Category Archives: Books

Guilt

Let’s be honest. I receive a lot of books, and even if I did like the look of them all, I couldn’t physically fit in reading every book that arrives. As I’ve said before, often I don’t read books I actively like the look of. Let alone the others.

The new year brought many picture books. I can’t recall whether every January is like that, but this year the postman was truly bending low under the weight of jolly picture books. Even non-jolly ones, if there were any like that.

I will read some and others not. Nothing unusual about that. But I was startled to realise that I felt guilty over rejecting picture books. True, I could more easily read all or most of them as they don’t take much time. But I still won’t.

Because I didn’t like all of them. And that made me feel bad. How can a witch not like large and colourful pictures, full of fun and worthy messages and loveable characters?

So, I’m doing guilt, in the hopes that this might absolve me somehow. A Bookwitch confession.

There are others out there who will love them. My task is to propel them in the right direction.

Launching books

There are many ways to launch a book. Yesterday I had tea out with Baby Tollarp and his mother. He had one of those lovely little board books handed out by the Scottish government to all new babies in Scotland. BT launched his continuously. Mostly on to the floor. From where his mother picked it up and handed it back and then it was soon on the floor again. He had quite a sneaky look about his lovely young face when he had worked out how this was done. Slip book accidentally on purpose down the side of the highchair. Wait for it to be returned. Repeat.

Beyond Borealism: New Perspectives on the North

From there I went straight across Edinburgh’s George Square to another baby book launch. The Resident IT Consultant and I had been permitted to attend Son’s book launch. This was not a boardbook. Beyond Borealism: New Perspectives on the North is more of a collection of ex-conference papers, co-edited by five of the Scandinavian Studies department’s doctoral candidates (Ian Giles, Laura Chapot, Chris Cooijmans, Ryan Foster and Barbara Tesio).

Beyond Borealism: New Perspectives on the North - launch

There was admirably little talk. The department’s Alan Macniven introduced the editors. The editors said a few words, mostly along the lines of ‘let’s open the fizzy bottles.’ And then they did, and some of the corks made gratifyingly noisy journeys towards the ceiling.

Beyond Borealism: New Perspectives on the North - launch

There were cheeses and olives, crisps and sweets. Lots of mingling. Money changed hands whenever someone wanted to buy a copy of the book. This went on for a couple of hours.

Beyond Borealism: New Perspectives on the North - launch

Once the remaining bottles had been hidden under someone’s desk, Son and Dodo walked the wrinklies – as we are now called – towards a rather nice Indian restaurant where we were allowed to buy them a belated birthday dinner. After some quite agreeable dosas they deposited us on the bus back to Waverley, with our bus passes and senior railcards and everything.

Mind the Gap

Phil Earle, Mind the Gap

I’m an adult, so I knew where Phil Earle was going with his new book for Barrington Stoke. I’d read the same newspaper article he had when he was inspired. But it was still not obvious how he’d get the hero of his story there.

Phil has written about bleak teen lives before, but there was something that shocked me more than before in Mind the Gap. Mikey’s mother is a real piece of work and I’d happily do something to her myself.

Mikey’s father has died and he’s so lost that his best friend realises he needs to help Mikey before he loses his friend completely. But how do you find the voice of a dead man?

This is a tough story, but so much more inspiring because of it.

Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly

Will Duffy be riding into the sunset at the end of Adrian McKinty’s sixth novel about our – well, mine – favourite RUC detective? It’s quite obvious throughout the book that Duffy has had enough. More enough than before. You read and hope Adrian isn’t paving the way for killing Duffy, because it’d clearly be easier to kill someone tired of his current existence. But then he has a girlfriend and daughter to live for, although the relationship with Beth isn’t going well.

Adrian McKinty, Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly

Duffy is forced to dig his own grave, but as it comes first in the book, you hope it won’t be as final as it is made to look. Life in 1980s Northern Ireland seems harder than ever, and it’s not just the IRA or their Protestant counterparts. Duffy has always annnoyed his superiors, but never more than now.

Two attacks with bows and arrows, leaving one man dead, are mystifying the police, and as always it is hard to get witnesses to come forward, because they ‘didn’t see anything.’ Healthier that way.

I could be wrong, but the religious division felt worse than ever. And ironically some of Duffy’s strongest support comes from the Protestants around him. Although school friends are not always wrong, even at times like these.

He swears a lot, drives too fast and he drinks far too much, but Duffy is still someone you want for your friend. Just like Carrickfergus in 1988 appears to be more attractive than I suppose it was, back then. You want it to end well, even if this could be Duffy’s final mystery. You want his two fellow detectives to survive, too, and you’re even hoping for a rosy future for us all.

Hah.

And the bow and arrow thing is obvious once you know how and why.

Did I ever mention how much I love these books?

Babette laid an egg

Babette Cole

I well remember the shocked giggling at the book party. Back then, about twenty years ago, I was part of a group of mothers who hosted and attended many selling parties, and one kind was the Red House book party. That’s where my neighbour discovered Babette Cole’s Mummy Laid an Egg!

Babette Cole, Mummy Laid an Egg

She had probably been a little bit too properly brought up for the openness in Babette’s book. Hence the palpable shock, even if she giggled. Which just goes to prove how essential this very funny picture book was, and still is. Children need to be told where babies come from, if only so they can pass that knowledge on to their parents.

And now Babette has died, and there won’t be any more books to produce such gasps among the older generation.

Night Shift

As well as the blog featuring her depression Debi Gliori has written a book about it. It’s a picture book for adults, and if it wasn’t for the very difficult subject, I would say it’s a beautiful book.

Well, it is a beautiful book, of course. It’s just that it makes for difficult reading, if you stop and think that that might be you. Or if you know that it actually is you.

Debi Gliori, Night Shift

There are few words in this book. Sometimes I think we use too many words and the thing we are wanting to talk about just disappears among all those words that weren’t necessary. Debi is brief and to the point, and as you read the short sentences, you look at the accompanying illustrations. And you feel.

Those clichés people use when they are trying to be helpful are in there. I’m guessing Debi has heard them a lot. ‘Chin up. Get a grip.’ You know. What does it mean?

Throughout the book someone like Debi is being chased by dark dragons. Until that moment when something small, but significant, turns up. Something that could make a difference.

At least for the time being.

Read this if you want to know what it’s like. Read this if you know what it’s like. Share it. More people need to know what it’s like.

Reckless and Swedish

Those Swedes are fortunate. Cornelia Funke has such a good relationship with her Swedish publishers that she wrote a short Reckless story, exclusively for them.

This does mean that most of you won’t be able to read it, but who cares? Strömkarlens fiol, en Stockholmsnovell, is sheer magic, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Set in the Stockholm of Mirrorworld we meet a new city. Old, obviously, but new to me. I think that’s the thing. Stories set in old Sweden usually don’t have this magical feel to them. This was as though Stockholm has grown up, and become a proper fairy setting like many others, all over the world.

Jakob and Fox travel to Sweden to try and retrieve a violin. It’s not just any old violin, but a real Strömkarl violin. A Strömkarl is that man who stands in a river/waterfall, playing and mesmerising those who hear him. And now one such instrument has been stolen, and a young girl’s life depends on it being found.

Short but exciting, with plenty of charm. I could read more of this kind of thing. And nice illustrations by Cornelia.