Monthly Archives: August 2008

Literary people on Wall-E

I was intrigued to find serious discussion on Rutger’s Child Lit forum of Wall-E. Daughter and I went to see it, partly because it was the school holidays, and partly because Caroline Lawrence loved it. Daughter is friends with Caroline on Facebook, so had told me early on that Caroline recommended the film. When Caroline emailed to say she would love to know what we thought, I felt I had better go. Maybe it would be an improvement on the preview I’d seen.

I didn’t like it, but Daughter did. So, I was pleased to find that house oracle Philip Pullman shared my sentiments on the film. He must have felt quite strongly, to bother writing such a long “review” of Wall-E. And he says it so much better than I could have: “But claims that it is a great environmental lesson, that it offers a
terrible moral warning about the way the planet is going, are all bunkum.
Because who was responsible for the mess in the first place? Not the cute
baby machines, that’s for sure. Not the big fat adult humans lying about in
the space station, because they were just babies too. In fact, whoever it
was that got the planet into this much trouble, it wasn’t US at all. It was
THEM. Whoever they were. And we’re not like them, are we, kids? No, we’re
nice! We look after plants and befriend cockroaches. And we’re cute. So we
don’t have to change our behaviour at all.”

Sorry, Wall-E. You’re cute, but that’s all.


As the Resident IT Consultant and his witch drive to Leicester for a rocket launch of sorts, it may be a good time to blog about space. We hope Daughter has survived her week at Space School.

In my tender youth I had a pen friend. Actually, at one time I had something like two hundred of them, but let’s not go into that here. This one, my best one, lived in Malta. He was the best simply because he wrote interesting letters and was intelligent and interested in similar things. I picked Malta on the grounds that I wanted somebody vaguely exotic, but with a good command of English.

Anyway, once he had stopped asking silly questions like “had I heard of Simon and Garfunkel”, we were able to exchange favourites of different kinds. I gave him Kurt Vonnegut, and he gave me Isaac Asimov.

I then spent years reading everything I could get my hands on by Asimov. He was one of the stock authors I carried home by the rucksackful after each Inter Rail trip to bargain Britain. I’m sure that at the time I found the Foundation trilogy the most interesting, but right now the only details I can recall from Asimov’s books are the short stories about robots. Particularly the one about Tony. Any other female who remembers Tony? I suspect I want a Tony, really. Well, who wouldn’t?

Daughter may be interested in space, but I have yet to get either Offspring to read my old space fiction. Seeing I, Robot in the cinema is as far as they will go. And that was rather like with old pop songs that come back; children are amazed that the old people know them. We were young too, once.

Do old people need different book covers?

I was about to say no, when I recalled preferring some of the adult Harry Potter covers. I’d never be ashamed to read HP on the train, but it’s nicer with a cover you like to look at, rather than one you don’t. If there’s a choice.

What I Was, adult

Meg Rosoff’s What I Was is just out in the adult paperback version. So that’s first a hardback, then a young paperback, and now, two months later, an old people’s paperback. And very nice it is, too. I think I prefer it, but won’t change the one I have.

And that’s without getting involved with American covers, other English language covers, and the translations. As a writer you could experience difficulties recognising your own book. Rather like poor Henning Mankell, who refused all claims to his book a few years ago.

The Blood Pit

There is such a thing as too much blood. Kate Ellis is now dangerously close to my target for blood. I used to be a real wimp, but have hardened myself quite nicely over the years. However, just the title of Kate’s latest offering in paperback is enough to make me feel a bit faint. I feel drained of blood, too, but perhaps more metaphorically so, than Kate’s victims.

Not only has Kate made the most of all the blood this time, but the lovely woman has cruelly killed off one of her characters, and I won’t tell you which one. And poor DI Peterson continues to abandon Mrs Peterson and the children all the time. And on the whole you don’t want to be associated with the Tradmouth police force, because too many associates come to sticky ends. Or near ends.

The Blood Pit is another good read from our local crime writer. Trust me. I did wonder how long Kate can keep going with her Devon murders, but she’s in full stride here. This is the prefect book for those of you who fancy blood spurting from carefully cut holes in the human body. I suspect that 35 years ago I may not have been able to cope, so be warned.

But I did guess who did it, quite early on. And contrary to what some people say, I don’t mind. It makes it more interesting to see how the author tries pulling the wool over the reader’s eyes. And this time the chapters begin with modern writing, rather than historical. So much scarier.

Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox

The ten second book. That’s all you get, but it’s the long kind of ten seconds. Before the ten seconds begin the reader meets a Kraken. I genuinely didn’t know about Krakens before last October or thereabouts, but ever since, they have popped up everywhere. I believe that by placing his Kraken in Finland, Eoin Colfer was fulfilling a promise to feature Finland in one of his books. If only he had got the sauna right…

Not to worry. Having outwitted the world’s best – or worst – criminals, there’s not a lot left for Artemis to do, except fight his own younger self. And when he does, you realise what a lovely boy he has grown into over the years. Artemis at ten is, well, interesting.

I’m convinced Eoin has got his time travelling a wee bit wrong. But, who cares? I loved Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox. It could count as the best one yet. It was almost as though Eoin regretted having given Artemis two little brothers, as he immediately dispensed with them by hurling Artemis back eight years in time.

The two Artemises (Artemii?) test their brain powers over the last Silky Sifaka Lemur of Madagascar. N°1 turns up to help, and quantum zombies are always a bonus in a story. Older and newer versions of Butler and Mulch Diggums make for interesting situations. “We’re all mad here.”

All great fun. And then there’s the kiss. We’ve been waiting for that, and now it’s over and done with. Fabulicious.

And “I think this merits more than a wow”. It does, but what can I say? Wow.


It’s the silly season I suppose. You can tell, when even the witch gets sillier than her normal levels of silliness.

I sometimes relax by whiling away too much time on things I shouldn’t. Like I mentioned the other week, when I went in search of photos of Sara Paretsky on google, only to find many of them were my own. This led me to check what else of mine is out there.

Daughter was not happy to hear that on page two you get her and Eoin Colfer. Many of her photos turn up all over the place. So do her brother’s. And mine.

But the weirdest was a photo of the inside of an antique clock, when searching for Philip Pullman. Our photo, but it’s still weird.

Win a copy of The Traitor Game

The witch used to have a talent for winning the tiebreaker, if it was about guessing the number of peas in the jar or how many pages in this book, and that kind of stuff. I have no luck whatsoever, so have always assumed it was witchery. Now it’s time to turn the tables. Or something.

Over at Crime Always Pays they have these book winning capers all the time, with each question worse than the last one. The witch has won more than she has entered for, so I’m not sure what’s been happening. But that kind of funny business will not be allowed here. I have no Irish sense of humour, so will have to resort to more mundane techniques. But I can tell you the answer won’t be 42.

Eager to enter the gambling world, I sent a second email to Ian at Bloomsbury. The first, if you recall, was after chapter two. This time I begged for copies to give away, and like a lamb the nice man said yes.

So, to win a copy of The Traitor Game you won’t have to do much. See these sweets in the photo?

Boiled sweets

Leave a comment and tell me how many there are. Could be less today than when the photo was taken, as people have been known to eat sweets. But it’s the number in the picture that you need to tell me about. In case I feel like using a tiebreaker, you could also hazard a guess as to how many Maltesers Daughter put on the cake she made the other day. Sorry, no picture of cake. It got eaten. And for an added bonus, how many Smarties did she add?

I will then get the Resident IT Consultant to help me put the laptop into a hat and I will somehow find some winners. Assuming you’re using real email addresses I will write and ask the winners for where to send the book.

Comments/answers before Friday 8th of August, please.

Try this new writer

When I’d read two chapters of The Traitor Game by B R Collins, I emailed Ian at Bloomsbury to tell him how good it was, as though the man wouldn’t know. I usually wait until I’ve finished a book to say stuff like that. But anyone who has been tortured by Linda Newbery and Malorie Blackman must be good.

Sorry, that should be tutored. Bridget (that’s who B R really is, and I think J K R is enough, so no more of this initials rubbish) went on an Arvon course with Linda and Malorie, although Linda says Bridget had already written The Traitor Game by then, so won’t take any credit for the book.

The Traitor Game

Did anyone notice me saying what a good book this is? Sometimes I despair a little when the jiffybags keep coming (I’m grateful, really) and I see book after book I’m not desperately keen on reading. This time, however, the book spoke to me immediately, and I just knew it’d be good. Must be the witch in me.

The Traitor Game is about Michael and Francis. They have a secret fantasy world, which takes on a life of its own in this story. So, part of the book is fantasy, but most of it is boy problems in and out of school. Bullying and being gay, are right up there with betraying your best friend. This is set in a private school, so the background is “nice”.

And speaking of nice; Francis is very nice. It could be that real boys aren’t like him, but I do hope they are. I love him. Funny and intelligent and just wonderful. And his “twin” in the fantasy world is almost as lovely. It is a little weird with the fantasy elements, but I believe they helped make the story stronger in the end.

I hope boys will read this, whether or not it was written by a female. That must be what this initials game is all about. We all read Harry, so why not this?

Autopsy trend?

Are autopsies “in”? Newes From The Dead by Mary Hooper is the second book featuring a (historical) autopsy, that I’ve read in a short period of time. The other one was City of Secrets by Mary Hoffman, so 17th century pathology seems to be the thing, at least if your name is Mary.

Mary Hooper’s book was snatched up quickly by three of the teen reviewers this spring, and they loved it. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the real story of someone who was hanged and taken to be dissected, and who was then found to be alive. In fact, I can see that the book is more likely to appeal to a young buyer, than an adult buying a book for someone young. Hangings and autopsies will feature high on the list of things to shelter the young and innocent from.

Newes From The Dead

Being neither, I eventually got to Mary’s book, having already found myself on a trail of death for some time. Newes From The Dead was rather hard to put down once I’d started. Despite knowing how it must end, you race through the story with great excitement. You also can’t believe what things were like 350 years ago. I wouldn’t have wanted to consult a doctor in those days. Being a servant would also have had low priority, if this book is anything to go by.

Anne Green was seduced by her master’s grandson and became pregnant. The baby was stillborn and premature, but Anne was still tried for murder and was hanged.

The book starts with Anne in the coffin, wondering where she is, and eventually remembering. She thinks through her life and what happened to her. Every other chapter shows the Oxford room where the autopsy is due to take place, and is seen through the eyes of one of the men present.

I have been hardened by television, and can cope with much gore these days, but I draw the line at bleeding a potential corpse. Too much blood. The smell was pretty bad, too. But what a read! Don’t be put off.

Authors about themselves

Have you seen the new(ish) blog An Awfully Big Blog Adventure? It’s a group of authors who have got together to write a blog, now and then. Good idea, since it means they don’t have to think of coming up with posts all the time. And it’s always good to hear about people’s struggles, or about their cats. Or for that matter Nick Green’s son’s attempt at taking his t-shirt off.

I suspect the general public has yet to find it, as many of the comments on the posts appear to be from the others on the blog. Nice to see their comments, but it feels more like a private event.

A request from me would be that each writer puts their name with the title of their post. Some do, some don’t. I find I can’t take in what they are writing, without knowing first who wrote it, so have to scroll down to the bottom before starting to read. With most blogs you already know who writes it (you all know it’s me, without any more announcements), but with shared blogs you tend to need a byline of sorts.

Keep blogging, as long as it doesn’t delay your novels!