Tag Archives: Anne Cassidy

They come in waves, don’t they?

‘What if I say Beverley Naidoo?’ I asked.

I had been talking YA authors with someone; someone who had only started reading YA not very long ago. And I wasn’t thinking, so mentioned Celia Rees and was met by a blank stare. It’s understandable. If you are recommended books to try right now, it will be the most talked about books and authors, plus some olden goldies like Philip Pullman and David Almond. Names ‘everyone’ has heard of.

Whereas when I began reading current YA novels 20 or 25 years ago, there was no Meg Rosoff or Keren David or Angie Thomas. At the time Celia Rees and Beverley Naidoo were the reigning queens to me, along with Gillian Cross and Anne Cassidy. Adèle Geras and Mary Hoffman and Linda Newbery. Anne Fine. Malorie Blackman.

No matter how many I list here, I will forget someone really important. Most of them still write and publish, but perhaps not as frequently as before.

There’s the group of authors who appeared when Bookwitch [the blog] was in her infancy, with 2010 being a particularly fruitful year. Candy Gourlay and Keren David, followed by Teri Terry and Kathryn Evans. Again, I will have left someone out.

And now, those ladies have many books under their belts, and there is a new wave of YA authors. I mentioned Angie Thomas, because she’s brand new, both in the book world, and to me. She’s also American, which seems to be where things are happening now.

When I reviewed Celia’s latest novel, I compared it to Truth or Dare, and her reaction to that was that I’m probably the only person who’s been around long enough to have read both it, and the new book. This struck me as silly, as surely everyone would have read Truth or Dare. Wouldn’t they? Well, they haven’t, and it’s not lack of dedication, or anything. Most YA readers don’t last a couple of decades. Real, young people, grow up, and move on to other stuff. And if you’re already ‘old’ and catching up, you can’t read everything.

But when I first met Beverley Naidoo, I almost curtsied.

Thicker Than Water

I’d like to think that one day some of the young people who read Anne Cassidy’s Thicker Than Water will come across Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men; either the book, or more likely, the film. And then they’ll think, ‘oh that’s rather like Thicker Than Water.’

Because it is. For her most recent Barrington Stoke book Anne wanted to write a modern take on the book she’s always loved. And it’s surprising how much you can write something that is the same but also quite different.

We have George and Lennie, who are moving between south English towns, from Brighton to Hastings, looking for work, and George hoping that this time Lennie will behave and not cause trouble. Just like in Steinbeck’s book this George looks out for his large, but simple, friend Lennie.

Anne Cassidy, Thicker Than Water

This story is set today, with mobile phones and things, and George works as a DJ. Or tries to, when Lennie will allow.

It’s a beautiful story. Violent, yes, but there is so much love. If you know Steinbeck you will know how it ends. If not, I’m guessing the ending will come as a shock to young readers. It’s what makes this book so grown-up, and a perfect homage to John Steinbeck.

Read it!

The long day

You can’t get into Charlotte Square before 9.30. I’d do well to remember that, and I could – and should – stay in bed for longer. But a witch can always read, so on Tuesday morning time was killed with Theresa Breslin’s Ghost Soldier.

Thanks to Theresa’s generosity I was able to be her husband for the morning. Not as nice a one as her regular Mr B, but I did my best. And I can confirm that while I was in the authors’ events prep area, I didn’t hear anything. At all.

Theresa Breslin, The School Librarian and Mary Hooper

Then I went along to Theresa’s school event with Mary Hooper, and afterwards in the bookshop I listened in amazement as Theresa asked a female fan (obviously in her upper teens) if she was the school librarian  – from one of the visiting schools. It was quite clear that she was a mature upper secondary school student. No. Apparently she was the head teacher. (The librarian was the greyhaired ponytailed gent next to her.)

Eating a sandwich very fast before my next event, I ended up letting four Swedes share my table. I didn’t share my Swedish-ness with them, however. I listened as they speculated on the nature of Charlotte Square. Apparently it’s a bookfair of some kind. ‘But where are the books?’ one of them asked. Quite. The book festival as a mere coffeeshop for tourists.

Ran into Keith Charters, who was clutching 60 copies of  David MacPhail’s Yeti On the Loose. Did some heavy hinting, which resulted in Keith handing over 59 copies to the bookshop. I mean, he had promised me one ages ago.

After school event no.2 I chatted a little with Linda Newbery, Tony Bradman and Paul Dowswell, getting my anthology signed by all three, each in the right places. Then went in search of Cathy MacPhail’s son David, and found him where I thought he’d be but not where Keith had said, along with his mother and a lovely baby. I’d been told he’d be a slightly taller version of his mum, which as Cathy drily pointed out wasn’t hard to achieve. I forgot to take a picture, but got my Yeti signed with an extra generous RAAAAAR! Then I admired the baby.

Wrote yesterday’s onsite blog post, before learning that Son and Dodo were coming over to entertain me, and to have coffee. It had got unexpectedly warm and sunny, and Son complained. We chatted, saw Ian Rankin arrive, noticed the longbearded gent from earlier years, and came to the conclusion that the scones which used to be of almost home made quality, were just dry and boring.

Son and Dodo went off to search for more Maisie books, and I had my Dyslexia event to go to. Glimpsed Nicola Morgan and Val McDermid (not together) and then it rained and got unexpectedly cold. I repaired to the yurt for a restorative sandwich and an even more restorative sip of cola to keep me awake, as well as find that cardigan I suddenly needed.

Arne Dahl

Anne Cassidy

Waited for Arne Dahl to turn up for his photocall, and did the best I could when he did, considering how dark and wet it was. He seemed bemused by the attention. While waiting for Arne’s event with John Harvey (whom I’d have snapped too, had I known who he was…) I walked over to the children’s bookshop and caught Anne Cassidy and Emma Haughton (who does not have long brown hair, after all) signing post-event.

Emma Haughton

And after a much longer day than someone my age should attempt, I limped along Princes Street for my late train home. Someone at Waverley told me to smile. He’s lucky I’m a peaceful sort of witch.

Looking For JJ – 10 years on

I can’t believe it’s been ten years since Anne Cassidy’s Looking For JJ was first published! (Perhaps I didn’t read it when it was brand new? Actually, I probably did. It’s when I started in the school library and suddenly had access to loads of books.)

Anne Cassidy, Looking For JJ

All this time I’ve remembered p47. It’s where – or more accurately when – I felt like stopping because it was so heart-rendingly difficult to read I didn’t think I had it in me. But I carried on. Now I suspect it wasn’t exactly p47, because I have had a peek at it. Or have they rearranged the pages a little in the new edition?

I found both aspects of the story hard to deal with. The murder of the girl was awful. And the discovery of the murderer’s new identity made for bleak reading.

And now it’s back.

In February next year there will be a sequel, Finding Jennifer Jones. The prospect scares me, but at the same time I feel maybe I must read it. What makes it more intriguing is that the reissued Looking For JJ is published by Scholastic, while the sequel will be coming from Hot Key Books. Cooperation over something both see as important, I imagine.

To prove that the Ann(e)s think alike, here is a link to what Anne herself has to say over on ABBA. More stuff I didn’t know. And strange that we managed it on the same day.

At Yellow Lake

This is a great book!

I just needed to get that out of the way, because neither the cover, the title or the blurb of Jane McLoughlin’s debut would have sold me on the book, and I’m sorry if I sound a bit grumpy. Luckily it’s a Frances Lincoln book, and they had the good sense to have four people whose opinions I trust write the inside cover recommendations.

Jane McLoughlin, At Yellow Lake

They made me take a proper look, and I came to understand this was not some weird book about American summer camp. Some summer camp that would have been!

It is not quite as scary as an Anne Cassidy (she’s one of the four) book, for which I am grateful. But it is hair raising enough, and I must mention that I thoroughly disapprove of the poor parental skills the parents of the three main characters, Etta, Peter and Noah, possess. But I suppose it was either that, or kill them off, and there’s been enough death as it is, without resorting to more.

Etta’s mother has very bad taste in boyfriends. Peter’s mother has just died, and his father thinks too much of himself and too little of his son. Noah’s mother refuses to talk to him about his Native American background.

English teenager Peter escapes to find his mother’s cabin by Yellow Lake in the woods in Wisconsin. Etta lives nearby, while Noah decides to search for his roots in the same area.

The bad-tasting boyfriend causes the rest to happen, along with his criminal associates, and everything comes to a head in those woods near Yellow Lake, with not a single summer camp in sight. Will the three teenagers even survive?

This is a book for young teens, so you can draw your own conclusions. It’s very much the kind of book where you read ‘just five more pages’ before you do whatever you were going to do. And another five. Maybe ten.

The only thing I missed was more explanation of the how and the who towards the end. Sometimes there is nothing scarier than a church-going, law-abiding American. And it’s hard for whites to understand the chip on the shoulder carried by – some – Native Americans.

But other than that, it’s ‘lovely,’ as Peter would say.

ABBA festival!

First they steal my idea, and then they put it into action on a day when I can’t even enjoy it. Pah.

It’s ABBA. No, not the pickled fish and not even those people who used to sing. I’m talking about the Awfully Big Blog Adventure and the festival they are running this weekend.

Yes, I know. It’s ridiculous. How can you possibly have an online book festival? Can I take pictures of my authors? Can I have my books signed? Are there even any tickets left to all these events, and how do they expect me to get around from one event to the next without a break in-between?

PhotobucketI’m busy today. Very busy. I can’t just sit there and commune with my beloved authors through a computer screen all day long. But I want to. I’ll have to make a timetable of sorts, to see if I can fit in my bestest people that way. Maybe eat with them? (Hey, do you object to crumbs and slurps?)

Just look at that programme!

ABBA festival Saturday

It sort of makes a witch want to skive off for the day. How are they going to pull it off, technically? (My idea was for a normal live kind of in person sort of festival…)

Oh well, see you tomorrow.

Heart Burn

I grasped the bull by the horns, almost as soon as it arrived. Just in case my courage was about to desert me.

Anne Cassidy, Heart Burn

The bull was Anne Cassidy’s latest novel, Heart Burn. Anne scares me more than most, and I felt I was likely to skirt around the book for ages if I didn’t act decisively. So I grappled with it, and it only made my pulse go faster some of the time. And a lot more towards the end.

Heart Burn is set in the dangerous world of drugs and the creeps who run the small drug dealers and pushers. Ashley went out with Tyler a year ago, until she found him doing something she didn’t like. But she sort of likes him still, and he helped her with something then, and now that he’s in deep trouble he asks her to help him in return.

For someone who – naturally – is about to do something stupid, Ashley behaves quite maturely and proceeds with caution a lot of the time. But Tyler’s situation is past what could possibly count as normal, and things go seriously wrong. And someone obviously can’t be trusted. Who?

Very exciting, and more romantic than it seemed at first. And readers should avoid trying any of this at home.

Bookwitch bites #38

January brings not just bad weather and the opportunity to send Offsprings everywhere back to school, but paperbacks galore. Or it seems that way. Candy Gourlay’s Tall Story is out in soft version, with the same cover except for the changes. Jon Mayhew’s Mortlock is also out there somewhere, but I’ve just heard the rumours. Not actually seen it. Marcus Sedgwick’s Ghosts and Gadgets have likewise been paperbacked. Hair raising cover.

If you don’t like paperbacks there is always the Kindle. Philip Ardagh was back on morning television this week again, to talk about Kindling. It was very early, and all he did after travelling across Kent (or whoever it was he crossed well before dawn – who is she?) was sit there on the sofa and say that he doesn’t want a Kindle. Luckily they had a JKR lookalike to tell people all the techy details about bookless reading.

There are new books out there, too. Marie-Louise Jensen’s Sigrun’s Secret has arrived, and I’m in the midst of reading. A more contentious ‘new’ book is Huckleberry Finn without the n-word. A pc world is a much better world, or so some people believe.

You can clean up too much. At university I read Under Milk Wood. An English friend made a joke about reading the placename backwards and how I’d see an interesting word. I read and I read and saw nothing terribly fun at all. You try backwardsing on Llaregyb. I had been sold a sanitised version! B*gger.

How I Live Now is about to become a film, at long last. Possibly. Probably.

And finally, Anne Cassidy, Keren David, Linda Strachan and Gillian Philip have clubbed together to become Crime Central. I will return to them soon, but have to reflect a little on what is meant by crime. Books for oldies still seem to be more about solving the crime. These ladies are more into committing the crime, which is an admirable way to go about things. True role models. ; )

What witches don’t know

I blogged earlier – I think – about how hard it can be to know what you don’t know. I’ve found one more thing I had no idea I didn’t know. Barrington Stoke. I didn’t know they specialise in books to help struggling readers to read. I just thought they were a publishing company among many other publishing companies.

Not so. But why did no one tell me? ‘That’s one of my Barrington Stoke books’ authors would say when talking about something they’d written. And I simply assumed that this particular book was with a different publisher. Now it all makes sense!

I have just been sent a sample Barrington Stoke book, along with their catalogue, and both make for good reading.

Twisting the Truth

Twisting the Truth by Judy Waite was for me a very quick read. But it’s good. Whenever I come across such brief stories, they are usually also more childish, whereas this is for 14+. It must be horrible to be in your mid teens and only have babyish books to choose from. Much easier not to read at all, I’d say. And that’s what they do, which is such a shame.

I recall coming across some similar books at Offsprings’ school library, except they were abridged versions of ‘real’ books. That’s another way of approaching reading, obviously. But I can see that having something written specially might be nicer.

So, Judy Waite’s story is about a girl who lies to her stepfather when she gets home late. She comes up with a tale about having been abducted, almost, on the way home. As with all lies, this leads to a situation she could not have foreseen. Very exciting.

The Barrington Stoke catalogue is full of books that I don’t need to read, because I can read longer books, but so many of them look very tempting. And I can see how almost anyone with dyslexia could be turned into a reader this way.

I’m fairly sure that Adèle Geras has one or two BS books under her belt, and I know that Theresa Breslin told me that the ‘Alcatraz book’ of hers I’d come across was a BS one. It is. I found it in the catalogue. I also found lots more of my favourite names in there, like Philip Ardagh, Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Terry Deary, Bali Rai, Anne Cassidy, Tony Bradman, Lee Weatherly, Beverley Naidoo, Oisín McGann, Catherine Forde, Joanna Kenrick, Hilary McKay and many more. Many more.

‘All’ that these writers have to do is come up with a great story, with short paragraphs and short chapters, and Barrington Stoke will print it on cream paper in their own clever font in a good size. But only once the book has been tested by test readers, of course.

Why didn’t I know this?

What you may have to do now

I’m only a little bit scared of Anne Cassidy. More so of her books. Sorry for repeating myself as I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was on p47 or thereabouts of Looking For JJ, I wanted to leave. Not give up, as you do with a bad or a boring book. I was scared of what was to come next.

Now Anne has a new book, and times are hard. She has made a little film about the new book, which she sent me the link to yesterday, which is on YouTube, and which is frighteningly professional looking. And is that Anne’s perfect kitchen in the background, with neat piles of plates and beautifully stacked cups? And she’s wearing wonderful ear rings. I know that doesn’t make much difference to what the book is actually like, but I suspect it’s rather good. If scary.

The Dead House. Watch Anne talk about it here, and listen to her reading an excerpt from the book.

I don’t know what authors should do to replace publishers’ marketing, or to add to it, but posing in front of your immaculate kitchen dresser is one way. I also firmly believe that bloggers can do a lot, but it might help if there was more scope for getting individual blogs better known. I went looking for new potential colleagues a while ago, but found very little. Googling away, I found a few that I already knew, and a lot of complete rubbish and many dead ends.

The Guardian has a list of  ‘blogs we like’ in the sidebar of their book blog. I think it’s a boring and far too static list, and wonder who put it together, and why more blogs aren’t added to it. They are the blogs you are ‘supposed’ to like. OK, so you don’t want a list a mile long, but a bit more variety and less of the predictability, please. And add me while you’re at it. Newspapers have limited space and funds to review in, but they could perhaps advertise their unpaid, friendly competitors?

The relatively few blogs I read regularly (20?) provide me with more than enough input and ideas for what to read. It’s just a case of finding them. In fact, I have been more found than an active finder, and through those who come to me, I’ve discovered some marvellous blogs.

I didn’t start blogging with the idea of helping to sell new books, thinking that going on about old favourites or trends or groups would be nice. It still seems nice, but with The Economy as it is, fresh PR is a must. But I do agree with Anne Cassidy in that I’m not ready to Twitter. Kitchen dresser on YouTube. Yes.