Dr Noir meets Kirkie

Kirkland Ciccone is a lucky man. All through his conversation with Dr Noir – aka Jacky Collins – on Friday evening, he sat facing my wall of books, which is something he likes. All those Agatha Christies! I know he could ‘see’ them, because we were watching his YouTube chat on our television, and that sits opposite the wall of books.

This was another event featuring his book Happiness is Wasted on Me, which had delighted Dr Noir, although she clearly needed to learn more about Cumbernauld. There is a risk that come the end of Covid restrictions, she will hotfoot it over there. Unless the powers that be, have dynamited the place by then.

We admired Kirkie’s outfit, his banana shirt, a furry yellow cape thing, and topped with an orange hat. It matched the stringlights behind him.

Is is his book really a crime novel? There is a murder, but I’m not sure it is. Really. Fairly sure it won’t make his fans hunt out Agatha Christie afterwards.

Cumbernauld is ugly, but Kirkie thinks that’s all right. He can still love it. He sort of suggested he’s not Walter in the story. He can say that, but…

There were questions. One, from Daughter, was whether that was IrnBru he was swigging from his very tall mug. He claimed it was Earl Grey. Twinings. Honestly! I will have to send Kirkie some real Earl Grey.

He talked about his mother, the flat roofs of the houses in Cumbernauld, about the library and how hard it can be to find, about his brother’s criminal exploits, steak pie at New Year, and liking Stirling’s Thistle Centre. Well, someone has to, I suppose.

Towards the end they moved on to Kirkie’s Desert Island Discs, which he clearly hadn’t prepared for, so there was much – weird – music being mentioned. Also, 1990s style magazine covers, which were behind the design of the book cover. (This is so much not my time!)

And, you know, they want you to buy the book. I think I want you to do that too.

Afterwards I had some proper Earl Grey and a Gingernut, and thought of Cumbernauld. As you do.

Triple skulduggery

I’d really been feeling much more positive in the last few weeks. Yes, it’s fun to write. To read books. And then when you think it’s safe to step into the water, on an ordinary Thursday morning, they trip you up.

The first water has to do with that large river in South America. I was wanting to buy the new Skulduggery Pleasant, out next week. Since the last time when I was unwillingly, and unwittingly, subscribed to their prime offers, I have been very vigilant. But still, I fell in. Knowing how to, I immediately pulled myself out [cancelled] again. But that was at least two minutes out of my morning.

After that, my thought was to do just what I am doing now; moaning away about rivers and the like.

But in their infinite wisdom my blogging platform has – seemingly – taken away my old-fashioned classic editor option and I am currently writing to you from, well, I don’t know where I am, but I am not enjoying it.

So that’s two large, successful companies sticking their legs out to catch me, all in one morning.

I still ordered my copy of Skulduggery Pleasant, whereas the less pleasant skulduggeries continue to bother me. Primarily by flickering an editing box in front of my eyes every time I stop to think. If that’s not a migraine trigger, I don’t know what is. Well, I do, Marmite, chocolate, msg. And the editing box.

Just as well I wasn’t going to add a picture.


Nick Green’s new ebook Sparrowfall is quite something. Nick reckons it’s adult fiction, whereas I feel it’d be fine for younger readers as well. Some serious topics are covered, but children and teenagers today are exposed to these kinds of things.

(And now that I’ve read the book, the cover makes a lot of sense.)

This is science fiction, and it takes you to a harsh and completely unknown landscape. While in its other half you find a perfectly ordinary setting as well.

Let’s start with the ‘normal’ story, which is about 12-year-old Eleanor, recently adopted and loving living with her new parents. She also loves the must-read fantasy novel Myriad, and acting. So when she gets a part in the new film of Myriad it feels as if life is perfect.

Myriad is set in a strange world, with strange people and strange goings-on. We don’t see all that much of it, as it’s primarily the film set which matters here.

And then there is the world of Captain Luke S Zeit, which is beyond anything I could imagine. My mind simply boggled as I tried to envisage where Luke is and where he goes. Even what he is. What is quite clear however, are his feelings. He comes across Becca, a refugee from some unknown corner of his world and she changes his life.

It’s not the world of Myriad, though. I suppose that would have been too easy. But if it’s not, how are the parts of this story connected? It took me unusually long to discover, and even when I had, I needed to unsee what I’d found. And I still couldn’t work out how this was all going to work out.

And what of the man sleeping rough in London?

This is refreshingly beautiful, and Nick’s science fiction world is truly different.

The real mystery of course is why Sparrowfall isn’t out there as a big-selling actual book printed on paper, and not just as an ebook. The advantage here is that it will only set you back £2.95, so there is no need for procrastination. Buy it today! And tell your friends.

The early bird

I got up earlier than usual this morning.

Before you get excited about this, let me assure you it wasn’t that early. Just earlier. For Covid-times. The main problem with getting up late, is that the mornings disappear awfully fast.

But I had a flashback as I contemplated my ‘early’ breakfast and the possibilities this extra hour offered. I used to do this once before.

Get up early. Earlier than I had to, I mean. We’re not counting going to school – although as you will find, I did that – or travelling dreadfully early or having to deal with babies who have a poor understanding of parents wanting to sleep a little bit longer. Ot even letting the builders in.

When I was around 15, I got up earlier and earlier in the mornings, on school days, and not to shower – although I did that – or pack the schoolbag or anything.

I got up to read.

When my evenings grew too short for me to read a few chapters more, I solved this dire state of things by reading before going to school. At first I added maybe a quarter of an hour to my usual morning proceedings. But gradually this got longer and longer. In the end I believe it was an extra hour, which meant getting out of bed at 5.30. Swedish schools start early. I also read in the corridors outside each classroom as I waited to be let in, managing perhaps another five minutes before each lesson. And, erm, reading before the film started in cinemas…

This will be why I managed to get through a fair few books back then.

The somewhat ridiculous situation ended when we moved, and I went to school in the company of Mother-of-Witch in the car, and it suddenly seemed preposterous that I’d crawl out of bed that much earlier.

Since then I’ve been mostly normal. For me. Although I still take a book to the cinema. Used to. In case the film’s no good.

Down #2 Memory Lane

It looks quite domestic, doesn’t it? Except for the lurid red upholstery.

But there’s me, the tea tray, the three heads in front of the gold mirror. And Terry Pratchett.

2010 was a double Terry Pratchett interview year. By request. The first time by me. The second time by Terry.

It was, just nice. That’s what I’m looking for just now. A nice past. Something I’d put in my photo album, if I did stuff like that. In fact, that’s an idea! I never considered mixing Bookwitching photographs with private life photos.

I had brought Son along, in case there was coffee to be poured. There was. I always knew he’d turn out to be useful one day.

The Last Garden

We’ve been gardening. By that I mean that I sit comfortably in my rattan chair and keep the Resident IT Consultant appraised of what I think he should do to the garden. It’s quite nice, especially now that the weather has been warm enough and dry enough, and we’ve been longing to be out there, in the fresh air and sunshine.

This picture book by Rachel Ip and illustrated by Anneli Bray is about a garden in a country about to be overrun by a war. I wasn’t eager to read it, feeling I knew what it would be like.

Except it wasn’t.

Zara has a garden in the city in this country, where before the war there were green things growing everywhere. When things get bad, people still come to Zara’s garden, where they can feel good about what’s there, and the flowers and the fruit help make others feel better too.

In the end it becomes too dangerous to stay in the city, and Zara even has to close her garden. It looks like everything is broken or ruined and the plants dead.

But when the war is over, people return, and slowly, over time, the garden heals and so do the people and the city. A beautiful message and beautiful pictures.

The 2021 shortlists

It’s shortlist time. Here are the Kate Greenaway Medal hopefuls:

And the Carnegie Medal shortlisted books:

There are eight in each category, so it will still be a difficult choice to make. I’ve only read one, but can already tell that I would have wanted to have read many more than that.

Not In That Dress, Princess!

Dresses can be annoying things. Especially to men. I mean, how can any woman even begin to believe that she can do things while wearing a dress? Especially ‘men’ things.

I have mentioned this new picture book from Wendy Meddour before, but now it is finally out, and with Princessy illustrations by Cindy Wume. It’s a story I could see coming, ever since Wendy’s surprising discovery that a woman wearing a dress is not suited to changing the oil in her car. Men upset so easily.

(Between you and me, I reckon Wendy can do anything.)

Anyway, here is the story about the Princess who always wanted to do stuff, while wearing a dress, and always being told, ‘not in that dress, Princess!’ by some adult, the Queen, or the governess or someone.

But oddly enough, her brothers the princes could do anything they wanted.

Here we have a princess who actually wants to do lots of fun things. But isn’t allowed to. In the end something snaps, and our princess sets out to do exactly all the things she wants to do, in her dress. And you know, she really can do all those things, dress notwithstanding.

In the end, the parents see sense, and the princes beg to be like their sister.

(This review was written by a Bookwitch wearing a dress. Yeah, that hardly ever happens. But it can happen.)

I’ve got it covered #3

The Resident IT Consultant is buying back his childhood. The books that ‘mysteriously’ vanished when he went to university, are needed again. Not just to read, but to look at, so the original cover – as known by the young Resident IT Consultant – will need to be the one.

Not that long ago Fell Farm Holiday by Marjorie Lloyd was delivered by our lovely postman.

It looks like a Blyton, while not being a Blyton. It looks perfectly fine and interesting and maybe one day I will read it. The cover by William Grimmond is rather charming, and I can see it causing, or at least cementing, this lifelong fondness for the Lake District that the Resident IT Consultant ‘suffers’ from.

He told me the story behind the cover image. Apparently the artist recognised enough of the description of the farm where the children go to have their adventures, so he travelled there to draw the actual farm. And when I Googled this, I came upon Dove Grey Reader’s blog post from twelve years ago, where she tells the same story. Come to think of it, maybe that’s where he got his information.

But anyway, it seems both of them have childhood memories of Fell Farm Holiday. Dove Grey’s photo is much better than mine, but here is the book as photographed at Bookwitch Towers.

And the back.

It almost makes me want to go there. Almost.


While Lily’s mum does her hair and cleans her teeth (her own, not Lily’s), Lily tells her about her new great idea. She’s going to be a superhero.

In Dr Ranj’s new picture book, A Superhero Like You, illustrated by Liam Darcy, we learn about all the heroic jobs Lily considers; vet, recycling-truck driver, scientist, teacher, firefighter and many more.

We shouldn’t need more books telling us what girls can aspire to, but it seems we do.

And for Mother’s Day it is entirely suitable to discover that Lily’s mum is in fact a superhero. A doctor, with recently combed hair, and clean teeth!