Monthly Archives: July 2009

Troubadour

I couldn’t help thinking while reading Troubadour that it might be Mary Hoffman’s best book. So far. There’s always scope for more, I hope. And it’s possible that you love best what you’re reading right now; a little bit more than the last really good book. But trust me, Troubadour is wonderful.

My second thought was about series versus stand-alone novels. I love returning to the characters of Stravaganza, and the settings are seductive. And I loved The Falconer’s Knot, because it was great and because it was a single novel. But perhaps Mary is doing it the best way, alternating between her Stravaganza and her stand-alone books.

With Troubadour she has moved into southern France in 1209 and the religious war between Rome and the True Christians. They all seem to be church people, but then we always get wars between very similar groups, who just have to disagree about something. It sounds very bloody, and pretty unreasonable from where I stand.

Troubadour is about a young girl, Elinor, who escapes an arranged marriage by dressing as a boy and travelling the country as a minstrel. She is in love with the troubadour Bertran, who is caught up in the war with the Pope.

These days we have almost forgotten the kind of love story where you love from afar and rarely meet, let alone touch each other. Quite refreshing to be reminded that love can live on through wars, for years and years.

Mary must have done a tremendous amount of background reading for Troubadour. It has a real flavour of the 13th century. It has the war with actual and fictional characters. It has a lot about troubadours and it’s got some early women’s lib.

All is not well at the end of this book. The war is far too bloody and unreasonable for that. But some things are good. And that’s good.

‘Early’ this morning

With a gale warning and rain and thunder forecast for most of today, it made sense to dash out for the daily walk straight after breakfast, since it was still dry and sunny, but with dark things gathering out over the sea. Your witch had one sock on when Son phoned. When she had finally got rid of him, she had managed another sock when Son’s father phoned. Daughter told him what’s what as the witch escaped.

It had to be the ‘short loop’ walk down to the sea, and as I got to the far corner I thought the people there had visitors with a very oversized mobile camper vehicle, until I discovered that it was the mobile library sitting there looking out to sea. We call it the book bus, and as I write this very sentence I can hear it go pass my house, after its session at the end of my road. It comes once a month, so I rarely see it. (I know, it would help if I lived here all the time.)

Down at the loop I looked back towards the bus and it was a beautiful sight, with the sea behind it and the gathering storm clouds. As I have a lovely purple mobile phone which is so ancient that camera phones hadn’t been invented, I can’t share the sight with you. The camera was safely at home.

And so am I now. I will post this and come off the internet, in case of thunder.

Cathy’s Ring

‘How is that possible?’ asked Daughter when she saw the newly arrived Cathy’s Ring by Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart. ‘I felt they had tied things up quite neatly and couldn’t write any more.’ Well, I don’t know, because I have yet to find enough time to tackle the previous two Cathy books. I don’t usually rely on even my lovely family for book reviews, but felt that the speed with which Daughter devoured Cathy one and two was some sort of guarantee as to their desirability.

It was no different this time round. Daughter sounded a little superior when telling me I wouldn’t understand, but this time she really felt there could be no more books about Cathy. Still don’t know enough to be sure if she could be right.

But it seems Cathy’s Ring met expectations and was equally readable. I can testify to the speed. This book too, comes with all the bits and pieces that are clues and stuff, in an envelope inside the front cover. And I haven’t given up on the idea of reading them for the simple reason that they look good, and I would like to read them.

Boobela – more me than I thought

I was sort of about not to read the two Boobela books I had in front of me. But something made me look inside. And I felt I might want to after all. It took me some more time, but once I did sit down with Joe Friedman’s Boobela and Worm, and Boobela and Worm, Ace Detectives, I felt quite warm inside.

They are books that would be suitable to read aloud to a young child, or for a slightly older child to read on their own. I reckon both would work well, but I quite fancy the idea of reading them to someone. If I had a someone of the right age.

Boobela is a giant. She is eight years old to start with, and in the latest book she is ten. She seems to have normal parents, except for the fact that they have gone off to Africa looking for medicine plants. That’s not nice, but it’s what fictional parents do. Her grandmother has also abandoned her temporarily.

Boobela isn’t too good at housework, or indeed at washing herself. When she meets Worm, things look up, and she starts to take more care, because now she finally has a friend. Boobela is very much about friendship.

Each book has four short stories, and they cover subjects such as balloon rides, dowsing, detecting and they even feature hoodie worms, of the hooligan variety. In fact, the hoodie story is quite romantic, and is all about courage. Worm isn’t too keen on kissing, however.

Great illustrations by Sam Childs.

Where are my glasses?

Not where I am, that’s for sure. The reading glasses, that is. Generally I will notice if my ordinary glasses aren’t perching on my nose, because life becomes very fuzzy.

This is mainly a travel related problem. At home I have three pairs of reading glasses strategically placed, so that most of the time they are very near me. While away, I have only the one pair, since I want a few other things to fit in my bag as well.

The holiday house is a bungalow, so none of the tedious running up and down stairs, and the glasses should never be very far away. Just not here. Now. They were here recently, but then I was in the other room. Or over there.

Working wardrobe

I sometimes sit down to read, feeling sure the glasses are next to the book. They’ll be with the laptop. When they are not resting on top of the laptop as I want to compute a little, they may be with the morning paper on the kitchen table. Or with the latest novel. There are four main resting places, so it’s like the toast falling butter side down. Never the way you want it.

Daughter keeps laughing at me. She’s the one who insisted on this blog post. She should be thinking of her ancient mother, and go get the glasses instead. Wherever they happen to be.

Music while you work?

I’ll steal ideas from anyone, anywhere. I happened to notice that the Swedish book magazine Vi Läser had been asking around to find out if authors listen to music when they write.

Varied results, as was to be expected. As for your blogwitch, it’s mainly iTunes. I can get frantic trying to decide what mood I’m in, and the upset when I have chosen the wrong CD is not good for the creative juices. So a random mix of my own favourites upsets me the least – if that’s not too negative – and can on occasion make me quite happy when something especially nice comes on.

So, what do you do?

Privacy?

Where should I draw the line on comments? I found a somewhat unpleasant comment left here some time ago, on an old post. This time I left it on, but quite often I clean up and remove what I feel doesn’t belong. But then, people are entitled to their opinions.

I’m not very clever with my interviews. I don’t ask all kinds of intricate literary questions. I don’t try and pry into people’s private lives either. It’s just nice with a little window opening on a person, and it’s not meant to be complete or anything.

I have found most authors that I’ve met to be nice human beings. I have no inclination to start digging if someone seems too nice, in order to find ‘dirt’.

The comment in question was about Neil Gaiman, who apparently has had things going on in his private life. He’s mentioned it a little on his own blog, so it’s no secret. But even he seems baffled that he can’t be allowed to live his own life. I’m sure people have been upset, but that’s private. What I did was talk for a short time to a nice and interesting individual whose books I like. He doesn’t have to be perfect.

To return to my thoughts on vetting authors the other day, I’d say that most of us have something ‘Not Good’ in our past. And I’m not even going to ask what yours is.