Category Archives: Blogroll

The redesigned Meg

Meg Rosoff’s website  has a new design. I didn’t feel it needed it, but then I’m the kind of witch who believed her kitchen was new, when it was actually over twenty years old. It just felt new because I designed it and remembered it like yesterday.

Enough about my kitchen. I can see why Meg wanted a new look, what with winning the ALMA and all that and – perhaps – not having changed anything for a few years. Winning a new award and presumably getting lots more hits will be the kick in the backside you need to make change. Or at least hoover.

Meg Rosoff website

I like it. By that I mean it’s interesting and edgy. It can probably also qualify as a migraine trigger, and I say this as Meg’s number one fan. I do like it. I just need to look with some care.

What it does have, are some new(ish) short stories. I’ve not even had time to read them yet, but I keep thinking about them, and look forward to settling down with the laptop once life quietens down.

Or possibly I will do it sooner, in case I’m not able to wait ten years.


When the witch met Petrona

The world of blogging is a rather nice place to be. You meet interesting people, like other bloggers with whom you share so much. And the really good ones make you wish you were that little bit better at it.

Maxine Clarke who blogged as Petrona was one of them. She knew a lot about crime, which turned out to my advantage that evening in 2008 when I invited myself onto her team for the crime pub quiz in Bristol. We’d never met, but she came highly recommended by Declan Burke, so I felt free to borrow the friend of a friend. (We came third, mainly thanks to Maxine and her colleague Karen of Eurocrime.)

I always had the feeling that I ought to know more about the Nordic crime scene because of my background, but it would have been impossible to beat Maxine. From what I knew of her, she had a good job, a family, and she still managed to read all the interesting crime novels and write reviews for her own as well as Karen’s blogs.

By the time I ran out of time for too much daily blog reading, I tended to use Petrona as somewhere I would go to look for information. I could generally be sure of finding anything relevant on there.

Every now and then Maxine would leave a comment on Bookwitch, either because I’d blogged on crime, or because there was something YA that she also knew about. I believe our daughters are about the same age, which is how we ended up reading the same books for that age group as well.

This is what makes it especially sad that Maxine died earlier this week; leaving someone young behind. Because for all her expertise on the Scandinavians, it was sharing YA books that I found the most fun.

Bloggers at Crime Fest copy

I stole this photo of Maxine (left) with Rhian, Karen and Declan some years ago. I’m not sure who from, but it was in a good cause.

There is a collection of blogs posts about Maxine here.

(And as an amusing aside, I have to thank Rhian for pointing me in the direction of a long ago post by Maxine, featuring Mark Harmon. If only I’d known…)

Bookwitch bites #72

Today will be mainly about what happens in toilets. And I’m relieved (no, not in that way!) that some of you love me a little. Thank you to all five who like me. I’m actually ecstatic to find I have more fans than Declan Burke on Crime Always Pays, who only has ‘three regular readers.’ Or so he claims. And I’m one of them. Not sure who the other two are.

My tale about the sweet singing in the Ladies at the Lowry caused the nice press person from the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick to send me a very kind email. This in turn made me aware of the theatre’s book festival, Words by the Water. I know, everywhere does them, but it feels rather special to have something bookish in that lovely theatre setting. I just wish I could go. It started yesterday, and whereas it mainly seems to be adult authors, I did notice Annabel Pitcher in the programme.

The next toilet ‘incident’ also involves a lovely email (perhaps I shouldn’t have asked for sympathy?), from a librarian I encountered in the toilet queue at the Philippines Embassy (as you do) at the launch of Candy Gourlay’s Tall Story a year and a half ago. Her school – where she does her librarian stuff – has a novel (to me) kind of book competition to encourage reading. And I’m proud that I inspired one of the books to be picked. (That would be the one I never finished reading.) I’d like to think I’m also partly to blame for the school’s newly started blog. I wish them the best of fun with their Battle of the Books.

I believe I will now move swiftly and virtually seamlessly from toilets to libraries. Blue Peter was broadcasting live from the John Rylands Library in Manchester on Thursday. (And I wasn’t there! Small sob.) Both their book awards had reached a conclusion, so Gareth P Jones was there as his werewolf mystery The Considine Curse was voted Blue Peter Book of the Year. He looked quite happy.

And the Best Children’s Book of the Last 10 Years was won by Jeff Kinney for his bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He looked quite happy too. And like me, he wasn’t actually there. He spoke to the assembled Blue Peter children in a recorded message.

Connie Fisher, Michael Xavier and Lucy van Gasse

I really need to remember that Blue Peter broadcast from Media City in Salford these days. And that is relatively close. Oddly enough, I had been to Manchester earlier on Thursday. And to end this post in a vaguely toilet related manner, I almost passed the John Rylands after stuffing envelopes for the Hallé, in the company of a volunteer from the Lowry who was enthusing about the Media City gardens, and the ‘celebrities’ one can see there. One of the stuffings was for Wonderful Town, the collaboration between the Royal Exchange Theatre, the Hallé and the Lowry. And it was the toilet from the launch which featured in my second paragraph above, and the volunteer also experienced a slight incident with the Bridgewater Hall’s facilities on Thursday. It was a mere misunderstanding, and she wasn’t in the dark for long.

I know. Things stopped making sense about 100 words ago. Sorry.

Bookwitch bites #6

Once, when we got our first computer (and let me tell you that was a while ago), I had this idea that that was it. Once and for all. Hah, is what I say today, many many computers on. Maybe that’s how people felt about getting themselves a website, too? Now the time has come for many to revamp, just to avoid looking dated.

Mary Hoffman has recently given hers a facelift, and it’s definitely spring now. What with words like tweet and twitter, the countryside feel to Mary’s home page makes me think of ‘back to nature’. Mary has also changed her newsletter style blog, and it looks as if her old news blog is no longer in use.

Candy Gourlay has been to the London Book Fair and has written several posts about what she and her author friends got up to. By the sound of it, they rather took over the place, seeing as the lack of planes made for an emptier than usual fair. Wish I’d known. I love empty spaces. I could have set up my own Bookwitch stall. Just think.

At the Love & Sex event this week I happened to be standing next to Keris Stainton who was telling William Nicholson all about her first book which is out now or soon. I’m not completely averse to eavesdropping, and when Keris gave William a postcard I swiftly asked for one, too. A book that comes recommended by Meg Cabot can’t be bad, can it? (I was thinking that really Keris could have done with carting round a few spare novels in her bag, in case people in the street or witches at bookshop events show an interest. Just a thought.)

Nicola Morgan launched her new blog, specifically created for her new novel Wasted, yesterday. There are a number of enthusiastic comments/reviews of Wasted. Me, I wouldn’t know. But there is a reason for that. Cough.

Friday saw another exciting event, which was the 25th anniversary of Beverley Naidoo’s Journey to Jo’burg. The invite went like this:

“Learning through Literature: A South African Story”, Celebrating 25 years since the publication of Journey to Jo’burg, by Beverley Naidoo.  Michael Rosen with Chris van Wyk, Njabulo Ndebele, Gillian Slovo, Ret’sepile Makamane and Beverley Naidoo.

And who wouldn’t have wanted to be there for that? I did. But for some reason Virgin want payment for their train tickets, and in this instance rather too much. I just hope it was as good without me as it would have been with. Beverley’s books are fantastic.

Depending on when you read this, you have approximately 24 hours left to attempt to win a signed copy of Tall Story by Candy Gourlay. Identify the authors above, and send list to contact, also above. Candy Gourlay has joined in the spirit of the thing, and just may win a copy of her own book…

‘Web without ads’

We need ads on the Internet – apparently – in order not to kill off websites, starving for cash. Or so it said in the paper this week. But they are annoying, flashing and migraine inducing things. I gave up on Hotmail when I couldn’t even see my own inbox for all the flashing boxes.

I’ve chosen not to advertise anything on here, other than mentioning books, obviously. And sometimes publishers if they’ve been particularly helpful. Quite a few bloggers have advertising on their sites, and some do it better than others. I like the way Candy Gourlay has designed hers, but then the answer lies in that very sentence. Candy designed the page herself, which is why it looks good, while still being advertising. And Enn Kokk in Sweden has a discreet ad at the top, which never disturbs.

Actually, I lie. I do advertise, as you will see if you peer closely at my photo from the Gothenburg Book Fair above in the header. If you read mirror image you will find a publisher’s name there, which is totally unintentional. The Resident IT Consultant just put it there while helping me set up the blog, and I felt it was so suitable that it has stayed.

Maybe I’ll get myself another picture. Three years of one image is rather a long time. I’m sure I look dated, but one reason for not changing is that I don’t know what I should go for instead. What do you say? Books always look nice, but I fear it’s getting a little clichéd.

One reason for not wanting ads on here is that it will clutter up the page. And I’m not sure it would make me rich. The donate button idea pops into my head every so often, and always makes way to the idea of asking JKR for a (hefty) donation. And that thought immediately goes away again, because I would lose my independence if anyone gave me money. (However, don’t let that stop you!)

What would be nice is to find myself recommended on the Guardian’s book blog page as ‘sites we like’. I find the absence of a children’s book blog very notable. Also feel that those recommended on there have been left like that for several years now. I don’t think they are the best, by any means. Possibly some of the better known, but then they don’t need to be on there. From time to time I click on them, hoping to find something to make me break into raptures, but it never happens.

Feel free to start a campaign.

Y A blogs

Time for some witching about other bloggers. Please exchange the ‘w’ for the second letter of the alphabet.

I’m not feeling lonely, but occasionally go out hunting for new colleagues. I’m hoping for inspiration. Maybe some great ideas I could steal. Somewhere to leave comments and engage in some mutual fun.

Other than the blogs I already know about, I’m not finding any of the above. I’m finding lots of blogs, but there is something fishy going on. They are all the same. They link to each other. They even have some posts that are the same, by the same ‘guest blogger’. Or someone who made her own, based on the same idea. The layout which I at first quite liked, loses its appeal when you see they are all the same. Must be someone’s template which automatically makes them like that.

Most of the bloggers are young, although adults. Spelling mistakes are OK in daily posts, I feel, but in the set bits of information down the side? Sloppy. They nearly all have rules for what kind of books they will deign to receive for review purposes. I find that rude. Yes, it makes sense for publishers not to send the wrong kind of book, but if they do, it’s their money that’s been wasted, not the blogger’s.

They supposedly have hundreds of followers, but who wants to read these on a daily basis? If you check blog stats, where available, the hundreds can’t be visiting all that often.

And after puzzling over the books they review, most of which I’ve not heard of, let alone read, I’ve come to the conclusion many of them are teen romances. Nothing wrong with that. I lived off romances myself during the early years. But how can you keep reviewing ‘boy meets girl’ over and over?

Does anyone have a lovely blog suggestion for me, please?

Pink and lovely

Another award! I don’t know what to say. Shall I cry? Say something really soppy?

No. No need. I’m bad enough in my daily goings-on that I shouldn’t make it any worse than it already is.

Lovely Blog Award

I found to my surprise that I was listed on Lucy Coats’s blog, and I think my task is to point this out to you, and to list my ten favourite blogs. As Mary Hoffman said on her blog, that’s hard when Lucy had already picked many of Mary’s daily reads. So I’ll pick mine, but will avoid all those mentioned elsewhere, who by default have their award and don’t need it again.

My ten:

Donna Moore at Big Beat From Badsville

Adrian McKinty at The Psychopathology of Everyday Life

Sara Paretsky at Sara Paretsky Blog

Annika Bryn at Annika Bryns Blog

Jeff Cohen et al at Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room

Dorte Jakobsen at DJS Krimiblog

Martin Edwards at Do You Write Under Your Own Name?

Barbara Fister at Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Lisa Rullsenberg at Rullsenberg Rules

Monica Edinger at Educating Alice

Pretty criminal, in other words.

And between you and me, it’s the compliments in the comments box or by email directly to me that make me sit down and cry a little. Thank you so much.

A blog visit

It was an internet kind of weekend, if you don’t count the hotel which was unable to connect me to it. “Has madam ever used her laptop before, and has she gone on the internet in the past?’ Well, you tell me! Do you reckon I have enough internet experience after two years of boring you stiff?

Take away the internet, and I probably would have had to help the Resident IT Consultant mow the grass, instead of basking in the German spring sunshine. As it was, I was close to entering a competition with Lowebrow on our respective domestic dust levels at the very moment the Resident IT Consultant removed the dust I was about to boast about, from the chandelier. 

We both agreed that we waste a lot of time on the internet. But it brought us together, and many other valuable connections would also have remained unconnected. We spent a whole afternoon talking books and writing, and if there had been no plane to catch, we’d still be at it. 

Coming from a bilingual household, it was good to visit another, with a different mix of languages. I still don’t think it’s impolite to speak the ‘other’ language in front of people, and I quite liked being allowed to listen to German without having to try and speak it.

And it’s very useful to have found someone who wants the books I’m finished with. My suitcase very nearly burst with books, and that was before we added the Cheddar. Also fun to find a mother more forgetful than myself at times. Fancy asking your son if he takes sugar!

On the other hand, I’ve already forgotten if Gypsy is an English speaking dog or a German speaking one.

Sisterhood Award

About time, too. I’ve been given my first award! Though I have to admit that I was unable to even spell the word award correctly just now, so maybe I need more time to learn. It’s the very kind Lucy Coats who has done the awarding. And the equally lovely Fiona Dunbar, who is only a little afraid of me. So, you wait for two years and then two awards (admittedly identical ones) arrive all at once.


There are many great sisters out there, blogging away. Fiona and Lucy are two of those and they also listed a good many that I like in their awards lists. So, I won’t list them back, or this gets really silly. And with one exception, I won’t list the same as them. The exception is allowed because I had thought of her for my list before Fiona came and ‘ruined’ it.

Across the big ocean to the west, to Laurie Frost, who has the very good taste to like Philip Pullman very much. First she wrote a book about His Dark Materials. Then she blogged about those who copied her book. Now she is raking in readers while unearthing a scandal about pre-paid college education in Alabama, and obviously meeting a great need. Dig on, Laurie!

North to Chicago and Sara Paretsky, who also has the good taste to like Philip Pullman. And she likes NCIS. As many of you will know, Sara writes extremely good books about private eye VI Warshawski, who is a prime example of Sisterhood. I feel a little guilty about having bullied Sara into blogging, but only a little.

Slightly east, now, to Monica Edinger in New York. Another Pullman fan, and a lady who likes what I like, which is always a good starting point. Monica strikes me as so much better organised than I am, and she may blog about similar topics, but generally from another angle.

North again, to the wilds of Canada, and Sara O’Leary, who is very wise and blogs about things I’d never even thought of. Sara writes picture books (can you say that?) and blogs about picture books and is very knowledgeable. She also likes some of my other favourite men. (Sorry, but for a sisterhood thing I seem to mention them a tad too often. I know.) It was Philip Ardagh who brought us ‘together’ and Eoin Colfer is involved, too, somehow.

Another American, now, but one who has moved across that ocean in the other direction. L.Lee Löwe, of the many Ls, blogs as Lowebrow (which I find a very witty name…) somewhere near the Rhine, after a long time in Africa. We met through Dina Rabinovitch’s blog, so there is a lot of sistering going on here. LLL (couldn’t resist) is very determined and has strong opinions on things.

A Paretsky fan from the city of my birth is Annika Bryn. She doesn’t blog in English, but I don’t see why that should be a problem. Annika writes crime, and blogs about Stockholm and her hair and other interesting topics.

Southwest to Jutland to meet Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen, who is also into crime in a big way. Dorte does an amazing job, blogging in Danish and English simultaneously to make herself understood by all. She reads a lot, has interesting opinions on books, and her English is excellent. This on its own would be enough for me, because it’s rarer than you think. We also seem to have other things in common, and have yet to fall out over some silly Swedish/Danish issue.

Brooming over to Scotland for two ladies with Italian connections. Julie Bertagna‘s blog only has one thing wrong with it. I wish Julie could blog more often. But it’s quite possible that life and novel writing and other stuff gets in the way. And that’s OK, Julie.

Debi Gliori appears to be another witch, and you can never have too many of them. She is funny, too. What’s more, she has written books that the Resident IT Consultant actually remembers long after he read them. Could be the Scottish connection. Or that Debi may be a witch.

My last, but definitely not least, choice is Mary Hoffman. Mary is the one who had already been picked by Fiona. There is an Italian flavour to Mary’s blog, too, of course. What I like the most is simply to be kept up-to-date on what Mary does, while trying not to feel inadequate because I do less and know only a fraction of what Mary knows. Someone who has read all of Scott’s novels is a force to be reckoned with.

The task now for all you lucky winners is to:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 favourite blogs of your own.
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Link to this post to the person from whom you received your award.
That’s about all. And as you have nothing very pressing to do… Oh, you do? Oh, well, do what you can.

Ghost house

This is almost like holidaying in a ghost story. The house we’re in is very noisy, in the wrong way. When you’re with other people you don’t notice. When you’re alone you start looking over your shoulder. And the house is only 35 years old.

I have a desk in a wardrobe here. It was all that was left when we’d allocated the bedrooms for sleeping in. So, I was sitting peacefully in my wardrobe just now, waiting for Daughter to get out of bed, when I heard her walking down the corridor. But she walked awfully silently, so when I wasn’t assaulted with a hug I decided I’d only imagined it. Then I heard unmistakeable bathroom sounds, and deduced she had simply been very quiet. Except she didn’t come out again, and on investigating, the bedroom door was still firmly shut.

All who have stayed here alone have found these spooky sounds very unsettling. A couple of years ago Daughter was left alone in the house for the first time, while the three of us went out to buy paint. This took longer than expected, so whilst in the middle of talking to someone in the shop, I had to throw my ringing phone to Son to answer. “Yes, we have all heard those sounds”, I heard him explain patiently to his sister. The Retired Children’s Librarian and Aunt K are amongst those who have suffered. But you get used to it.

My hands are shaking, but that’s because I have just taken the lawnmower for its ten minutes of slaughtering knee high grass. Then its battery dies, and you have to wait until tomorrow. High grass on a very slopey slope is no laughing matter, unless you fall down with the mower on top, which might look funny to any onlooker. This is behind the house, as the front of house grass gets cut by BMW-man. I let his ancient, pale green BMW sit in my garage, and in return he cuts the grass. I have no idea why, as he does all the work, and the BMW just sits there. I didn’t even know him when the BMW deal was arranged, although Mother-of-witch borrowed a pram for Son from the family, many years ago. So, maybe I have to get used to the idea of helpful neighbours.

We went into town yesterday (I’m sorry if this sounds like very long and boring postcard) and it’s got that small town feeling, and we saw the watch repair man and the dentist, and narrowly missed running into the optician. Waved to BMW-man and wife. The dentist plays tennis with BMW-man, of course. And the watch repair man spent an hour showing Daughter cogwheels and things from the insides of clocks, including a clockwork from 1750 that belongs to the Carl von Linné family. Perhaps I should send him a copy of the Philip Pullman book?


Will attempt to get back to more bookish subjects tomorrow.