Friday, 30 December 2016

Mrs Mac Suggests - what to read in JANUARY

It's cold, you might even have snow.  So from my shelves I pulled a book with a deckchair, a seagull, and one of those telescopes that you put money in for a view on the cover.  Sort of Summery in fact.  My suggestion for you is therefore:

 a book with a seaside kind of cover

The book I mention is actually Not Forgetting The Whale by John Ironmonger which may be a little dystopian too.

Have a good time reading through 2017!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Bucket - Allan Ahlberg

Now, sliding along to the turn of the year, I want to wish you Good Health and Happiness in 2017.

And to finish 2016 I bring you a little book which is full of joy, memories, laughter and tears.  The title is a nothing -The Bucket - but that bucket is full of all sorts!  This is less than a memoir, in fact it's sub-title is "memories of an inattentive childhood".   Exactly right.  At junior school he was a dreamer, inattentive as far as teachers were concerned, but obviously whilst not attending to them, he was already starting his writing career!   Ahlberg is a children's book author, most of them illustrated by his wife Janet Ahlberg, and much loved by many parents and children.  I didn't have them read to me (and in any case, as he is a similar age to me he wasn't writing when I was a small child) and in any case I am glad I found this book now.

Full of little memories of his childhood, short and long verses, embellished a little here and there, I defy anyone not to smile from time to time whilst reading this.  Some of the verse is taken from his books already published, some stories he tells you will have come from his children's books (and he marks them so that you know the source) but don;t let that bother you.  We obviously lived parallel lives because so many of his memories are carbon copies of mine - fear of the bacon slicer ..visiting cemeteries ......making slides after snow has fallen.  And about three quarters of the way through is a description in rhyme of playing football

" nets, no posts, no lines alas
                   the only thing it had was grass"

Get the timbre right, read it out loud.  You may want to take up football afterwards.


I read the hardback.  It is an ideal gift size.  I see from Amazon reviews that this is not a good book to read on a kindle or similar - I think odd line illustrations and the verses don't do well on a machine.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Testament of Mary - Colm Toibin

This author cannot put a foot wrong word wise for me.  Subject matter?  not always want you might like, but the words, the words......

This unchaptered novella, just broken up from time to time with an asterisk to denote a break was a strange, odd, cruel telling of Mary's view of her son; his miracles, his death and after.  For her he was just her lovely son.  That is until he left home and fell in with a crowd of men who wanted more.  He became someone else.  Stories drifted back to her about the lame walking and the dead rising, and at the wedding in Cana, the water into wine miracle is seen as something else altogether by her.

By the time the book was ended, I admired Mary greatly, disliked the disciples intensely, understood the point of view of Pontius Pilot, and thought about other teachers/leaders who got people to hang on their every word.  Chilling, brilliant.

Some readers have loved this book, others hated it because it was not as The Bible described..... but then the gospels were written some years after the death of the big man, and were very possibly embellished to instill wonder into those words.  If you think that blasphemy is a great sin, this may not be the read for you.  But as a different point of view it should be read.  And again, it's the words, the words.....

Monday, 19 December 2016

Cogheart - Peter Bunzl

Steampunk for kids .... and what a wonderful world Peter Bunzl lets us into.  Lily, a girl at a dreadful boarding school in the aftermath of her mother's death, is unhappy and it shows.  She's naughty and nearly uncontrollable.  When her guardian comes to the school to take her home, she is delighted, until she is told that her father is missing, presumed dead, and that everything must change.  For a couple of secret policemen are after something that her father made and is now missing.
Lily's father is a mechanical maker, the steampunk version of robots.... He's made Lily a lovely fox friend, Malkin, a mechanimal,  who at the beginning of the story has been injured and is taken to a clockmaker for repairs.  His character is rather foxy - short sharp sentences like barks, and a no nonsense approach to life.  All the mechanicals that Lily knows are kind supportive and have specific jobs, and characters that go with the jobs. Lily is a strong character, her new friend Robert the clockmaker's son, not quite so strong  - always worried that he cannot do things as well as his father, and also - afraid of heights.
 And just what is it that the secret policemen are after?  Something small.  Something very important. 
Bunzl's first novel is a good one.  He has a lovely writing style that will appeal to readers around 8-12 years.... although I am somewhat older and loved it.  He includes a short glossary at the back of works that those readers may never have come across - what a lovely idea in the age of "just Google it!"  There is a second book to follow next  year with the same characters.  I will be looking out for that one.  All in all, a great read, just right for the Christmas stocking, and with a gorgeous cover.

From me to you at a Seasonal time of the Year......

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Reading, buying, wanting, giving Children's books......

The link will take you to a blog where only children can contribute.  The blog is owned by a boy, the reviews are all posted by children.  Some good reviewers there too!  So if you are a child you can read and post - and if you are older you can read and discover.

This is a brilliant way to find books you have not read - how ever old you are; and if you buy books for your children, grandchildren, neices, nephews,  friends or yourself.... be my guest, and visit.

PS. the parent knows I am posting about this site.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Loving Husband - Cristobel Kent

Nicely tangled thriller here for fans of the genre - and very much better than many of them.
Fran is married to Nathan. Nathan "works in the building trade". Nathan has an office. Nathan is often off around the country on new projects. Nathan and Fran have two children, and Nathan is not very keen on sex. Two small children keep Fran busy, and in an old, grubby house, somewhere on the Fens it's hard to think much about the life she used to lead in London before Nathan persuaded her that a move to the country would suit them all.

But right at the beginning of the book we can see very quickly that things are not going to plan. Fran wakes in bed, just after midnight, and finds the other side of the bed empty and cold. She remembers him coming to bed, so what's the game then? A dreadful game, that's what, for within two pages we know he is dead, she has found him in a ditch outisde. Two male police detectives are convinced she did it, and the Family Liaison Officer thinks that she didn't. Fran herself begins to wonder if all she knew about her husband was right, and true. She has no proof either way, but from his past, lots of other people gradually enable her to form a picture of what he might have been - although Christobel Kent will keep you waiting until the last chapter to solve this excellent thriller.

Nicely woven, you are never sure how guilty anyone might be. There are plenty of times when you might say aah, of course, only to find a few chapters on that it was not the case at all. A good thriller has to have a believable story, but most of all a very believable end and this book has that. Set in a rural area where nothing much happens, with a couple of policemen who have their own axe to grind, and a woman who thought she knew what was was, I hope this will keep you turning the pages as it did for me. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Podkin One-Ear - Keiran Larwood

It's December and the time of year when we think about presents (or not!);  how much we should spend and what we should buy.  Well, you know me, I'm a booky person and I want all my friends to be too) although sadly they are not!  But here's a new one that might be just the thing for a booky child - say a good reader of seven years onwards up to ten or so depending on what they like. It's also a great book to read aloud.    

Podkin, who at the beginning of the book still has both ears, is the son of a chieftain.  Not a human but a rabbit, living in a large warren in a pleasant place, leading a fun life, mitching off lessons, eating too much and generally enjoying a life like any eight year old rabbit would.  Until one day the unspeakable happens.  Raider rabbits arrive at the warren and force themselves in.  Podkin's father is killed, an aunt helps Podkin and his siblings to safety, but does not leave herself.  They are running, running, running, away from the Gorm, the most terrible of rabbit enemies.

It isn't Watership Down, it's not The Lord of the Rings either, but it is closer to the latter in it's tale of bravery, seeking that which is lost, and fighting the enemy.  In their flight, they are helped by a witch and a blind soldier - and Podkin, his sister Paz and the baby Pook are soon living a life so far removed from their old one in the home warren that it might have been a dream.  There is violence and scary stuff in this book - just the sort that children like!  Just wait till you see what havoc Podkin can wreak with his very special bronze knife which is one of the twelve articles that the Gorm want to find and destroy.  Some nice black and white pencil drawing illustrations too, which were very close to my imaginings.

Just right for a stocking!

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

I was attracted to this novel purely by the cover (as I suppose this is meant to happen!) and it has very little about the contents on the b...