Category Archives: Authors

McTavish Takes the Biscuit

Oh McTavish, how wise you are! And how I love you!

We all need a McTavish in our lives, but especially the Peachey family. True, their dog has sorted them out pretty good by now, but then it would seem that there is no stopping Pa Peachey when he gets a silly idea.

Meg Rosoff, McTavish Takes the Biscuit

Meg Rosoff’s fictional dog is really exceptionally wise. Actually, now that I think of them, they all are.

So, anyway, Pa Peachey wants to win the town’s bake-off competiton, despite him not being any good at baking. What could be more exciting than a ginger biscuit version of the Palace of Versailles?

The healthy food McTavish taught his humans to eat is no more, as Pa bakes and serves up his failures to dog and people. But according to Ma Peachey one should support people’s dreams. Even if it’s going to end in disaster.

What can McTavish do?

Well, anything, really. Sit back and enjoy another Peachey family story.

Advertisements

The Titanic Detective Agency

We should at least be safe from sequels. The fact that Lindsay Littleson’s crime novel is set on the Titanic sort of rules that out. The days are limited as it is, with three child passengers on this famous ship finding mysteries and setting out to solve them, unaware that time is even shorter than the official expected arrival in America.

Lindsay Littleson, The Titanic Detective Agency

As one of the few people on earth who have not seen the film, it was interesting to learn about travelling on the Titanic; the different passenger classes, for instance. And interestingly, Lindsay didn’t make up her characters. They are real passengers (and the fact that they were, does in no way guarantee that they survive), and this makes everything more realistic.

Like Johan from Knäred. I was gratified to find someone who could have been practically a neighbour, on the Titanic. Johan was poor, so travelled in third class, on his way to join his father and older sister, having left his mother and younger siblings behind in southern Sweden. He speaks no foreign languages, but still manages to befriend Bertha from Aberdeen and her young friend Madge.

It’s not the mysteries that matter; it’s the Titanic and the lives described. You meet people and even though you know what will happen, you have no way of knowing who will die and who survives, or what will become of the survivors, for that matter.

Learning about a catastrophe in this way brings home the awfulness of both the voyage, but also of how people lived and why they travelled and what they were hoping for, or fearing, in America.

The #25 profile – Tom Palmer

To my surprise I have read most of Tom Palmer’s books. When I was sent the first one I was happy to read it. A bit sporty, you know, but a fine story. And the books kept coming, and I kept reading and liking them. All that football… But the man writes a good story, and he is gold with boys. I know that’s a little sexist, but there you are. And he has written about girls and sport. Now that Tom’s moved deeper into war stories, he’s got even better. I have no idea where this will end.

Below Tom makes short work of my silly questions, and here is a handsome photo of him and his dog, Finn. Woof.

Tom Palmer 2018 (with dog)

How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?

Three. Amid a hundred-plus false starts over 20 years.

Best place for inspiration?

A moving train.

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

Yes.

What would you never write about?

Torture.

Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

A Russian oligarch’s bodyguard. A cruise ship prison cell. Not at the same time.

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

Ernest from Armistice Runner, because he knows what it feels like to win a fell race.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

A good thing. Largely financially, to be honest. Though I’d like to see Armistice Runner on camera for the lovely scenery.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

Why do you support Leeds United?

Do you have any unexpected skills?

I have a superb reputation in the family for decorating cakes.

The Famous Five or Narnia?

Famous Five.

Who is your most favourite Swede?

Pontus Jansson.

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

Categories that become corrupted very quickly.

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

I’d have a chat with him first to find out what he is into, then suggest something. But – without any of that intel – I’d say Eoin Colfer’s The Legend of Spud Murphy.

If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?

Writing. Reading makes me really happy, but I think, when it’s going well, writing makes me even happier.

Well, this just goes to prove how weird people are. Leeds United … well. The author questions, the secret skills. Their Swedes. (I had to look Pontus up.) But Tom’s got great taste when it comes to advice on reading. And I’ll have a slice of that cake if you don’t mind!

The Time Travel Diaries

I had such a lot of fun with Caroline Lawrence’s Time Travel Diaries that I kept returning to the book until I found out what happened and how it ended. Which I’m obviously not going to tell you about.

Caroline Lawrence, The Time Travel Diaries

And it’s not Caroline who’s time travelling, but her new main character Alex. At least to begin with, I felt he spoke rather like a hardboiled private eye, albeit as a Y8 London school boy who is a bit of a wimp.

What helps is that he speaks [modern] Greek because of his gran, with whom he lives, and Latin because of school. So he’s quite handy to have around if you suddenly encounter people from the olden days. In this case, Roman London.

Yep, Caroline hasn’t exhausted her knowledge of those days yet, and there is plenty to learn about old London. Or is there?

I can’t really tell you how or why Alex suddenly goes back in time, nor what happens when he does. But it’s fun. And you know things won’t go entirely to plan, because what would be the point of that?

Speaking for myself, I like seeing what it was like a long time ago, in places that I know today. Especially as I am not expecting to actually end up there, with their bad teeth and plagues and stuff.

It’s a bit of a mystery, and although you might feel for technical reasons that this time travel lark isn’t something to be repeated, even if Alex were to survive, it does seem as if this isn’t the last we’ve heard of him.

Noir in Newcastle

Reading about what I’ve not done is one of your favourite blog things. Isn’t it?

So, this weekend I didn’t do Newcastle Noir, but I had thought I might, and it would have been good. Next year. I like these women who organise their own book festivals, in this case Jacky Collins.

Having been a bad witch and not kept up-to-date with who was going to be there, I’d missed that Marnie Riches was one such favourite author. According to reports on social media she had a great time.

Sigh. I’m happy for her, obviously.

I made up for not being there by – belatedly – reading Daughter’s offering from her Iceland trip; glossy magazine Iceland Review. (It was her gift to the Resident IT Consultant. I got a proper paid for one…)

They had an interview with Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Her comment on being considered Nordic Noir was that being Icelandic and writing crime fiction you end up grouped with authors who don’t write particularly similar books. ‘You write what you want to write. You’re never thinking “oh, it’s not Nordic noir enough, I’ll throw in a snowstorm or a depressed cop,” it doesn’t work like that.

Oh well. These noirs do have a nice ring to them, be it Nordic or Newcastle.

D-Day Dog

It’s possible to like war too much. Maybe you don’t stop to think about what war really means, or you get carried away by the excitement of weapons and explosions. And there is that idea of patriotism, duty to your country.

Tom Palmer, D-Day Dog

In Tom Palmer’s D-Day Dog 11-year-old Jack loves all things to do with war, as does his Reserve soldier father. They play war games at home, and Jack just knows that to serve your country is the greatest honour.

Then comes the school trip to the battlefields, and his father is called up, and life turns upside down. The children are told to find a dead soldier to read up on; someone whose grave they can visit. Because Jack has a dog, Finn, which he loves more than anything, he is pointed in the direction of a paratrooper who served in the war with his dog.

And suddenly it all becomes too real and Jack begins hating war.

There are probably many boys who love the idea of war and violence, and this book will be a good way of finding out what’s important in life – and death – and why people do what they do. It also brings attention to the Falkland war, Afghanistan, and Syria, where one of the girls in Jack’s class comes from.

Behind everything on the trip we see Jack’s love for Finn, for his dad, and his fear of what might happen to his family. For anyone unfamiliar with the details of D-Day, or with any war for that matter, this is a powerful little story.

And you know, they have dogs in Syria too. It’s just that Jack had no idea.

No Ballet Shoes in Syria

Do you like Ballet Shoes? And When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit? Then you will love Catherine Bruton’s No Ballet Shoes in Syria.

Catherine Bruton, No Ballet Shoes in Syria

Aya is eleven and has arrived in Britain with her mother and her little brother Moosa. They’ve been here three weeks and queue most days just to see their caseworker and to get food and nappies. Her mother speaks very little English, and is not well. It falls to Aya to do the talking, and the looking after.

At the community centre somewhere in Manchester Aya suddenly hears music, and feels compelled to see where it is coming from. This is how she discovers a ballet class, and having loved her ballet classes back in Aleppo she is drawn to the room.

But can someone like her ever dance here in England?

Set mostly in Manchester, there are flashbacks to Aya’s story of what happened in Syria, and how she and her family ended up in England. Most of her family. In a way it’s the standard refugee tale, but every such story has real individuals in it, and this is Aya’s.

Catherine has got everything right here. It’s exciting, but reassuring. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. And we need to be reminded of all this right now. The dreadful past. The dreadful present. We need to make things better.

I hope you will love this book as much as I did.