Monthly Archives: July 2010

Bookwitch bites #19

I just have to point out the wonderful Mythic Friday Interview with Anne Rooney over at Scribble City Central. They have all been good up to now, with the possible exception of the witchy one in mid-May. But how to follow this one?

We have a Garth Nix alert. He’s coming. Garth will be in the UK for a short tour in August, starting with Seven Stories in Newcastle, and then going on to the Edinburgh BookFest and then to Bath and Norwich. I know very little about Garth, other than that he seems to have really keen fans. I’ll know more after his Edinburgh event. I hope.

Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne has been persuading the great and the good among his colleagues and other famous people to be creative with crayons and things. In other words, they appear to have gone all arty and the fruits of this artiness is offered in an auction which ends tomorrow. Check the piggybank and put in a bid before it’s too late. I’m afraid I have already missed the boat, so to speak.

To finish, a photo especially for Sara O’Leary. I’m ashamed to say that the mirror smoothness of the sea has been in shorter supply than previously. But the scene below was exciting, at least. And it did have the distinct advantage of getting us thoroughly wet without us going into the water. One has to be grateful for small things.

Surfing in the sand dunes




I wasn’t sure at first. Did I really want Gillian Philip to write a historical novel, about magic people? I sort of wanted more dead bishops and knife crime. But I looked forward to reading Firebrand, the first in her new series called Rebel Angels, which may be an indication that I expected good stuff regardless.

It’s about witches and warriors. You could call it a Scottish swashbuckler-cum-romance. It may be set in the 16th century, but in this world the women rule, they literally wear the trousers, and there is sexual freedom in almost any direction. Doubtful whether sex between full mortals and the Sithe is recommended. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

16-year-old Seth is the main character, but I feel that he’s chosen only to bring many of the others forward. Lovely though Seth is, I was more interested in the people he meets and the people he grew up with. Gillian has come up with some very bad individuals, and they do despicable things to each other. Counterbalancing that there is the free love and the strong friendships.

Seth’s life has been one long difficult journey, with far too many partings from family and close friends. With his older brother Conal he is banished to the world of the mortals, and what a dreadful lot they are. For one, they don’t live very long. They can’t read each other’s minds. They go to church. They have lots of children.

Firebrand is a fantastic tale of treachery and love, and it’s the kind of book you just want to sit down and read and read. Until the very end I wasn’t sure how the move from one century to the next would work, but now I can see. I think.

There is a lot of darkness, but there is humour too. Biting a horse that just bit you is funny. Possibly less funny for the horse.

Firebrand is published on Friday the 13th August, which is worth avoiding. (Actually, I couldn’t wait.) Gillian may write whatever she likes. I’m likely to like it. But I could do with a lesson in pronouncing all those Sithe names. And I don’t mean Seth.

The bookbag

Eldest Cousin gave me a bag of books back in June. Or rather, she tried to. I was already on my knees with a suitcase full of books, so at first I looked through the proffered books and picked one. Then I switched on my very small brain, and said that since Son and the Resident IT Consultant were actually going to drive past a couple of weeks later, they could pick up the whole bag. And with that I put the lonely book back.

I think the books came from some neighbour or other of Eldest Cousin. The neighbour was either American or had lived in America, and the books are all in English, which was deemed suitable for me.


It’s an interesting collection of books, really. Not bad. Not good, but not bad. And the one I almost volunteered to carry myself is a reference book on the Birds of North America. Now, the birds we get here are the birds of Sweden, but their American cousins looked quite nice. Birds do. Generally. (Except when they are pigeons in my other garden eating my fruit. Then all I can think of is pigeon pie, despite being veggie.)

Have now had the Resident IT Consultant look them over to see if we should prune some. I suspect the silly man thought we might as well prune them all, including the foreign birds.


Pah, they’re not that bad.

But I confess to some doubts re the weekend crash course in learning to play tennis. I don’t think it’s possible.

And somehow we seem to have two crime novels in Swedish here, and I don’t know where they came from.

Seeing things, or the wheels on the bus

I should have seen it coming.

I even thought about it, coming up Klammerdammsgatan (yes, get your chops round that one if you can) from the river, just before turning the corner. But I didn’t see.

Neither does Daughter, which is why we were heading there in the first place. The other day she asked ‘could I see that sign up there, clearly?’ I could. She couldn’t, so we decided to pay the optician a visit. Phoned ahead to make sure he’d be there. (This is Sweden, and it is July, and people close their businesses and go on holiday.) His friendly voice on the answerphone said he’d be back the next day, so we went. Up Klammerdammsgatan and all that.

‘I always get confused about how far along this street he is’, said Daughter, turning the corner. ‘So do I’, said I, surveying the street quickly. ‘But he’s actually not here. At all.’ Yup, couldn’t see the optician, because like the dentist he had moved. Without telling us!

We repaired to the next door clothes shop for some comfort browsing while regrouping. As Daughter tried on everything in the shop, I phoned Pelle the optician. ‘Where are you?’ ‘Oh, I thought about you as I moved shops’, he said, ‘I wondered how you’d find me…’

Anyone else in the Pelle-finding business will be pleased to hear he’s in the new area past the library. Well past. And we’d already just been. Didn’t see much there either. Only one of the books I had an interest in, and it honestly didn’t look terribly good. The photo exhibition we’d looked forward to was so tiny we barely saw it.

Having searched the local grocer’s bread department for a copy of the dreadfully hyped crime novel Hypnotisören (The Hypnotist) by Lars Kepler, and failed, we set off for a real proper bookshop. She may need new glasses, but when Daughter noticed my shopping list with the word hypnotisör on it, she got very worried indeed. I suppose one of those would have fitted in quite neatly between dentist and optician. See every specialist you can think of. If your eyesight is up to it.

That’s why we went to see the watchmaker. He’s on our permanent list of useful men. Son’s watch needed attention. (Now I just know that one of our other watches will die a slow death as soon as we leave.)

Picked up three pizzas before boarding the bus back, only to find that the buses are all new too. (Not just the tickets, as per my earlier woes.) Now there is nowhere to rest your pizza cartons. We have always let our pizzas travel on the wheel well thingy. Clearly I can never leave this place again. When I do, everything changes.

Post-pizza, the Resident IT Consultant and I went down to the beach for a late swim, wondering if we’d see cows. We had in the morning, so hoped not. Cows were gone, but there were actual people on the beach. We are used to getting our mirror-smooth sea to ourselves. And the cows.

Things I’m not doing #2

Like I said last week, Swedes enjoy their cultural events. Monday night for the last few weeks have been events night at Halmstad library. But don’t go and get all excited, because I still haven’t been. At 100 kronor a go, it’s simply too dear, especially once you discover that you aren’t alone, but there are two more people needing admitting. And the added risk, as with last week’s event, is that it gets sold out before you’re even in.

Sandor Slash Ida

This week it was Sara Kadefors, who I’ve heard such a lot about. She wrote a much talked about teen book called Sandor Slash Ida (and that’s not as horrible at is sounds; nothing knife slashy, as far as I know), which I was really tempted to put in front of Son some years ago, since someone suggested it might be easy enough language-wise that he could read a novel in Swedish. But I didn’t, and I haven’t read it myself.

It would have been an ideal opportunity to sit in on some Swedish YA discussion, except it seemed that Sara was meant to talk about an adult book of hers. I don’t know whether it’s simply that you talk about your most recent novel, or if it’s the case that YA writing is too youthful to merit flocks of people handing over their 100 kronor.

But it’s good that the library arranges evenings like this one, and it looked to me as if all four authors listed for this July’s entertainment were big names in the literary world.

Had I been lucid in the last few weeks, I would have found this event in time, and in order to avoid paying for it, I’d have worked out some solution regarding cost and availability. I didn’t and I haven’t.

Am I too nice and friendly?

Let me know when you’ve stopped laughing and got back up from the floor. I trust it wasn’t too dusty down there. It would have been, had you rolled on my floor.

Someone sent me a cutting from Dagens Nyheter, where Andreas Palmaer pondered the niceness of children’s books blogs. Far too sweet, rather like white chocolate, seemed to be the verdict. First he compared adult authors with children’s authors, pointing out that where the former may look for reviews of their most recent book in the newspapers, the latter may have to make do with a single mention on someone’s blog. And that’s a bit of a let-down.

So, is it good that blogs mention books that would otherwise be ignored? (If that’s true.)

Andreas goes on to say that the drawback with the blog review is the general sweetness of it all. We love too much, apparently.

Well, you should hear me at the dinner table, moaning about the rubbish I see. Or worse, that I’ve wasted reading time actually reading.

Too much enthusiasm has its negative sides. The love-bombing gets monotonous. It jars that we are seen to ‘jolly children’s books along’. On the other hand, us bloggers are more free thinking and up-to-date than the boring old press, and write about newer and fresher stuff.

Well, thank you.

I’m off to continue reading my current book. It will have no need for surplus sugar when the time comes, because it’s fantastic. And I won’t be the only one saying so.

Sandboxes, String shelves and reading chairs

The Resident IT Consultant has been busy. The deck has been oiled. The chairs are being oiled. They are very thirsty, which may be because they have been somewhat ignored. Except when we sit down in them, obviously.


But he’s not building anything. Yet. I have hinted, but deep down I know it’s not really his thing. We have a garage full of driftwood should the urge make itself known. Though what I’m really after – besides a new and much larger deck – are some homemade Adirondack chairs. My house magazine suggests they are dead easy to build at home.

That magazine also makes out a lot of other things are dead easy to build yourself. Multistorey sandboxes. That kind of thing. Luckily we have nobody that size at the present time, so may defer.

Sand castle

We have plenty of trees, but not necessarily ones suitable to wrap in a bench. Or could it be they are mostly for grannies reading to the grandchildren?

Tree bench

And then there is crime. Plenty of it on these shelves. And in English, too. The String shelf – obvious name – was very popular when the bookwitch was a child. The neighbours had one, but we never did. I suspect it’s because we had too many books, even at that time. Then they were hopelessly out of fashion until they inevitably became the thing to have. Now you can get them in almost any colour or wood type. I want very much, but still have too many books. I was intrigued by how many crime novels in English they used for this advertisement picture. Very blue.

Blue String

I will attempt to refrain from photographing more pages in magazines in the near future.

Bookwitch bites #18

Being on holiday has its drawbacks. There have been an unusual number of events that I’ve been invited to and which I can’t attend.

Eoin Colfer launched his Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex on Tuesday evening. I had hoped to send a heavily disguised Son in my place, but in the end he was unable to do a bookwitch-by-proxy report for me. And after the Puffin event in London, I believe Eoin went off in the direction of Newcastle for more fun, for other people.

Another launch this week was for Losing It, the anthology on teenagers and sex. Or not. According to Keith Gray who edited the stories, all but one of the eight authors were to be present, and that in itself is pretty spectacular. (Why did I go on holiday?) Haven’t managed to find a report yet, so don’t know who was there and what it was like. Divine, most likely.

Speaking of Losing It, why do some people who spam me with sales offers of you-know-what manage to actually write amusing comments? They still don’t make it onto the blog, obviously, but it surprises and annoys me that they seem to have a sense of humour while still being complete idiots. I’ve received a couple of Groucho Marx quotes that I wouldn’t mind publishing if it wasn’t for, well, you know…

And Meg Rosoff has been on a train. I gather from her blog post about it that it wasn’t an unqualified success. But at least Meg is someone who can write a good letter of complaint. Me, I just shout on paper. I’ve always felt that irony and humour would be wasted. Maybe not? Could try it next time. Because we all know there will be a next time.

Joey Pigza

Good thing that Philippa Dickinson made sure I had a copy of Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos. I would never have picked the book myself. To be perfectly honest, the title is very off-putting to me and the cover, albeit purple, is awful. Apologies to both Jack Gantos and illustrator Neal Layton. Not even the recommendation on the cover by Jacqueline Wilson would have persuaded me. But Philippa spoke so warmly about it, and she knew that I have an interest in aspie books, so she felt I might want an ADHD story as well.

The tale about hyperactive Joey is rather American in style, and I sometimes wonder if you could even have something similar British based. There is a certain US flavour to the way they deal with ‘different’ children in America, and I can’t see it happening here.

Joey is a sweet natured little boy who could be Horrid Henry’s cousin, except that Henry knows what he’s doing and Joey can’t stop himself from going wild. He means well, though. He comes from a long line of overactive people, and has had no real support from either his Dad or his grandmother. Joey’s Mum has her own problems, but still tries so hard to help her son.

They live on their own, on a limited income, and all this seeing doctors and getting ‘meds’ for Joey can’t be easy. But they both try and try, and so do the school staff, even though Joey is more than a handful. Mornings he can be almost OK, and then he goes haywire halfway through the school day.

It takes a bad accident for Joey to end up seeing Special Ed, who isn’t as bad as he’d feared.

With help Joey gets better, and I wish they’d just leave the story there. But there are more books about Joey, and it goes without saying that he will have to face more adversity.

This novel is twelve years old, and I’m pleased that a publisher wants to push for such an old book, when it’d be easier to mention something recent. I’m glad I read it, and I’d hope that children reading about ADHD will make them understand better what it is. Sufferers can see they aren’t alone and that it can be at least partly controlled, and other children will learn that the ADHD child in their class isn’t bad.

Another holiday miscellany

I don’t suppose you could even pretend to think this is slightly literary? I am not doing well with my reading, so far. It’s too hot. We even managed to get lost yesterday, in an area where I’ve lived on and off most of my life. And it’s July. Tourists everywhere. Too many of them. I don’t like it.

I do read my newspaper, though. It’s in the letterbox by five. I think. I’m not up that early to check. So it gets to have breakfast with me. There isn’t much in it. The paper, not the breakfast. Hence its obsession with stolen lawnmowers, or bikes on fire.

The lawnmower is an old family joke. In his early days of reading this paper Son was somewhat puzzled why they felt the need to cover the stolen lawnmower in Knäred.

There was a bike on fire the other day, and I’m really concerned in case it’s still flaming merrily away. I forget where. Not Knäred. I’m now a language policewitch. I’m sure they meant to write that the fire was easily put out by a fireman stamping on the tiny flames. However, they just suggested that had there been a fireman, and had he stamped on the flames, then the fire would be out.

So, I don’t know.

I’m still spending a not insignificant amount of time not finding my glasses. One complication I suffer is finding other people’s glasses instead. And they don’t work for me!

Found another twelve bilberries in my woodland. It really does seem as if that is destined to be my annual bilberry crop. They went on my bran flakes yesterday morning.

Now, where are my Crocs?