Monthly Archives: April 2011

Cinders, and one of her rats

My pink euphoria is not going away. I have finally come across Sally Gardner’s Cinderella. And that was little to do with me. It just turned up on my doorstep, as the first of some new Early Readers, re-issued traditional fairy tales re-told by Sally.

You know me. I occasionally look things up, and in my search – once – to find out if Sally had been translated into Swedish, I came across a princess book of hers. Now I have one of these princessy tales in my hand, and it looks like the others will follow, at a rate of one princess every month.

It’s interesting with these stories. You don’t feel that anyone in particular has ownership of them. You know there are umpteen versions out there, and you’re happy to read several different ones.

Sally Gardner, Cinderella

Sally has her own version, and it is mercifully bereft of cut-off toes or feet or whatever. I never liked that, even if I do realise how important it is to fit your foot into that glass slipper.

This Cinderella is nicely told, with illustrations by Sally herself. And her fairy godmother looks just a bit like Sally. I wonder if she knows?

Anyway, the Prince and Cinderella live happily ever after.

And while I’m in Cinderella mode I will just briefly mention again, that outstandingly excellent alternative Cinderella, I Was a Rat! which I’ve thought of about this week. For obvious reasons, perhaps.

Also, Lucy Coats appears to be a fan.



I’m a firm believer in six degrees of separation. I’m sure you can reach almost anyone in the world, on that basis. The only crunch being how you identify which of the people you know, might know someone interesting or useful.

So, I’m less surprised than you’d think to find I know someone who was at The Wedding 30 years ago. But there is no way I could have guessed who it might be. Having shed some unexpected tears on Tuesday when reading the Guardian’s surprisingly kind article on William and his mother, it felt only natural to turn to Lucy Coat’s blog and her three posts (one, two, three) on the last great wedding. More tears, of course. There was something about Diana that few others can match. And I’m pleased she had such lovely and normal friends.

Now, it doesn’t really matter if I know someone famous or I know someone who knows someone famous. But a more insightful view of a much discussed topic can be refreshing. Especially in this cynical world, where it sometimes feels as if the British press are world champions. Why can’t we ever be allowed to just like someone or something?

I’m not terribly keen on either Royal weddings or the Eurovision song contest, but surely people can enjoy both peacefully, without clever journalists having a swipe at them for doing so? Somehow I doubt that it is the couple getting married who are insisting on the enormous wedding, the press coverage or even that we all have the day off.

Diana, Harry and William

Had an urge to blog about William and Kate earlier, but it sort of vanished under some book mountain or other. How can we not wish them every happiness? Are we all monsters? William is someone I see in my mind’s eye as that happy little boy, all wet after a theme park ride with his brother and their Mum. Maybe for the next generation the whole family can go on the ride together?

Meanwhile, I would urge Lucy to make her diaries public. Just in case there’s more exciting stuff in them. And there’s bound to be other interesting diaries around as well. But whose?

The Autumn Palace

The season’s all wrong, obviously, but Ebony McKenna’s second novel about Ondine is nicely royal and romantic, and I don’t know, but I’m feeling woozy. The air is full of royal romance. I can feel myself succumbing to somethi… And what could be more romantic than a handsome Scottish ferret? I ask you.


Hamish is running about that Brugel Palechia, as cute as any ferret. No wonder Ondine is crazy about him. And with a witch as chaperone, what can go wrong?

Well, someone appears to have it in for the Duke. Is it his ‘lovely’ son, or his loving wife or that old battle-axe of a sister, the Infanta? Stuck working in the palace’s laundry, Ondine is sure to work it out… Meanwhile Shambles/Hamish does his spy bit, and the witch is good. But then, witches usually are.

I know I said I loved the first book about Ondine, but I had totally forgotten about the funny one-liners and the weird and amusing footnotes: ‘The suitcases aren’t going to carry themselves, are they?’ (You know, I suspect they would have.) ‘You’ve never seen a man turn into a ferret before?’ (Now you have.)

Hard work is good. Knowing about laundry, or being able to warm a teapot properly. There is raining fish. There’s a lot of fishy stuff, in actual fact. It’s the sort of thing that makes you positively want to live in a palace, with all its intrigues and, stuff. (I think I meant this ironically.)

Hopefully Ondine and Hamish can live happily ever after in, say, a pub.

As for me, I’ll sign up for next year’s CovenCon.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

This is a slightly strange book. Not bad strange, more puzzling strange. It conveniently fell into my lap just in time for my Foreign Reading Challenge, and finding a Japanese book is hard enough that I was glad to read it.

Yasutaka Tsutsui, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is an old book, from 1967, but only recently translated by David Karashima, who has both a US and a UK background, which might explain why the story has an American flavour to it. The words. Otherwise it’s presumably thoroughly Japanese.

It’s also a rather short book, and shorter still when you consider that TGWLTT is only half of it, with another story, The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of, filling the second half of this volume. I wondered at first if they belonged together, somehow, but it doesn’t seem like it. Although, trying to follow the trail of history, I suspect they might both be short stories from a longer collection. But I could be wrong.

TGWLTT is obviously about time travel. A teenager finds herself in the right place, but at the wrong time. Yesterday. Her friends think she’s gone mad, but eventually she persuades them to believe her. And then she needs to work out what happened and why.

The second story is scarier. It’s about another teenage girl, and she is scared of certain things, but doesn’t know why. Her little brother has his own fears, and she sets out to try and understand what caused them both to feel quite so bad about what are almost everyday things.

Both stories are interesting. Probably more for their Japanese flavour than because they are especially exciting. They are sweet, if you can use that word about time travel and nightmares. Not being Japanese I can’t tell if they are true period pieces. They appear quite neutral, in a way.

The book is labelled Young Adult, but I’m not sure it is. I feel the interest might be more of an adult thing, despite both stories being ‘safe’ enough.

The Hypnotist

Three members of the same family have been slaughtered, with a fourth one (aged 15) in hospital, severely injured. The boy is hypnotised in an effort to save another life, and this brief act leads to so many horrific things happening, that you can barely grasp quite how many or how bad.

There are current problems and there are problems from ten years earlier, and they all intertwine, somehow. Or maybe they don’t and it just looks like it.

Is this going to be the next big thing from Sweden? I have no idea. It’s done very well in the original, and while the Larsson/Nesser/Mankell fever rages I see no reason why it shouldn’t make its authors rich. I’ve seen reviews which suggest it’s much better written than the Millennium trilogy. It might be, but it does lack one important thing for me, and that’s someone to like.

I realise the detective is meant to be an attractive character, but there’s not very much of Joona Linna, and he’s not attractive (=nice) enough. The hypnotist is a dreadfully wet wimp, with problems galore. Job goes badly, his health is iffy, the marriage is not good and his son disappears. And someone is trying to kill him. Trouble is, I kept feeling I wouldn’t mind if they did.

Lars Kepler, The Hypnotist

It is very bloody. It’s probably borderline for what I can read and not feel faint. There’s some pretty ugly gratuitous sex. I usually don’t mind sex scenes that feel as if they are there because ‘you have to have them’, but this was something else. The plot is farfetched and one of the solutions at the end feels really quite unlikely, even for fiction.

But, and it’s an important but, the book reads itself, more or less. I could have left it when I was 100 pages in, and nearly did due to the lack of loveliness, but it’s very much a page turner. In the end I read and read until I was done and went with less sleep than I needed to fit it in.

So, that says something.

There is already another book out by ‘Lars Kepler’ – Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril – which is considered much better. I’m reading it right now, so will be able to report back at a later stage.

If you want more Nordic gore and misery The Hypnotist could be the book for you!

How now brown cow

Dog poo comes in many sizes.

Bet you wanted to know that.

Giles Andrea's World of Happy

Increasingly I find it hard to say anything very interesting about picture books. Not that the books are lacking. It’s me. (And while we’re listing my shortcomings I have to admit to having thought that Giles Andreae illustrates books. Now it seems he writes them.)

Giles of the hard-to-spell-correctly surname still has a very catchy name. There is something about it I like. And I quite like these thirteen books. It’s not always I can say I’ve read thirteen books in my tea break, but this time it’s true.

And they are really very sweet and true. Brown cows can easily be the best. Dog poo obviously comes in more than one size, just like the dog it came from. (Sorry.) Teamwork is good and hippos are more than welcome to wriggle their vast hips. (I – on the other hand – have never been allowed to.)

Friendship is good. So is being nice and standing up for what you believe in. Knitting is fun even if you’re a gorilla and fear can be overcome. Love is lovely and good manners can get you far. (Still not sure I fancy being eaten, even if the eater thanks me.)

Janet Cronin’s illustrations are lovely, and I like the colour scheme of the spines. Although they arrived in a most ramshackle colour order (= lack of) and I simply had to arrange them more to my liking.

It’ll soon have to be colour co-ordinated bookshelves here. It’s nice.

A quiet Easter Sunday

After 15 years of egg hunts on Easter Sunday, we will finally have a peaceful and somewhat boring morning. Not even going away and staying in other people’s houses deterred us in the past. There would be an egg hunt. No one will be surprised to hear that I told people that I’d be placing eggs all over their house and they had better not upset any of my hiding places.

Beanie Chick

It probably took me as long to learn that whereas the eggs belong on Easter Sunday, the Hot Cross Buns are actually wanted on Good Friday. We had years of me not getting them out until it was ‘too late’.


You’re getting a short post today, not because the shops are closed, because Bookwitch never closes (or so it seems), but because there is plenty on Doctor Who and Sarah Jane over on CultureWitch.

Happy Easter!

As I returned home from a very quiet Garden of Eden (not that one; this is my greengrocer) yesterday, I couldn’t help but reflect on how very wrong it is for shops to open on Good Friday. But it was nice and quiet. Which is nice. So much easier to dither among the fruit, when I’m not having to give other people ‘looks’.

It was nice and warm and sunny out (those of you not afflicted by haar, or by living in the wrong part of the world, might have noticed the weather’s been good recently), so I went for a little hobble as I was already out. There were pink snowdrifts on the pavement at one spot. Should have ‘dashed’ home for the camera, because blossom never stays fresh for long once it’s down.

Anyway, the weather reminded me of that long ago Easter of 1965. The little witch went away for the weekend, along with Mother-of-witch and Favourite Aunt and Favourite Cousin. We stayed at the very nice Ronneby Brunn hotel (and no, it didn’t look like that then) down in the righthand corner of Sweden. I need to point out that we weren’t rich enough to do this, but Favourite Aunt was involved with politics, and her party also had a holiday set-up thing, and I think that’s why she often had access to nice hotels.

So, it was good. There was a group of children to play with, and we had a very handsome waiter at our table in the restaurant.

Ahem. Quite. Where was I? Ah yes, the weather. Good Friday was very good. As you can tell by the name. Easter in Sweden tends to be cold and wintry, with only hints of spring getting closer. So this business of being able to sit out on the hotel’s terrace sunning ourselves was most unexpected, and welcome.

Needless to say we woke up to snow the next day. Lots of it. Very wintry.

Along with the Easter Saturday buffet supper (really nice) the children received Easter eggs. This being Sweden we had no idea we were doing it on the wrong day, but there you are. The hotel people at least had a sense of humour. The eggs were delivered by Father Christmas. Obviously.

More than 45 years later I still remember them, which is good from a marketing point of view.

Easter bonfire

We had a little disagreement here last year, whether Swedes have bonfires on Easter Saturday, or not. They are there to scare away the witches, flying to Blåkulla. I received a text message (surely the modern way of sending postcards?) on Thursday, from Swiss Lady. She was already away on her broom, which was a bit splintery, she said. She’d been unable to locate her cat, so had stolen the neighbour’s cat. And not the old-fashioned coffeepot (should be kettle, really) for her. She’d taken her espresso machine.

Festival fix

The trouble with taking Offspring places is that they get ideas. Take Daughter, for instance. She wanted to attend the Science festival in Edinburgh this Easter holiday. She asked if I’d come with her. ‘Not likely,’ said I. My strength has been sapped enough by the book festival that I don’t need to do another one, however interesting it sounds. ‘Go on your own,’ said I.

General Sutton's hat

So she did. She’s been getting ideas in more ways than one, so she registered as press. Of course. The press officer is the same as for the book festival, so she has renewed her acquaintance with General Sutton.

Luckily she opted out of doing the whole two weeks as she originally planned. A week has been long enough, and she is beginning to appreciate the logistics I’ve previously sorted for her, and which she now had to work out by herself. Hah! There is a difference to traipsing after someone else, and finding the path on your own.

Our Dynamic Earth

It appears as though she has consorted with only Doctors (the science kind) all week. Most of them appear to have the right to use the title Professor, too. The third time the director of Our Dynamic Earth saw her at an event he came up to speak to her. Other than Professor Monro she has hobnobbed with Iain Stewart off television, and Neutrino-man Frank Close. And some Drs engaging in Victorian style fun, where they tried to kill off half the audience.

Iain Stewart

Frank Close

The Faraday Cage

Very relieved that Faraday’s cage actually worked. Not that I dare doubt the principle of it, but even so… I would never get inside a metal cage and let someone zap it/me with electricity.

Another thing Daughter has had the pleasure of discovering, is how much work goes into blogging about the event, after the event. Her H2O adventure didn’t simplify this one bit, but you can cope with most things if you have to.

Two blogs are also more work than one.

And I suppose it’s handy being able to ask learned people stuff that might help with your impending exams.

I need to make it clear that I did not ask permission to blog about this.


Moon Pie

Don’t read any further if you want to avoid a spoiler similar to the one I encountered and was annoyed by. I was happily cruising around on Facebook when someone mentioned in their status the crucial ‘secret’ at the beginning of Moon Pie by Simon Mason. I had begun reading the book the same day, and I have no doubt that as an adult I would have been quick to realise what the matter was with the Dad in the book, unlike his daughter Martha.

But it sort of removed my early thoughts on the plot line, and it took away some of my enjoyment. I have heard only good things about Moon Pie, and it is a lovely book. Nice and easy to read and a sweet story. But can you feel a but coming?

Martha is 11 and her brother Tug is only five. Their Dad has gone a bit funny after their Mum died. But it’s not grief. It’s drink. He does silly things to begin with, and later on they become much more worrisome. She worries a lot, without knowing quite what’s wrong. But she’s also very capable. She cooks and cleans and writes lists and reads bedtime stories to Tug.

Simon Mason, Moon Pie

It is a very worthy topic. It needs addressing. You need to see that there are solutions, but also that not every drink problem can be solved happily.

But I think there are two story lines in this book and they don’t go together well. Lovely though Martha is, I don’t believe in her. The dreadful grandparents are cardboard cutouts. I don’t know when the story is set. To my mind it’s not old, but nor is it up-to-date.

And I believe that if I was a young child facing this problem at home, I would worry that I was nowhere near good enough at all those things that Martha can do. Or am I being fussy?

It’s like a fairy tale, almost. But do you have alcoholism in fairy tales?

(And I’m so glad I didn’t see the cover until writing this post.)