Category Archives: Reading

Martin Brown’s Lesser Spotted Animals 2

This is the most sarcastic book about animals I’ve ever come across. It’s also the funniest. (Unless the first book was. I don’t know, as I didn’t read it.) But yes, as it says on the cover, ‘more brilliant beasts you never knew you needed to know about.’

Martin Brown, Lesser Spotted Animals 2

Though, I don’t know. Yes, actually that would seem to be the problem. I don’t know. They don’t know. The text freely mentions that the specialists don’t know. That’s how unknown these animals are. Phrases like ‘biologists think’ (of course they do. They have to do something…) and ‘even the people who know about them don’t know a lot’ don’t give you much hope.

I had never heard of any of these creatures, and I dearly hope I don’t meet many of them either. (As for the 280 types of squirrel, I hope Barry Hutchison isn’t reading this.)

Do you know of a one-year-old toddler with a long tail? No, neither do I. Anyway, that’s the size of the Dingiso. Oh… Maybe they mean it’s the size of a toddler, plus it has a long tail?

Hm, that makes sense.

This book should appeal to any child with a sense of humour. Possibly also to ones without, as a plain guide to unusual animals. But it’s the writing you want, accompanied by the illustrations. If any adults were to read aloud to their long-tailed children, they’d probably find it hard. They might laugh too much. (Luckily I don’t have that problem.)

And yes – or do I mean no? – you should not kill musk deer. That, as he points out, is a job for the Yellow-Throated Marten. That one with all the teeth, grinning…

Well, all I can say is that this book wasn’t another boring and worthy book about animals. And while there is a lion in there, like in every single animal book, it’s only there to illustrate the fact that it isn’t in the book. You know.


A Girl Called Justice

We meet young Justice on her way to boarding school for the first time. It’s the 1930s, her mother’s just died, and this is Justice’s first ever school. You kind of wish she’d been sent to a safer one. Where dead baby* is not on the menu daily. Even a school where they have heating occasionally.

Elly Griffiths, A Girl Called Justice

I didn’t know Elly Griffiths, but I understand she has written adult crime novels before tackling the popular 1930s boarding school crime trope. At first I thought that the plot was a little slow, and I wondered if we could place young detectives somewhere different from a boarding school in the past. But I didn’t come up with an answer to that, and from the acknowledgements I learned that Elly based the book on her mother’s time at such a school. Hopefully one with fewer corpses.

And you know, I got drawn in. People are dying or disappearing all over the place, and then comes the deep snow and they are cold and hungry and can’t escape. You wonder how many victims you can have in a crime novel for the young, set in a school with limited resources, so to speak. As with Midsomer, if there are more books, will there be a big enough supply of more victims and more murderers?

I hope so. Well, I obviously don’t. Not even the more obnoxious pupils deserve to be murdered out there on the Romney Marshes. But where’s the fun in having introduced Justice if she is to sleuth no more?

*I gather it’s some sort of food.

My alter ego

Hi, I’m Sharon!

Before you start worrying; you know I’m not. I bought a secondhand book online a couple of weeks ago. There were plenty of them, but this company promised to send it out sooner, so I hoped it would come on holiday with me.

It did.

Though I didn’t even look at it until I started to read on the train. The author has signed it to Sharon, at some book event a couple of years ago. But clearly Sharon didn’t [want to] read the book, and out it went to another bookseller.

Did she get carried away? Or was it a polite purchase after the talk? Did she just have too much to read, or perhaps she doesn’t read much? Or, I suppose, someone could have bought it for Sharon, and she just hates fantasy.

Whatever. Sharon’s loss is my gain.

Theodore Boone – The Accomplice

This, the seventh book about Theodore Boone, John Grisham’s 13-year-old future lawyer, was completely unexpected. And what a great surprise! I was so happy, as I’d had to accept that the six books had come to an end.

John Grisham, Theodore Boone - The Accomplice

But here we are again. And it feels darker. Yes, Theo himself leads a charmed life, with two lawyers for parents and enough money in the bank, and doing well at school. His friend Woody ends up in trouble, and the more of this trouble we see, the worse it looks. The law is not a friend of those without means or friends.

You just need to make a small mistake, and if it’s the wrong small mistake, your life could well be ruined. Woody and his older brother Tony do this, and they end up paying so much more than us innocent readers would expect.

Whenever it looked as though the boys, with the help of Theo and others, were going to be OK, something else rears its ugly head. Something coming from power and money.

Theo is a hardworking friend. But even with his help, and the rabbit, the ending felt as though there will be more. While I look forward to reading another book, I am disgusted by a legal system like this. And more so with some of the people who use its loopholes for the wrong reason.

Hugs all over

Hugs, love, and cuddles to all.

Today’s three picture books are adorable, each in their own way. Hugless Douglas is almost sensible. You can have a star for a pet. Sort of. And I’m sure you can really cuddle a crocodile, especially between shapeshifters.

Diana Hendry’s You Can’t Cuddle a Crocodile, about the boy with a sister who is always something else, be it a monkey or a bear or the uncuddleable crocodile, keeps the reader on his or her toes. But we can all pretend, can’t we? If it is pretend. Those parents do look a bit funny.

Diana Hendry and Ed Eaves, You Can't Cuddle a Crocodile

Whatever the situation is, the animals are nicely drawn by Ed Eaves.

In Corrinne Averiss’s My Pet Star, the tiny protagonist discovers a star one evening. It has fallen and hurt itself, but is picked up, cuddled and nursed back to health. The star is a lovely pet, apart from not being around in the daytime to eat ice creams in the park. The two grow close until the day comes when the little star needs to go where stars go.

Corrinne Averiss and Rosalind Beardshaw, My Pet Star

Sweet illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw. I could want my own pet star.

Hugless Douglas is attacked by a bird’s nest, when it falls out of its tree, with eggs in and everything. Doing some egg-sitting while mummy bird gets a new nest together, he finds he needs advice and help. But that’s what bunnies are for. You can cuddle eggs warm, and when you do, well…

David Melling, Hugless Douglas and the Baby Birds

David Melling’s Hugless Douglas and the Baby Birds seemed even more adorable than the usual Douglas. But at least he didn’t sit on the eggs!

All three books make you want babies and toddlers to read to.


Not long ago I mentioned choosing books to take on trips. How I want to ‘know’ that they won’t be duds, and how I need at least one spare, just in case. I usually look really carefully at books that seem OK from the press release, and more so if I’m going to pick them for my travels. But I must have slipped up a little.

This book was on my to-be-read shelf, but it seems I didn’t examine either press release or book as carefully as I should have. My fault. But at least we didn’t go away together.

Not until I received another email from the publisher did I smell rat. I went back to the original email. Yes, I suppose there was a hint. And then I got the book out and had that little look I’d obviously not had before.


The clue was that anyone who felt they needed to know more could contact the publicist for information about the ending. Just as well I wasn’t making this discovery on a plane or an exotic beach, with no end in sight.

To my mind, this mutilation of a book is So Very Wrong.

Any good vibes I might have harboured would have disappeared when finding this end-less end. No information sent over later would remove that feeling.

It’s not exactly a new Harry Potter. And had it been, then an embargo until publication day would have sufficed. It’s a debut, and I fail to see why a ruined paperback would thrill the reviewers. There is only one place for it to go, and that is the [landfill] bin.

The book


I wonder. Is there such a thing as seaside steampunk? And if so, is Thomas Taylor’s Malamander it? I loved this book, and kept wanting to put a period to it. Feels old, but can’t be; is old-fashioned in style (as in 12-year-olds should be at school and not working in hotels) so would have to be a parallel universe.

Though none of this matters. It’s simply a story and it is good. Set in a not-Hastings called Eerie-on-Sea, it is so very sea-ish. I immediately wanted to go there and stay in a big, old and probably draughty hotel, right there, on the seafront in some British seaside town of yesteryear. It’s awfully atmospheric, even without the malamander, which is a kind of large fish monster with really sharp teeth.

Also, it doesn’t exist, does it? It’s in your imagination.

Thomas Taylor, Malamander

Young Herbie Lemon works in the Grand Nautilus Hotel as a Lost-and-Founder, which means he looks after everything left behind in the hotel. Or he did until the night a girl jumps in through his window needing to hide.

The two of them have a number of interesting as well as potentially dangerous adventures as they roam Eerie, looking for Violet’s parents. Or the malamander? Or trying to avoid who [what?] was chasing Violet.

Eerie-on-Sea is cold and wet, populated by some real characters. Who is good? And who is bad? Is the malamander coming for them? What about his egg?

This is a story that is just the right amount of menacing and comforting. Monster teeth, or hot chocolate.