Category Archives: Books


It ends well. Sort of. Ish. Monster is the first of a new trilogy set in the Gone world by Michael Grant. And I don’t really mean that it ended well. So many unbelievably horrible and gross things have happened by the end of it, that the tiny sliver of ‘sunshine’ on the last pages made me say it. Hope. Or the expectation that there might possibly be something positive in the next book, which is going to be called Villain.

Michael Grant, Monster

The fact that I read the whole book is proof of how well Michael writes. By the time the La Guardia incident ended on page 90 I was wondering whether I’d be able to go to bed. And not see what I had just read.

After that evening I took longer reading, because I had to avoid reading last thing before bed, if it was dark, or if I was alone in the house. It got better. Or I grew desensitised. Either way works.

But setting aside just how gross it is, this is another fantastic Michael Grant Gone story. The problem is far ‘worse’ than in the first six books. Believe me. It is. Although, encountering old friends is always good. There aren’t many of them, but more than I’d been led to understand. You get Dekka, and that makes you sort of happy. You feel safe. Ish.

As before, you can never be certain someone is dead, which depending on who it is, can be good, or bad.

I was disoriented at the start, as I felt I wasn’t returning to quite what I had left, four fictional years earlier. I remembered the end to be better than it’s now described as having been. And those survivors didn’t necessarily live happily ever after.

We have some great new characters in Shade, Cruz and Malik, and I grew really quite fond of Armo. Then there were others I didn’t. And when people morph after eating – yuk – bits of the alien rock that caused all this to begin with, it’s all a bit eugh.

Towards the end you come to understand that the La Guardia incident was fairly civilised as gory incidents go.

Happy reading!


The embargo

Reading Harry Potter a week after ‘everyone’ else never bothered me. I would hope for no spoilers, but I didn’t feel an absolute urgency. We already bought two copies of the book, and three or four would have been ridiculous. Especially as I preferred to take my time over the book, savouring the adventure, not wanting to hurry, and definitely not being an officially recognised reviewer.

I’ve had today’s date in my diary for months, and suspecting a return to the secrecy Harry got, I enquired a few months ago whether this was likely to happen again. Hard to tell whether I was strung along or misunderstood. I wouldn’t have minded the answer, whatever it was. I merely wanted to know what to expect.

As with Harry Potter, I know full well that a review – by anyone – is not needed. Millions of impatient fans will buy the new book. Most of them today.

I want to savour this book as well, so there’s not going to be a hurried review. It would obviously have been different had I been sent an early copy, in good time. I know there are copies. I know of some people who’ve had one. I’ve seen a photo of one. So not only do I know they are numbered (woe if your number ends up on eBay), but I know who’s got the number I’d have liked…

What I don’t know, at the time of writing this, is if today’s post will bring anything, or if I should put my shoes on and walk to the nearest bookshop. That is another bit of information I’d have appreciated, and I could have ordered online, in advance.

While a reply to my emails would have been nice, no one owes me anything.

Tea in the library

It wasn’t until I typed that heading, that I realised quite how Agatha Christie it sounds. There were no corpses, to the best of my knowledge. The books were legal registers, rather than books you’d actually read, but it still made for a suitably bookish backdrop.

My friend Pippi was in town (=Edinburgh), and like me she enjoys an extravagant afternoon tea. And she had just the place in mind for us to test. After all, someone has to. Colonnades at the Signet Library, right next to my very own Cathedral on the Royal Mile, made it easy(-ish) to get to.

Would have been easier had I not been required to bring a computer thingie for Son, who met my train at Waverley and then proceeded to walk with me. It’s uphill all the way and his idea of slow didn’t tally with mine. But we got there, and as we waited in the foyer for the clock to strike afternoon tea-time, he chatted to Pippi, before running off to do the kinds of things Sons do.

Pippi and I were shown to our own little alcove table in the sun, and the tea started coming. Now I know why they set aside two hours for it! It’s not so you can lounge; more to allow you to eat all of it, as the dishes keep coming. The photo below is my personal stand showing the savoury stuff. There was another for the sweet things. And two more for Pippi.

Colonnades at the Signet Library

I didn’t actually eat all of it. Honest.

Luckily the uphill meant it was downhill back to the train, which was a jolly good thing.

Before that, Pippi had asked me book questions I couldn’t answer, and then I told her what to read. She even asked me which bookshop I go to, which is an awkward question for someone who does not specialise in buying books. But I trust she will go somewhere, and buy some books, although hand luggage only means not too many of them.

Colonnades at the Signet Library

Yes, that is Pippi’s head at the bottom, with books behind her going way further than you can see.


Isn’t it marvellous what you can do with the word noir? All these crime festivals where noir can be slotted in quite effortlessly. Like here, in Noireland, which as any fool can see is short for Northern Ireland.

That’s Belfast, really. It’s where you want to go to spend the weekend of 27th to 29th October. Sorry about the short notice.


I’d like to go myself, as it looks both tempting and is a short hop across the water from here. It’s organised by David Torrans, the man famous for running Belfast’s famous crime bookshop. The one who’s actually in some crime novels. It all happens at the Europa hotel, so would be convenient, too. Hotel stay. Shoulder-rubbing with crime writers. Perfect.

Judging by the photos flashing across my computer screen, Stuart Neville will be singing and playing the guitar. Many of the Irish authors I’ve come to know from the Crime Always Pays blog will be appearing. My favourite as ever is Adrian McKinty who’ll be travelling across a rather bigger water than I’d have to do.

They are borrowing a few people from Scotland, like Craig Robertson and Abir Mukherjee. From England Sophie Hannah, and from my own neck of woods Arne Dahl. So, not all Irish, but satisfyingly Irish.

Have a look on their website. This is their first time. I’m guessing it might not be the last. I hope not, because one of these years I will get to Belfast. The Titanic, you know.


Thank god for authors like Derek Landy who change their minds! Resurrection is the tenth – of nine – books about Skulduggery Pleasant (not counting the extra book), and I am really grateful it’s here. I’d not understood how much you can miss a witty, and occasionally unrelieable, skeleton detective.

But you can. I mean, I can.

And here he is, back from where we left him, and well, I don’t know, but I can see more books where this one came from. I can, can’t I? Derek?

Derek Landy, Resurrection

The best thing for people like me who don’t always remember where we left things, by which I mean who lived and who died and who was your friend, or who was your enemy, is that it doesn’t matter. Characters change allegiance faster than they do hats, and when the dead can rise again, death means very little.

Valkyrie isn’t feeling so good. Guilt does that to a person and being responsible for so many deaths – even by proxy – isn’t much fun. But hey, we have Skulduggery and we have a whole host of new young things, good ones and bad ones.

Omen Darkly is one of them. Aged 14, he lives in the shadow of his brother, who is the Chosen One. I reckon Omen is really Derek. And/or really me. I have a lot in common with poor Omen. Brave Omen. Except I wouldn’t be brave. As Valkyrie says, ‘The world is a scary place, and it’s only getting scarier. The American president is a narcissistic psychopath. Fascism, racism, misogyny and homophobia are all on the rise…’ And let’s not mention any more cheerful facts about our world just now.

Resurrection is a fantastic return to the magic Ireland we love. Please let there be more! After all, by reviving people, it’s not as if we are running out of characters. Trust no one.

Noble about a worthy Briton

I think the nicest thing about Kazuo Ishiguro being awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for literature is that everyone’s being so nice about it. None of this ‘who?’ or ‘really?’ but just a quiet acceptance.

Not having read anything by Ishiguro I’m not in a position to comment on his worthiness. He seems to be popular, but not too popular, except from the point of view that those asked to comment in the Guardian last week all had good things to say.

What’s more, it’s so ‘nice’ that he’s British. I’m at least as British, apart from the fact I don’t have the passport to go with it. Otherwise, Kazuo and I are both foreigners, really. But people like to claim successes as their own whenever they can.

Whether there are too many English language authors being successful with awards is another matter. You can’t avoid the fact that their work will be easier to access, and that identifying with what they write about is also easier. I like books where I feel at home. I see no reason why awarding committees shouldn’t also feel that way, even if they are not aware of it.

And I don’t believe awards should go to someone because of the colour of their skin, or for belonging to any category under-represented in the awards competition. (Reminds me of The Good Wife, where one character greets another with the words ‘You must be the woman! I’m the black.’)

So few will win any kind of jackpot that this will always be unfair in some sense.

Library knot-tying

The New Librarian got married yesterday. That was Friday the 13th, in case you didn’t notice.

We were told on Facebook. I can’t help but feel that it would be so much simpler if everyone did this. Not necessarily the online announcement, but the going off and getting it done, without fuss, not to mention expense.

Wedding announcement

In this she followed the example set by her parents. Not that she was around to see that.

I’m guessing that School Friend (that’s the mother, btw) doesn’t even know about hats for bride’s mothers. What a relief! Another expense not spent. That money can go on books. Or Moomin mugs.

I’m fairly certain that a marriage is no happier for fortunes having been squandered. (Obviously if you fancy a hat, that’s fine by me. But maybe make it a cheap one?)

Some of our best wedding gifts were books. No hats anywhere.

Only thing is, this way I didn’t even get to buy the happy couple a book…