Category Archives: Books

No more wardrobing

I’m guessing Son’s had it with working in wardrobes.

Personally I liked – or rather, I preferred – to have my [holiday] desk in a wardrobe than not to have one at all. Although I will admit to moving to the dining table more these days, so maybe my wardrobe days are over.


When it came to serious writing some months ago, Son clearly didn’t want to sit tight, so to speak, so he sourced a leftover, cobwebby desk and carried into a ‘free’ space. I suspect he just wanted to sit next to the cardboard fish on the wall. Not everyone has them.

Temporary office

After all, if he was that fond of ex-wardrobes, he could have stayed at home and sat in his own closet office.

The office

And now, he’s finally some place where he can build a proper workspace, even if it doesn’t look so promising yet.


Maybe I should get him a fish.


Pleasing people

Aunt Scarborough was back in town over the weekend. She came with her daughter Alloa, and we ‘all’ went to have a look at a building site, before having afternoon tea. As you do.

Over tea Alloa thanked me much more profusely than there was a need for, for the book Please Mr Panda, which was one of the books I sent along when Scarborough moved away from here a couple of years ago. I’ve enjoyed other Steve Antony books, but never got round to reviewing the panda one. I was merely glad to be able to pass it on.

Steve Antony, Please Mr Panda

Alloa has several grandchildren, so I reckoned someone would be the right age for the various books. It seems her youngest grandchild, aged three, absolutely loves Mr Panda. It sounded like it’s the kind of book we’ve probably all known, where a child reads the same book over and over again.

It appears he was so keen that he even dressed up as Panda for [I think] World Book Day. And the lucky young man, being the great grandchild of a woman who knits doughnuts, even had the doughnuts to complete his dressing-up.

All this makes me very happy.

Learning to write?

To be honest, I have always wondered if you can really go to classes to learn how to write a book. A real book, that someone would want to publish, and others would want to read. Somehow the snob in me says that if you’re any good, then you just sit down and write and out comes a masterpiece. Rather like concert pianists, who sat down in front of a piano and…

Hang on. They didn’t. They quite possibly had a piano teacher. Maybe struggled a little even, before greatness struck.

So while I did initially wonder if taking a year out to learn how to write a children’s book at some university or other, was actually time well spent, I have come to the conclusion that it is. Far too many authors, whose books I have enjoyed, have done those courses, for it to be a fluke. Perhaps they would have done well regardless, but I’m sure the classes helped.

‘MA Creative Writing-speak’ was a new concept to me when it appeared in Julie Myerson’s review of debut author Sharlene Teo’s novel in the Guardian. She didn’t like it much, I think. And she seemingly doesn’t care for authors who have taken writing classes. Except, I understand that she teaches writing. For the Guardian.

Most of us learned to write at school, and not necessarily from a teacher who was terribly good at it. But we did learn, and some have gone on to be quite marvellous at it. I’ll repeat what I used to preach at Offspring; any way that we learn something is a good way.

But on the whole I’d rather that my surgeon went to medical school before she does anything to me. None of this feeling inspired and deciding to have a go to see what it’s like.

Or you could just be famous. That usually helps with the writing skills.

Schools for Charlotte Square

It’s short and sweet, the schools programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. ‘Making books more affordable’ is a good motto, I feel. May it be successful and reach the children who need it the most.

I know I shouldn’t read the programme and plan, but I can read it and think. Some of the authors on the schools list will be doing ‘normal’ events too. And there is always the perfecting my school appearance. One of these days it will work.

Last year someone I’d just met talked very enthusiastically about Jason Reynolds, whom I’d never heard of. Well, this American is coming over, for an event with Chris Priestley who has illustrated his book. That should be pretty special.

Clémentine Beauvais is someone else I’ve not seen before, and she will be appearing with Sarah Crossan, which will be good. James Mayhew I have always managed to miss, so I could perhaps undo that, and Melvin Burgess, whom I’ve seen a lot, is coming back after a break of a few years. Or did I merely miss him?

Ehsan Abdollahi and Delaram Ghanimifard

Ehsan Abdollahi will return, which pleases me, and he’s appearing with Eloise Greenfield. I’ve not seen Beverley Naidoo for years, and I don’t know her events partner Marjan Vafaeian at all, which I hope can be remedied.

I will quickly tiptoe past the ‘star attraction’ on the Thursday morning, to mention that the last day will be special as always, with people like Theresa Breslin and Philip Ardagh and lots of other fun.

As you can tell, many school children will have some great events to look forward to. I’m always in awe of the school groups who get up before dawn cracks, to travel across Scotland to come to one of the events. Hopefully it will be a memory for life, and be the beginning of a bookish future for some.

Quite moving

Today the Resident IT Consultant and his witch will rest. It’s not as well-earned a rest as I’d hoped for, because we were pretty useless ‘helping’ Son and Dodo move yesterday. I had visualised myself being tremendously helpful, but despite failing at that, I still managed to get quite tired.

I had hoped that there would be no bed-related problems, such as having to throw it across the fence from the neighbouring garden. Instead of any tossing, there was nothing. It wouldn’t even go up the stairs.

So the Resident IT Consultant and Dodo went off to that Swedish shop for an emergency bed, while I unpacked the kitchen boxes and Son stashed the contents in all the new cupboards where no one will find anything from now on.

The book boxes are another kettle of fish. The books came. The Billys stayed behind.


But at least there were removal men doing the lifting and carrying. The above photo illustrates how the world has changed; no tea needed to keep them going, but a hasty iPhone feeding with borrowed charger is what you do in this day and age.

Sea view

When my tired knees made it up to the top floor, I could see for myself that they have indeed a sea view from the bedroom window. Well, a Forth view, which is just as good. (I walked up. I didn’t crawl on my knees, or anything.)

They fed us well. The vegan wrap for lunch was really good, as was the South Indian dinner delivered to the new door, and polished off with chai in Moomin mugs.

Moomin mug

And then we had to find a new way home, in the almost dark. It’ll take a bit of getting used to.

The Hippo at the End of the Hall

What a lovely book this turned out to be! Helen Cooper’s The Hippo at the End of the Hall, was one of the books Linda Sargent ‘sourced’ for my own reading pleasure, rather than duty (it’s really not so bad…), and it certainly was pleasure.

It’s apparently Helen’s first novel, but she has an illustrious past as a Kate Greenaway medalist, which shows in the drawings that adorn every chapter in this Hippo story.

Helen Cooper, The Hippo at the End of the Hall

Set mostly in an old-fashioned, small museum where you will find exhibits such as stuffed animals, so old that they are worn out and a bit dusty, this is a sweet and fast-paced mystery featuring young Ben who lives with his mother, in almost poverty after his father died some years before. Ben receives an invitation to the Gee Museum with the milk one morning. (Whereas it had really been delivered by the bees. The invite, not the milk.)

Helen Cooper, The Hippo at the End of the Hall

When he gets there, he finds that not all the long dead exhibits are totally dead, and that the museum is in danger and it is up to Ben to save it.

This is a true children’s story with a pair of deliciously ghastly baddies, lots of fine – if dead – animals, an elderly museum owner, and Ben’s mum, who is real heroine material. And, erm, a witch.

Can’t say more than that. Read the book and let some pleasure into your life. It worked for me.

More George, and more Duffy

Great news on the crime front!

Today sees the publication of the fifth George McKenzie novel by Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge. It’s ‘only’ the ebook today, but don’t despair. On May 3rd we get the whole collected George on paper for the first time! I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to that. Except I just did. Sort of.

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge

I imagine Marnie is equally pleased to see her first crime babies in actual print, after her Born Bad series which came last year.

I will get back to you when I’ve read about George’s revenge.

And on the Irish front, it seems we are to be rewarded with three more Duffy novels from Adrian McKinty. I had suspected the worst, but it would appear that Duffy didn’t sail into a permanent sunset after all. In fact, with news of three books, I will dare hope, and expect, that Sean Duffy lives through at least two and a half of them.

Adrian McKinty

So, plenty more Irish history for Duffy to solve crimes in, and no one could be happier than I am. Not sure how long a wait there will be, but it will be worth it.

Good news too for the Resident IT Consultant who has belatedly begun reading all six books. Don’t know what took him so long!