Mostly when I was on my olydees I read children’s books. I’m making a huge effort at the moment to keep my Making Them Readers blog and Facebook Page updated, and there are so many children’s books people keep giving me, or I keep buying, I wanted to get through some of them.
I have made the decision to make the Making Them Readers blog mostly a place where I review books. I used to blog about events, but it dates the blog, and readers are so scattered geographically, those posts were only ever going to appeal to a tiny fraction of my readership. Book reviews, on the other hand, remain fairly timeless and books, praise the Lord, are available absolutely everywhere.
So, the Facebook page will be mostly for other people’s reviews and articles, up to date information on events and stuff that happens, and occasionally I will totally reverse my thinking and change it all around again. Because I can. But for now, that’s how it is.
I thoroughly enjoyed my week of reading, and I did read some grown up books too, just to be on the safe side. I have made a list here, of everything that passed before my eyes, and my brief opinions. As far as the children’s books go, if you want more details, they are reviewed fully on the Making Them Readers blog.
Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin – I started this the week before we went. I finished it on the first day of my holidays. I love Ian Rankin. I love books about Inspector Rebus. This was a corker. Bring on the next one please. I’m so glad Rebus is out of retirement. Nobody does gritty Scottish crime like Rankin.
The Hunted by Charlie Higson – This is the sixth in a seven book series called The Enemy. Yes. It is that Fast Show Charlie Higson. No, these aren’t funny. They are an amazing set of books about a zombie illness that ravages the world, leaving young children to try to rebuild society, fend for themselves and not get eaten by their nearest and dearest. Gritty, violent, brutal and absolutely page turningly excellent. I wish books had been this exciting when I was a teenager. You literally forget to breathe in some bits.
Wildwood by Colin Meloy – A strange fantasy book about a twelve year old girl whose baby brother gets kidnapped by a pack of crows working for an evil queen who lives in the middle of an enchanted wood outside of Portland, Oregon. It has charming illustrations by Carson Ellis, and the seeds of an excellent story. It is a bit patchy, but this is the first of three, so I am willing to take a risk with book two to see if he can work out the kinks from book one.
The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt – A children’s classic, translated from the Dutch, and originally published to great critical acclaim in 1962. This tells the tale of the chivalrous would be knight Tiuli, and his quest to take a letter to the king. I found this unbearably dull. Someone else I read who reviewed it said it was charming, and like Tolkien with all the monsters removed. What would be the point of that? It is also 500 pages long, and has no monsters, about three pages of magic that isn’t really magic, and a lot of prancing around on horseback trying to politely kill people. Rubbish.
Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal – This is in the 1001 books you have to read before you die book. I’d never read any Vidal before, and this was 25p on a book stall and only about 200 pages long, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. It tells the story of Myra Breckinridge, who hits California at about the same time as Charles Manson and the Beach Boys. It purports to be an uproarious tale of sexual shenanigans. You should be so lucky. It was well written, but if you’ve read Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying and Tom Robbin’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, there will be nothing for you here. Move along.
100 Cupbpards by N.D. Wilson – A strange magical fantasy tale about a boy called Henry whose parents are kidnapped in South America, which means Henry is packed off to stay with his aunt and uncle in Kansas. Strange things are afoot when Henry wakes up to find the plaster crumbling away from his bedroom wall, revealing 100 cupboard doors, each of which is a gateway into another world. Some are great, some are full of evil queens and cats with buboes and bad tempers. Henry and his cousins have to navigate their way through the worlds to find out what is going on. Lots of the time, you as the reader aren’t sure either, although the book is drily humorous, well written and very entertaining. It is the first of three books, and ends on a cliff hanger. I will report on the other two when I get around to them.
Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin – A sort of Sherlock Holmes for the modern day child. Darkus Knightley is a twelve year old boy whose father was a famous detective. Alan Knightley has crumbled under the weight of knowledge that finding out about a secret society bent on the evil domination of the world has burdened him with, and has been in a stress induced coma for three years. Darkus has been reviewing his case load in the meantime, and when Alan comes out of his coma during an episode of Countdown, to find out that a new self help book is actually the cats paw of the evil society, he teams up with Darkus to save the world. This is rather patchy but occasionally very tense and sometimes rather funny.
A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond – Almond is my hero, as you may already know. This is a modern reworking of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth made new and set in Northumberland. It is beautiful and lyrical and engaging and mystical and I loved it.
Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett - Pratchett’s fortieth Discworld novel, and another chance to get reacquainted with Moist von Lipwig, entrepreneur and chancer extraordinaire. This time Moist is enthralled by the world of rail travel and harnessing the power of steam. I love Pratchett. This is not his best, but there have been worse, in my opinion, and even when he isn’t on top form there’s always something wonderful in every book. I loved the Goblin names in this book, and his anger at social injustice always pleases me. Write on Mr Pratchett, write on.
The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin – Maupin is one of my literary heroes. Mary Anne in Autumn was one of my best books of the year, two years ago. I was expecting great things from this last of the nine books that make up the Tales of the City series. I am still thinking about it. I loved bits of it, but felt it was less coherent than the other books in the series. It felt like a eulogy. I didn’t want it to. I was glad to find out more about Mrs. Madrigal’s past. I was sad not to find out more about Mouse and Brian’s future. The Burning Man section was the least successful part of it for me, but I still loved it. I wish it wasn’t the last book.
Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones – Tallulah got given this as an inducement to read in school. She asked me to read it when we were in the car on the way to Wales. We were all hooked by the end of the first chapter, even Jason. We finished it on Friday. It was brilliant. Entertaining, page turning, intense, exciting. It tells the story of a boy who moves from the workhouse to being a circus freak in late Victorian London. His incarceration and long hours alone make him adept at reading people, and after a horrifying murder that takes place at the circus he works at, he is forced to use his detection skills to save his own skin, as he is wrongly accused of the killing. Absolutely gripping, very violent. Brilliant.
Weight by Jeanette Winterson – One of the Canongate myths series, this retells the myth of Atlas and his relationship with Hercules, as imagined through the peculiarly unique view of Jeanette Winterson. Short, complex and poetic. I’ve read it twice now and am not really entirely sure what to make of it.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – I’ve had this book kicking around for about three years. I’ve almost read it countless times. I finally finished it on holiday. I didn’t warm to it overmuch. It is more of a graphic novel than a novel novel, and I found the prose sparse, Americanised, for a book that is supposed to be set in early Twentieth century Paris, and lacking in poetry or magic of any kind. The pictures sort of made up for it, but lost their novelty for me about half way through. This has been made into a film, and I wondered how much of the idea of the film was there before the book was even created, as the whole thing is entirely filmic, and is indeed an adventure story about the birth of film. As a mystery I found it lacking in mystery and all the most mysterious things unexplained.
When Marnie was There by Joan G. Robinson – I was recommended this book a long time ago, I think by my blogging friend Bev. I finally found a copy last week, as the book is being re-released as a movie tie in for the film by Studio Ghibli. This is a haunting exploration of loneliness and loss played out in the supernatural experiences of one small girl, one summer in Norfolk as she wanders the coastline, longing for a friend. She finally finds one, an ethereal creature called Marnie who seems to come and go at will, and like magic. Can Anna’s very real friendship with Marnie, save her from her loneliness, her anger and herself? A rather beautiful read. Very old fashioned and a ghost story with no real sense of fear. It is haunting in the truest of senses, in that it stays with you well after you’ve read it, and you find yourself thinking about it in idle moments. Lovely.