Thursday, 28 February 2008

I went to London and all I got was...

...champagne and lovely lunch and boooooooooooooooooks! Oh, glee. It's not in the shops till April, so until then you'll just have to make do with a rubbish cameraphone picture which in no way conveys the sheer SHININESS of the beautiful wee thing. And the inside looks even more pretty. I love it to bits, I do.

I might be convinced to part with one or two - mainly to stop me from spending the next six weeks in a giddy stupor, unable to stop just gazing lovingly at its shiny woo-some self. You'll have to be very persuasive, though. I am open to all forms of bribery involving either tea or cake. Let the bidding commence!

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine (YA 12+, contemporary fiction). I loved her debut last year, Finding Violet Park, and we're in similar territory here, with another teenage hero struggling with the responsibility of taking on an adult role within a family. FVP's Lucas was trying to become his missing father while searching for him: Broken Soup's Rowan has to play parent to both her little sister and her ailing Mum, in the absence of her dynamic big brother. There's romance too, and a puzzle to solve - but unlike her first book, precious few laughs. Yet however much I found myself missing Lucas's sly little asides, there's really no place for them in this heartbreaking story. Any reservations I had about the meandering plot and the slow place were crushed by the latter half of the novel, in which difficult subject matter and a slightly creaky plot twist are handled with such skill that there is not one false emotional note. Not fun, exactly, but absolutely worth the work. (Contrast Anne Kelley's The Bower Bird, winner of the 2007 Children's Costa and the last in my trio of 'books about kids at death's door', which I will be kind enough not to pass comment on. If you can't say anything nice...)

Writing? I have no time for writing! I am too busy meeting sales reps and being taken out for lunch by my editor!

Compulsively listening to the Moldy Peaches and Kimya Dawson (baa baa, yes, I know); being in Wales; ice-skating (which apparently is a Thing I Can Do now: how odd); becoming strangely obsessed with Masterchef (though if Emily doesn't win, this will lead to sulking).

Monday, 11 February 2008

Blue is the colour

Hurrah! According to the Grauniad, the blue Smartie is set to make a comeback. The blue smartie is undeniably king, just as the brown M&M is a shoddy waste of time. The blue smartie might be hiding unknown Wonkaesque strangenesses beneath its shiny suit. The brown M&M will never contain anything but chocolate.

Which reminds me: why oh why did they discontinue these? It's a surprise, and some chocolate, and a really pathetic model of a crocodile on a lilo. Oh, hang on, that was Kinder eggs. Same weird mixture of different types of chocolate, though. M&S have stopped doing their layered thing with dark, white and milk all at once, I see. Am I the only one that likes these things?

Finally finished The Joshua Files: Invisible City by MG Harris (10+, contemporary adventure): thank god I managed to have the last 100 pages to myself without distractions, as I would have throttled anyone who interrupted. I will admit here and now the author is a mate (you'll find a link to her blog over on the right), but sod bias: this truly is the real thing, a brilliant modern thriller-with-a-brain which starts strongly and then absolutely soars. Josh Garcia's life turns upside down when his archaeologist father mysteriously dies in Mexico, sending him in pursuit of the fabled Ix Codex, a mythical Mayan text which it is death to touch. All the classic ingredients are here: a coded letter, torn in half, containing a prophecy; a sinister organisation in pursuit; stakes that get raised from the mundane (proving his father wasn't unfaithful to his mum) to the epic (potentially saving the world). But alongside the Bondesque car chases and exotic locations, there's genuine heart. Josh is challenged not only by the usual gun-waving types but also by heartbreaking personal loss, and the sensitive way his emotional state is handled - without ever detracting from the pace - is what makes this such a memorable rollercoaster to ride.

It's the first in a series, and if it isn't hugely successful the world has gone quite, quite wonky: climb aboard now to reserve your smug expression for when it goes global. And if you can't remember the title when you're in the bookshop, it's that incredible neon orange glowing book you can see from 30 feet away...

Half high-speed sledging down a hill going 'wheee!', half sitting in an igloo all alone. Big Woo went to print on Friday (except that it didn't, but hopefully will today), there's a bound proof of the US edition on its way across the Atlantic, exciting things are popping up in the trade press: all quite skippiness-inducing, if distracting. But Biscuits & Lies is limping along (mostly notes and ideas and new bits of plot still, though there are actual whole paragraphs that might one day see print now). And my igloo has a kettle.

Cloverfield (brilliant, clever, go and see it), Juno (brillianter, cleverer, go and see it even quicker-er), epic curry (homemade pakoras, korma with real coconut, eleventy-vegetable balti: was more impressive before I fed it to someone allergic to anything spicy, oops), making a Mii for the Wii that looks like Justin Lee Collins, failing to not read ONTD, squeaking with delight at the rugby, going out for coffee a lot, writing this during official 'work' hours, thinking a bit too much about chocolate (see above).