Tag Archives: Lucy Coats

On doing the impossible

The good thing about the Edinburgh International Book Festival is how impossible it is. The many famous and wonderful authors it will be impossible to see there, simply because they have so many such people coming.

The 2016 programme was unveiled yesterday and I have scanned it for the best and most interesting events. Of which there are a lot. So to begin with I will plan not to see quite a few tremendously big names in the book business, since even at a distance I can tell I can’t possibly get them on to my wishlist. Then comes that list, and then comes the more realistic list, and finally comes the actual list I will actually be able to do.

Maybe.

Best of all would be to have no opinion, but to go along one day, or two, and pick something off that day’s menu, where tickets are still available. That would be excellent.

I can’t do that.

There is a follow-on from last year’s YA debate with Daniel Hahn, and Anthony McGowan and Elizabeth Wein among others. Chris Riddell will deliver the Siobhan Dowd Trust Memorial Lecture, making it unmissable, and Michael Grant is back in town with his WWII alternate history.

Meg Rosoff will be talking about Jonathan Unleashed, and Francesca Simon is ‘doing away with’ Horrid Henry! Cornelia Funke and Vivian French have things to say about dyslexia, Nick Sharratt will talk nonsense (poetry), and Theresa Breslin and Debi Gliori and Lari Don and all those other lovely Scottish authors are coming.

Debut writer Kathy Evans is talking to Jo Cotterill, and Lucy Coats has some more Myths up her sleeve. And so does Kate Leiper, I believe.

Jackie Kay is doing stuff, and many of our finest crime writers are coming along to kill and thrill, and there are Swedes and other Nordic authors; some expected, others more unexpected. Quite a number of children’s authors are doing adult events, which I think is a good idea. Politicians will be there, talking about all sorts of things.

I know I’ve already mentioned Daniel Hahn, but as usual he will be doing so much that he should try and get a rest in now. Just in case. Hadley Freeman is coming, which makes me quite excited. Lemn Sissay.

Who have I forgotten? You see, it’s impossible. There are so many!

Chosen

It’s International Women’s Day, so what more suitable book to review than Lucy Coats’s second novel about the young Cleopatra? Here we have a young woman who knows what she has to do, regardless of whether she believes she can, or what other people will think. She does her duty.

Lucy Coats, Chosen

Having been left hanging at the end of book one, you could only hope it would work out and that the characters would stay and survive. They do. Mostly.

Don’t misunderstand me; Chosen is both violent and bloody. Presumably that’s what life was like back then (although today’s not much better), and being chosen as a future Queen didn’t mean a smooth life, full of riches and comfort.

Cleo has a lot of travelling to do. At times it feels as if she does nothing but traipse back and forth in Egypt, whether by boat or through the desert, occasionally on a rather opininated camel. Having been chosen by the Goddess Isis doesn’t make for easy companionship with the others. Cleo stands out; she is different.

But I’ll say this for her, she really has some great people to help her with the task of uniting Egypt, and getting rid of her half-sister and finding her father, the disappeared Pharaoh. Personally I am quite partial to Captain Nail, although I can see that younger readers will have more interest in the gorgeous Khai, or the infamous Marcus Antonius. Lots of romantic scope.

There is more love among the supporting characters, and you really come to like them. I wouldn’t mind having a pair of diligent bodyguard soldiers like Cleo’s.

The future Pharaoh has her job cut out gathering enough soldiers to take on her sister and her supporters. When her camel days are over, Cleo needs to get to Rome to persuade her father to return to Egypt.

What this book does, apart from entertain and thrill, is teach you about Egypt and to some extent Rome. No amount of reading history books at school can make up for what’s in Lucy’s two novels about Cleo. It might not all be true or authentic (after all, how could anyone know for certain?), but it sets the scene so well, and learning through fiction for fun means you want to know, and you want to remember it. For yourself, and not for an exam.

Enjoy!

UKYA Extravaganza comes to Nottingham

I couldn’t go, so I sent an author instead. Or more accurately, Helen Grant was going, and before she knew it, she had volunteered to write me a blog post about Nottingham. You know, the place famous for sheriffs, Bookwitches getting lost, and YA Extravaganzas.

Emma Pass

So, last weekend was ‘the second ever UKYA Extravaganza, held at Waterstones in Nottingham. The Sillitoe Room was packed with YA readers and bloggers who came to listen to nearly 30 authors speak about their work and the reasons they love UKYA.

Amongst the authors who took part (too many to list here!) were Sarah Benwell, Mike Revell, Lee Weatherly, Zoe Marriott, Bali Rai, Lucy Coats, Teri Terry and David Owen.

Lydia Syson and Sarah Benwell

Some had been inspired by issues dear to their hearts, some by places and events they had experienced, and in one case – Sue Ransom – by the desire to create a relatable book for her daughter. In one particularly startling moment, Rhian Ivory described how she discovered that the village she had chosen as the setting for her book The Boy Who Drew The Future turned out to be the last place in Britain to duck a witch!

Lucy Coats

The schedule was divided into seven panels, usually comprising four authors; each author had two minutes to introduce themselves and talk about their work, and then the floor was opened to questions for five minutes. The panels were interspersed with breaks to allow those attending to meet their favourite authors, buy books and choose items from the well-stocked swag table, which offered posters, postcards, bookmarks, badges and even magnets. Attendees were also sustained during the event by refreshments, including chocolate brownies and specially-made UKYA Extravaganza fairy cakes!

UKYA Extravaganza Nottingham

UKYA Extravaganza is a truly egalitarian initiative, with all participating authors given an equal voice. With so many of them taking part, an energetic chairperson was required, and this role was carried out by YA author Paula Rawsthorne, who kept things moving along with a light touch – and a very large hourglass!

The other great thing about UKYA Extravaganza is that it is regional, rather than always based in the same place. This means it genuinely brings a mix of YA authors to the readers, wherever they may be. And after all, these are YA books we are talking about, and some of those young readers may not be able to afford to travel long distances to attend events (NB, speaking for myself, some of the old ones can’t afford to, either). The first Extravaganza took place in Birmingham, and future events are planned for other UK locations ranging from north to south.

Teri Terry and Lee Weatherly

For those who are unable to attend at all, or who would like to relive the Extravaganza fun, Lisa Golding of City of YA Books filmed the authors introducing themselves and talking for a few minutes. She’ll be editing these mini interviews into a YouTube video, so that’s something to look out for!

The second UKYA Extravaganza is followed this weekend (17th October) by a UKMG Extravaganza at Nottingham Central Library. For details of this and future events, follow UKYA Extravaganza on Twitter at @UKYAX or find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ukyax.’

Helen and I are now holding out for more northerly Extravaganzas. I believe Newcastle has been mentioned, but I must point out there is nothing wrong with Central Scotland. Just bring it on!

(All photos by Helen Grant)

Enough research? The right research?

Complaining is such a satisfying thing to do. Sometimes, anyway. I caught the tail end of something Lucy Coats said on Facebook, and which I feel entitled to mention here as she tweeted it at TES, making it public. Lucy was dissatisfied with their list of recommended books for children.

Keeping in mind my own moan a few months ago, on a similar topic, I read all the comments, feeling quite enraged. Then I read what school librarian and children’s author Dawn Finch said about it on her blog, including her own list of suitable books. Many great books, and I couldn’t agree more.

Finally (yes I know, I should have started there) I had a look at the offending list the TES had put together. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared, especially considering the list had been compiled by asking teachers. I suppose the TES could hardly go around asking accountants for their recommendations, so the question I have is why ask teachers?

Why not the school librarians, while they are still not totally extinct? Is it that teachers are supposed to know more? Or was it to see how little they are aware of books?

The thing is, as I’ve said on other occasions, by asking fewer experts and more people in general, you end up with the same general lists, because that’s the kind of knowledge we have on things we don’t specialise in.

As I said, the list was nowhere near as bad as it might have been. But if the purpose of the listmaking was to guide adults guide children, then they should have asked the librarians.

One of the first things I was involved with at Offspring’s secondary school library, was the voting for favourite books. Admittedly it was probably mostly the keen readers who responded. But it was illuminating for me, who thought I knew it all. Among boys, the two books that stood out were the Guinness Book of Records, and Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called ‘It’ and both surprised me. Had it not been for the school library, I’d have assumed the winner would be one of the well known novels for children. If not Harry Potter, then one of the others that we adults ‘have all heard of.’

Cleo

This long awaited novel by Lucy Coats has a most tantalising end. She claims she could only end it like this, and she’s probably right. Probably.

Whatever. You will love this story about the young Cleopatra. At first I thought Lucy seemed very well informed, but it turns out she is only guessing, building her story round what little is known about Cleo. And this is absolutely fine. Fantastic. Wonderful. You know, all those words.

Lucy Coats, Cleo

We meet Cleo at the age of ten as she watches her mother die, and her ghastly half sisters turn on her. Seems it was the expected behaviour in those days. Fast forward to four years later, and it’s time for Cleo to ‘do something about it.’

Cleo is a marvellous girl, very capable, and thinks on her feet. She’s also surrounded by a great gang of helpers, and I do like competent co-characters. Some of Cleo’s are among the best I’ve met for a while.

Once you rid yourself – a little – of the image of Liz Taylor, you can move more properly in the right circles in Alexandria. There’s a lot of bad stuff happening. There are gods on different sides, and people can be killed on a whim. Crocodiles, hippos; all the usual weapons.

This is the first of three books, which is logical, as Cleo’s sisters are so bad they will need plenty of time to be sorted out (I hope), and any romance will need to mature, and characters have to be brave in the face of so many hippos, or worse.

The importance of libraries should not be under-estimated even for so long ago. We’re in Alexandria, after all. As for Cleo and her friends, I’d like to say everything will be fine once we’ve got all three books. The question is, will it? I’m sure whatever happens, that the journey will have been worth it.

The book-launching mug

‘That doesn’t look like a book’ said the Resident IT Consultant as he brought in the post.

I looked at the square box and concluded he was right. ‘It’s a mug,’ I said. I knew this because Lucy Coats had very generously said she’d send me one of her special mugs to celebrate the publication of her new novel Cleo. And a witch can easily use a fabulous mug like this one. (Quite handy, actually. I don’t believe there is a single non-sawdusty drinking vessel in the whole house.)

Lucy Coats, Cleo & mug

Once I had negotiated all that parcel tape, however, I could see I had been both right and wrong. There was a book as well.

Very much looking forward to a read and some tea.

Bookwitch bites #122

If you’re up early and you’re near St Andrews, you could still make it to this children’s books day, organised by Waterstones. I had thought I might go, but realised I need to slow down and get some real work done, and not go gadding about, having my face painted. Helen Grant will be at the Town Hall, as will Lari Don and a few others. Sounds nice.

St Andrews children's events day

While I’m in poster mode, I will show you the poster for a blog tour in early July, for Janet Quin-Harkin’s HeartBreak Café. I don’t often do this, but I have my reasons…

HeartBreak Café blog tour

Sorry to have moved away from Sefton Super Reads, which took place this week. Eleanor Updale won with The Last Minute, which is a Bookwitch favourite. Here is Eleanor with Piers Torday and Catherine MacPhail, and if my eyes don’t deceive me they are sitting in front of that rather nice fireplace I saw last year in Southport.

Sefton Super Reads - Eleanor Updale with Piers Torday and Catherine MacPhail

Eleanor is a busy woman. Today she is at the Borders Book Festival (which I won’t be going to either…) chairing an event with Elizabeth Laird, and tomorrow Mr Updale, aka Jim Naughtie will be doing an event for his book. The day after – i.e. on Monday – Jim will be appearing in Edinburgh, talking to Gordon Brown (the ‘real’ one) and Tom Devine (I have this from Son and Dodo who are going).

From historians and politicians to royalty. Keren David, Keris Stainton and Candy Gourlay were invited to Buckingham Palace this week. It was a garden party to celebrate their good work on getting authors to donate stuff for the Philippines. I’m very pleased for them, and it seems they had a lovely time. (Strangely enough, they weren’t the only ones I knew who had been invited, so I must really know the right people these days.)

Candy Gourlay, Keren David and Keris Stainton

Lucy Coats is another author with ties to Buckingham Palace, and she has been celebrating her new website. I gather she’s also celebrating something else this weekend.

Someone who is no stranger to the royals, is Carol Ann Duffy, who has been involved in making a poetry anthology – Let In The Stars – written by real grown proper poets for children. It will launch at the Manchester Children’s Book Festival on July 1st.