a violent storm, where people’s homes have been destroyed; and the search for buried treasure by Tara and her crew. There’s a very pleasing solution which brings both storylines together. Tara returns to the island and donates the loot to the homeless. The illustrations are bright and cheerful, the story, told in rhyme, has a happy outcome and every key character is female. A good way of inspiring ambition.
Rosie and Rufus Debbie Wise
A charming book for very young children about two robins who make themselves a nest in the hat of a snowman, and the cat who comes looking for them. The robins have fun, the cat waits patiently for the snow to melt and deliver him a meal. The pictures are delightful and the words have a pleasing rhythm and rhyme, creating both comfort and tension when read out loud. A deceptively simple book that would stand up to endless readings – one of those books that remains in the memory long afterwards