Category Archives: Cathy Hopkins

Light reading

They’re not bad, those little e-readers. Especially if you are required to use up your suitcase weight allowance with cables. And cheese fondue pods.

Daughter touched down at Bookwitch Towers briefly, en route for the other side of the world. She’d brought her half-read copy of her brother’s translation of Into a Raging Blaze, but as we began weighing every item to go (yes, really), even that had to stay here. Instead we filled up her newly acquired Kindle with books.

Sally Gardner, The Door That Led To Where

I have got Daughter so well trained that she accepted most of my suggestions of Really Good Books. All was going well until she said she’d also quite like something cheerful. Gulp. And something girly, a bit like Cathy Hopkins’s Mates Dates series.

That’s easier said than done. I ransacked my brain for anything a bit like that. I searched my shelves for girlier books than the ones I’d listed. And I’m sorry to say but we didn’t get anywhere much.

We’d be grateful for genuinely good – and cheerful – stories featuring female characters. One is easy. Both together is less common than it ought to be. When I went through my mental list of favourite female authors, I came to the conclusion that many of their books are about male characters. And I’m fine with that, since a good book is a good book.

But Mates Dates they are not.

And to my mind, Cathy’s books are friendlier than most. The catty friends and horrible boyfriends are far too common in many book plots. I suppose that’s one way of providing action; see how many characters your characters can fall out with before all is well at the end. Or not.


Please not the Cathy Hopkins books! Are we not finished with those? Are we not – both me and Daughter – over the age of 20? Are Cathy’s books not really quite fun?

Yes, they are. They are – almost entirely – staying. Three years on from The Move Clearances we are pruning here and there. Offspring’s sudden room switching (yes, no, neither live here any more) caused books to be looked at again. I thought maybe we could gain the half metre that Cathy’s books take up on the shelf.

But as you may have gathered, that didn’t go well. Although it depends on your point of view. Nearly all the Cathy Hopkins books will remain with us, minus the quiz books, etc.

Same with Caroline Lawrence. You can’t send the Roman Mysteries packing. Or Theresa Breslin. Definitely not Mary Hoffman. Oh no, those ladies are all just going walkabout in the house to rest elsewhere.

Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Morpurgo are semi-intact, with the very best still here. (I’m reminded of Son’s stash of toy cars. Age is no barrier to what you simply must keep. In fairness he recently parted with his third and fourth copies of His Dark Materials, sparing only two of each.)

But Doctor Who is leaving. Mostly. Even signed ones. (Yes, that was Daughter’s book you found in the charity shop. Lucky you.)

The Universe will make some other person happy, while the napkin folding guide stays. And she rather thought Helen Grant would want one of her cast-offs.

The other ‘great’ idea she had was to incorporate hers with mine, which only means taking every single book out and re-alphabetising the lot again; first and second rows on each shelf. I suggested her books might be in peril, come my next major pruning, but apparently her books can be post-it-ed.

Hah, as if I can be trusted!

Moving tales #2 – the books

The books. Some will simply have to go. About half would be good.

So, one question: Does it make more sense to hang on to old books already read and thoroughly enjoyed, or those not yet read at all? I’m beginning to think that some used ones ought to go, and some new ones should stay, in the hopes they will come into favour at some point. But not too many.

Some books have moved around with me before. A lot. I used to be of the opinion that if I’d liked something, I’d hang on to it. Part of the family and all that. Now that this looks like an impossible ambition, I suspect I can chuck out quite a few books. I look at them and ask myself if I’m at all likely to re-read, even were I not so blessed with new incoming books on a daily basis.

More often than you’d think, the answer is no. And for every 19 books successfully Oxfammed, there is bound to be a 20th I will regret. But there are libraries and secondhand bookshops, and even firsthand bookshops, whence mistakes might be rectified.


Libraries. I must have imagined I actually am a library in the past. Thoughts like ‘that could be handy to have if …’ have confused me. I have hung on to books because I am a snob. It would look impressive – or at least marginally good – to have certain books on my shelves.

And, it’s so useful to have a nice selection if visitors want to read while staying with us. Pah! I don’t like lending books, and we don’t exactly run a hotel here. The only people impressed by our books have been Son’s reception teacher and our former GP. The Grandmother sometimes finds something she will read (which she then takes home with her to finish).

I have been known to feel that if I adore a writer, I must keep all of his or her books, when a few of the best will do. Now that I own a lot of signed books I have felt I can’t part with any of those. But I’ll just have to. (The embarrassing fact is that anything signed to Bookwitch will be rather obvious. Please don’t hate me.)

I can’t get rid of books written by the very nice people I am now reasonably acquainted with. But I will have to. You are still absolutely lovely people. So are your books. Lovely, I mean, not that they are people.

Several copies of the ‘same’ book makes little sense. So does keeping [all of] Offspring’s books. Unless they at least spring clean a little, so we don’t keep every single one. Son could prune his multiple copies of Terry Pratchett and Eoin Colfer. Daughter could decide she won’t bl**dy re-read Cathy Hopkins, again. Actually, no, perhaps she couldn’t.

Some of my fiction is quite easy to decide on. But what about Shakespeare? One collected works is enough, which means the other can go. But the plays we also have separately? What will we want to return to at some point? Which Tom Stoppard play do I like best? Shaw? Do we need two Swedish hymn books?*

*This backfired a little. When the Resident IT Consultant was reminded of Shaw, for instance, he promptly sat down and read one of the plays. He told me off for wanting to deprive him of the poetry of Dylan Thomas. Oh, dear. He claimed the Zen motorbike book was his, and not mine to chuck out. And so it went.

But some books went.

Martinmas drugs

I’d like to show you the drugs I sent with Daughter, for use this Martinmas term. (I think it’s so quaint with these terms for terms…)

2012 leisure reads

Following on from the session we had in the Scottish Parliament back in August, we fully agree with the use of books for medicinal purposes. They make you feel better. Probably much better than the stuff you get on prescription. (Even when prescriptions are free, as they are north of the border.)

Anyway, when exam nerves or essay stress take their toll, Daughter can grab one of the lovely titles you see above. (Guess which one is her own input?)

So, there are fairies and faeries, Irish and Scottish, and their cousins the angels. Nicholas Flamel, a Stockport cinema, cat people, various Victorian ladies, code breakers, resistance boys and ugly people. Keith Gray’s wonderful anthology. And the Doctor.

We think there is enough for one term. If not, I suppose she will actually have to buy a book. Shocking concept, but a feasible solution.

The photo is partly to make sure I get back what I sent out, but also to assist when I need to advise on which one to choose, according to specific needs.

Love at Second Sight

Cathy Hopkins is regressing. But not to worry, it’s simply that in her new book Love at Second Sight, Cathy lets her heroine Jo go back in time. Not time travel; she’s finding a previous life. It sort of fits in with what Cathy often does, the herbs and the tarot cards; that kind of thing.

Cathy Hopkins, Love at Second Sight

This is just one step further. Who knows if it’s possible? Jo gets help to look into her (or does it count as someone else’s?) past, when the subject comes up at her hypnotherapist’s.

The reason there is a subject at all, is because Jo and her friends went to see a fortune teller. (It’s probably a Hampstead thing.) And she learned she had lived and loved before, and if she would only look, Jo can find her old love in her current life.

Yes, it does sound rather unlikely. But who knows?

She has no boyfriend, and it’s a bit boring, because her two best friends do, and she’s the odd one out. But all of a sudden Jo has three boys around her, and she wants to find out if one of them is her Howard from a hundred years ago.

Is it popular Finn? Or comfortable Owen? Or mysterious Ben? Or none of them?

The three girls do a lot of historical research around North London, tramping round churches and cemeteries. And whether they find Howard or not, they learn what life might have been like if they’d lived a century earlier. It wasn’t all good. Not all bad, either.

This is another feelgood Cathy Hopkins story, where you get more than one stab at living and loving. Cathy does do some great boys! But also stinkers. A bit like real life, in any century.

Books for medicinal purposes

Her suitcase was suspiciously heavy, now that I stop and think about it. It was only as she was safely back at university that Daughter admitted to having taken ‘a few’ Cathy Hopkins books with her, to relax. And it’s OK. It’s healthy to read to feel calmer in a mad world. My only thought about Cathy Hopkins is that the books are very fast to read, and for weight in books carried, you get less read-time.

When checking the gaps, it would appear that the first six Mates Dates have gone, as well as the first four of Truth Dare Kiss Promise. Oh well. It clearly wasn’t just the physics course book that weighed the case down.

In general, I’m glad Daughter has at long last found her way back to reading for fun. I don’t think the giving up was her fault. Nor mine, even though I do push rather. I think it’s education. There have been three to four years of far too much pressure to succeed and learn to get exam grades, for very much fun reading to take place. She’s not the only one I’ve come across who has had to cast fiction aside for everything else.

The books we picked at the beginning of the academic year, were books I expected to return here, mostly unread. I think one book got read in the first term. (Liz Kessler, so you can see how she picks old-time, safe favourites.) My thinking was that if we pick the first book of a sequence, we can have her begging for mercy once she’s hooked, desperate for the next one. Daughter’s thinking was to pick books by friends.

She is now desperate for those second novels, I’m glad to say. With only a few weeks left of the year, I am travelling north with some second books, as well as the third in a trilogy. Can’t have her fail the exams because she’s unable to relax with Julie Bertagna’s Aurora or see how Keren David’s Joe is getting on, or Nick Green’s Pashki students.

I feel that a couple of questions on quantum mechanics deserve some knife crime or dystopic adventure as a reward. Some Pashki moves for exercise and perhaps a bit of light French revolution courtesy of Sally Gardner before bed.

Because the thing is, even studying diligently, you can fill those gaps of five or ten minutes when you would ordinarily be panicking, because ‘you are so going to fail at everything,’ with fiction. The gaps are there. You just need to have your ‘medicine’ to hand, and you need to realise that reading is medicine and will aid the exams, rather than get in the way.

The original book selection

Bookwitch bites #78

We are all very much for equality here at Bookwitch Towers, as long as people remember I’m a little bit more equal than some. But I was really taken aback when I read the shortlist for the 2012 Queen of Teen. I somehow expected this shiny tiara institution to be a smidgen more traditional than I am.

It’s not. This year we could have a Queen James. Now, trailblazing James Dawson is up against the Cathys, Cassidy and Hopkins, longterm princess Joanna Nadin, as well as Hayley Long, Maureen Johnson, Chris Higgins, Samantha Mackintosh, Sarah Webb and S C Ransom, so might not reach his queenhood. But it’s an intriguing situation, even for an egalitarian old witch.

And because I am presently almost doing my blogging from the bathroom floor, I will leave you with the dog who does his writing on the roof.

Snoopy - the author

Today’s post could have been longer, I know. It could also have been no post at all.