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    The Black Flamingo

    YA book reviews: the best books for teens this autumn

    If you have ever done an online quiz to discover which ice cream sundae, vegetable or Disney character best reflects your personality, then What Kind of Quiz Book are You? by Rachel McMahon is the book for you. Rachel is the genius quiz master behind many of BuzzFeed’s most popular quizzes, and has superbly converted her online quizzes into an entertaining quiz book. What Kind of Quiz Book are You? is perfect for evenings when you fancy a good giggle with your family or friends, and the conversations it will generate are just as good, if not better, than the quizzes themselves.

    Akin'by Emma Donoghue

    Book review: Akin, by Emma Donoghue

    Emma Donoghue is full of surprises. From the Crucible-esque 19th century darkness of the small Irish town in The Wonder, to the seediness of post-Gold Rush San Francisco in Frog Music, to the bleak, claustrophobic horror of Room, her settings – and styles – are hugely diverse.

    John Burnside PIC: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

    Book review: The Music of Time, by John Burnside

    The subtitle “Poetry In The Twentieth Century” might lead you to expect a historical survey, something that would have been an extraordinary undertaking, even if restricted to work first written in the English language. Inasmuch as this, or something like it, would seem to have been Burnside’s original intention, he sensibly changed tack and instead chose “to discuss poems and ideas of poetry as they inform not just ‘the life of the mind’ but also my day-to-day existence.” So we have a personal, rather than academic book, a poet’s record, examination and celebration of poems and poets who matter to him. The result is a book which is the product of remarkably wide reading and his response to this. It is perhaps a book that few will read cover to cover, but it is one which invites and deserves close reading, one also with many chapters that I would think  readers will return to again and again.

    Kirsty Logan

    Book review: Things We Say in the Dark, by Kirsty Logan

    This thoroughly haunting collection of short stories from Kirsty Logan begins with a note from someone who, we assume, must be the author. While writing this book, she informs us, she spent a month on retreat in Iceland. “It was a strange time,” she writes. “I spent entire days in silence without seeing another living thing... It was weird and I got sad and I lost myself a little.”  These authorial interjections keep on cropping up between stories and – as the book progresses – the extent to which the author may or may not have lost herself during the course of her writing retreat gradually becomes apparent.

    Philip Pullman PIC: Daneil Leal-Olivas / AFP / Getty Images

    Book review: The Book Of Dust, Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman

    There was a tide of enthusiasm when Philip Pullman announced a new book set in the world of His Dark Materials, La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One. It was, in many ways, a muted affair. Rather than the cosmological battles of the original trilogy, featuring Lyra Silvertongue, née Belacqua, it was a far more modest tale of how Lyra was taken, as a baby, to her new home. This second part of the new trilogy skips ahead: Lyra is now an undergraduate, her erstwhile saviour, Malcolm, is a don and dark forces are on the move. There is much to enjoy in this new novel, and in some ways I want to be wholehearted, but I cannot. The joy of the first trilogy was transportation, to a different world of daemons and witches and armoured bears and ghosts and harpies and even things such as the sort-of-mechanical mulefa. This, like La Belle Sauvage, feels not so much like an invented world but a reflected one. In La Belle Sauvage it was flooding and eco-catastrophe. This time it is everything.

    Paul Muldoon PIC: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

    Book review: Frolic And Detour, by Paul Muldoon

    I still remember the first time I read Paul Muldoon’s poetry. At the time I was rather languid about contemporary poetry, although I liked Geoffrey Hill and JH Prynne. But a chance encounter with The Annals Of Chile was a revelation. It was a poetry that was knotty and witty, cerebral but affective, formal but flamboyant and unlike anything I had read before. I went on to gobble up collections like Madoc: A Mystery, Quoof and Meeting The British. In our age of facile Instagram poets and one-note-joke performance poetry, Muldoon shows how craft and craftiness can cleave together.

    Should Charles Edward Stewart have marched on London? Seward believes it would have been a gamble worth taking.

    Book review: The King Over The Water, by Desmond Seward

    In popular memory Jacobitism means the ’45, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the retreat from Derby, Culloden and the flight through the heather. Even the ’15 is barely remembered. There is also an assumption that Jacobitism was almost entirely Scottish, and that it was always an all-but-lost cause, hence the sadness of Jacobite songs.

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