Monthly Archives: February 2013

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?

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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.

Smuggler’s Kiss

Hands up anyone who hasn’t secretly wanted to find themselves on a pirate ship, in the company of a desirable male, young or otherwise! I obviously mean this in the romantic, fictional way, that has nothing to do with a smuggler’s reality, which is a lot less attractive. (Or so I imagine.)

Marie-Louise Jensen, Smuggler's Kiss

It might be a set type of plot, but it’s one that I have enjoyed from long forgotten books via MM Kaye’s Trade Wind, and on to Marie-Louise Jensen’s Smuggler’s Kiss. I’m very grateful to Marie-Louise, because she is taking care of this historical romance writing that I didn’t see enough of for far too long. She writes the sort of books I’d have written, if I’d been able to.

Smuggler’s Kiss starts with young Isabelle who feels compelled to do something pretty desperate, but who ends up being rescued by a group of smugglers, out smuggling. Luckily they don’t throw her overboard again, and so her new life as a smuggler begins.

Isabelle meets the annoying, but kind and handsome Will, who also appears not to be your typical smuggler. He helps Isabelle as she gets involved with the smuggler’s work, and she in turn assists her new shipmates with what little she is able to do. She is very spoiled, so it’s not all smooth sailing.

The trouble with being a smuggler is that it’s illegal and people are always out to get you. So it is for this crew, and for Will and Isabelle, as well. She learns a few lessons, but so do the smugglers. And finally they, and the reader, find out why they have been particularly unlucky.

It’s quite a useful lesson in history (though I’m not sure exactly when this is set…), and as I hinted before, it is romantic, in just the right way.

Bring me more smuggler romances!

Deary me, how terryble

If you haven’t got money you won’t want to read books. In fact, you shouldn’t have the right to read them, because (other) taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund your free reading. Rather like education. Why should those with no children pay to put other people’s kids through school?

Those pesky children might of course turn out to be the surgeon who saves your life 25 years later, but never mind that. Let’s live for today.

The Resident IT Consultant felt I was being strangely insincere in wanting to hang on to libraries, seeing as I don’t – currently – use them. That’s mainly because I already have access to all I can read. I used libraries until I moved to Britain, even after I discovered I could afford to buy English paperbacks. I read more than I bought.

Then I must have fallen foul of the ‘I am new here and I don’t quite know what to do in someone else’s library’ law, so didn’t. When Offspring arrived they had the school library, and before that there were all the book parties. Usborne and Red House parties were de rigueur in my neighbourhood.

And after that the mobile library parked in our street and I went every time it came. I stopped because I helped in Offspring’s secondary school library and there were so many books there I was in heaven. Once I stopped at the school, the mobile library had gone to park elsewhere (was it my fault..?) and I spent a year or two buying books again, since we could afford to, until Bookwitch was born and soon after her, the TBR piles arrived on the scene.

So that’s me. I have very little against libraries. I think we should hang on to the ones we have. Occasionally people with no money want to read books. Quite often people with money read nothing at all. The reading/not reading is not connected to the wallet, unless it has to be.

The well-off middle class children Offspring used to play with in the mid 1990s were delighted to discover libraries when they came along one day. They were readers already, but knew nothing about libraries. I blame the parents.

For obvious reasons, the mobile library had limited shelf space. But I found good stuff there. It’s the place I was introduced to Malorie Blackman and Gillian Cross, and which allowed me to work my way through ‘all’ of theirs. I found Tim Bowler, too, and the lovely and murderous Kate Ellis. They all went on to become firm book friends of the whole family.

Would I have discovered them without the library? I might have been waylaid by something garish and pink in some shop. Who knows?

And as for what authors get from libraries. They acquire readers. As someone pointed out in the Guardian; you can get ideas in the library, and then you go out and buy books. Another thing I’ve noticed authors are ridiculously fond of is the PLR money. So many of them aren’t dreadfully wealthy, and they are happy when that PLR cheque arrives every year. I know, because facebook is awash with PLR happiness for a day or two.

Then there is the greater good. J K Rowling is always saying how grateful she was for benefits, back when she wasn’t rich. She doesn’t need PLR, but I doubt she begrudges others that money. J K wasn’t uneducated, just a bit short of funds. Perhaps she even went to libraries.

Sometimes intelligence and the wish to read doesn’t increase with the bank balance. Actually, it could even be the reverse.

If and when my supply of review copies dries up, I’ll be down at the library too. If it’s still there.

Bookwitch bites #99

The children’s book world is a very nice place, but not 100% so. My estimation of Terry Deary sank somewhat this week. Not because he thinks it’s OK to do away with libraries. It’s his right to have opinions, and I’m sure there is a (very) small grain of truth in there, somewhere. But it appears he felt it was all right to get personal when Alan Gibbons turned out not to agree with him. Here is what Alan had to say in reply, and he has to be admired for the way he did so. He’s got style!

Rhys - Thirst For Fiction

I don’t know where Rhys of Thirst For Fiction blog fame started off his reading. These days I assume he gets all the same books I do. But he might well have been to a library at some point during his 16 or 17 years. The library is where I first met Caroline Lawrence, and here she can be found talking to Rhys, in an interview that is so much better than what I managed with Caroline.

How did you people do with getting your hands on the free ebook The Storm Bottle during the last couple of days? Don’t tell me you forgot. It’s no longer free and you will have to fork out 77p. But it will be worth it. Katherine Langrish posted a pretty perfect blog about Nick Green on Thursday. With people like her and Rhys around I will soon have to hang up my broomstick.

Formby Books

Another tireless book person is Tony Higginson, whose Formby Books is opening in new premises today. It sounds like he needed more space, and that can only be a good thing. (Please tell me those are the customer toilets, Tony? Or the fitting rooms, where you try new books out before taking them home, perhaps?) The address you want is 5 The Cloisters, Halsall Lane, Formby. Run along now! There is an absolutely perfect book waiting for you.

Formby Books

An Irishman from Down Under

Adrian McKinty

He talks a lot, that Adrian McKinty. And after I’ve pruned and edited, he still talks a lot, but that’s as it should be. He’s fun to listen to, and what if he rambles? He’s Irish, and if he didn’t have so much to say, maybe his books wouldn’t be worth reading?

Before we met for this interview in London in January, I was afraid I wouldn’t like him. Liking his books so much, surely something would turn out to be wrong?

Only wrong thing I could think of what that he was idiot enough to wear only a hoodie, with snow forecast. So maybe he talked as much as he did to keep warm?

After all, he rambled for almost two A4 pages (if you can accept that as a measure of talking) before stopping to ask ‘what was the question?’ But who am I to insist on my questions when someone entertains me so effortlessly?

Here it is. The slowly typed up rambles of my favourite Irish boy in all of Melbourne…