Monthly Archives: February 2019

On the Come Up

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has been on all the lists, including, strangely enough, IKEA’s. I was aware of the book. Well, you can’t help being aware, but somehow felt it might not be for me.

Angie Thomas, On the Come Up

So when I wanted to read something by Angie, I decided to go straight to her second novel, On the Come Up. I’m not sure I know exactly what that means, but it doesn’t matter because it is Absolutely Fantastic.

Bri is 16 and wants to be a rapper. She and her brother live in poverty with their unemployed mother Jay, who must be one of the greatest fictional mothers ever!

I’m not sure whether the story is set somewhere real, or made up, but it feels very true. Bri and a few of her black friends are bussed out to a white school, where their parents hope for a future for their children, and the school hopes for more funds for taking them. It’s a school where the guards on the door unfairly target the black students.

Bri’s dead father was a famous rapper and she wants to be like him, except more like herself. It’s a hard world, and a dangerous one; white police on one side and enemy gangs on the other. Drugs. Violence.

Now, I know virtually nothing about rapping; what makes it good, or even why you do what you do. I’m old and white and I don’t get it. But I love this book. I’d have liked a soundtrack, just to keep me in there with Bri and her friends, and her drug dealing aunt and the neighbourhood children.

Yes, I know. I sound like some idiotic old white Witch. But this is one great book, with characters you’d like to meet.

Read it, even if you are a bit old.

Angie Thomas, On the Come Up

(I bought my own copy, so feel less guilty about saying that the UK cover above does rather less for me than the US cover, top, which seems much more Bri.)

Love is all around us

At first I tried to brush the blossom off, before I discovered that it was part of the book cover of In Blossom by Yooju Cheon.

This beautifully monochrome picture book with pink blossom is rather romantic. It fits in with how some of us might feel today. Cat comes to sit on the bench under the cherry blossom to eat her packed lunch.

Soon after Dog comes to sit next to her, to read his book. And the dangers with cherry blossom is how it might blow from one sensitive little nose to another, and then…

Yooju Cheon, In Blossom

In Teresa Heapy’s book Loved To Bits, her illustrator Katie Cleminson shows us what one little boy’s teddy looks like. Looked like.

Because during all those exciting adventures the boy and his ted have, bits of him fall off. It can be hard to have fun and not lose the odd ear or arm.

This boy loves his ted, no matter what, and eventually when there is less of him, it makes ted even more loveable.

Teresa Heapy and Katie Cleminson, Loved To Bits

Recruitment of authors…

I don’t mean that, of course.

Apart from the fact that I realised I’d not been invited to the Chicken House Big Breakfast 2019, I was really pleased to find this YouTube clip from that Witch-free event.

I’m still a bit surprised that Maz Evans is a girl. I tend to think of her as a boy, but of course she’s a girl. One of those authors paid 8%. She’s the kind who writes her own books (unlike some, who are not named).

This is a poetic, not to mention humorous, speech. There should be more like that. Maz tells it like it is.

Next time, invite me. I can always say no. (I didn’t, did I?) Or it could take place in Central Scotland.

Impressive

That’s me, that is.

Daughter was flabbergasted to discover her old mother was capable of finding a webcast from the conference she’s at, and that I watched her give a talk. Live. (It was worth a try. Beginner’s luck, perhaps, but I found it, and even sent it on to the Resident IT Consultant to watch as well. So we sat in separate rooms watching our child say stuff about stuff we know virtually nothing about.)

Helen Giles in Baltimore

But anyway, the webcast. Don’t tell me it exists if I’m not meant to look for it. My evening meal suffered a little. I managed a rush job of slice of bread with cheese and an apple, as the webcast from Baltimore started in what was their early afternoon.

Daughter was pretty impressive too. Obviously.

(But not as much as I was.)

Making its mind up

Went to Waterstones a few days ago. Well, I was in town anyway, and I also happened to want a new book. (I’m working on being more in control, by not always asking for free books.)

Children’s books are upstairs and I went straight to the lift, on account of being lazy. And also the stairs are tall-ish, especially when you come down.

The lift was already there. It let me in. I hit the button for up. After some non-action, the doors opened. Pressed the same button again. And this is where it becomes a blur in my memory.

The lady voice thing that says whatever the lift is doing, suggested all manner of things. Going up. Going down. Doors opening. Over and over again. I looked at the closed doors (whatever that lady was saying), decided I didn’t like it and pressed the open doors button.

Luckily they did open, after some thinking about it, and out I stepped.

Marching over to the steep stairs, I heard the lift lady still talking nonsense. I hauled myself up, and after finding the book I was wanting, trekked down again.

I’ll have to consider whether I go back. Don’t want to try the lift again, and I don’t really appreciate those steep stairs. If you like the word user friendly, then they aren’t.

Why is it that even quite modern buildings, in public use, are falling to pieces so soon? This part of the shopping mall was (meant to be) opened on the day of Diana’s funeral.

Did the malfunctioning of the lift have anything to do with the bucket collecting drips of water at the front of the shop? Where was the water even coming from? Upstairs?

Call me fussy, but…

Rosamunde Pilcher

I was sorry to see that Rosamunde Pilcher died last week. On Bookwitch’s birthday, no less.

94 is a good age to reach, and from what I understand, she was well until Christmas. I’m relieved that there wasn’t a long period of suffering for her.

One thing I didn’t know, was that she lived not too far away from me, in Dundee. I think I was so into the Cornwall image that I assumed Rosamunde lived somewhere romantic like that. Instead she was romantic in Dundee.

I still intend to reread Winter Solstice some December. It’s the perfect lead-up to Christmas book. I didn’t read all that many of her novels. It was Mother-of witch who was the big fan, liking the romance and attractive settings, with no need for dead bodies all over the place.

Thyme Running Out

Far too many years after I read Justin Thyme, the first book about the Thyme family, I returned to these rich and slightly odd people in Thyme Running Out. It is just as much fun. And I might know who Panama Oxridge is.

Panama Oxridge, Thyme Running Out

There is time travel. Whether this is the cause or the cure of what happens remains a mystery. My brain has serious trouble getting itself round quite so many twists and turns. It almost gives me a haddock, as the cook, Mrs Kof, would say.

There are dodos. Obvious, when you can go far back in time. And you can never be certain if any grandfathers are their own nephews, or whatever. I don’t think I’m giving anything away. I didn’t entirely grasp who the bad guy really was. My mind boggled. A. Lot.

It’s the kind of time travelling whodunnit where you suspect everyone, including dead people and ones not yet born. At least I think so.

Billionnaire Justin is still only 13 and is still having to be the man of the castle. His older sister Robyn helps a bit, but dad Willoughby continues to be feeble, even if he means well. There is an evil new nanny. Every story should have one. And Eliza, the gorilla, is behaving oddly.

Who is Agent X? Well, there is no shortage of suspects. And you could feel that with time travel, maybe they are all X. Drumnadrochit is not as quiet a place as you might think. Also, I’m a firm believer in Nessie.

There is only one thing… This was meant to be a trilogy, and that being the case, the second book ends in such a way that you want more. Need more. Panama..!

Hello Lighthouse

Sophie Blackall’s new picture book Hello Lighthouse is a work of art. It’s a story, too, of life in a lighthouse, but you could very easily just drool over the pictures.

Sophie Blackall, Hello Lighthouse

There is something very special about lighthouses. I adore them. It’s the architecture, and the fact that they stand so alone, either by the sea or in the sea. They’re romantic, too, but probably more so for those of us who don’t live there.

I suppose this is a children’s book… It’s all quite grown-up, beginning with a new lighthouse keeper arriving, seeing him work and how lonely he is. Then he is joined by a wife, who shares in all the hard work. The dangers, the isolation, the heroic saving of people in emergencies, the heroic giving birth to a lighthouse baby. Family life at sea.

It’s beautiful. And if it weren’t for all the stairs, I’d live in a lighthouse.

We are twelve

Actually, any colour marzipan would do. I’m not fussy. Even black. Black cake would taste as cake-y as any other, wouldn’t it?

It’s odd how Swedes – almost to a [wo]man – turn to garishly coloured marzipan-covered cake when there is something to celebrate. There are plenty of different cakes, mostly all very yummy. But when it comes down to it, it’s the marzipan we go for. Generally green, but pink for Valentine’s, orange at Halloween, white for end of school celebrations, yellow at Easter.

Prinsesstårtor

The Swedish Gender Equality Agency, headed by Lena Ag who’s an old acquaintance of mine, was set up a year ago and was then supposed to be scrapped during the recent period when the country was without a government. Luckily someone saw sense and they are now continuing in business. But the thing is, there was cake to celebrate the future. (I borrowed Lena’s photo of their selection of cakes. All in colourful marzipan.)

Equality is great, but I’m afraid I was more taken with the cakes…

I’m so shallow.

And jealous. Bookwitch is twelve today and would love to encounter even one of those cakes on her kitchen worktop.

I mentioned black marzipan. The Bookwitch dining room is finally turning completely white after two years of being the wrong colour. So I’ll celebrate by enjoying this whiteness instead.

And there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with jam on wholemeal toast.

I Used To Know That

Yeah, so Christmas was a while ago. But the order from our hosts, Dodo and Son, was to buy lots of non-targeted stocking-filler type presents. These were to sit in a basket and could be opened by anyone at any time during Christmas Day. You know, for when you got bored…

They said they’d started by buying some cheap books from charity shops.

This one – I Used To Know That – was probably one of them. I have to admit to having picked book-shaped parcels. Not that I needed books, but I felt I needed silly gadgets or socks even less.

It’s quite fun, actually. Caroline Taggart has gathered ‘stuff you forgot from school’ in a short, humorous and easy to read format.

The Resident IT Consultant and I discussed whether we’d forgotten the same things, and I pointed out that to some extent we would have been given sufficiently different material from which to forget. So, no, we have blissfully put different stuff behind us. Me more than him. I have always been the type to learn for the moment (=exam) and forget quickly to leave room for more like that. And so it went on.

Maths might have been ‘the same’ were it not for the two countries (languages?) having different ways of describing it. Grammar is both the same, and not. Classic authors? Not the same. Well, a bit. The more foreign, the likelier. Science? Hmm, not always easy wherever you do it.

History; I had my kings and he had his. US Presidents were the same, but we didn’t feel they were all that important. Dates to remember… well, I knew some of his, and him being special, he clearly knows about Freden i Knäred – as do I – but do you?

Then there are the planets, and they depend entirely on how old you are. How many did you learn, that you could later forget?

I had never come across litotes, but now that I have – thank you, dear book – I can tell you it’s something I use a lot. Whereas all I recall about anapaest is that it is one.

So there you have it.