Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Barrowmans in the West End

Carole and John Barrowman poster

Even the bouncers looked familiar. (I know. That doesn’t paint me in a terribly good light.) And, you know, bouncers at a book signing?


Also, my reputation must have preceded me, as they gave me my own private enclosure, complete with armchair to sit in and everything. I could get used to this.

When it became obvious that the Barrowman siblings and I were hitting Scotland at the same time, it seemed like a good reason for getting fresh photos of them signing their second book, Bone Quill. I tried to rope my Edinburgh Offspring in to do it for me (not that I object to meeting Mrs Barrowman’s children), as my real Photographer was unavailable, but he was translated to Lund, leaving me to sit alone in the enclosure. So, apologies for shaky photos and all that. Carole and John looked divine, as usual. Carole’s hair was longer than last year and it suited her. John’s was as artfully ruffled as ever, and you could barely tell he fell off a – pantomime – horse last month. (What is it with horses and bad press?)

Carole and John Barrowman

They had a school event in the morning. They had another in the afternoon. What they had in between was an hour of signing books in Edinburgh’s Waterstones West End. Luckily – because it wasn’t half term – they ended up with approximately one hour’s worth of a queue as well. I’d been thinking they might never make it to their second school.

Carole Barrowman

So there I was, in the enclosure right opposite their table. It was warm, so I started undressing. But only coat and scarf. They’d got their pastel bunting out and it looked very nice. (In fact, it’s an altogether nice shop. I’d not been before. Helpful staff.)

John Barrowman

As the helpful Mandy (I do hope I’ve got the name right..!) pointed out, it was mostly female fans waiting. I suspect they were primarily there for John. Some people tried to talk entertainment stuff with him, but he said things needed to go via the proper channels. They might have been tired, but they gave their fans everything. They know how to do this kind of thing. I reckon most of the fans would agree with the lady who left saying ‘I can go home happy, now.’

Many went home very happy. Especially the ones at the end who persuaded John to pose for photos with them. A true friend is one who says she will have her picture with John taken after you have had yours.

Carole and John Barrowman

Good signing session. Very well organised. Lovely Mandy (still hope it’s the right name) gave me a ‘wee coffee voucher’ for afterwards, which I put to good use on a not very wee tea. I even had a wee cupcake, and I sat down at a table in the corner (which wouldn’t normally have been my first choice) to enjoy it, my enclosure business all done and dusted.

It was the witchiness. That corner turned out to be the route Carole and John took as they left. They said hello. I spoke to their hardworking publicity star Ana. Maybe they had time to gulp down a wee lunch. (Pardon me. I’ve got stuck on wee. It’s so lovely and Scottish.) Maybe they didn’t.

Check here for more signings. And apologies for going on about hair. It is not really of very authorly importance. But this was the celebrity signing. The one with bouncers.


The Book of Doom

Satan has added an extension. There is now a tenth circle down below. It’s all very hush-hush, though.

The disappointing thing about The Book of Doom is that Barry Hutchison only lets us meet the four horsemen for a moment. I loved those horsemen. The really good thing about The Book of Doom is that Barry has a few other characters worth meeting instead. This Afterworlds series grows on a person. (Not that there was ever any doubt…)

And it really is true that there is less difference between the people upstairs and the people downstairs. I wouldn’t buy a used car from any of them. My tip to you for reading this book is that every little detail counts. If it is there, it will have some significance later.

Barry Hutchison, The Book of Doom

Zac is a thief. He gets called upon by Gabriel to find The Book of Doom, which Satan has stolen. He gets paired off with the half-angel Angelo, who comes with him to help find the way to Hell. Angelo is not as good at this as you’d think. But getting lost can have its advantages, and meeting a Valkyrie is not a bad thing.

There are a lot of Hells, really. They visit a few of them, until they get to the tenth circle. Which is not a nice place. Nor are the people there nice. But you’d expect that. There are other things you might not expect.

The lesson here is that you can find goodness anywhere. Heaven isn’t necessarily the best place for it. Even God had enough and left. Being a thief doesn’t have to mean you’re bad. And friendship grows when you least expect it.

Some travelling thoughts

It’s travel time again. A quick dash north, and an equally quick one back. Or I hope it will be. I suppose I have jinxed the trains by saying/thinking this.

My bag isn’t full of things this time, so much as simply being a bag. OK, there are a couple of new reads for Daughter; Eleanor Updale and Marie-Louise Jensen. But I am primarily bringing the bag that ‘someone’ was unable to take last time. I’m the bag lady.

But you know, back in my childhood, who’d have thought you’d be able to sit looking at a small machine on your desk or kitchen table, checking if your train is running to time? (Or running at all.) On the other hand, back then who’d have thought there would be a need to? Trains ran. Often on time.

And, isn’t it slightly weird that I can slip the complete works of Sir Walter Scott and Rudyard Kipling, as well as the King James Bible into my pocket? The trains might run late, or encounter the wrong kind of snow, but that’s a lot of reading in one pocket. Trollope, Twain, Wilde. And so much else. (Don’t worry; I won’t Kiple or Scott too much. I’ve got other books I need to read. Even one ‘real’ book.)

I was excited to see that Sophie Hannah is doing an event in Dundee this evening. I’ll be close, but not close enough. After her event I’ll be freezing on the platform at Dundee, while she is no doubt warm in a hotel somewhere.

Too far away for Barry Hutchison’s launch of The Book of Doom in Aberdeen. Also tonight. It feels funny to be closer than usual, but still too far away. Maybe I should move to Scotland? There are things going on here.

Train to Scotland

(Decided I was allowed to borrow this photo, on account of bag lady duties, and the fact that the bag contains Lent buns, even if they are late Lent buns.)

Raven Hearts

Kitty Slade has moved on since Divine Freaks, almost two years ago (that’s in Bookwitch time), and here she is, in deepest Yorkshire, where they don’t speak in the same way.

Fiona Dunbar, Raven Hearts

Some things never change, though, like the ghosts which Kitty sees every day. Think Yorkshire Moors and ghosts, and you have a most interesting set-up. Kitty and Sam and Flossie and their unusual, and very Greek, granny are travelling the country, as they stop off for some Yorkshire ghosts on their way to Scotland.

But the funny thing is that for all the reported and unexpected deaths in the area, Kitty sees surprisingly few ghosts. Are people simply not as dead as they could be?

She has to investigate, and some things go well, and others not so. Kitty also acquires a new ‘best friend’ and she shows off her ‘London ways’ to the astonished natives. There is a sinister looking black bird following Kitty around. What does it want, and is she in danger? And what about the dogs in the night?

As always with Fiona Dunbar, this is an intelligently written, humorous book. It’s the kind of story I imagine any young reader of a certain age would love, and we don’t see enough of them. And I’d like to think we could find out what adventures the intrepid quartet will encounter in Scotland, but I understand the six books featuring Kitty Slade have shrunk to four, and Raven Hearts is the fourth, so that’s it. We’ll simply have to conjure up our own Scottish ghosts.

We just won’t do it so well.

Introducing Raining Fire

Alan Gibbons

Whether it’s lack of time, or just that I’m a wimp, remains to be seen. But while my nerves are debating Alan Gibbons’ new novel, Raining Fire, I’d like to introduce you to Alan introducing his book. There are four equally watchable YouTube clips for anyone wanting to know what the book is about.

I have to admit that my pulse went up while watching, and I feel wimpier than ever.

Here is the blurby bit: ‘Ethan is a promising footballer, and when he is selected to go on a training programme in the US, he feels sure that he has found his chance to escape the gangs that dominate his streets. But as life spirals out of control for his brother, Alex, and things unexpectedly take a turn for the worse for Ethan, he finds himself drawn into the midst of an explosive feud with the gun at its heart.’

And here is Alan reading from his book:

What surprises me the most, is that Alan writes books at all. I don’t think I know any author who travels so much or who puts quite such a lot of his time into things for ‘the greater good,’ like the Campaign for the Book to save our libraries, or just plain book event travelling. Hull, or Hong Kong (I’m partly making this up), it’s all the same.

It’s marvellous that he does, though, and I believe Alan’s books fulfill an important role for boy readers. Crammed with boy stuff, and written by someone with the right ideas about things.

(And the piratical ‘eye patch’ makes a bit of a statement too, doesn’t it?)

Bookwitch bites #100

For my 100th bite I am donning my gossip magazine disguise, and we are going royal. Admittedly, the combination of authors and royals in the news has been somewhat unfortunate this week.

But all is rosy chez BWB! Earlier this week Nicola Morgan casually dropped the bombshell that she was agonising over what to wear for a dinner at The Palace. She’s in Edinburgh, so that would be Holyrood. I’m not sinking low enough to deal with the garment situation, because I’m all excited knowing someone who dined with the Princess Royal!

‘It was a dinner to spread the word about a charity she’s Patron of, Opportunity International, and I was very impressed indeed by how she spoke about it so intelligently and passionately,’ Nicola said afterwards. It seems everything went well, forks and other implements behaved themselves, Nicola was suitably covered and Hilary Mantel was only mentioned ‘very quietly.’ Ms Morgan ‘found the whole thing really interesting and it was amazing being inside the palace.’

So now you know. The rest of us can only dream.

Further good news is that Celia Rees has won the Coventry Book Awards 14+ category for This Is Not Forgiveness. Well done!

More good news for Michael Grant fans. The last Gone book – Light – will be here in just over a month. So will Michael himself, and Dublin fans will be delighted to hear he is actually coming to Ireland this time. Hang on for more details.

Finally, a big WELL DONE to all of you who bought/downloaded The Storm Bottle last week. Nick has reported back that it was a resounding success, with sales both sides of the Atlantic taking his book to seventh and sixth place respectively, and a lovely fourth place in the free children’s action and adventure category.

The Storm Bottle sales

So you see, pulling together does help!

Old men with sticks

Patterns are odd things. When reading a totally random list of books, you discover things that go together in the most unexpected fashion. I suppose you could plan to read lots of novels featuring yetis, should you be so inclined. But it’s more fun when the yetis simply happen to you. (You end up feeling that maybe there is a reason for all those hairy creatures.)

Sorry, but this isn’t going to be about yetis.

All that’s happened here is a week featuring two grandfathers with sticks. Brave ones, and interesting sounding ones. The kind of grandfather I would have loved to have had. (I did know one grandfather, and he most definitely walked with a stick, but I don’t reckon he was adventure novel material. Although, you just never know these things, do you?)

The first one was in Far Rockaway. In order to avoid spoilers, I’ve not said as much about Victor Manno as he deserves. He reads books and is fun company for his grandchildren. He is brave. He attacks a fire truck with his stick, to save his granddaughter. He appears in her delirious thoughts/dreams as she fights for survival. He’s a real hero.

Then there’s Alex in Like Clockwork, who also has a grandfather of the more unusual sort. With a stick, which he handles in un-grandfatherly ways. He’s an odd man, but sounds like fun. Alex certainly didn’t know him as well as he had thought. Not once the robots began to…

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much more. This ‘book’ Like Clockwork, by Damien M Love, is being published in six parts for Kindle. So far I’ve read the first part, which also exists in some kind of old style newspaper format. And you know me; I am cynical enough to expect the worst of gimmicky things.

But, this is pretty good. In fact, I’d say, very exciting. A person could easily be forgiven for feeling that it would be nice if these parts could appear quicker. Like now. What’s worse is that the first part is only published in mid March, and the rest will appear weekly after that.

They had better! I want to know what this weirdo grandfather is going to do with the robots, and those men he… And whether he and Alex..?

Like Clockwork is rather like Clockwork. Philip Pullman’s Clockwork. Not so much the plot, as the feeling of general creepiness. It’s continental, and it’s got machines that seem to think. Nicely menacing.

I think it might be possible to find out more here.

And, you know, I am sure time will go faster soon.

Tried to google me an illustration to go with this. Like Clockwork didn’t appear. At all. Spooky.

Is it cold, or is it just me?

The night had been chilly, but the frost seemed to be gone by mid-morning. As I walked round The Park (it’s what we call our triangle of streets of around one hundred houses), I noticed frost on ‘my’ bit of the pavement. Again. This time I walked along all the pavements, and it was only the part outside Bookwitch Towers that still had frost on.

Previously I’d been aware that after periods of real snow, once it starts to melt, it will be totally gone in most places. Except outside our house. Returning home one evening a while ago, when it had begun snowing very lightly, I couldn’t help seeing that it was particularly settled just outside Bookwitch Towers.

A few weeks ago I walked round (I do this a lot) after some modest snow, finding it had disappeared everywhere, except, yes you guessed. In fairness, there were three more cold spots that day; outside Senior Scout’s house, by the Grammar School and near Corrie House. What do we have in common?

The cold spot

I asked on facebook. If anyone knows, it will be them. There were mutterings about Narnia. The White Witch.

It’s possible, I suppose. I just had no idea. Honestly.

Turkish Delight, anyone?

Far Rockaway

Oh wow! This really is the perfect way to write a book. You pick characters from your favourite books and put them in a new story. Simple. Or perhaps not.

At first I was quite cynical both about Charlie Fletcher using classic characters in his book Far Rockaway, but also having his heroine Cat exist in two ‘realities.’ The book begins with Cat being hit by a fire truck, and the rest of the book is about her fight to survive.

Most of Cat’s fight for survival is done in the settings of old classics, with some very well known characters showing up. And to be frank, I thought that seemed a bit over the top. But I changed my mind, very quickly.

It would have helped to have read Last of the Mohicans, which to my shame I have to admit I haven’t. And now I feel I might need to. So that is clever. Not only do you want to read Far Rockaway, but it will make you interested in reading in general, and in the ‘featured’ classics in particular.

Charlie Fletcher, Far Rockaway

What happens to Cat in her adventures with these borrowed people, is mirrored in what happens to her in the hospital, where she is being operated on, and where it is touch and go for a long time.

It was her beloved grandfather Victor who tried to push her out of the way of the truck, and he too was injured. She meets him in her dream-like adventure, because he’s the one who has always encouraged Cat to read. Now she needs to work out what to do, to try and get them both out of there and safely home.

And quite possibly to Far Rockaway.

There can be no better way to revisit old favourites. I’ve been back to childhood again. (And it goes without saying that I borrowed my classics from the library.)

And to go on some more…

about those libraries that we need, or aren’t entitled to, depending on point of view.

The Resident IT Consultant takes things seriously. One day – I forget how – we ended up discussing whether you get that shades of grey book in libraries. Oh, I remember why. I read in the paper that you wouldn’t want it from a library, because you’d be too ashamed, facing a librarian with your questionable choice of reading material.

So now that the Resident IT Consultant has his fresh, new library card, he felt the urge to explore whether you do get it in the library. I issued a prohibition on him actually going in and asking. I could just see how that would end badly. So he researched it online. It’s not an exact science, apparently, but it would seem Stockport libraries have around twenty copies of the ‘must read’ book of 2012.

Because he’s a thorough kind of man, he balanced this by checking how many Bring Up the Bodies we have in these parts. Also around twenty. Nice and even. Crap. Or quality.

It’s good, isn’t it? You can have anything to read. And why not? (The Retired Children’s Librarian in her day objected to Nancy Drew and similar, and she was entitled to do so.) I was quite heartened early on, when noticing that Stockport has Mills & Boon on its shelves. And why shouldn’t it?

I’m sure librarians are the same as doctors. They’ve seen it all before. And as someone commented on the letters page in the paper, these days you check books out yourself, just like in Sainsbury’s. You can blush at the machine, but it – too – has probably seen it all before.

PS I went into Stockport yesterday. Was approached by twenty-something couple inquiring where the library was. If you were prejudiced, you’d have said they didn’t look like library users. So maybe you just can’t tell.