Author Archives: bookwitch

The Fowl Twins

Would it work, this move from Artemis Fowl to his twin brothers Myles and Beckett? Could they be as charmingly bad as their big brother, and would we miss Butler, and what if Eoin Colfer had lost his touch? Yes, yes, yes and no.

They seem so young! Eleven is nothing. But the Artemis we first met was similarly young and just as crooked, and intelligent, calculating everything he did to suit him. Myles is a cold fish, not hesitating to hack Artemis’s security system to get things his way. And Beckett, well, a delight, but one who would quickly wear you out if you actually met. If he was actually real. Charming, and not quite as stupid as he makes you think he is.

Eoin Colfer, The Fowl Twins

Being twins they have that unspoken way of working well together, and the mere fact that Myles has prepped Beckett to do what needs doing, when it needs doing, is a testament to both their abilities. And they have NANNI, an AI minder (who can also be a little hacked).

We have fairies. (It’s an Irish story, after all.) One Barbie-sized troll, who is quite vicious, or would be, were he not encased in plastic. One small, but ancient, non-magic pixel (half pixie, half elf), who is less invisible than she thinks.

And we have baddies. A Spanish speaking nun and a Duke from Scilly, who is very old. Plus the requisite horde of stupid muscle.

Together they all make for a fun and fast paced reading adventure.

There is no point in me explaining anything that happens in this first book about the Fowl twins. It’s just one of those times when you sit down and read and enjoy the ride. I mean, maybe not when face-to-face with the shark. But otherwise it was – mostly – lots of fun. What am I saying? It was fun the whole time. Except maybe for the nits. And, er… yes. Fun.

Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet – Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity

Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet - Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity

Thought I’d treat you to another of my – our – Christmas present books. Rather than offer any kind of review, which would be fairly hard to do, I will show you some of my photos of it! The title is a bit of a mouthful, but I gather academics, even scientists, like that sort of thing. It’s called Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet – Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity.

Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet - Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity

As you will have worked out, this is Daughter’s thesis, and it was generous of her to let us have a copy. I believe they cost a fortune.

Dr Giles has her foreword in no less than three languages, which is one more than they demanded. (Apologies for any mistakes in the third one; I don’t really speak ‘science’ in any language. And the visible mistake is all my fault…)

Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet - Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity

Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet - Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity

Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet - Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity

Because astrophysics is such a male subject, she worked hard to put women scientists in there, from Dr Nirupama Raghavan who is the Resident IT Consultant’s cousins wife’s cousin’s mother-in-law (!), and who was Director of the Nehru Planetarium in New Delhi, to Dr Jessie Christiansen, an almost peer from CalTech.

Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet - Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity

Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet - Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar ActivityG_2100

I like heavenly bodies to be eccentric; it sounds fun. And in the index I discovered that Daughter’s surname puts her right after some G Galilei chap.

Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet - Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity

Also, the book is purple!

Guilty

As I tossed another book (adult crime, since you ask) aside, and recycled the press release, I congratulated myself on how easy it was to decide not to even pretend to be interested in reading the book. No sense of guilt at all.

That’s because it was an unsolicited crime novel from a publicist I don’t know, and who has clearly inherited my name and address from someone. They must also have enough of a budget for doing this with little or no checking up on any resulting reviews.

(The book might be great, for all I know. If space was not an issue, I’d possibly stack it up for my future house arrest days. But I don’t suppose I can hope to live through that many years under house arrest, seeing I’m no longer a spring chicken.)

But the word guilt triggered, well, guilt. Because the rest of the time I feel it in respect of books I’d like to read, authors I know and like, and publicists I might have made promises to.

And I have a family who are so dutiful in their general behaviour that guilt is right there, often on a daily basis. It’s hard to banish, even when you know life’s too short, and all that. Plus the fact that guilt should be saved for graver situations.

So it was quite nice to have that fleeting insouciant no-guilt-here moment.

Jane Eyre

It was good to revisit Jane Eyre after all these years. Barrington Stoke have just published a dyslexia friendly, short, retelling of the famous Charlotte Brontë novel. Tanya Landman has written a more than creditable short version, and one that I enjoyed a lot.

Tanya Landman (Charlotte Brontë), Jane Eyre

I wasn’t sure how hard it would be to make such a long novel into a short one; one that actually works. I’m certain it was neither quick nor easy, but the result is a perfect literary summary of an old classic.

Tanya’s version contains most of what I remembered, skipping over one or two sub-plots with just a few paragraphs (which is obviously how one does it) to get on with that which matters. The only major fact missing is Jane’s inheritance, but in the long run it’s not massively important.

She can still marry Mr Rochester and live happily ever after. (I hope this doesn’t count as a spoiler..?)

A classic has to be one of the hardest things to access if reading is difficult. I guess watching the film is the nearest, but won’t give so much flavour of the real deal. That’s what you get in something like this Jane Eyre.

I hope the book will be a happy discovery for many. Jane is still a most interesting heroine.

Prime fool

‘I seem to have accidentally got Amazon Prime,’ said the Resident IT Consultant some weeks before Christmas.

I tutted and offered to help him get out of it. I even thought I’d do a sample purchase to see where he ‘went wrong.’ But then he managed to extricate himself without assistance and all he had to suffer through was another 29 days of Prime membership.

Knowing how easy they make it to make the mistake, I still felt it was up to my savvy shopper to see the pit before he fell into it.

Then as I was tidying up my inbox at the weekend, I ‘dealt with’ the email from an author, telling me about his new books (because I’d asked), and decided to buy them. It felt too unlikely that I’d be able to ask for a review copy of even one of them at this late point.

And before I knew what hit me, I was also the lucky recipient of Amazon Prime.

Actually, I saw exactly what hit me. And as I thought ‘so that’s where he went wrong!’ I went wrong too. Well, I didn’t, because I had a choice of two buttons, the most tempting of which took me to Prime country, and the one below it was the get out free button. Which I selected. And it took me straight to the congratulations for having joined them page.

Going back a page or two didn’t undo the damage, so I bought my two books, which already had free postage, for free. And then I went to the help page and clicked on the ‘get me out of here’ button, and I was out again.

As the Resident IT Consultant had said, escape was really easy. But so was the trap. I’d say, it was unavoidable, as I can’t see how choosing the right button should get me the result of the wrong button.

The whole thing is even more ridiculous, because I had for some time pondered joining. I’d been seduced by the films and television shows Daughter was enjoying with hers. The main thing preventing me was that a year ago I was stupid enough to buy a television that doesn’t do Prime…

But, had I not been tricked, it’s not inconceivable I’d have given them my money. Willingly.

The Good Thieves

‘What do you think of Katherine Rundell?’ I was asked in an email, chatting to one of ‘my’ authors, some time last year. My response was that I didn’t think, really, as I’d not read any of her books, but that her new one, The Good Thieves, looked very promising. Except I’d not been sent a copy, and when I checked in the shops it was a hardback and a bit pricey.

Katherine Rundell, The Good Thieves

But I had gathered that Katherine Rundell is an author of interest in the business. So she and her book went on my Christmas wish list, and here we are. (Father Christmas took pity on me.) I’ve had a most enjoyable read of this children’s ‘light crime’ novel, set in New York in the 1920s. It’s not just the cover that is gorgeous.

The pace is slow to begin with, detailing the arrival in New York of Vita and her mother, on a journey of mercy to rescue her bereaved grandfather. But she has plans, and accidentally coming across three unusually talented children, she plans another kind of rescue than the one her mother is working on, with lawyers, etc.

Vita wants to restore her grandfather’s lost castle to him, and throws herself and her three new accomplices into a minor war with a mafia style group of vicious men. They may be powerful and cruel, but they’ve not counted on Vita, or Silk, Arkady and Samuel. Each has very useful skills.

The plot as such isn’t necessarily all that original. What makes The Good Thieves such a special tale is the way this plot is executed. There are little surprises here and there, and there is so much warmth, and courage.

I’d have been quite happy for the book to be longer. But on the other hand I wouldn’t have wanted to inflict more pain and injury on our young heroes. And I suppose I can always run away and join a circus.

(My thoughts on Katherine Rundell are that she’s a very good thing. I might have a need to read more of her books.)

The Lammisters

I suspect Declan Burke’s new novel would make a good film. In fact, I have no way of knowing that it’s not already happening. Set in Hollywood, slightly under a hundred years ago, it would be appropriate. And I do enjoy humorous films.

The Lammisters is completely different from Declan’s other crime novels, which – mostly – take place in Ireland, featuring inept and sometimes bad characters, but usually also very funny ones. If they talk too much, it’s because they are Irish.*

Here, though, is a narrator who uses a lot of words. Long words. Fancy words. Complicated sentences. Footnotes. That sort of thing.

Not being as well read – or educated – as the Guardian’s Laura Wilson, I don’t know Laurence Sterne, although I have heard of him. I gather it is his style that Declan has gone for. The review in the Guardian was very positive, which is well deserved. To my mind, all his books ought to have got a mention there.

It’s a period I like a lot, and coincidentally it’s the second of two crime novels set in that period that I had lined up over Christmas; one on each side of the US. (More about that tomorrow.) And the cover is fabulous.

Declan Burke, The Lammisters

* Apologies for the stereotyping…