This blog ‘Our Books On The Brain’ is where you – the students, teachers, staff and parents of students attending Liberton High school can discuss books, enter competitions, display your own writing and generally have fun and exchange ideas about anything to do with books, reading and writing.
For our last post of the term, I asked my great English teacher, Miss Anderson, a few questions on the books and stories she loves…
What was your favourite book when you were in high school? Why? My favourite book in high school was Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I was really into the Victorian classics, and Tess was so unlike anything else – so tragic and so beautiful! As for something more ‘contemporary’, I was a lucky teenager because the Harry Potter series was being written as I was growing up. It was horrible having to wait so long for the next book, but I was thoroughly obsessed!
Is there any book that has influenced you and how you act/think? Haruki Murakami is a big influence of mine – both personally, and as a writer. His novels always contain two worlds, and I love the surreal idea that there is more to this life than meets the eye. His novels are full of talking cats, parallel worlds, hidden places, and secrets. The importance of the arts is everywhere in Murakami’s novels, and the importance of understanding ourselves, and loving others. That might sound all very bizarre, and in a way it is, but Murakami tells some wonderful stories in his novels.
What is your favourite book now? Why? My favourite book is still Tess – it’s hard to top! I’ve picked up a few other favourites though, like American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, and anything by Patrick Ness. I like books with gripping characters, with lots of disturbing or tragic events. My favourite book I read this year was probably a collection of short stories called Burnt Tongues, edited by Chuck Palahniuk. Needless to say, they were all quite gritty and gruesome, but great reads!
What book would you give to a friend for Christmas? Why? As a Christmas gift, I would give a beautiful book, like a pop up version of Alice in Wonderland, or a copy of Le Petit Prince. These books are full of gorgeous little illustrations, and packed with thoughtful messages, so I think they’d make a nice present. Books of any kind are alway a great gift!
Special thanks to Miss Anderson for sharing her thoughts, even if she was stuffed with the cold.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child may have been one of the best things about 2016. When hearing about the release of the script, it was music to my ears. I couldn’t wait to read the next instalment of the Potter adventures. Now finally, after an almost embarrassingly long time, I’ve finished reading
There was a lot to love in the story: Albus and Scorpius’ friendship; Ron and Hermoine’s marriage; going back to Hogwarts. I felt the Harry Potter magic from the first page and I loved every minute. However, I did feel deep down that the characters were odd – it didn’t feel like Harry, almost as if he wasn’t genuine. Despite this small issue, I loved the book. As always, there was an exciting plot, filled with disaster, adventure and magic. There was also even more lovable – and some loathsome – characters which completed the story. Based purely on the script, I would sell my soul to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child live on stage.
Since our blog post falls on St. Andrew’s Day, I thought I would take the opportunity to write about one of my favourite Scottish authors. Lari Don is a children’s author who writes books like the Fabled Beasts Chronicles, Rocking Horse War and Mind Blind.
I loved the Fabled Beasts Chronicles when I was younger; often going to signings after anxiously waiting for the next book to be released. The series starts with a young girl, Helen, finding an injured mystical creature at her door in First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts. This leads to Helen being immersed in a world of magic and adventure, which naturally I loved as a nine year old. The books were set in Scotland and generally brought old Scottish myths to life. I found that it was fun to read about magic that was so close to home.
Lari Don has many other enchanting books that are great to read, especially for children. I’m glad to have such an amazing writer, who brought me many exciting stories, so close to home.
After a long time, we’ve decided to get our blog up and running again. We plan to update with posts every Wednesday. These posts will hopefully be written by a collection of pupils and staff about anything about books in the hope they can be interesting and enjoyable for everyone!
Well done to Becca, for winning the Christmas Ghost Story competition. Becca won a £15.00 iTunes voucher.
Every Monday lunchtime a group of dedicated S2/S3 students meet for our Book Group.
Here is an overview of what they are reading at the moment and what they think of the books
Ceinwen S3, is reading “Never Let Me Go…” by Kazuo Ishiguru. She said “ I love it, its just so different from anything else I’ve ever read”
Hannah in S2, is reading the Magician’s Nephew by C S Lewis because it was sitting on my bookshelf.
Charlie is reading Mind Games by Terri Terry…Its really good, it keeps me hooked, the main character has a secret and you don’t know what it is.
Riley in reading Girl Online by Zoe Suggs, and says it has such a good twist.
Becca is enjoying Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
Alice is enjoying Conjuring the Infinite and likes it as its really mysterious
Iona is part of the Waterstone’s teen book club based at Fort Kinnaird and is reading Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, she likes how its told in storyteller format and how it uses made up words.
Claire is re reading Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas, she is reading this for the 3rd time, I love it so much because its nice to read a book where the main character is as controversial as Caleana is an assassin
Mariama Loves Tanya by Tanya Burr. I like it because of all the useful information in it.
Daniel is reading a book in Dutch called In Europa, and he says it’s a real eye opener as it lets you live in the 20th Century.
As a book group we are all going to read The Princess Bride by William Goldman for the last Monday in April, so will report back on that soon.
Kate’s Soul Beach trilogy caused a stir here at Liberton and Kate very kindly offered to answer questions from some of our very keen S2 readers.
How many books have you written?
I’ve written 3 books for teenagers – Soul Beach, Soul Fire and Soul Storm – but another 9 for adult readers, which are more romantic comedies! No murder or mystery in those at all. And now I’ve written a diet book as well, about the 5:2 diet which your parents might be trying!
Who was your favourite author growing up?
I had so many – but I did love Roald Dahl (Fantastic Mr Fox is my favourite and Danny Champion of the World a close second), Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising Trilogy, and also all of Noel Streatfeild’s books. There weren’t many books just for teenagers back then but I did like Robert Cormier’s scary thrillers.
Who inspired you to write books?
A whole mixture of people. My granddad used to make up brilliant stories about a girl called Kate in a wood near where he lived in Liverpool. Also I lived in Holland for a while when I was a child and I used to love reading all the books about Britain as I missed home and they were important to me. Plus I had a very encouraging English teacher – though no one from my school had ever done anything like being a writer, I didn’t realise someone who wasn’t well-connected could do that. But they can! You can do whatever you want.
Where do you write your books?
In the spare bedroom at home in Brighton. Sometimes I take a notebook to the seafront. I wrote some of Soul Beach in Barcelona as we lived there for 18 months, that was very inspiring.
Who is your best friend and has he/she ever appeared in any of your books?
I have two best friends, Jenny and Geri. I haven’t put them directly in any books except thanking them, but Alice in Soul Beach is quite similar to them both in character: they’re quick-witted and funny but very loyal and kind.
What school did you go to?
I went to 16 different schools growing up, including 9 months at school in Longniddry, East Lothian but I was 5 at the time so I’ve forgotten the name! I went back a couple of years ago to there and the coast along that part of Scotland, I love it there.
Would you ever visit Soul Beach if it was a real place?
That’s a hard one. I guess I would like to, but then again I’d have to either be dead, or have a close friend who was dead, to be allowed to go there. So then again, maybe not!
Have you won any awards for you books?
I’ve been shortlisted for quite a few but have never won one! But I did win a story competition when I was 16 and that really encouraged me. I think entering competitions is great for new writers.
Are you Patron of Reading for a school?
No, but I’d like to be. It’s been a crazily busy year – I had five books published! – but next year I will look into it. It sounds fun.
Did you like reading and writing at school?
I loved both. I always loved telling stories but never dreamed I could make a job out of it. The next best thing was being a journalist which is what I did before becoming a writer: it’s great preparation because you meet people who’ve had amazing experiences.
Why did you choose that person to be the killer?
Ah… I wanted it to be someone close to Alice and Meggie, but with hidden motives. As soon as I decided on that person, I had great fun trying to make readers change their minds all the time. The killer is truly scary because they’re not obvious.
How did you come up with ideas for the Soul Beach scenes and how do you choose names?
I guess with the Beach I was inspired by places I’d been – like Barcelona – and pictures of paradise beaches. I thought if the people on the beach were dead, the least I could do was imagine an amazing place for them to spend their time. But there’s also something dark about beautiful places and I wanted to reflect that.
Names are hard – I choose ones I like for main characters like Alice – and in her case, she has her own wonderland to go to. The others are a mix. One of the best tips I’ve had as writer is never to choose names which start with the same initial letter as it can get confusing. Sometimes I change names as I go along but here all the names seemed just right!
Thanks to everyone for the questions! They’re really interesting and were fun to answer.
See you on the Beach???
I would have to admit that reading did not come easily to me in my youth. I struggled to remain focussed throughout Standard Grade and Higher English texts. My thoughts would often drift off to who Aberdeen were playing at Pittodrie that Saturday. However, looking back on my life, I have no idea where I would be without books and my love (yes, really) of reading.
One of my favourite memories of growing up was the time spent at night just before my younger brother went to sleep. My Dad would read us chapters from the Lord of the Rings (long before you could watch it!). Each night I would be transported to this far off world that had been created in my imagination by the text in the book and my Dad’s interpretation of it (complete with voices!). Often we would reach a point of suspense in the story, only to discover that my wee brother had fallen asleep. I suppose this would be the equivalent of the title tune on East Enders and having to wait one more night to find out what would happen. To this day I still cherish this time spent with my Dad and my brother. We could both still tell you the voices that the characters in the story had too!!
At times you can also stumble across new and unknown authors that are your own personal ‘discovery’. Back in 1997, when working in Portugal, an Irish friend of mine suggested I read a book called ‘All the Pretty Horses’ by Cormac McCarthy. I then ploughed through many of his books before he became big news and his stories began to win Oscar’s when they were turned into Hollywood movies. His book ‘The Road’ remains one of my favourite pieces of Fiction writing that I’ve ever read. The real joy though comes when you find a gem like this and you can share it with others. It is a good feeling when someone comes back to you and says “that book you recommended was amazing.” It can spark a long discussion of its merits or otherwise. It’s definitely one of my top 7 favourite books.
It was exactly in this manner that I received a recommendation of my own. “You’re a teacher, a parent and a sportsman. You should read ‘Bounce’. It will change the way you look at everything.” That recommendation came from three separate friends who had all passed it on to each other. They were right! Now I feel I am part of the ‘Bounce’ secret society too. The premise being that there is no such thing as ‘natural talent’, but that everything you can do is the result of practice. It somewhat mirrors my ability to read – the more I did it, the better I got at it. The book was genuinely inspirational. I think about the lessons learned from it most days and try my best to use them. It is amazing to think that the way in which someone puts together their research and arguments inspire you to do better.
Books are amazing. There is definitely a place for digital reading, but there is no substitute for the social interactions and memories that you get from a dog-earred, paperback that has been read many time over.
So I say thank you for the book tips
I’d like to use my first post on ‘books on the brain’ to say an open thank you to all of the people who’ve told me about the books they love. There are times when I feel so overwhelmed by the number of books in the world left to read that I just don’t know what to pick up next. There are times when my brain’s so busy thinking about reading for work that I find it hard to think about what the read for fun. Over the past couple of months I’ve read some amazing books and they’ve all be recommended to me: some of them by friends, others by pupils and staff here at Liberton and a few by people I’ve just met in passing but still have had the time to talk books with. They’re all books I probably wouldn’t have found by myself or, worse still, I may have picked up and put down again not realising quite how great the books could be.
Thanks to the reading recommendations of others I’ve read the inspirational story of Jamie Andrew, who learned how to mountain climb again after having all of his limbs amputated and also found ways to keep himself positive in really tough times. I’ve been reminded of strong people I’d forgotten about and learned about other people who did amazing things with their lives in Ranulph Fiennes’s book of his heroes. I’ve learned all about how important hard work is to success thanks to ‘Bounce’ and one table tennis player’s investigation into what makes people great at what they do. I’ve cried on the bus home because of the ‘Fault in our Stars’ (I have Mrs Babbs to thank for this one). Just now I’m building up the guts to start the Mr Mumbles series – I’ve heard so many good things about it I just don’t like being scared…maybe it can be a Halloween treat.
I’ve been continually challenged, surprised and made to think by what I’ve read. All thanks to the tip offs of other readers. So, if you’re reading this please recommend me more great things to read and remember to keep talking to your friends, family, school mates and everyone else you meet about your books on your brain.
After school I didn’t have any ideas for this blog so my Mum said “Why don’t you do it on your first book”
My first book was called “Can’t You Sleep Dotty?” by Tim Warnes and my parents started reading it to me when I was 4 months old and kept reading to me every night before bed till I was able to read myself. Reading to me like this probably inspired my interest in books today.
The book “Can’t You Sleep Dotty?” is about a dog that can’t sleep and all his friends help him get to sleep.
My mum dug it out of a box in our house and gave it to me to help write this blog and when I read it again all these memories came flooding into my head and I remember how I used to listen to my mum reading it to me and how much I loved it. It felt weird being able to read it myself really easily because I haven’t seen this book for years until now when my mum took it out of the box and gave it to me.