Monthly Archives: January 2013

North of Nowhere

It doesn’t make any difference that I am way past Liz Kessler’s intended reading age group. She still catches me every time, and her latest time travel novel was no different. I raced through it, despite knowing it couldn’t end well for everyone.

I mean, it can’t, can it? If you really can travel in time – and of course you can – someone will get stuck or jump forward or something. And if they do, they won’t be where they first belonged.

Mia’s grandad vanishes into thin air, and because her grandma is devastated, she has to accompany her mum to go and visit, to see if they can help.

I know quotes are boring but I absolutely loved this paragraph from chapter one: ‘I’d like to ruthlessly destroy your life by taking you to the middle of nowhere, where you’ll die a slow death from boredom, loneliness and a general lack of anything that makes life worth living’ as said by Mia’s mum. Except she didn’t actually put it as wittily as that, but I wish she had. It would make this parent-talking-to-child business so much more fun, as well as true to life.

Liz Kessler, North of Nowhere

Right, let’s get on with this destroying of Mia’s life. They don’t even have a mobile signal in this hole of a fishing village. But Mia goes out, and she meets someone she wants for a friend, and then she meets someone else who is friendly. But nothing is quite as it seems.

There is a boat that is there some of the time, and at other times disappears inexplicably. Now, you and I know that this is typical of time travel, but it takes Mia some time to work out.

After which she has to get a grasp on what’s what and how she can resolve the situation. If she can. Who will stay and who will have to go?

I can’t see how any young reader can resist North of Nowhere.

The Viewer

It’s scary. Really very scary, if you stop and think about it. But with stunning pictures, as always with Shaun Tan.

The words are by Gary Crew, so I suppose I should mostly blame his imagination for this creepiness. The story is about Tristan, who is interested in unusual things. One day he finds something a bit like the old-fashioned Viewmaster which children have always liked. Except this seems to have a life of its own. And it doesn’t show terribly nice pictures.

Shaun Tan, The Viewer

I’m relieved I never owned one of these. If I had, and still had it, I’d have to throw it away.

As you can understand, The Viewer is a picture book, but not for small children.

Back to Tristan. His life is taken over by this picture monstrosity, and he loses control. And when his mother…

Now Is the Time for Running

It would seem that no matter how many wonderful books are written on the subject of (legal or illegal) immigrants and asylum seekers or anyone else who happens to end up wandering from one place to another, people still don’t understand, and they still persecute those forced to go somewhere they don’t ‘properly belong.’

Surely everyone who reads Michael Williams’ Now Is the Time for Running, will understand why people have to move, and can sympathise? This journey book is as important as many others before it, and it would be good to use this type of story in schools. Maybe it’s impossible to completely stamp out prejudice towards ‘the different’ outsider, but we must try.

Michael Williams, Now is the Time for Running

Starting in Zimbabwe, the book describes the horrific slaughter of almost a whole village, where only moments earlier the most interesting thing for Deo was to play football. Afterwards he and his brother Innocent have to escape to stay alive, and they slowly make their way to South Africa, the promised land.

Except as with so many stories like theirs, they discover it’s not so promised after all. They are not wanted. More than once Deo wonders why they’d gone through all they did, if this is what it was going to be like.

There are more horrific happenings, and although the book doesn’t end outwardly badly, Michael Williams mentions things in his Author’s Note to make you wonder what really will happen to the displaced in South Africa, and everywhere else.

Football helps Deo, to some extent, but will it be of lasting benefit?

This is such a compelling read, so necessary, and so scary. Journey books have evolved, and don’t always provide completely happy endings for their protagonists.

(When you know what the title stands for, you will love it.)

The angels they keep coming

I sat on the dark side of the house. This was on account of head being unhappy and moaning about how sunny it was outside, and why couldn’t it have stayed grey and miserable like it has been all autumn and winter (so far)?

On account of that head, I was also not really doing anything other than existing. So, looking up from a book I was about to ditch, I caught sight of the postman standing by the front door, waving at me. It seemed he didn’t want to ring the doorbell. Couldn’t see why not. It was almost noon and the only person still asleep could do with waking up.

Sally Rippin, Angel Creek

Dragging myself to the door I was handed a fairly small jiffybag, which I opened, once I was back in my chair on the dark side. It was an angel book; Angel Creek by Sally Rippin.

Because it was the kind of day when you just sit, I continued with the sitting. 30 minutes later a FedEx van stopped outside. Thinking I’d save FedEx-man having to pling-plong, I went to open the door. But it turned out I wasn’t needed. He plopped his tiny cardboard parcel through the letter box.

I brought it over to the dark side and opened it. Out fell Angel Creek by Sally Rippin.

Sally Rippin, Angel Creek

Now, it’s not unheard of, getting two or more copies of the same book. Not usually on the same day, however. And definitely not wrapped differently and sent and delivered by different routes.

And I don’t know why the postman had to wave to me, seeing as FedEx chap was able to post the same book, but wrapped in more unwieldy cardboard through the letter box.

I’m just assuming someone really, really wanted me to have angels.

Selling the Royal Institution

No sooner had the Grandmother suggested we sell the Royal Institution, but someone is actually wanting to do that very thing.

Although, I suppose not the RI as such. The RI are the ones being forced out of their ‘home,’ the rather nice building in Albemarle Street, where Michael Faraday used to work.

I hope it’s a false alarm, and by that I mean perhaps someone will come up with the money to save it. But why do I feel like this? In most cases I would shrug my shoulders in a pragmatic kind of way, because I’m not surprised by either mismanagement or hard times. ‘These things happen.’ All the time.

But this is the Royal Institution. It’s the Faraday link.

But as I said, we were thinking of selling the very same building, albeit in the shape of a painting. Apparently it was commissioned by Faraday. And according to family lore, once it was painted, it lived under his desk for a very long time.

It was eventually framed by the Resident IT Consultant’s grandfather, and is currently hanging on our wall. At first it was on sufferance, because as pictures go I didn’t like it much. But once the idea of selling it was broached, I realised I’d got used to it.

I suspect we will keep it, because it’s not worth a lot. The story of it being close to Faraday’s knees is probably more valuable.

Royal Institution

As for the other building, I hope someone nice and rich will find they have money to spare. The problem though, is that by doing the place up, the RI have priced people like us out of going there, even if we lived close enough to consider frequenting it for talks and other events.

Bookwitch bites #95

I have rearranged my reading lists again. These days I put books into a pleasing colour order, and try and keep track of chronology by writing stuff on a piece of paper. Lately I’ve surprised myself by grabbing ‘old’ books to read. I also have a Kindle ready and raring to go, because I’ve ignored the ebooks for so long I can’t even remember how long it’s been.

It seems Eoin Colfer has an e-short coming this week. It’s lucky I came across Eoin’s own tale about this in the Guardian, since I’d not heard anything about it elsewhere. I have no idea if his is the only Doctor Who e-short, or if there are a whole bunch of them.*

This might not be the right place to admit I’ve never read one, but I haven’t. Someone close to me who has, was recently persuaded to prune a little on the shelves, so there are now not quite as many. They sound fun, but then a lot of things sound fun. Eoin’s introduction to the Doctor was very amusing. But he does have a cousin called Kevin.

Someone sent me a word manuscript of their latest crime novel, which has also gone on the Kindle. Unfortunately I am not allowed to tell anyone about it, so won’t be able to report back when I’ve read it… (Just thought you’d like to know.) There is that list from paragraph one to deal with first, though.

The Branford Boase longlist was made public this week. It’s really tricky when you like several books so much that you just dont feel it’s possible to have a preference. I suppose it will be easier once the shortlist is here? Maybe just one really good book will get through. Except that would mean the other great stories didn’t make it. Gah.

Interview tools

Something which didn’t make it this week was my interview on Monday. I’ll kill that iPod! Or perhaps just tell it off for slacking. Luckily the Resident It Consultant had bought another recorder thingy, which I’d decided to test run side by side with something old and trusted. To see if it worked. Hah.

From now on I will be known as Old Two-Recorder Witch. How can I ever go places with just one? (I’m not paranoid. Just cautious.)

*Now I have checked this, and there are 11. Apparently the old Doctor is 50 and they are celebrating.

The old weltschmerz and other fun stuff

‘Never, never, never kill a customer.’ I like a book where the bad baddie – who is still not quite as dead as you’d like – actually takes on board what others say to him.

And I like a book where 15-year-old boys in a small village near Belfast can talk about weltschmerz and get away with it. To be more precise, it was Lord Ramsay who said it, and Lord Ui Neill who puts up with him.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to mention that Thaddeus doesn’t die in chapter one, from hunting whatever that creature he was out hunting was. He was needed to babysit the two Lords and their alien friend Wishaway, and that’s a job almost worse than being eaten by a large cat in the first chapter.

I’m glad Thaddeus got an outing in the third book in Adrian McKinty’s (I haven’t mentioned him for several days!!) Lighthouse trilogy, The Lighthouse Keepers. He had sort of hovered for long enough that the time was ripe. And travelling through wormholes is so much more amusing if you can have someone new along each time.

Have to admit I was disappointed to have the old baddie still with us, and in Northern Ireland at that. But they have to be somewhere.

There were new baddies too. The CIA. And the clairvoyants. They know for a fact that Jamie – Lord Ui Neill – will cause the end of the world, which means they need to cause the end of Jamie before he does his bit. He has to be killed.

And there is the other world, Altair, and it also has bad people. Or maybe not. They could just be enemies, which isn’t the same thing. Their world is coming to an end, too.

The Lighthouse Keepers is funny and exciting;  and just the right mix of comedy and thriller, with a suitable amount of science fiction-cum-astrophysics thrown in. It’s very Irish. There is also a hilarious description of Larne. Although I might just think so because I have never been to Larne.

Reading The Lighthouse Keepers after the end of the world on 21st December 2012 posed a little bit of a problem, and Adrian was totally wrong about Starbucks, and hopefully a wee bit wrong regarding Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan. But not necessarily very wrong, which is worrying.

While the second book in the trilogy probably was better than this one, it is so good that you really must try it. The whole trilogy could do with being re-issued, and preferably by a British or Irish publisher. To me it is much more of a European story, and I feel so many people are missing out on a terrific read.