The Library Book

Whether brand new or steeped in history, real or imagined, libraries feature in everyone’s lives.  In memoirs, essays and stories that are funny, moving, visionary or insightful, twenty-three famous writers celebrate these places where minds open and the world expands.

Public libraries are lifelines, to practical information as well as to the imagination, but funding is under threat all over the country.  This book is published in support of libraries, with all royalties going to The Reading Agency’s library programmes.

Fetishes, a (natural) death, streakers, and the occasional ram raid by an old lady on a mobility scooter, libraries can sometimes be dramatic places to work, although in the main, peaceful citadels of book worship.  The Library Book, is a celebration of our best free institution, long may it continue.

As books of this nature usually are, this tome ends up being a mixed bag, my favourite essays were the personal reminiscences of libraries from writers such as, Susan Hill, Stephen Fry, Hardeep Singh Kohli, and Val McDermid, to name a few. Even so, many of these memories take on a similar vein and as such are probably best enjoyed over a lengthier time than the two days in which I flew through this book.

The insights featured are mainly focused on British libraries, which makes it as much of a nostalgia trip, as it is a quirky insight into our national character. There are plenty of interesting facts on offer too, for example, during World War Two, a disused tube station in Bethnal Green was turned into a library during the blitz so people could distract themselves with a good book.  Perhaps surprisingly the readers were most interested in Plato’s Republic, Burton’s the Anatomy of Melancholy, as well as Schopenhauer, Bunyan, and Bertrand Russell. Continue reading “The Library Book”

The Secret World of Polly Flint – Helen Cresswell

As soon as she arrives in Wellow, Polly Flint knows there is magic in the place. And she should know, because she is an unusual girl who can see things others can’t. She seems to be able to call up a village that had disappeared from the face of the earth – and the people who lived in it, as they slip in and out of time.

Helen Cresswell was a staple of my childhood back in the day, this book, and Moondial were both wonderful and their accompanying TV shows were just as compelling.  Not only did Helen Cresswell  create compelling stories but she was a local author, and set this story in the grounds of Rufford Abbey, a place I last went to last Christmas, and had at least three school trips to, as well.

The story is crammed full with so many wonderful ideas, especially for the minds of children. There is a feeling of history, tradition passed down – the inherent idea of magic that lurks behind so much of it – and of the weight of time and our participation in it.

Time plays a huge part in the book, both as a barrier, and a contributor to the sense of dislocation felt throughout, but also to the passing of days and the rhythm of the seasons. It seems as important for Polly to understand what isn’t there and exists, as it is to interpret what is present and can be seen. Continue reading “The Secret World of Polly Flint – Helen Cresswell”

WIN SCAMPERS!

Yet another (quality) reblog as time escapes me yet again for the second time this week. This time I share with you a chance to win a book so get involved over at Mike’s site.

Hey, Look! A Writer Fellow!

It’s time to win a signed, hardcover copy my new picture book: Scampers Thinks Like A Scientist!

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist is the book that received a five-star review from Foreward Reviews. It’s the book that nabbed a glowing notice from the difficult-to-please Kirkus. And it’s the book that stars the cutest mouse in the history of ever.

Oh. My. God. Just look at that widdle face!

So let’s get started!

How To Enter

To enter the Scampers drawing, all you need to do is leave a comment below that answers this question:

Which fictional character would you most want to have as a next-door neighbor?

That’s it! Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the random drawing for Scampers!

But Wait!

Do you already have a copy of Scampers? That’s great! Thank you!

Enter the contest anyway.

After all, if you win, you can…

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Patching the Clues Together

The power of community once again comes through!  Yesterday I shared my experiences with  a book memory I had – or thought I had – and the subsequent adventures in tracking the possibly mythical book down.

Having thought the story too obscure to be well-remembered, or at least the clues given, too little to go on, it was surprising when, less than a day later this suggestion came through the comments.

It’s a massive thank you to Liz who found this book, primarily based on the mentioning of a scary tunnel.  After watched a reading of the book (below) on YouTube, It’s more than likely that this is indeed the one I have been seeking.

Although it doesn’t tally up exactly with what I remember, the memory is undoubtedly embellished after all the other books since read.  Not only that but the chances of two tunnels in two patchwork quilts isn’t going to be statistically high. Continue reading “Patching the Clues Together”

Book Memory…or imagined?

A comment from Victoria – on recent post A Pound of Paperabout a book she was trying to remember the title of, got me thinking about my own quest for a book from yesteryear that remains an enigma.

Back when I was in school, I vividly remember reading a book about a patchwork quilt. The details still stored in my brain are thus:

A child is fascinated with a quilt and each square patch provides a mini adventure for the narrator.  I believe the adventures were completely in the mind of the child, as opposed to actually being trapped in the quilt.

One section fascinated me above all, a tunnel was the particular patchwork picture this time, and the child is walking through it.  It’s dark and footsteps echo loudly, they sound like someone following, paranoia strikes and some running towards the light at the end of the tunnels follows ensues.

As I remembered those specifics as well as I did, it must still be worth a reread just for that specific section, and so at every opportunity I trawl lots of charity shops, market stalls, libraries, and of course bookshops on a quest to enjoy my bit of nostalgia. Continue reading “Book Memory…or imagined?”

South of the South Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

Thorgil is an adventurer, a young boy whose heart is out at sea. When his father tells him of his plan to set sail to return to Norway, Thorgil is determined to follow his dreams. This is a story about adventure and never returning home.Schoolboy Thomas loves his geography teacher – with tales of the Bounty Ship and inspiring paintings by Gauguin, his imagination is set free and he gets curious. However, one day in class, the teacher is taken away from school and Thomas is curious to find out where he is.Jorgen is a bright boy but due to financial difficulties, can’t get the education he wants. The fisherman life it is for him and later settles down with a family. One day the winds cause havoc in the sky and change things for him; this is a tale of loss and greed. The finale in the short stories brings to you the tale of Toby, the cheeky dog, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face…

I really tried to make this book last, honest!  Having adored the other three Wind books, and greedily devoured them, this one should have been one to savour. One sitting later and I was once again closing a book utterly enchanted with the stories, and also a little sad that I couldn’t experience them again for the first time.

The initial story, Grapes of Love was, I futilely promised myself, the one story I would limit myself to that day. It tells of the many types of passing; of ideas, and of time, passing into maturity, and of the people whom we meet through life. The mysteries of the heart and the world are explored and all of this is wrapped up in a good dollop of Norse history, which always conjures up dramatic imagery.

Continue to read and think

After that story the ‘just one more, and then I will leave the others’ excuse came into play.  Windward was my absolute favourite tale of the book. It’s another delve into history but is this time much more international.  The reader gets to explore not only the globe but also the themes of escape, freedom and consequences, and how choice – or lack of it – can have major repercussions on life. Continue reading “South of the South Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen”

My Mail Privilege

After a long, long wait thanks to shenanigans at the local Post Office, I finally have my hands on two new books, kindly sent by authors from England and The United States, respectively. If there is anything to get me back to blogging again, then these packages will certainly be the catalyst.

First off, South of the South Wind is a children’s book that I am very excited to read. Long time readers will know that I have been enchanted with the other books in the series and so this one is, for me a must read. At first glance the book has changed publisher and therefore style, it also smells really good. In the back, there are reviews for some of Nils-Johan’s other books and an excerpt of my review for West of the West Wind is in there, much to my excitement. This has shamelessly been shown off to anybody who came to our house in the last week.

Ocean Echoes came, most probably, the other way around the globe, making me the filling in a book sandwich. Fellow blogger Sheila Hurst sent this and I am now officially the furthest place her book has been sent to, beating both Serbia and the Maldives. The book smells differently, but equally good and the back cover tells the reader that: a percentage from the sale of this book will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect the world’s oceans for future generations. Once again showing how books can and do make a difference, and how independent authors seek to not only tell a good story (and make a bit of money), but also do their part in highlighting and helping with wider issues.

Stop Politicising My Dumplings!

It’s Monday and catching up on the YouTube I follow after a few day’s absence was predictably depressing.  There was a ‘woke’ BBC sketch (this is the BBC that has admitted it would never commission something like Monty Python these days) that has been doing the rounds recently which was mildly amusing – at best – but (and although I don’t always agree with him) this Jonathan Pie tirade really gets the message across in a much more forceful way.

It’s a much-needed rant and I believe he speaks for many sane people on the subject, just with more expletives.  We only get one life, we should concentrate on saving the culture as well as the physical planet.  It would be great to hold all these virtue signallers to account and mock them mercilessly – as nobody has the right not to be offended – but if you notice, more and more websites are disabling or deleting comments that echo Mr Pie’s…funny that.

The Singularity Wheel – Michael S. Fedison

A quick mention to avoid the blurb if you haven’t read the first book The Eye-Dancers, it is best to start there, if you carry on you may pick up minor spoilers that could potentially ruin the full enjoyment of your reading experience.

Five years ago, Monica Tisdale, the “ghost girl,” invaded their dreams and led them through the void. Now she is back, more desperate and more powerful than ever.

For Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski, the intervening five years have seen them advance to the cusp of their senior year in high school. They have girlfriend troubles, job stresses, future careers to consider. They don’t have the time, or the inclination, to be whisked away to Monica’s world again.

But when Monica calls on them to leap into the abyss and bridge the gap between dimensions, she will not take no for an answer. She has tapped into the deepest pools of her mysterious powers, leading to consequences as unforeseen as they are disastrous. For Monica, the multiverse, the concept of a limitless number of parallel selves and parallel worlds, has become all too real. And all too terrifying.

Through it all, she knows that Mitchell and his friends are the only ones who can save her.

If she doesn’t kill them first.

This cover is one of the most eye-catching of the year, that I have come across to date. Everything from the font, to the space spade symbol is really classy, not that a book should be judged by its cover.  It’s been all change in the intervening five years since the children returned home, and having grown into teenagers with all the associated problems, this new story takes on a more mature aspect.  As you would expect with more grown up protagonists, the peril stakes have also risen, which is always a good thing.

After a few chapters, reminding us of the characters and bringing them up to date with their lives, the story really gets going.  This time around there is less detail focussing on the world which is to be expected to avoid repetition, although the reader still feels that nostalgic, comfortable connection. I do like those little details, and exploring the town of Colbyville was one of the highlights of The Eye-Dancers, for me. Continue reading “The Singularity Wheel – Michael S. Fedison”

Moondial – Helen Cresswell

Minty has heard stories of strange happenings in the big house across the road from her Aunt’s cottage.  And when she walks through the gates, the lodge-keeper knows it is Minty who holds the key to the mysteries.  She only has to discover the secret power of the moondial, and she will be ready to carry out the dangerous mission that awaits her…

As a child I must have watched the television show half a dozen times so having been given the book by my parents a couple of Christmases ago, I have made sure to hold onto it.  Having read through the story twice so far and thoroughly loving it both times, it surely deserves more attention, especially for the younger generations.

The Nostalgia factor aside, the book itself holds up remarkably well.  It’s a beautifully told story, full of haunting set pieces (one of which was quite sinister and sent a bit of a shiver up my spine, which is a rare thing to happen), and it positively oozes charm and a sense of adventure and discovery.

Things gets going quickly and thickly layers on a sense of the secrets waiting to be discovered.  The prologue starts off this trend by setting up the reader with that feeling of solitariness and an encouragement to visualise the described surroundings.  Once involved with the imagining, the vulnerability and aloneness of the night are very effective in the scene setting. It’s a simple step to immerse one’s self in the atmosphere of the book after that.

This is a great read for all ages, a wonderful story of place and time, of ages, and the feel of history set in physical stone, and how that is an echo both forwards and backwards in time to our age.  The contemplation and interpretation of ornamental garden decorations has never been so interesting and has surely inspired the imagination of many a writer.  The part it plays within the story is both puzzling and charming.  Without giving any spoilers out ,the story itself manages to take in several strands both of present and past, and weave them in such a way as to give them equal time although the pressing story of the present isn’t as interesting. Continue reading “Moondial – Helen Cresswell”

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