Category Archives: Reading

Well, we’re here, anyway

Have safely arrived at Holiday Bookwitch Towers, and it is still standing. Every time I have this irrational thought that maybe we shouldn’t buy food on the way, in case the house, and thereby the fridge, has somehow perished while we weren’t looking. But then I tell myself it’s better to have the food, regardless. With or without a house with a fridge.

Our airline wanted us to accept payment not to fly. We said that while we could see why they were asking, we had so many commitments that we really couldn’t agree. I suppose they got someone else to sacrifice themselves.

I spent the flight reading a new book, which I’ll be telling you about soon. I always travel with at least two in my hand luggage, in case one is a dud. This one wasn’t the slightest dud-like.

We drove over The Bridge. Not a corpse in sight, but then I had my eyes closed, which might be why. The Resident IT Consultant asked if I’d never driven across in that direction before, and if I could manage. I pointed out that I was perfectly capable of shutting my eyes in either direction, and that I’d be fine.

Then we stopped and had pizza at Bjärreds Pizzeria. It was lovely! Both the place and the pizza. Just the right blend of Swedish corner/village pizzeria feel. We’d decided we needed to stop for a feed soon after The Bridge, and I had instructed the Resident IT Consultant in advance to search online for a small village just off the motorway; one that was bound to have a traditional takeaway pizza place with a few tables outside.

And when they gave me my change back on paying, they pointed out I was getting one of the lovely new twenties, featuring none other than Astrid Lindgren. So that was pretty topical too. As Son said earlier, it’s a shame Astrid gave the boot to Selma Lagerlöf, but I suppose one token female is all you get on bank notes.

Since the fridge was still operational when we turned up with milk and Turkish yoghurt (I’m investigating how it differs from Greek), all was well.

(And, erm, it’s Mother’s Day. The Resident IT Consultant pointed out I’m not his mother, so I’m guessing there will be no secret walk in the woods to pick lilies of the valley. Or a cake decorated with Turkish yoghurt and strawberries… I don’t really do Mother’s Day, and this way I get to not do it twice; once for each country I’m in.)

The disappointment

Just say ‘thank you’ if you receive a compliment. You may not feel you deserve it, but thanking the person complimenting you is both the quickest way and the politest.

I shouldn’t really be preaching here, as I’m very bad at receiving praise. It’s odd how it feels easier to say several grumbly things, rather than just the one ‘thank you.’

It was reading Johan Norberg in Vi, and how he finds compliments hard to deal with, that made me think about this. Because he had once come across his favourite author and done the fan thing, only to be told that the author considered himself a fraud and also totally un-interested in what he had written about.

And that was that. Johan lost every positive feeling he’d had about these books and their creator. In some odd way he even lost the pleasure of what he’d read in the past; not just that he wouldn’t want to read anything new by this writer.

The question is why anyone would respond like that when meeting an admirer. Better to say ‘I’m glad you liked it’ even if you happen to know you did a poor job of whatever it was.

I don’t believe I have had anyone say anything of the kind to me, but I do find that with some people, just meeting them in real life changes how I feel about their work. Obvious, I suppose. Some you come to adore, but there’s always one or two I wish I’d not actually met.

Follow Me

I believe one of the young people at Yay!YA+ in April told Victoria Gemmell that her debut Follow Me was the best book they’d read. I can understand that. While as a terribly responsible and boring adult, and for that matter, as the sensible teenager I used to be, I want to run screaming the other way, when I read about how teenagers stomp straight into trouble and then go even further in the wrong direction, rather than be cautious.

Victoria Gemmell, Follow Me

But after feeling scared and also pretty annoyed with Kat in Follow Me, I got to the stage where I couldn’t let go and had to hurry to see who was the bad guy. Because Victoria spreads suspicion all over the place and you’re not totally sure who the evil character is going to turn out to be.

Kat’s twin sister Abby committed suicide, one of several teenagers to take their lives in this small town. And it all seems to have had something to do with a place called the Barn, which Kat hadn’t heard of until she meets Rob, who is one of the ‘founders’ of the Barn.

Handsome and charismatic, Rob seems very suspicious, as does his friend Michael. Whereas Callum who works with Kat is your archetypal heroine’s love interest, and kind and sensible too.

As Kat stumbles round the Barn and the woods, asking questions and falling in love with Rob, you just want to shout that she needs to be careful and to look out! There’s a reason there were so many suicides.

Terribly gripping, even though I really didn’t want to be anywhere near that Barn or the weird types frequenting it. Whatever you do, don’t follow!

Five Hundred Miles

Five Hundred Miles is just wow! Kevin Brooks has done it again, and Anthony McGowan needs to look out. Generally I find the harsh settings of Kevin’s books quite hard to cope with, as I do the bleakness in his books. This one is no more cheerful, except the title tells you there might be something to look forward to.

Kevin Brooks, Five Hundred Miles

Cole and Ruben are the sons of a feared criminal, and live in a breaker’s yard in East London. You feel they are good boys, even though it becomes quite clear they are capable of both theft and violence.

When they unexpectedly come across a teenage girl who’s wanting to rescue a monkey from some gangster types in a pub, it’s not only the fact that she looks like their dead sister that makes them jump in to help.

I ought to dislike everything these boys stand for and what they do, but the way Kevin writes about them you just want to love them and be their friend. This is the kind of book I want to put into the hands of dyslexic teenagers everywhere, as well as capable readers. No one could help but love this book!

The Adventures of Alfie Onion

I loved this! My first (yeah, sorry about that) Vivian French book. Not my last.

Vivian French, Alfie Onion

Alfie Onion is an adorable boy with a somewhat misguided but romantic mother, and a lazy slightly older brother, Magnifico Onion, the seventh son of a seventh son. He is supposed to make his mother proud.

Unfortunately he likes his food too much and is too scared to make a truly good hero. (And we all know who’s the hero in this book.)

It’s a case of going to find the princess and to kiss her and become tremendously rich. And happy. Magnifico can’t go on his own, so Alfie has to go with him. There are ogres. And trolls, and a talking horse and a couple of mice and some magpies, and Alfie’s loyal dog.

Even when you know who has to kiss whom, this is fun and exciting. Great stuff. And how to get round the seventh son nonsense.

Cute and funny illustrations by Marta Kissi.

Immi

Your everyday things could be someone else’s treasure.

Immi lives somewhere cold, and she fishes for food through a hole in the ice. One day she catches a colourful, painted wooden bird instead. And after that there are many more such treasures; beautiful things of a kind she’s never seen before.

Karin Littlewood’s picture book about Immi shows the difference something new and beautiful can make to your life. In Immi’s cold, white world these bright and strange things are exciting.

Karin Littlewood, Immi

When the ice starts to melt, Immi decides to throw her wooden polar bear down the hole in the ice, and one day it appears on the warm and sunny beach where – possibly – Immi’s little surprises originated. (I’m imagining a sort of wormhole between somewhere cold and some place much hotter.)

Very beautiful.

Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

Lucinda Belinda Melinda looks really nice, but that’s all that’s nice about her. This perfect girl in Jeanne Willis’s new picture book, illustrated by Tony Ross, is pretty dreadful. She knows how to look good, and she not only tells everyone else how to improve, but she goes right ahead and improves them.

People hide when they see her coming. Lucinda Belinda Melinda even has a go at her poor grandparents, who are not well-groomed enough. And she blow-dries the monster she meets in the park.

Well, she shouldn’t have done that…

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

This is poetry. I really wanted to read the book aloud, but as usual was missing that child who would have loved it. Not sure the Resident IT Consultant wanted Lucinda Belinda Melinda to intrude on his history programme on television. But it just rhymes so very nicely!

And yes, my bottom does look big in those shorts.