Tag Archives: Music

Changing genres

I disappointed a young reader the other week. I wish I hadn’t. Not that I think this reader will give up reading, but still.

There’s a writer whom we shall call Edward Litteless. He is very popular with his fans, and I’m not surprised. I’ve read the first books in a couple of his thriller style series, and while I personally have no need to read more, I can fully see why young people – and especially boys – love these books.

So when Wirral Boy’s mother made expectant noises online regarding Edward’s new series, I had a great idea. I would ask Wirral Boy to read and review it for me, as he’d be able to give it full justice.

Except, WB hated it so much he didn’t even finish the book. WB’s mother soldiered on, because she’s an adult and she felt I deserved the review I’d asked for. But she hated it too.

The thing is, I don’t like posting bad reviews, so she might as well not have persevered to the bitter end. What I don’t know, is if the book is not as well written as the others, or if it is merely this complete change of genre that went wrong for our fervent fan. It can’t have been only genre, though, or he would have expected to have no interest in the new series. I sometimes feel like that, and while it’s a valid opinion to have, giving something new a chance seems fair.

There’s another thing here I feel uncomfortable about. The review copies of Edward’s last two books have arrived with ‘contracts’ that I have no wish to have anything to do with. By default it is assumed I will adhere to the rules, which seems to be not only not to share with anyone, but to make no mention at all before publication date.

If you’re not writing Harry Potter, I think this is OTT. If people don’t trust me to handle advance copies; then don’t send them to me. In this case I broke the contract I’d not agreed to, by letting WB read the book. I saw it as me sub-contracting the work, in order to get a lovely review. That backfired.

My other problem is I chucked the press release and the contract and I have only my own memory of the date the book is published. Being vaguely fearful of getting it wrong, I double checked online. I found two dates in February. I found no date at all. There was a date back in 2013, and one for autumn 2014. Edward’s own website seemed not to mention it at all.

Apologies for any breach of contract. I meant well. And that’s why I have used a pseudonym for Edward. The date I’ve chosen came from throwing a dart at February and picking a day at random.

The Beatles

You certainly feel your age when Offspring come home from school, tasked to enquire whether their parents were alive when The Beatles were around. Does it make you very old? Or is it merely that teachers have grown disproportionately young? The one who asked this was actually very nice, and a good teacher. Nevertheless, I felt ancient. (Since when does pop music belong in history lessons?)

Because, yes, I was around, back when.

It doesn’t mean I know, or remember, every fact about The Fab Four, but I do recall the general feel of the era. Although I need to point out I was obviously very young when all this happened. Ahem. To prove it I can tell you I had to rely on Mother-of-witch to read what the newspapers wrote about the long-haired Liverpool lads.

For Christmas 1963 I was given a record player, and my first record, She Loves You. The Aunts disapproved of all this foreign stuff. After all, there were people around who sang in a language you could understand. But I sang happily along to She Loves You and all the others, without having any idea of what they, and I, were singing about.

Mick Manning and Brita Granström, The Beatles

Now my fellow countrywoman Brita Granström and her husband Mick Manning have produced a very nice illustrated reference book on The Beatles. I have learned things I didn’t know before. I have been reminded of what was so special about John, Paul, George and Ringo. And I remembered why I half ditched them in the end.

Brita’s pictures tell more of a story than words do, and together she and Mick have made a fab book about what came before The Beatles made it big 50 years ago, what happened once they did, and how it all ended. I know more now about their early lives (including getting some unexpected help with a quiz question I came across the same day I read the book), and I properly understand how the haircut came to be. I’ve even had a new and better explanation to their name.

Whether you’re the right side of 50, or just ten and wondering who The Beatles really were, this is the book for you. I happen to have a good friend who likes all things Beatles. I will not be passing my copy on to him.

Just thought I’d mention that. He can buy his own.

Bookwitch bites #110

Daughter joined us on Friday, on possibly the most impossible of evenings. The area by the railway station had an extra 20,000 people milling about (and for a small town that’s quite a lot), but they hadn’t all come to meet her. We just managed to miss, yet again, Gyllene Tider in concert. We’ll get our act together, one of these years.

So far it’s been a mixed sort of holiday. I’ve done almost nothing, so pretty restful. I did join in the Twitter chat between Sarah Dessen and Cathy Cassidy last Sunday. It wasn’t the total fan crash I’d predicted. I even managed to ask Sarah a question, and she replied! You might be able to find all or some of it on #PenguinChat.

And speaking of wildlife, mere days after reviewing Anthony McGowan’s Brock, we encountered a badger of our own, running across the road. We’ve seen plenty of hares, which caused the Resident IT Consultant to ask ‘what’s the Swedish for hare?’ I told him it’s hare. It’s obvious.

He was kind enough to stop to let two people and their dog cross the road outside the local foodshop (rather than run them down with the Vets’ car). They smiled and waved (I suspect even the dog smiled). This alarmed me, until I encountered them inside the shop and realised they were Danish. Which totally explained the happiness.

Number ten

With me being in new house mode these days, I have looked at advertisements here as well. Just out of curiosity. Found one described as being dressing gown distance from the sea. I can’t tell you how tempting that is.

And once you’re on the beach, what you might find is your next coffee table. The Resident IT Consultant and I came across a complete pallet as we strolled near the water’s edge the first day. He doesn’t keep up with fashion, so had no idea people now pay hundreds of pounds for a pallet with castors (when you can simply carry one home from the beach). Now he knows. But we resisted the urge to bring it home. It was hard, but we managed. For all I know it’s still there. Or the dressing gown brigade got to it.

But it’s not all fun and Danes and driftwood. I have had another delivery of books. My holiday letterbox doesn’t know what’s hit it. (Two books. On the same day.)

Holiday letterbox

The Talent

I don’t watch talent programmes. Can’t stand them. I’m also becoming wary of too many dystopias, so an ebook that combines the two wasn’t going to be at the top of my shopping list. But since it’s that very busy bee Philip Caveney who wrote The Talent, I decided to give it a go. Published a year ago, you can see how long I’ve taken getting started, but I had my reasons.*

Set in Manchester some time in the not too distant future (a parent character recalls going to the kind of concert we have today), people are hungry and poor and live in crowded conditions, sharing flats with strangers. Tobacco and alcohol are illegal, and corruption is rife. Joining the Army is almost the only guaranteed job, but a very bad one. Police brutality is a daily possibility.

Josh plays the guitar, and caterwauls his own songs on the roof of his block of flats. His grandfather believes in him, and now that Josh is old enough, he will try for The Talent, the television programme the whole population follow avidly. If you win, you have a future.

If Josh didn’t get in, there would be no story, so it’s no spoiler to say he ends up taking part. I won’t say too much about what happens, but Philip has added all those things we already worry about, or can see are happening, and this makes his future vision a very realistic one. I can see all this coming, rotten tomatoes and everything.

Not quite totalitarian, but close. Many of the characters are stereotypes, but I believe that’s what makes this effective. We already know these people. We see them on the news and in the talent shows today.

The plot has several interesting angles apart from the competition itself. Is it rigged? Will they fall in love? Is Josh’s MIA father dead? What to do about Holly’s father? Can society even survive?

There are some surprises, and some fun solutions to the problems. Mostly it’s simply an exciting story about musical talent and honest behaviour.

And it’s not only the dystopian future that Philip has portrayed accurately (as we see things today). One of the characters says that he ‘could eat a horse.’ I wonder how he knew?

—-

*Somehow I had mixed in some of the ingredients from the Hunger Games with this book. To put it bluntly, I was under the impression that anyone who didn’t sing well enough was likely to be shot. Or something like that. Not tempting. Sorry to be such an idiot. (And now that I have done all the silliness for you, you can just get on with the reading.)

… and rock ‘n’ roll

This week we’ve mentioned the sex, and the alcohol. That leaves the rock ‘n’ roll. Wine, women and song. All bad stuff.

There’s so much music in novels these days. Perhaps there always was, and I’ve been deaf and blind. Adrian McKinty (yes, him again) puts lots of music in his books. Sergeant Duffy listens to a wide repertoire. He’s a bit of a show-off, that Duffy.

In Adrian’s YA novel The Lighthouse Keepers, which I’ve read but not yet reviewed, the young main character raves about music. Not so sure he’s not too precocious in his musical taste, but never mind.

Might be an Irish thing? When I first ran into John Connolly – outside the Ladies, before an event, and before he knew who I was – he pressed a CD into my hands. I gather he listens to a selection of music each time he writes a book, and those tracks end up belonging to that particular novel.

I added John’s favourites to my iTunes, and every time a track I can’t identify pops up on shuffle, I can be certain it’s one of his. I only added the CD because it contained a Lee Hazlewood track. I used to be a great fan.

A Jodi Picoult novel from a couple of years ago also included a CD. I passed the book and CD on to someone else, while making sure I put the tracks into iTunes first. I like them a lot.

It can be inspiring having an author’s choice of music for when you read. But what if you don’t like the music that helped them write? If every time the characters play their favourite tracks, you just can’t stand the music? Would you rather do without it?

Rather like when you find out which actor inspired someone’s character. If it’s the ‘wrong’ actor, you’ll have to quickly re-imagine them as someone you’d prefer. (Nobody tell me their heroine was inspired by that Keira woman! I’d have to burn your book.)

Music is an age thing, too. Adrian – again – is the wrong age for me. He doesn’t pick the music I listen to, nor the stuff forced on me – I mean, made available to me – by Offspring. I have a whole decade, that’s been almost completely blacked out. (When Son did a GCSE project on a decade in pop music, he was given the 1980s. Naturally. And we could offer no help.)

It’s not only the music behind a book, or the albums enjoyed by a fictional character. The whole book can be based on music. Obviously. Recently Son translated extracts from a couple of music based novels written by a Norwegian author. That was 20,000 words featuring an opera and all the backstage stuff. Luckily it was a made-up opera, so it ended up being less of a fact checking nightmare.

And we get YA books about pop groups, and wannabes. With the current talent programme epidemic on television we will probably end up with many more of them. It beats vampires, though.

Although having said that, I seem to recall that one of Anne Rooney’s vampires played in a band.

And Elvis lives.

Bookwitch bites #90

I’m very grateful to my faithful and hardworking commenters here on Bookwitch. Hence Seana’s link yesterday to a profile of Hilary Mantel in the New Yorker, was most welcome. I was going to say it was surprisingly timely, as well, but I’m guessing it was actually in the paper because of Hilary’s second Man Booker win.

Congratulations! I’m not a Hilary Mantel reader (yet) but I gather she is marvellous. The profile was a thorough and interesting one, and Seana suggested it on account of similarities she could see between Hilary and J K Rowling. Perhaps J K will win the Man Booker at some point in the future. Personally I hope for more children’s books from J K, but you never know.

Somewhere to rub shoulders with great names in the book world, is at next year’s Crimefest in Bristol. I have been reminded that if you book a place before October is out, you can buy it with a discount. And once you have your pass booked, you can also have the hotel booking cheaper. Win-win situation, in which you get all those lovely professional murderers. Just imagine; you too can meet Søren Sveistrup, the man behind Forbrydelsen (The Killing).

What goes on in people’s brains could be interesting, too. Sorry, not people. Teenagers. Slight difference. Nicola Morgan is going to talk brains in Edinburgh next month. She’s good on brains. I was feeling all nice and safe from this lovely event, until I realised I could probably actually be there. But it will be fine. Interesting, and not gruesome. That’s when Nicola operates on people without anesthetics. I pass out and that’s that. This will be most civilised.

The Royal Institution is also about brains. They are making it easier, or more accessible for smaller brains perhaps, with a series of one minute videos. On real subjects!

Lena Hubbard

And to usher in the weekend, here are a pair of almost identical interviews with Swedish singer Lena Andersson. You might prefer the one in English. But should you be feeling adventurous, the Swedish one is here. (They are not identical. Obviously.)

The YouTube clips should have you singing.

Bookwitch bites #72

Today will be mainly about what happens in toilets. And I’m relieved (no, not in that way!) that some of you love me a little. Thank you to all five who like me. I’m actually ecstatic to find I have more fans than Declan Burke on Crime Always Pays, who only has ‘three regular readers.’ Or so he claims. And I’m one of them. Not sure who the other two are.

My tale about the sweet singing in the Ladies at the Lowry caused the nice press person from the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick to send me a very kind email. This in turn made me aware of the theatre’s book festival, Words by the Water. I know, everywhere does them, but it feels rather special to have something bookish in that lovely theatre setting. I just wish I could go. It started yesterday, and whereas it mainly seems to be adult authors, I did notice Annabel Pitcher in the programme.

The next toilet ‘incident’ also involves a lovely email (perhaps I shouldn’t have asked for sympathy?), from a librarian I encountered in the toilet queue at the Philippines Embassy (as you do) at the launch of Candy Gourlay’s Tall Story a year and a half ago. Her school – where she does her librarian stuff – has a novel (to me) kind of book competition to encourage reading. And I’m proud that I inspired one of the books to be picked. (That would be the one I never finished reading.) I’d like to think I’m also partly to blame for the school’s newly started blog. I wish them the best of fun with their Battle of the Books.

I believe I will now move swiftly and virtually seamlessly from toilets to libraries. Blue Peter was broadcasting live from the John Rylands Library in Manchester on Thursday. (And I wasn’t there! Small sob.) Both their book awards had reached a conclusion, so Gareth P Jones was there as his werewolf mystery The Considine Curse was voted Blue Peter Book of the Year. He looked quite happy.

And the Best Children’s Book of the Last 10 Years was won by Jeff Kinney for his bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He looked quite happy too. And like me, he wasn’t actually there. He spoke to the assembled Blue Peter children in a recorded message.

Connie Fisher, Michael Xavier and Lucy van Gasse

I really need to remember that Blue Peter broadcast from Media City in Salford these days. And that is relatively close. Oddly enough, I had been to Manchester earlier on Thursday. And to end this post in a vaguely toilet related manner, I almost passed the John Rylands after stuffing envelopes for the Hallé, in the company of a volunteer from the Lowry who was enthusing about the Media City gardens, and the ‘celebrities’ one can see there. One of the stuffings was for Wonderful Town, the collaboration between the Royal Exchange Theatre, the Hallé and the Lowry. And it was the toilet from the launch which featured in my second paragraph above, and the volunteer also experienced a slight incident with the Bridgewater Hall’s facilities on Thursday. It was a mere misunderstanding, and she wasn’t in the dark for long.

I know. Things stopped making sense about 100 words ago. Sorry.

Launching mcbf, again

You can never launch a good thing too many times. You might recall I ‘helped’ launch the Manchester Children’s Book Festival 2012 back in January last year. It was very nice. That’s presumably why they did it again.

Yesterday’s launch at New Charter Academy in Tameside (Ashton-under-Lyne) was properly executed, despite this being the week of throat infections and other kinds of bad throats. The member of staff at NCA who was to lead us to the auditorium had to whisper, hence the few followers. Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy fared only a little better, but was assisted by microphone and water.

John Brooks, Carol Ann Duffy, NCA staff member, Kaye Tew and James Draper

But we did it, and that’s the main thing. With the help of my chauffeur, aka the Resident IT Consultant, I made it to this far flung outpost of Greater Manchester, and it was my very first academy visit. It was nice. No sooner had I braved the cold winds of the car park and made it inside when I was shanghaied into a – mercifully brief – interview with Radio Tameside (I conduct the interviews here, thank you very much!), as well as been begged for a contribution to the mcbf blog.

Carol Ann Duffy with students at New Charter Academy

I was introduced to MMU Vice Chancellor John Brooks, who might be the one who said that well behaved parents could be permitted to accompany their children to the mcbf in the summer. (If not, someone else said it. It’s all a blur at the moment.) Nearly everyone spoke at some point or other. A few specially invited NCA students asked Carol Ann Duffy some extremely good questions. Kaye Tew enthused about their schools programme and James Draper (wearing truly cool socks) introduced the second half of the launch.

John Sampson's instruments

John Brooks, John Sampson and Mozart

Which was Carol Ann Duffy and her best friend John Sampson, doing a similar show to the one I saw last year. But you simply can’t have too much of The Princess Blankets (the end of which I had already *forgotten…) read by Carol Ann and with John playing a lot of different flute-y instruments, including something looking like a walking stick. (The Resident IT Consultant nodded approval for every outlandish and ancient music contraption brought out.)

Noisy audience participation (by this time the audience had grown with the arrival of pupils from nearby primary schools) complemented a successful show. It included much worthy learning, but also a sign bearing the words ‘Bloody Hell.’ And I don’t think that was an accident… Mozart was there, not to mention his older colleague Johann Sebastian Baah, the famous sheep.

Flowers for Carol Ann Duffy

I could go on. And on. But to save you having to switch off your computer, I’ll leave you with the link to the brand new and freshly produced mcbf programme. It contains many witchy favourites. Some only in school events, however. I will work on my witch-to-school transformation for daytime use.

(And I’m sorry, but my photos are as rubbish as last week’s were. I suffered a ‘technical hitch’ which has now – belatedly – been rectified. Suffice it to say I am an idiot. Sorry.)

(*As for my concerns about early dementia, I have looked at last year’s launch blog. It seems Carol Ann never read us the end. Hardly surprising I couldn’t remember it.)

Just One Cornetto…

Feeling small

Meeting people who read ‘worthy’ books can be quite stimulating, albeit a little like a washing machine on too hot a setting. You shrink when you realise quite what an abyss there is between what you read and what they read. The trick is not to let on just how big the gap is.

The trouble is, I don’t have the gift of the gab. I can’t persuade people that I have read Milton, while making them feel ashamed because they haven’t. That sort of bluff is best left to Son.

I’m thinking here of my biannual meetings with Mr P Tuner. He reads. (As if it wasn’t enough that he has a perfect ear for music, and plays the piano very nicely, just like that, as if it’s not difficult at all.) It’s the Bookwitch Towers book room (aka the music room) that usually sets him off. He is under the impression that because we have lots of books, that he and I are similar.

Happily I’ve forgotten most of the worthy books he’s mentioned over the years. I doubt I’ve read a single one of them. Last year I gave him a list of what I read (best of), because he asked. When Mr Tuner called before Christmas he reported on having checked these suggestions out. Very decent of him.

Then he went on to tell me what he was engrossed in. Herodotus. Of course. And a little Edward Gibbon. Apparently his style is witty and modern. (I was once told that Pope was nice and light. I had to disagree.) Finally, for lighter moments Mr Tuner was reading Tolkien’s letters. (He’s never sent me any, so I haven’t.)

It really is fascinating quite how different we are. I might shrink temporarily when I have this kind of conversation, but for the most part I’m happy with what I read. If I weren’t, I’d change. I reckon it’s like with driving. If I suddenly felt the urge to drive a car, I would take lessons. Similarly, should Herodotus strike me as an essential read, I’ll go find him.

I have to say Herodotus seems a good sight more likely than the driving lessons…

A Christmas medley

It’s Christmas. I suppose there’s practically no one here, so let’s have some fun and relaxation with music.

I never imagined I’d even think of offering you the Smurfs singing Christmas songs in Danish. (I had a weak moment at Kastrup airport one December. In case you wondered.) But then I thought, you all love The Killing, and go round trying out those very Danish sounding Danish words and names. So you will adore the Smurfs. Won’t you?

Here are Smølferne with Så er det jul alle smølfer, aka Merry Christmas Everybody.

I went travelling at Christmas time again and bought a Swedish Christmas CD.  I especially liked one track. Still had no idea quite how fun it would be to actually see The Real Group sing, rather than just listen to them. And this is top quality singing. (Sorry about the Smurfs.)

Here you have The Real Group with their Christmas medley. Four of them sing a mix of hymns and lighter seasonal fare, while the fifth member of the group keeps trying to sing his song. The other four constantly interrupt him, until they finally give in…

God Jul! And Hej!