Category Archives: Review

Letting Go

Is this my first Cat Clarke? I think it might be. Her short novel Letting Go, for Barrington Stoke, is quite a masterpiece.

Cat Clarke, Letting Go

It’s a story about Agnes and her ex-girlfriend Ellie and Ellie’s new boyfriend Steve. As will be obvious, this is painful, at least for Agnes. But a promise is a promise and here the three of them are, on their way up a mountain, where the weather is about to change for the worse.

None of them are happy and they fight.

And then things get really bad.

I loved the way the reader is allowed to get close to the characters and see what and who they are. As with most of us, they are both bad and good, but none of that matters because this soon turns into an emergency for which they are ill equipped.

It’s quite a grown-up story about three young people.

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Choices

I was quite tickled to discover vigilante dentists in the book I was reading in the dentist’s waiting room this week. It was by Steve Cole, so not all that unlikely. I require books when in waiting rooms. It deals with the nerves. But I had nothing I’d started on this time, and it can be hard to open up a new novel in a waiting room situation. Because you just don’t know, do you? So I grabbed Steve’s latest, reckoning I’d be safe with him.

Wasn’t sure if I’d been sent this book for having been so positive about the first one in the series, or if I just look like a Steve Cole fan.

But these days I have shopping lists for books. It used to be I’d want the odd book I’d not been sent, and I’d maybe buy it if temptation got the better of me. Now I’m resorting to lists of books I want to read. The main reason for not having dealt with my current list yet is that I’ve not had time to shop, or felt I’ve had lots of time for reading. It’s not that I’m not wanting to read these books.

I even want a copy of Good Omens, despite having already bought one, over ten years ago. I pressed it into the hands of Son, and that was it. Now I want my own copy.

There are far too many top choices in books that publishers are being quite sparing with. Malorie Blackman’s new book was offered on Netgalley to a limited number of readers. Adrian McKinty’s golden new crime novel is proving impossible to hunt down. And so it goes.

Bad for the image of the blogger who not only gets everything free, but makes money from their blogging. WordPress are quite insistent that I want, need, their professional upgrade. Not so much to spread the word, but to make money for ‘my business.’ And I thought I was merely writing for pleasure…

I admit I’m tempted sometimes. But then I remember that with the lesser paid-for options you don’t even get snow in December. I almost cried last winter when the snow failed to fall on Bookwitch.

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon

I’m glad I read this book! I was going to, then decided not to, and then changed my mind again. You don’t need to go through this process; just take my word for it.

This is the story about three young children who get lost in the woods one night. Maybe, if I’d noticed the signs, I’d have realised it’s not set today, and that would have helped. But whatever your starting point, this is a fascinating meander in the suddenly so strange woods, where each of the children discover new things about themselves and about the other two.

Christopher Edge, The Longest Night of Charlie Noon

There are puzzles left in the woods for them to solve, and they need to cooperate to deal with them. They need to become friends. Two have always lived nearby, whereas Charlie has recently arrived from London. They all have something to contribute to help get them out of the woods.

This is middle grade reading at its best.

The Dangerous Lives of the Jacobites

The Jacobites used to get a mention in stuff the young witch watched on television. She had no idea then – or until much more recently – who they really were. Good? Bad? Or depends on who you are?

The latter, I’d say. Now I’ve read the story by Linda Strachan, about a Jacobite family in 1745, I feel I know a lot more, even if my head is reeling a bit from all the information.

Linda Strachan and Darren Gate, The Dangerous Lives of the Jacobites

I like the story about Rob and Aggie, and about fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie. It’s as I usually say; it helps to understand history when you meet and get to know and like some of the people who were involved at the time.

It’s also useful to have facts to help with that understanding. However, I felt there was too much. I got lost among the Kings and all the rest of them. There were also several risings, and most of the old battles I’ve heard of appear in this book. But I do feel I’ve got the gist of what some Jacobites were like.

Illustrated by Darren Gate, you can see what kind of clothes they wore and what sort of house people like Rob and Aggie lived in. There’s a menu, as an example of what they had to eat. I reckon this kind of book will work very well in a classroom, helping to explain history.

For instance, for all the mentions I’ve come across in my life of Bonnie Prince Charlie, I had no idea he was ‘Italian.’ And in a way it’s a bit sad with all these princes who wanted to lay claim to thrones and who fought and sometimes died, and all for what? On the other hand, unlike today’s leaders, it seems they actually experienced the cold and the mud and the dangers. Just like their followers did.

The Race to Space

There is more than one book about Apollo and space out, now that it’s been fifty years since Apollo 11. Clive Gifford’s The Race to Space, with illustrations by Paul Daviz, is perhaps a little more serious than When We Walked on the Moon. It starts much earlier and covers most of what went on in space for several decades.

Clive Gifford and Paul Daviz, The Race to Space

I have to admit I’m still upset about poor Laika, whose sad demise we weren’t told about back in the day.

As the title suggests this covers the race to get into space first, and then to get to the moon before ‘the others.’ It’s not a long book, so each chapter is brief, but you do get a very good picture of the space adventure we enjoyed in the middle of the last century.

It has more serious facts than the other book, so might require someone older, or at least, someone really keen on space, to read. But that’s fine. We are all at different stages in our fascination for space.

I reckon I would have liked this book even more, back when I was 13. But I like anything about space, and there will be many more like me today, who will really want to read this. And some will move on to do much more still.

When We Walked on the Moon

David Long and Sam Kalda, When We Walked on the Moon

Now that it’s been fifty years since the first moon landing… How can it have been? It was so long in coming and it was a historical moment, and now it’s been half a century and it is history.

David Long’s book, with illustrations by Sam Kalda, is the kind of book a lot of keen nerds will love. Back then we were definitely nerds, even if I didn’t know the word, and I believe we still need some word to separate out those who are crazy about space and the Apollo programme and all that went with it. It’s not a bad thing to be.

There is a brief history to explain how it all came about, but mostly it’s the Apollo 11 moon landing. But that’s what a lot of young readers will want.

The rest of the Apollo trips are also described in When We Walked on the Moon, with plenty of pictures to show what it was like. The style is nice and chatty, and easy to understand.

At 13 I might have been too old for this kind of book, but I am certain I would have loved it anyway. And now, a ‘few’ years on, it’s a lovely way to celebrate what happened, and to look back, and even, perhaps, dream forward.

An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Castle Legends

First I went for the story set at Stirling Castle, and it was quite satisfying. I knew the tale before, but this was a lovely, and humorous re-telling about the man who tried to fly down from the castle. (Don’t try this!)

If you’d asked me, I would have – almost – thought that Theresa Breslin couldn’t possibly manage another host of Scottish stories. She and illustrator Kate Leiper have already produced a couple of gorgeous collections, and here they are with An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Castle Legends.

It’s everything you’d expect it to be. What you’d want it to be. From the wonderful cover by Kate, to every last little story by Theresa, set in different castles all over Scotland, and taking place at varying times in history.

Theresa Breslin and Kate Leiper, An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Castle Legends

I especially like the sepia coloured map of Scotland, with sepia coloured ‘postcards’ of the castles, at the front of this rather large volume. It is a little hard to hold, actually. For us small ones, anyway.

And also the show-stopping night skyline of Edinburgh. Some of us would pay to put that on the wall. I can understand how Kate might have sat in some suitable spot to capture that, but I wonder how she got the selkies and the various monsters and other creatures to pose for her?

As for the stories, well, they are what you know Theresa can tell. I’m sure they are all quite true, but she does do nice things with her characters. The stories are mostly short, so make for easy reading at any age.

I didn’t know that thing about Nessie. Or Walter Scott’s great-many-times-granny. As long as you have the arms for it, this is a great book. And if you don’t, it is actually greater still. You might need a child, but I managed just fine on my own.