A slow burner of a novel which surprises and intrigues.
Libby is unsure
and anxious as the world melts
and a cousin charms.
Good Night To Read Review
Marketed as a dystopian thriller this book actually defies genres. It’s more of a psychological study, travelogue and coming of age story with thought provoking observations about climate change. Barr’s characterisation is strong perfectly capturing Libby’s social awkwardness, chronic shyness and pangs of first love juxtaposed with her mysterious cousin’s bolshiness and legerdemain. Only when acting the part of someone else does Libby feel alive.
The novel poses the question what would you do if the end of the world was nigh? Would you travel to places you’d never been before? Would you have endless parties? Would you tell your crush you loved them? Would you connect with lost family? As global warming spirals out of control and the atmosphere slowly chokes, Libby has some difficult decisions to make.
The reader armchair travels with her to Madrid and Paris as she starts to come out of her shell, discovers street magic and opens her eyes to the world and culture around her. But the threads of dark secrets are about to unravel. Is Libby’s enigmatic cousin a true psychic? What is Libby’s mother hiding from her? Who is her real friend? There are lots of clues to uncover as the story meanders through rich locations full of sights and sounds. Art appreciation, intriguing trickery and inner drama coming to life are at the core of ‘Things To Do Before the End of the World’ which is ultimately a story about believing in oneself and not letting others manipulate who you are.
Open its pages and go on a journey of discovery through cityscapes and diverse relationships.
BookChocoholic Rating- 3.5 Chocolate Libraries
Thank you to the fantastic @emily_barr @Write_Reads @WriteReadsTours @penguinplatform #UltimateBlogTour for including Good Night To Read on the ‘Things To Do Before the End of the World’ Blog Tour. Big shout out and massive thanks to #NetGalley for making an ARC available. I am delighted to have been able to read this book in advance of its release.
Confusion reigns as romantic attachments cause nervous bewilderment where drama plays on and off stage. Two best friends who are part of a diverse ensemble cast are discombobulated by a communal crush.
You know how people freeze-frame into your brain, almost like your mental contact photo? That’s ? in my head.”
Kate waits so awkward
in the wings for her leading
man but who is he?
Friendship, flirtation and fun
abound but all is not sound.
As scenes unravel
the show must go on
before curtain falls.
GENRE: YA Romance- LGBTQ+
Author: Albertalli, Becky
Title: Kate in Waiting
Publisher: Penguin Books
Date Published: 22 April 2021
From bestselling YA rom-com queen Becky Albertalli (author of Love, Simon) comes a new novel about daring to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight in love, life and theatre. [PRINCIPAL CAST LIST] Kate Garfield Anderson Walker
Best friends, and contrary to popular belief, not co-dependent. Examples:
Carpooling to and from theatre rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.
But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off-script.
Enter Stage Left: Matt Olsson
He is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.
Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship…
ALL ABOUT BECKY
FIVE FUN FACTS
Born and raised in the Atlanta, GA suburbs.
2. Actually did fail sex ed in sixth grade (the diagrams were slightly overwhelming).
3. Wrote and directed a tragic play at age twelve with a plot that borrowed heavily from a Lurlene McDaniel novel.
4. Studied abroad at St. Andrews in Scotland, which had nothing to do with Prince William being there at the time. Nothing at all.
5. Moved to Washington, D.C. after college and eventually earned a doctorate in clinical psychology.
HOT OFF THE PRESS- TESTIMONIALS for ‘Kate in Waiting’
“Albertalli has crafted a rom-com that’s not only sharp and funny, but distinguished by its casually diverse LGBTQ cast’s awareness that friendship (among friends, to be sure, but also siblings, and gasp, romantic interests) is as important as love.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Real chemistry between the different love interests in the book, authentic dialogue, supportive friendships, and Albertalli’s signature humor make this a must-read. Flips the script on battling over a boy in the best way possible.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Reminiscent of Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, Albertalli crafts a story that offers an honest and realistic look at high school relationships—romantic and platonic. Recommended for all collections.” – School Library Journal
“While theater fans will especially identify with the story, recognizing their passion in Kate’s own, the solid friendship and romance at its core will appeal to a broader audience.” – Horn Book Magazine
WHAT THE BLOGGERS SAY @The_WriteReads Ultimate Blog Tour #PenguinPlatform #KateinWaiting #NetGalley
What would you do when you hear the news that humans have done such damage to the earth that there might only be a limited amount of safe air left – a year’s worth at most? You’d work through your bucket list, heal rifts, do everything you’ve never been brave enough to do before?
Olivia is struggling to do any of this. What it is she truly wants to do? Who do she wants to be?
Then out of the blue comes contact from a long-lost cousin Olivia didn’t even know existed. Natasha is everything Olivia wants to be and more. And as the girls meet up for a long, hot last summer, Olivia finds Natasha’s ease and self-confidence having an effect on her.
But Natasha definitely isn’t everything she first appears to be . . .
One minute you’re walking in the park, hiding from a party. Then you discover that the next nine months will probably be your last. Everyone’s last. You realise that you happen to be alive at the time when your species becomes extinct.
You have to decide whether to go with it meekly like you usually do, or to do something brave, to live your last months with all the energy and bravery you can muster, to rage against the dying of the light.”
About the Author
Emily Barr’s YA Novels
Love letters to travel
Good Night To Read Review- In May- Watch this Space.
A thriller set in the solitary stillness of Idaho that chills and intrigues from the start. Hauntingly poignant and evocative with a real sense of place.
Ava and Jack run
towards an uncertain future
haunted by secrets.
Good Night To Read Review
Cory Anderson’s YA debut novel is a chillingly atmospheric thriller which grips from the start. Interwoven with the intertextuality of London’s ‘White Fang’, it is an intense and poetic love story of longing caught between the fangs of despair. It will rip your heart out,
“He’ll make you hurt. He’ll take away what matters most. He’ll do it with a smile then smoke a cigarette”
while intoxicating you with a sense of hope,
He wanted to help those boys. He wanted to stop what was coming. Surely he could.”
Set against the backdrop of the bleak beauty of an unforgiving landscape, it is reminiscent of Woodrell’s ‘Winter’s Bone’ in its depiction of poverty, subsistence living, the struggle of families to survive and a pervasive underworld of drug running. The protagonists have impossible choices and take risky chances as they face their problems with fortitude and tenacity.
Ava and Jack are drawn to each other even though they know in their hearts that its dangerous. Ava has experienced suffering that has sealed her heart and made her afraid to love. Following a tragedy, teen Jack vows to protect his younger brother Matty at all costs but that involves chasing illegal money squirreled away by his criminal dad. The only clue is “Eat or be Eaten”. Ava is compelled to protect them but is at the mercy of her coldly calculating, controlling and relentless father Bardem who also has an interest. Anderson’s short, evocative sentences build up the tension as the reader experiences agonising suspense. Pathetic fallacy shimmers through the book as Ava and Jack are stalked by painful memories and desperate to change the future while they battle through barren wilderness towards their ultimate goal.
Anderson’s vivid prose enhances her strong characterisation. She encapsulates a character’s spirit as in her chilling depiction of Jack’s uncle,
“…like looking at something clawed and yellow eyed at too close a distance.”
The reader is transported to the Rocky Mountains where hungry men are driven by raw savagery and family loyalty is at stake.
Each chapter is prefaced with Ava’s recollections followed by Jack’s story in the third person. Anderson also plays with perceptions by manipulating the Chapter numbers which go forward and then backward stopping at the infinity symbol. Her authorial voice cautions through Ava,
It is all chaos, reader. The whens and whys and hows. The sooner you learn this, the better.”
‘What Beauty There Is’ is a book that you cannot forget after you have reached the end. It is emotive and evocative to its last breath.
BookChocoholic Rating- 5 Chocolate Libraries
A big thank you to the fantastic @Write_Reads @WriteReadsTours @PenguinPlatform @CoryAnderWrites #UltimateBlogTour for including Good Night To Read on the ‘What Beauty There Is’ Blog Tour.
TAGLINE- ‘When Everything you Love is in Danger. How Long Can You Keep Running to Survive?’
Visit her website for more information-
Five Facts AboutCory Anderson
Grew up in Idaho
Winner of the League of Utah Writers Young Adult Novel Award
Celebrates landscape of Idaho in her writing.
Counts the wilderness classic ‘White Fang’ by Jack London among her favourite reads. Also inspired by authors Cormac McCarthy, Laurie Halse Anderson, Madeleine L’Engle, Markus Zusak, Patrick Ness, and Elizabeth Acevedo.
Lives in the Wasatch Mountains
WHAT INSPIRED HER DEBUT NOVEL?
This place is real. I know where I’m from, and more importantly I understand it. I wanted to examine the harsh realities of rural life and the social ills that follow while avoiding simplistic stereotypes or cliches.”
Is opioid use commonly battled in small towns? Unfortunately, yes. When people are forced into poverty, will they go to extreme measures to survive? Absolutely. Do hurt people sometimes enact or repeat the hurts they’ve suffered? The answer again, I’m afraid, is yes. In Idaho and, I imagine many places like it, this is the reality.”
I admire Idaho people. They’re fierce so the storytelling has to be the same: stark, vivid and powerful.”
Cory on her inspiration for ‘What Beauty There Is’
Shines a spotlight on the hidden history of Tacky’s War against British slavers in Jamaica, 1760. Momentous and evocative tale of degrading slavery and a powerful cry for freedom. Visceral and gripping. Reminiscent of ‘Twelve Years A Slave.’
‘Alex Wheatle writes from a place of honesty and passion with the full knowledge and understanding that change can only happen through words and actions’ – Steve McQueen
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd ISBN: 9781783449873 Number of pages: 192
That morning, with the dawn hanging wet and pale over the levees, Scarlett McCain woke up beside four dead men.”
This book is wonderful and I’ve only read Part 1 so far. Imagine the Wild West transported to a post apocalyptic Britain. Vivid prose and engaging characters. Once you meet Scarlett you’ll never forget her. Electric. A must read for 2021.
Publication date- Coming soon- 1st April 2021
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd ISBN: 9781406394818 Number of pages: 400
I have had the honour of being a Carnegie Greenaway judge from 2016-2017. As a result I have had the pleasure of becoming lost in countless of wonderful books with stimulating plots, exciting characters, amazing imagery and lyrical prose across a range of genres. The Carnegie Medal celebrated its 80th year in 2017 and I was thrilled to be at the ceremony.
Here is an acrostic about my judging experience:
Note taking Engage
I’m looking forward to the release of the #CKG2021 Long List tomorrow. A big shout out to the wonderful panel of hard working judges and CKG committee who have delivered an engaging online platform in these surreal times. An absolute must for librarians and schools wishing to promote a world of diverse book choice to young people. You can discover the list of nominations and watch the big reveal on Thursday the 18th of February of a quality Long List. The Short List will be revealed on the 18th of March.
Check out @CILIPCKG on Twitter, ckg awards on Instagram and these weblinks below for more information.
Recommending an Adult novel, a Middle Grade read and a YA novel each month.
For the month of February I’m recommending a dazzling historical tale that shines the spotlight on hidden wrongs, a fun mystery set on a train and a story of love radiating through time.
Adult Novel– The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes
painfully revealed through a
torn piece of the past
When Inara finds a torn silk sleeve in a house she’s renovating she discovers a terrible secret that links generations. This is a beautifully poignant read shining a spotlight on the hidden history of Orcas Island in Washington State. Wonderfully observed characterisation and a layered plot in an evocative setting. Told with real sensitivity.
MG Novel–The Highland Falcon Thief by M.G Leonard & Sam Sedgman
Jewels vanish on
board a classic train full
of wealthy suspects.
This engaging mystery is the first book in an entertaining series called Adventures on Trains. Following the escapades of Hal, who gets invited on a special journey by his uncle, it is full of action and energy. As Hal investigates a heist and uncovers the secrets of the Highland Falcon, many surprises are in store. Readers will enjoy spotting the clues along the way and there is an amusing twist. #MG
YA Novel- Tape by Steven Camden
emotional look at love,
memories and time.
A talented, thoughtful, sensitive debut about the mysteries of the human heart, the pain of bereavement, serendipity, music and the power of a mixed tape. This book is a rarity as it’s a joy to read, hard to forget after you close it and an instant recommendation for someone else.
Big hearted Alex is determined to take on the establishment in the name of Feminism.
Laughs and lessons with
outrageous Alex who likes
to shock but counsels.
Good Night To Read Review
Alex Heck is on a mission. She wants to be expelled from her traditional boarding school so the more outrageous her behaviour the better. She decides that the ultimate affront to Catholic establishmentarianism is staging a play that puts Feminist issues out front, loudly and proudly urging women to reclaim their bodies. What else could it be but Eve Ensler’s seminal work ‘The V—– Monologues’. The trouble is no-one wants to mention the word except Alex who flouts authority and emblazons it across the school community’s consciousness.
Use the V word at every possible opportunity
Employ shock tactics
Search for school approval
Assemble cast from St Mary’s Feminist Club [which only has six members who aren’t sure it’s such a good idea] and whose club room is in the bowels of the basement
Collect signatures on Club Fair Day for a petition
Attempt a casting
Put on a rehearsal
Defy various authority figures
Burn her bra
Much to Alex’s frustration, while she embarks on this chaotically shambolic adhoc approach, she has to contend with ‘do-gooder’ Katie Casey who just wants everyone to join her ‘Save Your Heart’ Club and has the temerity to use cupcakes as bribery. Alex laments, ‘Where is the freedom, sex positivity and Feminism?’ as she battles to be heard above the clamour of Varsity Hockey, Mansplaining and heckling. And why does Pat seem to be everywhere she goes? She can’t let him distract her from her goals. She’s got enough on her plate with acting as Den Mother to confused teens who come to her for advice because they know she cares.
Meanwhile her friend Mary Kate, who looks like she just wandered off ‘The Little House on the Prarie’ set, is on a crusade of her own. She will walk around the lake with a boyfriend before the snow falls or perish in the attempt. Who will make the grade? Will it be Jesus Sandals or Theology John? Cue extreme hilarity.
Meaney invites us to follow the girls over the course of a term from August to December as they aim to make their dreams come true. Ribald, riotous and rambunctious with real heart, it’s like ‘Derry Girls’ in a Minnesota setting. Imagine Michelle Mallon with a purple faux hawk dangling from a 2nd floor window. Meaney’s gloriously descriptive passages will have the reader in hysterics as Alex thumbs her nose at the establishment while Mary Kate watches on in horror and Katie blithely acts like a ray of sunshine. But deep down what do the girls really want?
‘Bad Habits’ highlights that people should not be judged on first appearances. Meaney’s characters are well observed and her prose is savvy and humorous. With frank advice about safe sex, discussion of gender stereotypes and a real sense of camaraderie this is a must read for everyone who is feisty and fierce, is a fan of Anne Shirley, has the anarchic urge to give a rebel yell or who would just like to burst into paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter.
BookChocoholic Rating- 4 Chocolate Libraries
Laughter Level- 😂😂😂🤣
Thank you to the wonderful @Write_Reads @WriteReadsTours@PenguinPlatform #FlynnMeaney #UltimateBlogTour for including Good Night To Read on ‘Bad Habits’ Blog Tour. Big shout out and massive thanks to #NetGalley.
Studied Marketing & French at the University of Notre Dame & has an MFA in Poetry.
Inspired to be a YA writer by her high school friends and their humorous conversations.
Celebrates teen identity in her writing.
Enjoys bagels and croissants depending on whether she’s in New York or Paris.
When you’re writing you have to get close to your subject and see the weird and unexpected ‘colours’ in there. Even a character who’s supposed to be incredibly sexy should have flaws. Even a tragic scene should have those weird moments of humour or joy.”- Flynn on writing.
If you are a teacher or librarian planning a book club for your students during lockdown, here are some exciting reading recommendations to share.
A Trio of Magical Mayhem
Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
If you’re in search of magic, the Nevermoor series is wonderfully fantastical, exciting, imaginative and adventurous. Discover the world of the indomitable and wondrous Morrigan Crow. Real page turners.
Pages & Co by Anna James
Matilda Pages has a gift. She can travel inside stories. This series is a wonderful celebration of libraries, tasty bookish treats and the magic of reading. If you could jump inside a favourite book which one would you choose? Which characters would you like to meet? From Anne to Alice to Sarah readers can discover classic books and marvel at the imaginative scenes.
Spellbinding Sisters- Widdershins series by Michelle Harrison- Pinch of Magic, Sprinkle of Sorcery, Tangle of Spells
This enchanting series revolves around three sisters who must embark on perilous quests and need to rely on a pinch of magic to help them through their trials. Evocative setting. Vivid characters.
When you pick up a book you never know what you are going to experience till you have read it. It could be creamy dreamy (like milk chocolate), sweet (like an orange or strawberry crème), bitter (like dark chocolate), have complex layers of flavouring (like salted caramel or rosemary), be a little nutty (like hazelnut) or quite spicy offering lots of adventure and excitement (like Chilli) or maybe just intensely delicious in terms of beautiful, lyrical language (like honey).
The genre I’ve selected for the month of February is drama in the format of graphic novels- specifically twists on adaptations.
Findlay Macbeth, The Prince of Denmark Street & The Midsummer Night’s Dream Team by Kev F. Sutherland
There are numerous Shakespearean adaptations available in graphic novel and manga formats. Kev F. Sutherland offers something completely different. Twists on classic plays with clever cultural and literary allusions. Think surprising flavours like rosemary, marshmallow, peppercorns or popping candy- something with an extra zing.
The Prince of Denmark Street
Hamlet thinks he is
Punk cool strutting down Denmark
Street in high dudgeon.
TAGLINE- “Something’s rotten, look at the state of Denmark Street.”
Kev F offers a funny and refreshing homage to London’s ‘Tin Pan Alley’ of the 1960s/1970’s- Denmark Street. Shakespeare’s words transform into music lyrics as Punk Rocker Hamlet is determined to avenge the death of his Elvis styled father. Opening with a panoramic sweep of Denmark Street, the novel injects a trendy atmosphere into the play with a succession of gloriously expressive panels demonstrating Sutherland’s flair as a cartoonist.
Music history fans will love the comical allusions to the music business, the cultural in jokes, the lively word play and the quirky illustrations. A Play List for the Danes and a fascinating afterword about the music scene on Denmark Street add to this vibe. There is a also a teasing twist to Shakespeare’s original plot giving it that extra bit of flavour.
To satisfy students and Shakespeare purists, a full copy of the play is also included.
The Midsummer Night’s Dream Team
Restaurant and Club
are neighbours but all is not
what it seems one night.
As Athens and Woods celebrate one Midsummer’s Night, Philostrate investigates sleight of hand and misunderstandings but there is a twist in the tale. Will honest Puck have good luck? A bubbly homage to crime caper movies, Sutherland enhances the narrative with his trademark comic caricatures giving it a sense of fun. Readers will enjoy the colourful cast and the affectionate tribute to musical stylings though some might be confused by the musical chair nature of the couples’ relationships. Don’t expect pure Shakespeare. Just revel in the laughter and the vivid cameo from the ‘sweet and lovely wall’.
Has drawn comic strips for many publications including The Beano, 2000AD, Star Trek, Viz & Doctor Who Adventures. Wrote Findlay Macbeth as a homage to Abigail’s Party.
Runs a Comic Master Class for schools
Creator of the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre
Comics Expert & guest on TV shows including Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year & BBC4’S Battle of the Books.
Stand Up Comedian
QUOTE– Kev F on his Comic Masterclass
The classes aim to educate and enthuse pupils in comic and cartoon art, teaching them all techniques and tricks of the trade, presented at a level suitable for each age of pupil. By the end of every session we aim to have created a brand new School Comic and to have drawn an individual caricature of every pupil.”- Kev F. Sutherland.
This weekend RSPB is launching its annual Big Garden Bird Watch. It’s a fun activity for families to share. Here are some books to inspire budding birders. Spotter guides are really useful as they note markings and habits and differences between similar species. It’s also fascinating to investigate their Latin names.
Defiant teen fights against injustice in a world dominated by Altereds.
to bow to the tyranny
of President Bear
Good Night To Read Review
‘The Unadjusteds’ fizzes with invention and energy. It envisages a terrifying dystopian world where genetic engineering has been taken to extremes. Marisa Noelle uses a heady blend of fantasy and sci fi crossed with the super human abilities found in the pages of comic books to kick start her compelling high octane YA adventure. It speeds along as a group of diverse teens take a stand against injustice. In a plot which magnifies the reality of 21st Century scientific developments in Nano technology and genetic experimentation, pioneering humans alter their DNA.
Fiction can often be inspired by existing technological advancements. Noelle, like Shelley, in the Victorian age, explores what can happen when humans decide to play God in a bid to create something that flouts nature. Galvanism suggested the possibility of regenerating the dead through electricity. What if pills could be discovered which eradicated diseases and helped the disabled? Wouldn’t that be beneficial to humankind?
But as Lord Acton warned and George Orwell observed “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. What if natural abilities could be enhanced and cosmetic improvements could be made? Take that a step further. Create levels of pills fusing animal and human DNA resulting in hybrid species with supernatural powers. Add a malign political dictator. The result- a society where 80% of the populace have modified their DNA in order to excel at sport, to look perfect, to be in control of their destiny and to be accepted by their altered peers.
Imagine being able to fly, becoming invisible, possessing super speed and super strength, manipulating matter and objects or acquiring deadly skills. Just by purchasing a pill you can change your world. Is it worth the risk?
What if you felt there were more disadvantages than advantages? What if you were concerned about the side effects of taking too many pills? Imagine if you wanted to maintain your individuality and refused to conform? Enter the nightmarish existence of Silver Melody, a rebellious Sixteen Year old who will not be manipulated.
When the megalomaniac and villainous President Bear issues an enforceable edict that every citizen will ingest a nanite, Silver embarks on a perilous journey to assert her identity and rescue those she has lost. Her parents have taught her that
With great power comes great responsibility” quoted by Silver Melody [cited Spiderman, Marvel comics].
and she must rely on her fortitude to take her through the coming storm. With scenes reminiscent of ‘The Hunger Games’ she flees to the woods with her scientist father encountering ragtag misfits, a love triangle, danger, duplicity and surprising secrets along the way. Hunted by horrifying mutations that resemble mythological chimaeras she battles to survive in an increasingly dangerous world. At times frustratingly clueless, Silver has some important decisions to make before the ultimate grisly showdown. As she composes an anthem to keep up everyone’s morale, she must deal with her own prejudices in her search for allies.
Noelle assembles a cast of teens with multiple abilities. It would be interesting to hear different voices and to learn more of the back stories of Addison, Erica, Hal, Jacob, Joe, Kyle, Matt, Paige and Sawyer through a detailed series of vignettes. In a Silver centric plot the reader is just given glimpses of their lives. Perhaps more will be revealed in the sequels.
Fans of ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Divergent’ and ‘Maximum Ride’ will love this exciting read. Silver will return to fight more battles in the next two instalments.
BookChocoholic Rating- 4 Chocolate Libraries
Thank you to the wonderful @Write_Reads @WriteReadsTours @MarisaNoelle77 #UltimateBlogTour for including Good Night To Read on ‘The Unadjusteds’ Blog Tour. Big shout out and massive thanks for making an e pub available.
Recommending an Adult novel, a Middle Grade read and a YA novel each month.
A New Booktastic Year with lots of great reads being published, exciting literary worlds to discover and cool books to celebrate.
For the month of January I’m recommending an historical literary mystery, a riotously funny Middle Grade librarian adventure and an atmospheric multi layered supernatural YA horror series set in 1920s New York in a time of flappers, Speak Easies and hedonistic party goers.
Adult Novel– The Conjuror’s Bird by Martin Davies
Lost love from the past
and mysterious secrets
tell a strange story.
“We live in a society that is strangely superstitious about written records.”
An absorbing literary mystery based around the story of naturalist Joseph Banks, his ownership of the rare Bird of Uletia and his mysterious love. Fitz, a man renowned for his work on extinct species is compelled by the persuasive Gabby to discover the truth. A story within a story, it is a detection narrative spanning time periods, full of secrets and surprises.
The Conjuror’s Bird
Hodder & Stoughton
Middle Grade Novel– The Spybrarian by Jon Mayhew
Zany hijinks as
SLS Ninjas take on
I’d had enough of Kung Fu librarians, spies, FART, Super Reader Serum, Ellipsis Missiles and exploding libraries.”
An hilarious, exhilarating, riotous read celebrating the power of libraries, the awesomeness of librarians and the magic of reading. Reluctant Kian Reader finds himself caught up in a madcap adventure. Only he and his friends can take on the nefarious F.A.R.T organisation whose aim is to destroy the SLS. Check out the linked chapter headings. Great fun to share.
UCLan Publishing, 2021
YA Novel– The Diviners by Libba Bray
array of American
This atmospheric supernatural horror YA series is so much more than the “American ghost story” Libba Bray originally intended. It resonates with poignancy and insight. Set in the 1920s in New York during the hedonistic age of the flapper, bootlegging and gangster infiltrated Speakeasies, it provides plenty of chills, thrills and supernatural skills.
With a great cast of diverse, colourful and memorable characters for the reader to care about, each book follows their battle against a nefarious evil created by megalomaniac greed, prejudice and insidious power. Peppered with quirky lingo and sassy attitude, the narrative sings.
Evie, Jericho, Memphis, Sam, Theta, Mabel, Guillame, Henry, Isaiah, Ling, Will, Miss Adelaide and Margaret Walker all have secrets and different stories to reveal. As the past catches up with them it threatens to engulf all they hold dear. Tangled romances and the pursuit of fame complicate matters. Can they find the reserves within themselves to combat the threat or will they make the wrong decisions? Meanwhile danger awaits in the shadows. As malignancy casts its dark cloak, who is the puppeteer?
Evocative, frightening and compulsive, the Diviners offers expert vignettes of secondary characters and vivid snapshots of American history. It is a study of vulnerability and exposes the dark underbelly of ‘the American Dream’. You are invited to roam through rich imagery and astounding dream landscapes embellished by meticulously researched historical detail.
Fascinating themes explored include the glamorously false gaiety of the Ziegfeld Follies, the fickleness of the Radio, the shallow music of Tin Pan Alley, literary poetry salons, Eugenics, xenophobia, racial injustice, suppressed narratives from the marginalised, myth making, manipulation, obfuscation, the ravages of war and the gullibility of the public manipulated by propaganda. With brilliantly dramatic scenes dripping with gory grand guignol horror and tempered with lyrical prose the series is elegiac and universally resonant in its examination of human psychology and philosophy.
Bray gives the reader a sinister and powerful account of the ghosts of history and the legacy of corruption and injustice throughout the centuries. A panoramic, surprising and multi layered reading experience.
Big shout out to the amazing January La Voy who narrates the audio book with spirit and verve. You will be gripped from start to finish.
Diviners, Lair of Dreams, Before The Devil Breaks You, King of Crows
BOOK BITE- Plucky teen will need a deception detector to navigate the supernatural world.
Amari has heart
and pluck as she seeks Quinton
in a magic world
Good Night To Read Review
What makes this exciting Middle Grade fantasy so special is the perfect juxtaposition of the fantastical and realistic elements. Amari lives in the Rosewood Housing Projects and faces continual abuse for being a scholarship kid. The narrative is driven by her unique voice. She sparkles from the first page as she deals with difficult circumstances. Her beloved brother Quinton has vanished and she is tired of the careless assumptions being made about why. She knows he is academically brilliant and has deserved all his success. Having a rough time at school and struggling with personal issues, she is determined to discover the truth behind his mysterious disappearance. Then she has a peculiar delivery and an extraordinary Wakeful Dream.
This is the catalyst to an action packed adventurous odyssey of the bizarre and wonderful as Amari embarks on a quest which involves training, intelligence and skill. The reader is introduced to the kaleidoscopic wonderland of Alston’s fantastical imagination as Amari’s eyes are opened to the true world around her.
Comparisons with ‘Harry Potter’ are inevitable but they pale into insignificance when you consider the inventiveness of Alston as he engages in rich world building with believable characters who are hiding secrets. The idea of illusion and trust is central to the plot.
Entertaining, diverse and absorbing, ‘Amari and the Night Brothers’ wages good against evil, delves out some double crossing skulduggery, examines the issues of class division and bullying and celebrates the qualities of loyalty, integrity and tenacity.
Who is VanQuish? What trials must Amari face to reach her goal? Who are her real friends? As she encounters challenges galore she must draw on all the resilience she possesses.
It is easy to see why the amazing Amari has already been optioned for a movie starring actress Marsai Martin with Don Cheadle producing. The book possesses cinematic intensity with a tight plot, thrilling scenes, gadget trickery and imaginative hybrids which differ from ‘Fantastic Beasts’. Alston delivers emotional moments, puzzles, twists and turns. This is a fantabulous read and a must have for libraries and fantasy fans everywhere. A great start to 2021 publishing. The good news is that Amari’s adventures aren’t over yet.
BookChocoholic Rating- 5 Chocolate Libraries
Thank you to the amazing @Write_Reads @WriteReadsTours @egmontbooksuk #UltimateBlogTour for including Good Night To Read on ‘Amari and the Night Brothers’ Blog Tour. Big shout out and massive thanks to #NetGalley for making an ARC available. I am so honoured to have been chosen to read this book in advance of its release.
Maurice Sendak and Beverley Cleary are two of his favourite authors
He used to write horror stories for his friends in school
Planned to attend Medical school
Became the centre of a book bidding war after a Twitter pitch on #DVPit, a Twitter hashtag created by literary agent Beth Phelan with the aim of amplifying “marginalized voices that have been historically underrepresented in publishing.”
Lives in South Carolina
“When an inner-city kid gets nominated by her long missing brother to try out for the Bureau for Supernatural Affairs, it’s her chance to learn what happened to him. But it’ll mean competing against the nation’s wealthiest kids.”– B.B Alston’s Twitter Pitch
“I went back to Amari and everything flowed. I was so used to taking parts of myself out of the book that it was thrilling and freeing to leave those things in.”- Alston on imagining Amari.
Book Bite-Scintillating new mystery thriller from the ‘Queen of teen crime’ delivers deceptive plot twists
Cousins have secrets-
where there is truth there are lies
that strike like vipers.
Good Night To Read Review
Karen McManus’ compulsive new mystery thriller ‘The Cousins’ is set on Gull Cove Island, home to a luxury resort ruled over by an austere and elusive chatelaine. Inspired by the environs of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, the family’s grandiose mansion Catmint House is reminiscent of the glitzy lifestyle of the Kennedys at Hyannis Port.
‘The Cousins’ opens with the Story Family Tree. We quickly learn that with their wealth comes a legacy of unhappiness. Mildred Margaret Story casts aside her four children Adam, Anders, Allison and Archer in their late teens with the cryptic message, ‘You know what you did’, delivered through a smooth intermediary, which still perplexes them years later. All their golden dreams dissipated with the exile that followed that dismissal.
Now three cousins who’ve never met their grandmother, have received an invite out of the blue. With their parents still stinging at being cut off without a clue they are urged to accept summer jobs. Communicating by text, they prepare to travel. What waits for them on Gull Cove Island? Could they be about to uncover the secrets and lies of the past? When guarded Jonah, sassy Milly and sensitive Aubrey start to investigate they invite danger. Whom can they really trust?
Mc Manus expertly weaves time shifts as the cousins learn lessons about themselves, their parents, each other and the inhabitants of Gull Cove. They start to re-evaluate their lives as the tension mounts, romance beckons and a mysterious death occurs.
Deftly told from multiple viewpoints, the reader is given clues in flashbacks to Allison’s story in 1996. Ugly rumours abound about the disinheritance but are they true? What skeletons are arrogant Adam, vengeful Anders and abandoned Archer hiding in their closets? Strained relationships, private sorrows, love triangles and guilt are all factors in this web of deception. Who is the serpent at the heart of the story and can the Story grandchildren recapture their legacy?
Mc Manus likes to keep her readers guessing with more plot twists than a corkscrew. Her protagonists are well crafted with depth. Each is vulnerable for a different reason and she makes her readers part of their world turning ‘The Cousins’ into much more than a formulaic mystery thriller.
I’ll be recommending this to our teen mystery fans.
BookChocoholic Rating- 4 Chocolate Libraries
Thank you to the fabulous @Write_Reads @WriteReadsTours #UltimateBlogTour @writerkmc @penguinplatform for including Good Night To Read on ‘The Cousins’ Blog Tour. Big shout out to Net Galley for making an ARC available.
Head to your nearest independent bookseller to grab a copy.
This entire family is built on secrets, right? It’s the Story legacy.
Everybody has secrets. That’s nondebatable. The only question is whether you’re keeping your own or someone else’s.”
Five Facts About Karen McManus
New York Times bestseller & spinner of mystery twists- Author of ‘One of Us is Lying’, ‘Two Can Keep A Secret’, ‘One of Us Is Next’
One of her favourite books is ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins
Among her inspirations are ‘The Breakfast Club’ and the Simple Minds’ song ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’
She has described her debut novel ‘One of Us Is Lying’ as “The Breakfast Club with murder”
She holds a Master’s degree in Journalism from North Eastern University
Karen’s thoughts on Writing-
Practice makes perfect. Reading a lot is great. It really helps you with voice, because you know what resonates with you. You can never copy someone else’s voice, but you can get inspired by voices that really work. That helps you recognize when your voice is working.”
Tiger Tiger, anthologised by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, published by Nosy Crow.
Simply sublime art
burning bright with word crystals
Poems are bite sized mini story worlds that can be nibbled upon word by word or just swallowed whole in one big gulp.
Louise Bolangaro, Head of Picture Books, Nosy Crow
This treasure trove of verse spanning 400 years is delightful and asks to be read and reread. It is an absolute joy to share for parents and children and classes. Packaged in an attractive layout, ‘Tiger Tiger’ offers 365 days of poetry. It’s a birthday book, a read celebrating the animal kingdom and an odyssey of sounds and styles. From renowned poets like Blake, Heaney, Hughes and Larkin to anonymous writers, comical observers and Native poets a cavalcade of folksongs, haikus, acrostics, lyrical rhymes and serious verse, are all there to be enjoyed from a wide range of cultures. Readers can either select a key date from the year or a favourite animal to explore. Animals from diverse scientific groups and geographical climes are featured.
Perfect for all generations, ‘Tiger Tiger’ has an accessible index of poems, poets and First Lines. I recognised an anonymous poem my grandmother used to recite to me about instinct and my mother remembered one about five bears. Unusual animals like the Duck Billed Platypus, Australian birds like the Galah, gentle mammals like the Manatee and rare creatures like the Pangolin are just some of the wonderful species who appear in its pages.
Go on a journey with an elusive snow leopard, laugh at a polar bear’s lament, delight in the beauty of storm birds, listen to a rookery, hear a porcupine’s valentine, admire a murmuration of starlings, watch a sloth, reflect upon a spoonbill haiku- a myriad of verse comes alive with Greenaway medal nominee Britta Teckentrup’s amazing evocative illustrations, with a colour palette reflecting the passing seasons, which grace each page. From man’s best friend to the imperious cat from the largest to the smallest beast, multiple representatives can be found here. Named after Blake’s iconic poem celebrating the majestic Tiger, the book is truly a delight to behold and a triumph for publisher Nosy Crow.
What you recently finished reading
The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey
“Holding a real book is like holding something alive. There’s the grit of the pages between your fingers as you turn them. The edges get soft and worn. With a real book, you feel the weight of the story more.”
“I’ve never considered any book, especially a novel or work of literature, something you should ‘plough through.’ The whole point of reading is savouring the story, immersing your self in a whole new place. Maybe one that doesn’t even exist.”
Darcy lives for books
but can she discover the
own truths of her heart
A gentle romantic YA with true heart and depth. Readers and book lovers will adore the story of Darcy who lives and breathes books. She has a special talent. She is also keeping secrets and secrets are being kept from her. Why does her home not feel like a real home? Only her best friend Marisol knows what she is going through. When the mysterious Asher Fleet enters her life Darcy begins to dream but is the attraction all in her head? Why is JM Barrie’s novel ‘Peter Pan’ the key?
What you think you’d like to read next
So many titles. I’ve found some gems on Net Galley including ‘Ruby Falls’, an atmospheric Gothic style eerie thriller about a movie star haunted by a childhood mystery, and time travelling adventure ‘The Kingdoms’. Lyrical Middle Grade Nature novel ‘October, October’ by Katya Balen has been recommended by our college’s #BookPenPal Sophie Kirtley, author of ‘Wild Way Home’ which is another book on top of my TBR. I’m also looking forward to Middle Grade fantasy ‘The Hatmakers’, an intriguing tale of magical millinery set in the 18th Century and YA historical debut novel ‘Witch‘ set in the 17th Century which revolves around themes of female empowerment, witchcraft and superstition. Also having recently discovered the action packed, intense and magical ‘A Discovery of Witches’ I’m interested in reading the ‘All Souls trilogy’ by Deborah Harkness that it is based upon.
When you pick up a book you never know what you are going to experience till you have read it. It could be sweet (like an orange or strawberry crème), bitter (like dark chocolate), have complex layers of flavouring (like salted caramel or rosemary), be a little nutty (like hazelnut) or quite spicy offering lots of adventure and excitement (like Chilli) or maybe just intensely delicious in terms of beautiful, lyrical language (like honey).
The genre I’ve selected for the month of November is Gothic which has experienced a recent revivification. YA retellings inspired by Gothic classics, atmospheric Gothic thriller chillers and dark fairy tales are in demand. They offer enticing plot twists, peril, vivid characters and atmospheric locations with surprising reveals or are they? Does the reader truly know what has happened in some cases? Cleverly crafted and devilishly dangerous. Evocative imagery, luscious language and cinematic locations. Think 70% dark chocolate with a rich cocoa taste balanced by a hint of tangy lime.
Here is a cavalcade of covers for your delectation.
I can’t stop buying and ordering books. This weekend I was still in a Gothic mood so I picked up Witch by Finbar Hawkins which has received great reviews on Book Twitter and Mexican Gothic because the blurb intrigued me. Their covers are very striking. I’m looking forward to reading these along with ‘Windrush Child’ by Benjamin Zephaniah, a vital read about history and belonging.
Part of the ‘Voices’ series that aims to “reflect the authentic, unsung stories of our past”. Acclaimed poet novelist Benjamin Zephaniah gives a voice to the displaced people of the world. What is it like to be uprooted from your home and to try to adapt to living somewhere else? This is the story of Leonard told by a ‘Windrush child.’
Recommending an Adult novel, a Middle Grade read and a YA novel each month.
For the month of November I’m selecting ‘Bone China’, an atmospheric and eerie historical Gothic tale set in Cornwall, ‘The Unteachables’, a hilarious and warm hearted story of a class whom everyone has given up on and a teacher who has no spirit for teaching any more, and ‘On Midnight Beach’ , a masterful YA reimagining of the ‘Táin Bó Cuailgne’ set in Donegal in 1976 during a hot and sultry Irish summer.
Adult Novel– Bone China by Laura Purcell
They listen and then they punish.”
A stranded troubled
house wreathed in past sorrows and
broken hopes and dreams.
Purcell expertly captures a sense of time and place when the fear of consumption was at its height. Deftly manipulating flashbacks she plays with psychological fears, the spectre of guilt and the ingrained superstitions of people on their guard against malign faery folk. Who is the prisoner? Who is the imprisoned? Is it all in their minds or is the reader not being told the whole truth? What is the significance of the bone china?Chilling.
Middle Grade Novel– The Unteachables by Gordon Korman
A plume of smoke is pouring out the single open window. It’s coming from the fire roaring in the wastebasket in the centre of the room. A handful of kids are gathered around it toasting marshmallows skewered on the end of number two pencils.”
Perfect combination of laughs and emotional heart
A gang of misfits
with real heart and loyalty
find someone who cares.
This is a feel good story of redemption with just the right blend of humour and poignancy to make it unputdownable. A class of students with diverse needs who are misjudged and dubbed ‘unteachable’ find purpose when they realise someone who has given up on himself believes in them. In turn Mr Kermit rediscovers his power to make a difference. A tale of missed opportunities, regrets, ambitious plans, madcap hijinks, life lessons and friendship.
I only recently discovered Gordon Korman courtesy of selections on my public library app Libby. I will definitely be reading more by this Canadian American author who is prolific.
YA Novel– On Midnight Beach by Marie Louise Fitzpatrick
I kept clear of Dog Cullen. Till the summer we turned seventeen, the summer the dolphin came to Carrig Cove . .”
drawn towards each other Emer
and ‘Dog’ are fated.
An expert and powerful reimagining of an Irish epic where rival villages battle over a dolphin and passion and violence explode. Marie Louise Fitzpatrick expertly paces her plot, fleshes out her characters and captures the mind set of Ireland in 1976 bound by tradition and sitting on a powder keg of tensions exacerbated by a long, hot Summer. The ‘Táin Bó Cuailgne’ is brought to life with a realistic YA slant. As my friend who recommended the book to me said, “Just gorgeous.”
Ruby Falls by Deborah Goodrich Royce. Post Hill Press. Publishing May 2021.
I was standing with my father in the pitch-dark black- the blackest dark I’d ever seen in the few short years of my young life – and the blackest dark that I’ve seen since, which is a considerably longer span. The surrounding air was dank with flecks from falling water.”
Intriguing gothic noir suspense style mystery novel with opening epigraphs from Edgar Allan Poe and Edmund Burke that really set the scene. 1968. Lookout Mountain. Everything changes for Ruby one fateful day. Such an atmospheric opening where you can feel the water droplets and hear the disembodied voice. #RubyFalls #NetGalley
As a special celebration for Halloween I thought I would explore some Gothic classics.
Nightmare- The Birth of Horror by Christopher Frayling
This book looks at the genesis of four classic Gothic tales- Dracula, Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde and the Hound of the Baskervilles. It is fascinating. Professor Frayling made programmes for the BBC which outlined his research. They involved examining the authors’ notebooks and investigating their ideas and experiences behind their novels.
Cover Image- Fuseli- The Nightmare
The Literature of Terror by David Punter
Authoritative literary criticism examining theoretical perspectives on the Gothic charting texts from 1765 to Edwardian times.
Gothic Literature encompasses-
•Social concerns & fears of the time =political change & crisis •Class, Morality, Nature, Religion, Science, Fear of ‘the other’ •Past vs the Present [Modernised/Mechanised]- eruption of evil •Power vs Vulnerability [weakness of human desires] •Violence & abduction •‘Uncanny’ & supernatural & the sublime [terrifying/overwhelming] vs Real World •Psyche of evil characters – Fear, manipulation & control •Role of women- victims struggling against evil & desire
•Landscapes- wild, romantic & rugged, isolated, sublime- reflecting psychology of central characters [personification]= Horror, Fear, Pleasure, Awe
Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
Abandoned and full
of rage and sorrow as he
seeks his creator.
“It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.”
Mary Shelley’s classic ‘Frankenstein’ which she named her ‘hideous progeny’ emerged from her nightmares brought on by the tragedy of her personal experiences. It was augmented by her knowledge of the scientific and medical experiments of her time. Galvanism was the practice of using electricity to spark life vs Religion [defying nature by ‘playing God’]
Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge
Lita Judge’s evocative, moving, powerful, painful and haunting illustrations coupled with Mary’s diary entries convey the troubled girl’s emotions. Mesmerising.
Psychology of the Gothic
Events in Mary’s life had a momentous effect on her writings. Frankenstein was influenced by:
Death of her mother in childbirth- guilt felt by Mary, 2. Elopement with married Percy Shelley when she was 16 along with her step sister Claire, 3. Flight to the Villa Diodati in Switzerland where on a stormy night Lord Byron dared each person to write a chilling ghost story.
Monsters by Sharon Dogar
Dogar’s novel tells of Mary’s elopement with Shelley and Claire’s involvement in their lives. The girls were only 16 when they ran away seduced by the idea of a romantic and bohemian lifestyle. Instead they found themselves trapped inside toxic relationships. Claire later described Shelley and Byron as
‘monsters of lying, meanness, cruelty and treachery…’
Mary expressed her sorrow at this treatment by using Frankenstein as a cathartic conduit for her passion and loss. She experienced further heartache and isolation caused by 1.Deaths of her children, 2.Infidelity of Percy, 3. Suicide of her husband’s wife, 4. Suicide of her half sister. Her abandonment by her father William Godwin who never forgave her for her elopement, even though he had celebrated being a free spirit and free thinker in his philosophical works, created an internal crisis. The relationship between parent and child is a core theme of Mary’s novel which revolves around the abandonment of ‘the creature’ by Dr Viktor Frankenstein.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
even in death beyond the
mad passion of life.
Be with me always- take any form. Drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”
The angels were so angry that they flung me out – on the top of Wuthering Heights where I was sobbing for joy.”
I am no bird and no net ensnares me. I am a woman of free, independent will.”
Cruelty, disease & blood curdling terror.
INFLUENCES & THEMES-
•Death- Charlotte’s two sisters died when she was 9 years old •Institutionalisation- Lowood School •Threat of hell- fire & brimstone preaching •Injustice •Independence •Brooding, older romantic hero- Mr Rochester •Dark Secret •Forbidden love •Madness & Suffering •Thornfield Hall- Gothic Location [Isolated, Remote- Sense of feeling trapped].
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by R.L Stevenson
A perilous draught
changes a man’s nature as
In each of us two natures are at war- the good and the evil.”
Born from Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson’s nightmares, his nurse’s tales to him as a sick child & his own fascination with the sub conscious mind.
Idea of the Doppelganger- The Divided Self
Inspired by the double life of cabinet maker Deacon Brodie who was hanged for theft in 1788.
Divided Self by T.J
The doomed doctor contorts/when the perilous potion hits the back of his throat/causing him to involuntarily spasm with convulsions and twitches as his face becomes the ultimate in grotesquery/mocking him by mirroring his dark desires coursing through vital veins suffused by blood pulsing with supernatural strength emanating from the terrible imaginings and feverish dreams of his creator who sends him out to rampage through the murky streets of London on a quest of destruction/bludgeoning respectability to death/ and fulfilling the gothic reality of the divided self.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Be wary of a
double life without conscience
it will only wound.
•Duality of the Divided Self [dop·pel·gäng·er –Doppelganger] •Veneer of Respectability Vs Evil appetites •Lack of a moral compass [Amoral] •Semi-autobiographical-Married author Oscar Wilde lived a double life & spoke of “Feasting with panthers.” This lifestyle & self destructive relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas ultimately brought about his downfall. •Idea of Faust- sacrificing his soul for a bargain- in Dorian’s case eternal youth •Idea of Aestheticism– “the controversial theory of art dictating that art should be judged purely by its beauty and form rather than by any underlying moral message (‘art for art’s sake’). •Cost of defying the natural order of things [aging process] •Mephistopheles figure- Lord Henry Wotton- Flatters Dorian into Hedonism [Pleasure for pleasure’s sake] and decadence = Reckless & self destructive behaviour.
Tales of Mystery & Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe
Mid 19th Century
“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
•The Black Cat, •The Cask of Amontillado •Fall of the House of Usher •The Tell Tale Heart •The Raven
Guilt festers, madness
follows on the heels of dark
Quoth the Raven. Nevermore.
The raven is hoarse
doom perched on high
Dracula by Bram Stoker
A Count hungers for
the blood of the innocent
“Mysticism, degeneracy, irrationality, barbarism: these are the qualities that came to define the non-western ‘other’ in 19th-century Britain.” [Professor Daly]
•Inspired by the 3 witches in Macbeth •Male fantasy of sex hungry women [behaving the opposite of how a correct Victorian woman should behave- a devil instead of an angel.] •Repression •Vampiric folklore •Contagion •Defilement •Dependency •Dracula’s Transylvania is defined by mysterious, barbaric, irrational, seductive and dangerous elements •The count is an aristocratic foreigner who is threatening Victorian female purity •Location of Whitby in Yorkshire- folklore of the region-apparitions/ demons
The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
This is a brave Feminist reinvention of Dracula that gives his ‘brides’ a voice. Confined in the original to a single, bald descriptive line the dark haired girls become feisty gypsies with their own passions and dreams. Evocative writing with some hair raising sequences.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Published 1901-1902- Strand Magazine
Combining the Gothic atmosphere of the forlorn moors with a clever detective story.
I loved ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ by Tomi Adeyemi and this is just as fierce and feminist. Intriguing. I’m looking forward to reading on and discovering what happens next to Deka and her sister warriors. A good read for #BlackHistoryMonth.
What you recently finished reading–
Nevermoor 3- Hollowpox- The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
how she can explore her powers
and save Wunimals.
The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher
What you think you’d like to read next– Especially for Halloween
+ Some Extra Recommendations
Laura Purcell is a masterful writer. She creates an eerie historical setting rich with period detail, teases the reader with the psychology of the protagonist and cleverly plots with corkscrew twists. Expert use of the unreliable narrator. So atmospheric you feel immersed from the first chill to the last.
When you read ‘The Corset’ you will discover the etymology of ‘Fashion Victims’. Here is a celebratory acrostic.
It was early morning and Arthur was already running late for school when the gnomes exploded.”
The year is 2473. For Arthur, Ren and Cecily ‘the game is on.’ Gaming and time travel create a kaleidoscopic vortex in this explosive Middle Grade adventure. I love other worlds and I am looking forward to exploring Wonderscape.
The dolphin came as curious as before, and we went closer to show the others on the beach how brave we were.”
An Irish epic
woven with skill into an
A powerful and poignant coming of age tale set during a hot summer in Donegal in 1976. As the teens of Carrig Cove and Ross battle over the rights to a curious visiting dolphin, tempers flare, passions rage and tensions escalate. Rich and atmospheric it evokes a sense of place and time. It is also a clever reimagining of the Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge which tells of a fabled brown bull, a devious Queen and a heroic fighter. With the power of manipulation at its centre, it is also a cautionary tale of how violence can spiral out of control with terrible consequences for everyone.
Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crowby Jessica Townsend
Morrigan had heard of the Nevermoor Scaly Sewer Beast, but she’d never seen it before, and truthfully, she’d never been certain it was real.”
In part 3 of the fantastic Nevermoor series Morrigan and her friends face fresh challenges. The Deucalion Hotel is back to its quirky shape shifting tricks, there are “dangerous levels of cheer” and more fantastical creatures feature.
What you recently finished reading–
Pages & Co- Tilly & The Map of Stories by Anna James
I’m looking for a book…I can’t quite remember the title or the author come to think of it.”
Another wonderful adventure set in Tilly’s world of brilliant bookshops and secret libraries. Book Wandering is under threat from the nefarious Melville and Decima Underwood. In an attempt to stop them stealing book magic Tilly and Oskar undertake a mysterious journey into the very fabric of books. The story zings with characterisation, surprise cameos, imagination and invention as the reader is invited aboard the Sesquipedalian for sensational adventures. From the Library of Congress to a treasure trail and paper engineering, Tilly must follow a maze of clues to find the answers. Along the way she encounters favourite characters and new allies.
Murder Most Unladylike 9: Death Sets Sail by Robin Stevens
“Magic might not be real, but murderers certainly are. And murderers do not tend to stop until someone stops them.”
Robin includes some surprises for her eager series fans in Book 9 set on the scenic and exotic River Nile in the 1930s. As Daisy and Hazel team up with the Junior Pinkertons once more they encounter the eccentric Breath of Life Society and are caught up in their internecine power games. The blurb warns the reader that one of the detectives will not make it back as they struggle to solve their most dangerous case yet. Be prepared for twists, turns, red herrings a plenty and unexpected romance as the suspects during a sleepwalking murder mount up.
What you think you’d like to read next
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
Nora Seed discovers a chance to change the regrets of her past but it’s a dangerous game.
This book looks intriguing. It’s about the magic of books and libraries. What more could you want?
So popular, it has a 16 week waiting list in libraries! Luckily my friend gifted me a copy. Cannot wait to read it.
This is an account of the last mystery the Detective Society will ever solve together.”
Death Sets Sail. Murder Most Unladylike Mystery 9 by Robin Stevens
Daisy and Hazel
encounter a murder one
last time that spells death
All is not well on board the SS Hatshepsut. Jealousy and fear stalk the decks. Teen detectives Hazel and Daisy, teaming up with their pals the Junior Pinkertons, are in more danger than ever before. Released in August this is an apt read for October as Agatha Christie’s centenary of the birth of her novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles is celebrated this month.
Robin Stevens pays tribute to the Queen of Crime in her last hurrah for the popular Middle Grade series Murder Most Unladylike. With intertextual tributes to the Queen of Crime, a creepy reincarnation cult and the atmospheric surroundings of 1930s Egypt this is a book that challenges the reader to solve the crime. As the suspects build up and tension mounts, are there bluffs, double bluffs and plot twists? Are the girls on the right track? Do they know whom they can trust? You will have to take the journey with them to find out.
Recommending an Adult novel, a Middle Grade read and a YA novel each month.
For the month of October I’ve chosen a lyrical family saga set in Ceylon in the late 1940s [modern day Sri Lanka], a gripping tale of survival and the power of stories for Middle Grade readers and a chilling, supernatural retelling of the fairy tale ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ embellished by rich world building, lyricism and cork screw plot twists for YA.
Adult Novel– Bone China by Roma Tearne
The story of Grace de Silva and her family who experience intrigues, forbidden love, loss and suffering. Set alternately in an evocative Ceylon devastated by war, and an alien London, home to forlorn immigrants, the book is a concerto which plays upon the reader’s senses. Grace’s five children are faced with pivotal choices in their attempt to follow their dreams and ambitions. Sri Lankan born Roma perfectly captures the struggle between East and West.
History- “was what made you what you are – gave you a solidity, a certainty”
You can learn more about this wonderful book by reading Maya Jaggi’s review at
Amazing from start to finish. Unputdownable, breath taking love letter to human tenacity against the odds and the magic of storytelling. Captures the raw, beautiful and terrible power of the sea and the bond between lost castaways.
Thirst rasped my throat. The skin on my arms stung with burning. I tried to think about the story to distract myself. But it didn’t work.“
You can learn more about its origins by visiting the hashtag #CKG20 @chrisvickwrites.
YA Novel–The House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
This is an intriguing and eerie retelling of ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’. Atmospheric and mysterious it beguiles the reader’s senses as they attempt to solve the mystery. Is it supernatural or psychological? Twelve sisters. Four tragic deaths. Peril lurking in the shadows. A family curse or something more sinister? Love, loss, heartache, betrayal and superstition in a richly imagined seafaring setting. Craig plays with the reader challenging them on what to believe as Annaleigh Thalmus tells her story. I listened to the audio book alluringly read by actor Emily Lawrence.
“All the dreamers are castle-bound. At midnight’s stroke, we will unwind, Revealing fantasies soft or unkind.”
“The High Mariner says Pontus created our islands and the people on them. He scooped salt from the ocean tides for strength. Into that was mixed the cunning of a bull shark and the beauty of the moon jellyfish. He added the seahorse’s fidelity and the curiosity of a porpoise. When his creation was moulded just so—two arms, two legs, a head, and a heart—Pontus breathed some of his own life into it, making the first People of the Salt. So when we die, we can’t be buried in the ground. We slip back into the water and are home.”
Illustrated a choir music CD album for “The Little Prince” by St. Exupéry.
Enjoys printing and inking on fabrics. Works with pastel and cotton on embroidery.
Inspired by her relationship with her grandmother, her trips to her sewing studio and their bond.
Quote from ‘Longest Strongest Thread’-
She says we two have the longest strongest thread.”
Inbal describes her artistic process –
I usually start thinking with a pencil & paper, sketching and writing down concepts, colours and technique ideas. Then I make colour tests, and I choose the technique that will best fit the story and the energy of the book, trying to create the right atmosphere for the story. I create a colour palette that will serve as the basic colour information for the whole book. This is the stage when I start illustrating. “
the miles by a long strong thread
sheltered by a coat
Good Night To Read Review
This is an exquisite tale of love and understanding across generations and miles. Creative and tender, it tells of the relationship between a little girl and her grandmother. Worried that she has to move to a cold place a long way away she seeks refuge in her grandmother’s sewing room where they create tokens of love.
Inbal experiments with colours, textures, framing and landscapes. She uses pale pastels in shades of buttercup yellow, periwinkle blue, jewelled jade, warm ginger and glacial silver. Readers can follow connecting threads circling around cosy scenes of happiness, sharing and hugs.
In an interview with Book Trust she explained the inspiration behind it, describing the relationship between herself and her grandmother.
One person I miss a lot is my grandmother. Yes – I have a grandmother, who is a great grandmother to my children. As a child, I loved going to her sewing studio, making things there, looking for the shiniest buttons, sifting through all the special tools and learning how she made dresses, jackets and even soft toys.
Using the art of sewing as a metaphor Inbal also recalled the magic of craftsmanship and the sharing of skills between generations. ‘The Longest Strongest Thread’ formed from these memories.
I started by drawing my childhood memories from my grandmother’s sewing studio. How, whenever I came to visit her, she would take an oversized dress or a nice fabric, measure me, calculate numbers, draw, cut, attach pins and sit at the sewing machine. And then – magic happened – the needle and thread would run through the fabric and I would get a beautiful new dress made especially for me with lots of love.
Such material has timelessness and strength as Inbal remembers,
Threads and needles have the ability to connect and attach separate pieces to each other. If the thread is strong enough, the pieces can stick together for years.
Inbal’s book is a triumph of joy and light. A labour of love, it’s a charming book to share with little ones for #grandparentsday.
Thank you to the fabulous Sarah and the lovely people at Scallywag Press for sending me a review copy of this special book.
Due to the amount of talented authors writing amazing stories out there, it was difficult to choose a small showcase selection for a short presentation to a Year 8 class at the college. It was their first borrowing experience availing of our Click & Deliver library service direct to their form room.
With a plan to explore different genres each week, I spoke to first year students about some of my favourite Middle Grade historical reads. This followed on from videos I’d made for them introducing myself as their school librarian, reading them poetry about the imaginative portals books can transport them through to other worlds and celebrating our lovely #BookPenPals author Sophie Kirtley whom they are planning to write to.
When I asked the class if anyone could tell me what the word genre meant one boy replied ‘a theme’. I responded that books can be multi-genre offering lots of different experiences to the lucky reader who chooses them.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
‘Listen, Faith. A girl cannot be brave, or clever, or skilled as a boy can. If she is not good, she is nothing.’
First up- a scintillating supernatural Victorian mystery with a mellifluous vocabulary. The word susurration practically sings. Hardinge is particularly skilled at intertwining beautiful vocabulary with a chilling, sinister plot tantalisingly revealing the hidden secrets of multi faceted characters. ‘The Lie Tree’ offers thought provoking observations about evolution, the study of science and the misogynistic nature of society, while building up tension and throwing the reader corkscrew twists. It’s not surprising that it was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 2016.
Where The World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
‘Every Kilda man is part bird, because he knows how it feels to plummet out of the sky towards the brightness of the sea.’
Another wonderfully visceral adventure is the award winning and breath taking ‘Where the World Ends’, a tale of stranded fowler boys on a remote Scottish sea stac based on true events that occurred off St Kilda in the 18th Century. So atmospheric you can feel the sea spray whipping your face and the raucous cries of birds overhead, it draws the reader in from the start to a compelling story of a savage fight for survival. McCaughrean skilfully crafts relationships and bewitches the reader with powerful vocabulary and evocative imagery. It is an exploration of faith, fear, superstition and tenacity. Tension builds throughout as the storm threatens to break.
Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones
That night, the night the showman came, the moon was the colour of mud.”
London. 1841. An enthralling opening for an engaging historical mystery that provides luscious language and a perfect opportunity for the sharing of dramatic parts. I’ve worked with students who’ve enjoyed playing characters in the vivid scene following the prologue, which is rich in personification. It is set in an orphanage, where we first meet the eponymous ‘Wild Boy’. From here the reader is catapulted into the world of Victorian freak shows where injustice lurks in the dark and friendship is born as tenacious characters use their deductive skills to solve a nefarious crime. Exciting, compelling and cinematic, ‘Wild Boy’ is simply amazing.
The House of One Hundred Clocks by A M Howell
A.M Howell is another talented Middle Grade author. Her book ‘The House of One Hundred Clocks’ is rich in period detail. Set in Edwardian Cambridge, it is just as intriguing as her debut novel, ‘The Garden of Lost Secrets’, the genesis of which came from the discovery of a 100-year-old gardener’s notebook at the National Trust’s Ickworth House in Suffolk. It also has a twisting mystery at the heart of the story. Inspired by her visit to Moyse’s Hall Museum, home to Frederic Gershom Parkington’s gallery of clocks, it is a page turning adventure involving strange sightings, weird happenings, deception, desperation and injustice. Readers are encouraged to discover the clues which will unravel the tangled web of secrets kept by the myriad cast of eccentric characters. Nothing is what it seems as the plot builds into an astonishing denouement.
On a glossy black door inside a well-lit wardrobe, a tiny circle of gold pulsed with light, and at its centre was a small, glowing W.“
Nevermoor 3: Hollowpox:The Hunt For Morrigan Crow
I absolutely love this fantasy series. It’s adventurous, effervescent, fantastical, inventive, imaginative and great fun. Due to be released in October, I currently have a proof copy of ‘Hollowpox’ thanks to the lovely people at Hachette. I cannot wait to return to the wundrous world of Morrigan Crow, Nevermoor and the Deucalion Hotel, home of the magical Magnificat Fen. Completely coincidentally, Book 3 also contains a mysterious illness, which according to Nevermoor’s fabulous author Jessica Townsend, ” was plotted, planned and mostly written rather a long time before our current situation peeked over the horizon.” It joins Morrigan and her friends who are facing a new threat. Following the exciting events of the previous two books, she must also discover her new strengths and harness her burgeoning abilities before it is too late.
If you haven’t discovered this thrilling Middle Grade wonderland yet, now is the time to ‘Step boldly’ !
Tilly & the Map of Stories [Book 3 of Pages & Co] by Anna James
I’m actually currently reading three books. So many great books keep being published they just keep being added to the TBR. I’m also a mood reader and a series follower.
So right now I’m in bookish heaven with part 3 of Tilly & the Bookwanderers- The Map of Stories in which Tilly and Oskar are on further magical adventures in America. Can they follow a trail of mysterious clues to save the world of Book Wandering from a sinister threat? This series is for librarians, book lovers and young book wanderers who will delight in recognising and discovering book characters and much loved children’s classics. One reviewer said the series could be enjoyed whether you were 9 or 49 but why stop there? It’s a generational series for anyone who understands the magic and power of books to spark the imagination and transport readers to fabulous places. Anna just keeps raising the stakes and upping the excitement from book to book with beautiful intertextual and historical references. From classics to fairy tales to Shakespeare her joy of stories suffuses her glorious creation. It is an affectionate tribute to bookshops, booksellers and libraries. Tilly’s world is the perfect place to be curled up with a sweet treat in a cosy chair on a rainy afternoon or luxuriating in the sun in the back garden.
The Last Hours: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
Cassandra Clare is especially skilled at creating diverse characters who play out tangled relationships and conflicts in a multi layered fantasy world. She is strong on atmospheric locations, high octane action, heartbreak, challenges and sweeping supernatural panoramas. Clare also cherishes great literary works. Her books are full of intertextual references in the form of epigraphs, quotes and settings. Her latest is a tribute to Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ with the eerie Satis House realised in Grace’s dwelling in Idris. There is a love triangle, an increased demonic threat and a mysterious heritage at the centre. We meet more Shadow Hunters and are drawn into delirious descriptions rich with detail.
Peppered with humour, danger and excitement as they twist their way through recognisable historical periods, her novels are compelling bumper reads which revisit previous characters and introduce new ones so that there is a golden thread of connection between them all. Compelling.
Eight Pieces of Silva by Patrice Lawrence
An absorbing YA mystery about the vicissitudes of love and the pain of bereavement with distinctive character voices. How well does Becks know her half-sister Silva? Can she figure out what is behind her mysterious disappearance? Turning detective, Becks follows a strange trail of clues she’s discovered hoping to find out the truth. She’s also contending with matters of the heart. Does her friend China really like her? Can their love of K Pop and Wakanda bring them together? Rich with popular culture references, it’s a story that intrigues and compels you to read on. A celebration of diversity.
What you recently finished reading
The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff
A halcyon summer, a family gathering, a planned wedding. A golden stranger arrives. You can almost see the writing on the wall. A study of the damage a manipulative personality can cause, temptation and the pain of experience that appears when coming of age. Strong characterisation and compelling prose with a heavy dose of foreshadowing. Intriguingly, we never learn the narrator’s name. Think Greengage Summer crossed with The Great Gatsby.
What you think you’d like to read next
Nevermoor- Book 3-The Hunt for Morrigan Crow- Hollowpoxby Jessica Townsend
This series is a wonderful concoction of fantasy, magic, talking animals, strange happenings and challenging quests. Unputdownable, imaginative and inventive. Simply cannot wait to read the next instalment of Morrigan’s adventures & ‘step boldly’ into Nevermoor once more.
The last stop on my #AtHomeYALC tour was a wonderland of American authors. It was a real treat listening to Angie Thomas, tuning in from Mississippi, twice Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness Zooming from LA, Neal Shusterman connecting from Florida and Maggie Tokuda Hall, joining the chat from Oakland in California, talk about their novels. They were expertly hosted by author Katherine Webber, whose debut YA novel ‘Wing Jones’, about family, identity and coming of age, featured on the Northern Ireland Book Award shortlist. Her latest YA book is about a Japanese-American teenager called Reiko. Set in the California desert, ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’, has been described in ‘ The School Librarian‘ as
a stunningly emotionally charged tale of grief, family, strength and self-discovery with one of the most realistic romantic relationships I have ever read.”
She also writes for Middle Grade as Katie Tsang along with her husband Kevin.
Katherine began the chat by inviting the fabulous panel to describe their up coming novels.
Maggie has an MFA in Creative writing from the University of San Francisco and enjoys cake decorating. She wrote ‘Also an Octopus’, the Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winning picture book which was illustrated by Benji Davies. The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is her debut high fantasy YA novel, which she began while working as a children’s bookseller. She revealed in an interview with ‘We Need Diverse Books’ that her title
is a hip check to Narnia—I hoped that I could write a fantasy in a world as specific and exciting that didn’t have the same blind acceptance of colonialism that Lewis writes with.”
Her novel is fabulously diverse. It features elements of Japanese, American and British heritage. Casting ruthless imperialists as villains, she also includes a passionate queer romance at its heart. Florian [born Flora] is a pirate and a thief. When his path crosses with Evelyn, the highborn daughter of an imperialist, sparks fly. It is a tale of identity, destiny and protagonists who refuse to let themselves be dictated to any more. Throw in “a mermaid stolen from the ocean, a witch with ulterior motives, and the Sea as a forceful personality who is actually kind of a jerk” and you have an intoxicating mix.
Neal grew up in Brooklyn before attending High School in Mexico city. He gained degrees in psychology and drama. He has worked as a screenwriter and television writer. He is the author of 34 books, including the compelling and frightening rollercoaster ride- the ‘Unwind’ dystology which Publishers Weekly described as
“[A] gripping, brilliantly imagined futuristic thriller…could hardly be more engrossing or better aimed to teens.”
Neal also follows a dystopian path with his ‘Scythe’ arc which he describes as “a world so advanced in which people no longer die naturally and so characters called Scythes thin out the population”. ‘Dry’, co written with his son Jarrod, and set in an alternate present, tackles the vagaries of climate change addressing the California drought.
He enters new territory with his National Book Award winner ‘Challenger Deep’ in which he uses magical realism to represent mental illness. A teen takes a journey “on a surreal pirate ship across the Pacific towards the deepest place in the world” or does he? As the two worlds merge the reader is discombobulated about what is real and what is not.
Multi talented Patrick, who is a journalist, lecturer and screenwriter, was born in Virginia, spent part of his childhood in Hawaii and went to High School in Washington. He now lives in London. Patrick has won a cavalcade of book awards, including the illustrious Carnegie Medal for his ‘Monsters of Men’ [Part three of his dystopian ‘Chaos Walking’ trilogy] and for ‘A Monster Calls’, a poignant novel about a boy called Conor coping with sudden life changes, who encounters an anthropomorphic tree. He rates Australian author Peter Carey and one of his favourite rock bands is American Indie group ‘The Decemberists’, fronted by author Colin Meloy on lead vocals.
Patrick is an imaginative author whose stories fuse rich characterisation, deft plotting and other worldly settings. He succinctly described his astonishing new novel as “1950’s America with dragons”.
Angie Thomas burst onto the YA scene in 2017 with her groundbreaking novel ‘The Hate U Give’ set in the violent world of Garden Heights where a conflicted Starr fights for justice after her friend tragically loses his life in an unlawful police shooting. It was a keystone book for the Black Lives Matter movement and won an Amnesty Award. She followed it up with another strong story about Bri who wants to make it as a rapper but has to overcome a lot of obstacles and find her own voice. Her new novel ‘Concrete Rose’ travels back into the past before the events of ‘ The Hate U Give’ where we meet Starr’s father Maverick at the age of 17. Angie promises “a whole lot of twists and turns that she doesn’t think her readers will see coming”
On the subject of a suitable theme song for Angie’s book, Patrick recommended LA Punk rock group Concrete Blonde’s track ‘Roses Grow’ which he thought had the right vibe. He felt the lyrics,
“Up through the cracks, up through the broken glass in the hot red light of a black and white roses grow.” suited the mood of her book.
This led to a discussion about which music inspired the panel while they were writing. Angie has a long playlist on Spotify for each of her books. Alternatively Patrick writes in silence but has a theme song for each book in his head which helps him “communicate. For ‘Burn’ it was Siouxsie and the Banshee’s ‘Burn Up’ which
“is wild, loopy and fantastic and grows into a big conflagration”
Neal is inspired by moody sci fi instrumentals. He selects certain pieces for different chapters he is writing. His go to soundtrack is ‘Tron Legacy’ by Daft Punk and he listens to ‘The Son of Flynn’ on repeat when his narrative is building up to a crescendo.
Next up, Katherine asked the panel what their hook was for creating their story. Concept, character, genre or setting?
Angie needed to set ‘Concrete Rose’ in the 1990’s to tell Maverick’s story which they joked was now considered historical fiction! The origins of ‘On the Come Up’ were inspired by Angie’s teen dreams to be a rap artist and the issue of censorship. With ‘The Hate You Give’ her goal was to help teens “to find their voice” and expose injustice. Her character Starr “discovers her bravery along the way.” In ‘On the Come Up’ Angie encourages teens to “make some noise” and tell their story as Bri pursues her ambitions and “refuses to let others define her”.
Maggie’s fantasy novel was inspired by a creative writing student of hers who couldn’t find the book she wanted to read. “Murder, duels, magic, romance and world building” followed.
For Neal “usually the concept comes first but the characters are the most important thing.” His idea for ‘Scythe’ revolved around “what would happen if the world goes right and we get everything we want including defeating death. There would be consequences and decisions would have to be made”. From this idea his ‘Jedi of Death’ culling the population evolved.
Patrick has a fascinating theory that
There is no such thing as a realistic novel. All novels are fantasyeven if they look like our world.They involve characters you’ve created. They arc towards destinies as a plot. You have to create a universe where the story can plausibly take place.For me the elision between genres is easy to cross. “
And the genesis of ‘Burn’?
“I always wanted to write a book about dragons. I was waiting for the right story to come along. I set it in 1957 which was when Sputnik was launched as it was one of those times where the entire world changed in a day because all of a sudden we could feel we were all being watched. I set it in a fictional town near the town where I grew up in Washington state.I wanted to include multi racial characters like my nieces and nephews. While I was doing some research I discovered that Washington State legalised inter racial marriage in the late 1800’sso that interested me.I also found out that in WW2 the State Fair Grounds were a Japanese Internment camp.“
This formula resulted in Patrick’s ‘adventurous Uchronia.’
The authors were then asked-
“What helps you make your worlds feel real? Do you do a lot of research?”
Maggie absorbed details for her story from museums she visited in South America and Havana, Cuba as well as ghost stories from New Orleans. Significantly the myth of the vampire came from the tradition of sending off French girls to arranged marriages with packed caskets to New Orleans on the premise that “they would stay with their husband until death”. In ‘The Mermaid, the Witch & the Sea’ she represented “patriarchy as the visual metaphor of a teenage girl being shipped off with her casket to participate in a marriage she has no interest in.”
Neal’s books are meticulously researched and inspired by scientific developments in our world with “AI, medicine, life extension, what we’re worried about, where we are heading and what we’re hoping for.” Alternatively ‘Challenger Deep’ was more personal for him originating from experience instead of research.
Patrick also focused on his own life for ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ recalling his time as a teen waiter and his struggle with OCD. For Burn he “did enough research to make sure he got his facts right and then let the emotional truth of the story take over.” He believes that “the stupidest way to lose a reader is by getting a fact wrong.”
Angie set ‘Concrete Rose’ in 1998/1999, a time she remembers for “its hip hop and the fear that the world would end on New Year’s Day 2000.” She also gleaned more facts from movies and TV shows and made a point of featuring technology that would interest a teen character like Maverick. It was also important to Angie that she researched gang culture and the slang of the 1990’s to lend authenticity as the meanings of words change over time.
In the Q & A sessions that followed the panel had advice on Writer’s Block-
For Neal – “Sometimes writing can flow and sometimes it can stop and you just have to work through those difficult times. Don’t call it a block. Just consider it part of the writing process.”
Angie likes to take a breather if a scene isn’t working for her and play a video game or listen to music or “work on something else” for a while. She believes that “Writer’s block only has to be a block if you let it.”
Maggie prefers to delete previous attempts and “bounce around between different projects” while Katherine keeps drafts. The general consensus was that “Everyone has a different groove which works for them.”
The panel also agreed that “it is good to write something out of your comfort zone that challenges you to avoid complacency, to believe that you can overcome obstacles and to write your truth even if it scares you and to write what you want to read yourself.”
Exciting news includes an adaptation of ‘On the Come Up’ with Angie’s new production company. Neal’s ‘Challenger Deep’ [streaming], ‘Dry’ [feature film] and ‘Scythe’ [feature] are in development. ‘Scorpion Shards’ will also be made into an animated series. His new book ‘Game Changer’ is also in development with Netflix. And drum roll- Patrick’s ‘Chaos Walking’ hits screens in 2021. He is also currently working on adaptations of both ‘Lord of the Flies’ and a Graphic Novel called ‘Snow Blind’ .
“The boat moved with a nauseous, relentless rhythm, like someone chewing on a rotten tooth.”
The leaves were cold and slightly clammy. There was no mistaking them. She had seen their likeness painstakingly sketched in her father’s journal. This was his greatest secret, his treasure and his undoing.“
This is a scintillating and atmospheric read with a rich vocabulary and a twisty plot. It is full of meticulous historical detail and clever characterisation. Faith’s life is shaken when her father dies in mysterious circumstances. Living in a patriarchal world where her dreams of being a scientist are continually suppressed, she discovers his secret which unleashes skulduggery on the island where her family have been exiled. She doesn’t know who to trust and becomes increasingly desperate as she seeks to uncover the truth. Chilling and thrilling with a touch of the Gothic.
Next up on #AtHomeYALC was an incisive and thought provoking discussion on how Feminism is inclusive, different ways women can experience discrimination, the importance of equality and what defines a feminist text.
Anna is the author of the magically bookish, sparklingly imaginative ‘Pages & Co- Tilly & the Book Wanderers’ trilogy. Co founder and host of the YA salon in London, she is also a journalist and worked as a school librarian and book editor before launching her dazzling debut novel in 2018.
Holly Bourne is a contemporary YA author. She has worked as a journalist and is a charity advocate for tackling the stigma associated with mental health. Her experiences inspired her to write her debut novel ‘Soulmates’ in 2013 followed by the ‘Spinster Club’ series which evolved around the importance for gender equality in our world and ‘Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes’ which focused on mental health, friendship and the importance of being kind to each other.
In her role as an ambassador for Women’s Aid Holly discovered the disturbing fact that,
A third of teenage girls have admitted to being in abusive relationships.”
This led her to write ‘The Places I’ve Cried in Public.’
If someone’s just making you cry all the time, it ain’t love, I’m afraid.”
‘The Places I’ve Cried in Public’ is a searing portrait of coercive control and the damage toxic relationships can do to the internal psyche. It’s hard hitting, raw and true and is an absolute must have for every school library. I recommended it to one of our students who told me it was one of the best books she’d ever read. Holly has said that she “hopes her books will help get young people to make healthier decisions.” I think her empathetic books fulfil this mission. She gets to the heart of the matter explaining the nature of abuse,
“Abuse is also when your personality is attacked, not just your body. Abuse is feeling like you constantly have to walk on eggshells around the person you’re supposed to love. Abuse is being cut off from your friends, even if you could never prove it was their idea you did it. Abuse is being made to feel you’re going crazy. Abuse is being lured in with grand promises and wild declarations of love that can never be sustained.”
“What is love?
Maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s not what we’ve been told it is. Maybe it’s boring words like security and safety, warmth and growth. Maybe it’s the comfort of knowing someone really well and them knowing you back. Maybe it’s kisses where you sometimes bump noses but you can laugh it off? Maybe it’s never getting butterflies because you always know where you stand?”
Holly Bourne- ‘Places I’ve Cried in Public’
Lucy Cuthew has been celebrated as “a bold and vital new voice in feminist literature”. Her startling and daring debut verse novel ‘Blood Moon’ deals with the issue of period shaming.
“in my mind
K I S S I N G
explodes like a neutron star
leaving a black hole,
sucking everything in.
Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew
Belfast born poet and writer Nikita Gill has written and curated six volumes of poetry and enjoys painting. An advocate of the storytelling tradition and an empathetic YA poet, her debut verse novel is entitled ‘The Girl & the Goddess’. It is a coming of age tale that celebrates her Kashmiri heritage, Indian mythology, healing and family dynamics.
Let her be a little less human, a little more divine.
Give her heart armour so it doesn’t break as easily as mine“
The Girl & the Goddess by Nikita Gill
Lucy Weston, who has a background as a stand up comedian, decodes what it means to be a Feminist in her novel ‘Diary of a Confused Feminist’ in which 15 year old Kat tries to make sense of her life and is obsessed with being ‘a good Feminist’. Weston also sensitively examines mental health issues while dispensing good advice along with humour.
I THINK BEING A FEMINIST IS PROBABLY MORE ABOUT SUPPORTING EACH OTHER, LIFTING EACH OTHER UP AND GETTING EQUALITY.“
Diary of A Confused Feminist by Kate Weston
The chat got off to a great start with Anna asking the panel a key and insightful question-
“What do we understand about a panel entitled Feminism YA? What does Feminism mean to you? How has it evolved? What are its nuances?”
Holly responded by observing,
“What Feminism means to you can change and evolve and grow over time. Now, it’s about believing that the patriarchy exists and perceiving it as an invisible force field. Consciously and unconsciously a patriarchy means that people born into male bodies do a lot better than people born into female bodies. Feminism is about dismantling that to enable equal opportunity for everybody. In terms of abusive relationships, toxic masculinity can have a negative impact upon teenage boys and the way they treat teenage girls. Intersectional feminism revolves around the concept that all women have different stories. It’s about having space for everyone and fighting for equality for everyone.”
Lucy concurred, sharing that writing ‘Blood Moon’ gave her the chance to
put something on the page which isn’t on the page.“
Through breaking new ground she was able to challenge the patriarchy and bring previously hidden stories to light.
Kate added that,
“Feminism does change and the more we learn and grow as a society the more we realise that there is more to tackle. For me Feminism is inclusive and it includes trans women and non binary people. This needs to be at the forefront now more than ever”
Nikita also recognised the importance of acknowledging different groups of people fighting different forms of discrimination and oppression on different levels. She supports Intersectional Feminism which is about being inclusive to every type of group, supporting the marginalised and fighting for equality and equity for all.
Anna clarified that it is also all about where privilege and lack of privilege intersect and the fact that we all have different experiences which intersect differently.
Professor Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term Intersectional Feminism. Her key essay is entitled ‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color’.
For further elucidation of this concept you can also visit
Intersectional feminism: If feminism is advocating for women’s rights and equality between the sexes, intersectional feminism is the understanding of how women’s overlapping identities — including race, class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and disability status — impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.
Another pertinent question raised was
What defines a Feminist book? Does it have to tackle feminist issues?
The general consensus was that Feminist literature is about telling stories about the female experience and the male experience that don’t fall into default norms of what a woman is and what a man is. They are also stories that haven’t been told before, told by diverse storytellers, that expand the experiences of the reader. Consequently the YA audience who read these stories are confronting thought provoking topics and learning more about the changing world around them.
So what inspired each of these inspirational author’s stories?
For Holly it was about wanting to write about issues that affect teens. Once she found the hook, which for her latest book was that the majority of women who cry in public have been affected by the negative actions of a man in their life, she started incubating ideas, researching and building an immersive story from the P.O.V of her protagonist Amelie who is drawn in by Reese’s lies. Her mission is to “educate young people about what healthy love is and what it isn’t.”
Kate found the idea of a funny, approachable book about being a Feminist appealing but also felt it should deal with a serious issue underneath the laughter- mental health issues. A fusion of both these ideas resulted in ‘Diary of a Confused Feminist.’
Nikita is inspired by stories from her Kashmiri heritage, the world of Indian mythology and the lyricism of verse. Her verse is influenced by mythical landscapes, Indian epics and observations on where goddesses stand in relation to patriarchy and loving themselves. In her role as an Intersectional Feminist she decided to also tackle thought provoking topics and shine a spotlight on injustice. ‘The Girl and the Goddess’ explores LGBT persecution, discrimination, oppression and criminalisation juxtaposing human rights’ abuses with the reality of living in a war zone. Nikita uses the literary framing device of Mythological characters as storytellers to “give the reader a break from the trauma of modern life” while poetically expressing deep emotions.
Lucy’s provocative YA verse novel ‘Blood Moon’ also deals with thorny issues uncovered through meticulous research. Menstruation is part of a natural life cycle for women yet it is used as an excuse by men to shame and blame women. Alarming statistics led her to write about the problem of period shaming in the UK. Inspired by Jon Ronson’s book ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’, Lucy created the character of Frankie, an astronomy fan, who is unwittingly dragged into a vicious viral online shaming nightmare after her period arrives during an intimate episode.
Advice for young writers and young Feminists
The panel had these words of wisdom for young writers-
Nikita- “Young writers will change the world. The bravest thing you can do is focus on your own voice. Write about what’s difficult and say your truth loud and proudly.“
Lucy- Keep writing and keep telling what feels true.
Kate- “Keep going. Have confidence in yourself.“
Holly- “If you are a girl who feels oppressed it is an act of Feminism to tell your story and to take up space and to tell the truth. Stories connect us and they make us stronger and make us feel less alone. They equip us better to fight, to mobilise and to dismantle negative constructs.“
Nikita- “It is really important to read everything and talk to different generations about their experiences. You should have an organic process as a writer.”
Which Feminist texts have influenced the panel?Whichpoetry has inspired them?
Nikita was inspired by the verse and personal narratives of Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. Kate was also moved by Angelou and responded to the humour and truth of Judy Blume. Holly considers Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson books to be revolutionary for their time as they are about the bonds of friendship and the importance of being yourself regardless of ‘the male gaze’. If Georgia wants to ‘dance like an orangutan why shouldn’t she? Other recommendations included ‘The Female Persuasion’ which is about mentorship and how a young Feminist is helped and then later disenchanted by an older Feminist. During her research for ‘Places I’ve Cried in Public’, Holly was also particularly struck by ‘Look What You Made Me Do’.
Lucy rated ‘Love is for Losers’ as being “Hilarious, liberating, uplifting and brilliant. The honest and funny voice a generation of readers has been waiting for.”
Further #AtHomeYALC contemporary book recommendations from authors on the FeministYA panel which were rated as “beautiful, emotional, powerful” stories included #TheSkyisMine@BeashelWrites #BlackFlamingo@DeanAtta #RunRebel@ManjeetMann . Holly praised ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ by Jenny Han for encouraging readers to think differently about relationships.
Recommending an Adult novel, a Middle Grade read and a YA novel each month.
For the month of September I’m selecting ‘The Silent Companions’, a truly chilling slice of Gothic crime crossed with the supernatural, ‘Nevermoor’, a wildly imaginative and scintillating tour de force and ‘Rosie Loves Jack’ which stars an indefatigable heroine who is determined to risk everything for love.
Adult Novel– The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
‘The Silent Companions’ is deliciously creepy. If you like atmospheric, evocative historical novels that play with the reader’s senses this is the book for you. It’s a Victorian chiller thriller with all the perfect Gothic ingredients that will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck especially if you read it late at night. Expertly plotted and psychologically playful, it follows the story of Elsie, newly widowed and isolated in her husband’s country house surrounded by hostile villagers. What is the scraping sound she hears in the silent hours?
As the tension and suspense builds, the reader is discombobulated with Purcell expertly twisting the corkscrew of doubt.
The ending challenges all expectations and amplifies the fear factor.
She pulled a page towards her. In the gloom she saw a void of white, waiting for her words. She swallowed the pain in her throat. How could she relive it? How could she bring herself to do it to them, all over again? She peered into the blank page, trying to see, somewhere in its vast expanse of nothing, that other woman from long ago.
From Magnificats to umbrella transport to wondrous magic the Nevermoor series is a fantastical feat of imagination and an exhilarating adventure. Morrigan is a girl with a curse hanging over her but her life changes irrevocably when she is swept away to an alternative existence by the mysterious Jupiter North. Suddenly she must discover who she really is, navigate challenging trials and prove herself worthy of the secret Wundrous Society. Mindblowingly amazing and inventive Morrigan’s world is a fantasy roller coaster ride. ‘Trials’ and ‘Wundersmith’ were brilliant and unputdownable. I’m thrilled to be reading ‘Hollowpox’ next.
YA Novel– Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon
Rosie just climbs into your heart and stays there, she is such a memorable character. Her journey is one of tenacity, courage and fortitude as she searches for Jack who has been parted from her. Reading this book is an incredible and life changing experience.
“They can’t send you away. What will we do? We need us. I stop your angry, Jack. And you make me strong. You make me Rosie.“
“I think the best fantasy worlds reflect our own in some way and make us consider our own lives whilst simultaneously transporting us to another world. And then there’s magic – who doesn’t love magic?”
My YALC journey continued with a fantasy panel hosted by the charming editor, teacher and writing consultant Alexia Casale, author of the intriguing psychological thriller ‘The Bone Dragon’ and the coming of age story ‘House of Windows’. She is also director of literary festival YA Shot. The event took place courtesy of Walker Books & friends and featured teen fiction authors Abiola Bella and Joseph Elliott.
Joseph has worked as a comic actor in children’s television bringing parts such as the pirate ‘Cook’ in the CBeebies series ‘Swashbuckle’ to life while also writing scripts. His imaginative writing is influenced by his dedicated work teaching students with special needs and his passion for the Scottish landscape and old languages.
and brave Jaime are on a quest
to rescue their clan
Joseph celebrates this legacy in his debut #MG novel #TheGoodHawk, first of an epic trilogy set in an alternate Scotland, entitled ‘Shadow Skye’, in which his empathetic and dynamic protagonists embark upon a perilous journey. Atmospheric, magical and wild it features fantastical creatures, dangerous shadow monsters, dark sorcery and a forbidding landscape. Electrically charged action scenes include an encounter with the enigmatic Bò Riders whom Joseph says “were inspired by the Highland-bulls they ride”. Captivated by their mystical appearance, which infuses his energetic narrative, he added, “I’ll never forget the first time I saw one, whilst touring Scotland with a theatre show.”
To make his story authentic Joseph’s characters speak real Scottish Gaelic [carefully researched courtesy of a dictionary and an expert to check it over]. He also borrowed some elements from Scottish history. At its heart is vivid characterisation.
Joseph explains his premise,
“The Good Hawk started with the characters: Agatha – a feisty fifteen-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome – & Jaime – a troubled fourteen-year-old boy with low self-esteem. The setting (ancient Scotland) came next, then the plot. Characters always interest me the most.”
Among the highly positive reviews of Joseph’s book were accolades from the Down’s Syndrome Association. He explained the importance of this to YALC, stating,
“It was one of the main driving forces behind ‘The Good Hawk’ – to bring a heroine with Down’s syndrome into mainstream children’s fiction, without the novel being about her disability.”
In a Twitter interview for #MGTakeover @YAfictionados, Joseph revealed that he hopes his readers will perceive the universal themes
” of difference and acceptance, which I think all young people can relate to. The novel shows how important it is to be true to your authentic self, no matter how others treat you or perceive you.”
This is indicative of the power of books as therapeutic tools.
Book 2 promises more trouble on the Isle of Skye which escalates as the story continues. Entitled ‘The Broken Raven’, it will introduce a new character whom Joseph is looking forward to sharing with readers.
The Multi talented Abiola Bella also strives to celebrate diversity in mainstream fiction. She won London’s Big Read 2019, co founded the Author’s School and has worked as a professional dancer and teacher.
Abiola’s Emily Knight trilogy is a fusion of influences inspired by X Men, Japanese culture, anime Dragon Ball Z and wrestling. Created when she was 12, her story focuses on a warrior teenage girl trying to discover herself. Emily attends the Osaki Training School and realises that she is “more than average”. Significantly along the way Abiola changed her protagonist’s name and race.
Initially Abiola “didn’t want to be boxed in to an exclusive section of black authors writing about black characters.” Later, she responded to the advice of her lecturer, who stressed the importance of diverse representation in books for teens. This led her to an understanding that she wanted to help readers find representative stories to fill the gap in publishing. The result was an exciting high octane series with a mixed cast.
This supports literary professor Rudine Sims Bishop’s belief that
“All children need books in which they can see themselves reflected but we also need books that act as doors and windowsto let us have a vicarious experience of different lives in order to develop our empathy and our understanding of the world of other people.“
Abiola “wanted Emily to be like her struggling with ordinary teen issues not race related issues.” She was keen to avoid stereotypes about a black girl residing in a poor, gangster ridden community rising up and overcoming hardships so she made Emily a privileged teen from a legendary family. She also wanted her to be realistic so she portrayed her as a complex, bratty character with anger issues. Her narrative focuses on a difficult father/daughter relationship and sibling personality clashes. Abiola was also determined to place Emily’s struggles in a real world with fantastical elements. Cue magical fire balls, powers of flight, an epic war and a megalomaniac villain.
Having just released ‘I am Becoming’, she is currently working on a fourth Emily Knight adventure where the stakes will be raised even higher.
Both Abiola and Joseph enjoy creative freedom while writing so they don’t plot rigidly as a rule preferring to allow their stories to develop organically.
And the panel’s advice to budding young writers?
READ AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
Joseph- “My biggest tip for any aspiring authors is to read as much as you can – read anything you can get your mitts on; it’ll definitely make you a better writer.”
READ WITHIN YOUR GENRE & FOR THE AUDIENCE YOU’RE AIMING AT. BE DIFFERENT.
Abiola- “You should read within your genre so that you understand what you can and can’t do. You should read a diverse amount. I think you should learn how other writers write, build their characters and describe their emotions.”
On developing good character dynamics?
BE REALISTIC. MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS COMPLEX & FLAWED. CREATE CONFLICT FILLED SITUATIONSWHERE YOU CAN SHOWCASE THEIR OPPOSING VIEWS
This approach is tantamount to finding your own voice.
And what about editing?
KEEP WRITING. LET YOUR STORY DEVELOP. HAVE FAITH. GIVE YOURSELF TIME. ALLOW YOURSELF BREAKS.
Abiola- “Don’t stress. Don’t think the first edit has to be perfect. Give yourself chill time and them come back to it.”
Among Joseph’s favourite #MG authors are @aishabushby@ldlapinski & @moontrug. He finds @katyabalen truly original, thinks @stubbleagent is the funniest MG author out there and that @Struan_Murray is “too talented for his own good.” He has recently finished Patrick Ness’s new YA novel ‘Burn’ which he thought was ”phenomenal.” And a book he would like to visit?- ‘Ready Player One’ for a day playing in the Oasis because you are transported to a world “where you can be anything you want to be and anything is possible.”
If you’d like to know more about the thought process behind Abiola and Joseph’s books, you can listen to the full discussion here at #AtHomeYALC on You Tube.
Dragons are fantastical beasts who can be depicted as dangerous or friendly or misunderstood. Their appearance and abilities spark the imagination and fuel quest narratives. Readers are exhilarated by their adventures. From Graham’s gentle ‘Reluctant Dragon’ to Smaug in ‘The Hobbit’ to the dragon challenge Harry Potter and his fellow champions faced in the Tri Wizard Tournament to Ladon guarding the golden apples of the garden of Hesperides to sinister Wyverns to hybrids like the Cockatrice [incidentally the heraldic symbol on our college’s school blazer] dragons are legendary creatures in fantasy and mythology. They are powerful, magical, enchanting and scary. Flying through the sky shooting tongues of fire, they are the epitome of fearlessness.
From picture books to YA to anime to manga, the world of dragons is exciting and magical. Here are a few favourites from our library’s dragon collection.
Munsch’s ‘The Paperbag Princess’ is an hilarious and wonderful story which subverts the reader’s expectations and has a fantastic Feminist message.
For Middle Grade readers Cressida Cowell’s entertaining ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ series about the exploits of the hapless Hiccup and his defiant dragon Toothless is a joy. Her characters are evocative and the books resonate with exciting set pieces. Hiccup strives to prove himself to his father Stoick the Vast as a true Viking with a courageous heart. He has a different way of training dragons other than yelling at them. Cressida’s illustrations are wonderfully expressive and the books resonate with adventurous exploits and zany humour.
In contrast, Tui Sutherland [part of the ‘Warrior Cats’ author team], has created a compelling world of dragons, Pyrrhia, in the enthralling ‘Wings of Fire’ – The Dragonets prophecy series. Competitive tribes battle for a Sand Queen’s succession as five dragonets vow to stop the futile war. Clay, a Mud Wing, Tsunami, a Sea Wing, Glory, a Rain Wing, Sunny, a Sand Wing and Star Flight, a Night Wing grow up in training together but long for love and comfort. Snatched from their homes when they were just eggs, they were kept under a mountain by The Talons of Peace but what is their ultimate destiny and will they ever be reunited with their parents? Dangerous journeys, difficult choices and painful realisations await them as they struggle to stay alive.
Each dragon has distinctive personality characteristics and each race have particular skills and deadly battle tricks in their arsenal. Themes like the importance of friendship, the precarious nature of prophecies, greed, prejudice and deception are explored with the added touch of dark magic. It is an absorbing, action packed and imaginative fantasy series where humans have been relegated to the role of scavengers, wicked dragons force others to fight gladiator style and brave dragons risk everything for each other. The first five books tell each dragonet’s story and are followed up by more adventures in Pyrrhia where the reader learns the origin stories of Ice Wings and Sky Wings.
This matriarchal world, which the reader can view on the opening maps, where each realm is ruled by a Queen is fascinating and addictive. We meet Peril, who has a deadly gift, Winter who must reassess his life choices, Anemone who has a special talent which terrifies her and Turtle and Moon who are also hiding secrets. Inspired by Anne McCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern series, ‘Wings of Fire’ is perfect for anyone who enjoys dragon fantasies but be prepared for vicious tooth and claw slaughter.
Shout out to Shannon McManus who brings each arc of this dragon extravaganza splendidly to life with an entertaining cavalcade of voices.
Alternately, Liz Flanagan’s epic ‘Dragon Daughter’ transports the reader to the imaginary island of Arcosi, represented by a map at the beginning, which Flanagan uses as a microcosm to explore the universal themes of class, prejudice, tyranny, war and the refugee crisis. Her story is about the desire to belong, to know where you come from and where your destiny lies.
The ‘Dragon Keeper’ series by award winning Australian author Carole Wilkinson is another delight. Set in Ancient China it follows the fortunes of servant girl Ping who pledges to protect the Emperor’s precious dragon and a mysterious stone. Her determination results in an epic quest across China. Along the way she discovers magic while being pursued by a relentless bounty hunter who wants to capture her dragon.
Chris D’Lacey’s ‘The Last Dragon Chronicles’ is an absorbing heptalogy. When David discovers that carefully crafted clay dragons in the house where he is staying can come to life, he is catapulted into a world of mysterious magic. The truth about them takes him on a perilous quest where he discovers an ancient secret.
YA novel ‘Seraphina’ by Rachel Hartman, long listed for the 2013 Carnegie Medal, is another triumph of high fantasy exploring courtly politics, control, appearances and prejudice through the world of dragons.
‘Burn’, another YA tour de force from Patrick Ness, is a unique reading experience. From its opening line it intrigues and teases as it plays with the ideas of alternate worlds, conspiracy theories, tangled relationships, prejudice and wilful destruction with a soupcon of dragon magic. At its centre is the right to love whom you choose and the human instinct for survival. It is a feat of Ness’s imagination taking the reader’s mind to unexplored places, challenging them to think and ponder the politics of 1950’s America while experiencing fantastical dragon sequences. It’s also an exploration of the dangers of discrimination and the importance of diversity and individuality.
‘The Inheritance Cycle’ was created by Christopher Paolini when he was only 19. Set in the land of Alagaësia, it begins when Eragon discovers a blue stone which plunges him into a world of adventure where he is pitted against the tyrant Galbatorix. He must use all his wits and courage to restore the legendary world of the dragon riders.
‘Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire’ and ‘Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows’ include enthralling sequences featuring dragons. Book 4 features the compelling spectacle of the Tri Wizard Tournament where the champions battle a vicious Hungarian Horntail, a Common Welsh Green, a Chinese Fireball and a Swedish Short Snout. Rowling also offers dragon fuelled thrills in her finale.
‘Dragonology’ from Templar Publishing is a cornucopia of dragon secrets, written by the fictional Dr Ernest Drake in the style of a scientific journal which encourages the reader to discover language, lore, runes and replica samples.
Another popular book with our students is ‘Dragons’ published by Scholastic which showcases literary, mythological and movie dragons.
‘Little Nezha Fights the Four Dragon Kings’ is a fabulous 1980’s anime. It’s emotive, humorous, poignant and exciting. Some sequences of martial arts are quite balletic. Originating from a classical Chinese folktale about a young boy imbued with God like powers that enable him to take on four wicked dragon kings who have power over the elements, it was remade into a 3D live action animated movie in 2019.
For more amazing dragon exploits in bookish worlds, check out ‘Neverending Story’ -book by Michael Ende and iconic movie [with catchy ’80s titular song from Limahl] and the lovable Luck Dragon, Falkor.
If you would like more thoughts on the wonders of dragons- @one_to_read has hosted a discussion on Twitter with lots of great dragon book recommendations that can be found at #BooksNearBedtime.
Recommending an Adult novel, a Middle Grade read and a YA novel each month.
This invented meme is named after my super librarian friend Amy who was awarded School Librarian of the Year in 2016. She is a phenomenal, inventive, innovative and brilliantly creative Reading Champion.
For the month of August I’m choosing a war time story with a Parisian setting, an exciting and chilling Victorian mystery and a thought provoking novel equating witch hunts of the past with social media blame and shame culture.
Adult Novel- The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
I’ve just started to read this courtesy of Net Galley. It’s a dual time period tale. Alternately, a wartime adventure set in Paris during the Nazi occupation and in 1983 small town Montana overshadowed by Cold War fears. It’s 1939 and Odile, an ardent reader who yearns to work in the American Library in Paris, discovers her whole world is about to be disrupted. In 1983 she encounters Lily, a restless teen who knows her mysterious neighbour has a story to tell. Promises friendship, love, secrets, heroism and lots of delightful bookish intertextuality. It will be published in 2021. Perfect for librarians, book lovers and fans of historical fiction.
Middle Grade Choice-The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Amazingly chilling and thrilling Victorian Middle Grade mystery which was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 2016. It tells the story of Faith who wants to study Science and yearns to be recognised for her intelligence. She rebels against being pigeonholed into a patriarchal strait jacket. When she discovers that her father is keeping a very dark secret which begins to consume her, Faith’s life starts to spiral out of control. There is a menacing and eerie vibe to this supernatural tale. Hardinge’s use of language is masterful with delicious vocabulary including words like susurration.
YA Novel-The Burning by Laura Bates
‘The Burning’ is a remarkable YA. Anna is haunted by her past and moves with her mother to a small Scottish village to escape it. There she finds herself inextricably linked to another woman’s past who has been equally persecuted. As she learns more about Maggie, she realises that she needs to fight for her rights. There is a deft parallel with the vicious witch hunts of the 17th Century to the vile blame and shame social media culture of the 21st Century which affects teenage girls today. Written by the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project it is a hard hitting and thought provoking novel which exposes misogyny and manipulation encouraging female victims to let their voice be heard.
My next stop on Saturday following a #Runaway morning was the world of the supernatural where the panel was composed of talented writers Kat Ellis and Deirdre Sullivan with Lauren James chairing. They all shared their experiences of exploring the realms of Gothic and Horror fiction for YA.
Deirdre is a Galway native. Her writing is influenced by dark fairy tales and Gothic guignol. She counts among her favourite Irish Gothic writers Dorothy Macardle, Rosa Mulholland, Lady Gregory, Clotilde Graves and Charlotte Riddell nee Cowan [who actually hails originally from Dundonald and who coincidentally I played in an Ulster Scots Writers’ Project film in 2014].
Kat is from North Wales. Author of ‘Blackfin Sky’, Breaker and Purge, her latest novel ‘Harrow Lake’ is a dark thriller with twists, secrets, thrills and dark chills to equal Stephen King.
Lauren writes romantic sci fi and has been shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. She treads previously unexplored paranormal and supernatural territory in her new novel ‘The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker.’
Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan
Catlin and Maddy
are trapped by their own desires
as evil threatens
“There are crosses on the road, small tooth like things poking out like artefacts. I count them.”
In Deirdre’s sixth novel, which she took 7 years to complete from genesis to publication, #PerfectlyPreventableDeaths, twin siblings Catlin and Madeline navigate the awkwardness of adolescence and the pangs of first love within the atmospheric, vivid and sinister location of Ballyfrann. Deirdre examines the issue of monstrous coercive control through the manipulative and dangerous character of Lon.
Will the sisters be torn apart or drawn closer together through adversity? What is the mysterious power that Madeline feels? Can they solve the dark mystery at the heart of this isolated community? The novel is rich in symbolism, evocative imagery, folklore and macabre foreshadowing.
It’s an old-fashioned puppet. The details are hard to make out in the dim light, but it looks like the puppet’s neck is broken. It’s a sad-looking thing, trapped there in its cage. Maybe I should let it out…
After a traumatic incident, Lola goes to stay with her grandmother in Harrow Lake, the setting of her father’s most iconic horror movie. The trouble is she’s keeping secrets, has acquired a stalker and is now somewhere where there have been many unexplained disappearances.
Publisher: Penguin Random House Children’s UK ISBN: 9780241397046
The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James
What if death is only the beginning?
“Congratulations, new kid. Welcome to the afterlife.”
When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a society of ghosts with magical powers – shape-shifting, hypnosis, even the ability to possess the living. What will it take to possess all they have and unleash her energy? Be careful what you wish for. The afterlife can be a perilous place to make an enemy.
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd ISBN: 9781406391121
The panel discussed their inspirations, their different writing styles and the importance of writing flawed characters and creating villains. Kat’s Lola is quite cynical and self aware. She’s been affected by her relationship with her parents. Lauren pointed out that her character Harriet is a villain who she enjoyed writing while Deirdre commented that “We’re all flawed and that none of us are likeable all the time. Everyone has their stuff that they’re dealing with and it wouldn’t feel natural to write a character that’s sunny and bright and perfect all of the time.” Her twins Catlin and Maddie are very different but they both have faults which lead them to disconnect from each other when they need each other the most.
The authors also agreed it was important to link real life situations to horror tropes and to build up suspense for the reader through the use of physical and emotional spaces. Linked to this was the significance of creating an eerie setting for a supernatural theme whether it be in closed, claustrophobic environments or on a bleak and barren landscape. This complements the use of the sublime and the psychological fear of confinement and isolation which is found in classic Gothic literature tales like ‘Dracula’ and ‘Frankenstein’. There was also a connect with sensory writing from the auditory power of Kat’s Mr Jitters to Deirdre’s crunchy leaves and luminous moon and mountains in Ballyfrann. Lauren played with the idea of cyclical stories.
Each author also shared some of their favourite books and movies.
Kat recommended Dawn Kurtagich’s ‘Teeth in the Mist’, an amazing horror fantasy set in the Welsh mountains in three different time periods and inspired by the legend of Faust. She also rated Melinda Salisbury’s ‘Hold Back the Tide’ describing it as a cross between ‘The Village’ meets ‘The Descent’. Horror flicks ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Hallowe’en’ are among her influences.
Deirdre observed that horror novels are ‘a safe way to be scared because you have autonomy over a book’. Authors E. Nesbit and Edith Wharton’s ghost stories appeal to her and she likes ‘how female authors use the Gothic to explore things that they couldn’t explore directly in their more contemporary work.’ Significantly; she mentioned Irish publishers Swan River Press and Tramp Press as being ones to watch for their amplification and reclamation of Gothic voices from authors like Dorothy MacArdle. Recently she read ‘The Return’ by Rachel Harrison which she found “atmospheric, sensory and immersive.”
Lauren’s character Harriet was inspired by the film ‘Stoker’. ‘House of Leaves’, a volume of multiple layers of narration of intricate inlaid ghost stories and Shirley Jackson’s novel ‘Hill House’ are other favourites of hers.
For Middle Grade, Kat recommended Eloise Williams’ witchy ‘Wilde’, Jennifer Killick’s ‘Crater Lake’ and ‘Thornhill’ by Pam Smy. Deirdre thought Emily Carroll’s ‘Through the Woods’ was spooky and fantastic.
Excitement builds with news of their upcoming projects. Deirdre spoke about ‘Savage Her Reply’, her re imagining and dark retelling of classic Celtic fairy tale ‘The Children of Lir’ complete with angry swans and witchcraft which will be out in October. Kat is working on a witchy tale of family feuds and murder while Lauren is writing a book featuring climate change and magic.
Hello book discoverers. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while but I keep being distracted by great new reads. To celebrate #NationalBookLoversDay I thought I’d showcase some exciting YA voices.
Authors have been so generous with their time during lock down participating in online events hosted by supportive publishers. Many have talked about their fascinating books. In July I was lucky enough to attend my first YALC celebrating the crème de la crème of young adult literature by delving into a cornucopia of scintillating topics. Everyone worked hard to make the #YALCathome online interviews a success responding with insight to any questions asked of them.
First up was an in depth discussion on Runaway YA with authors Patrice Lawrence, Non Pratt, Chloe Heuch and Amelia Mandeville. The wonderful Lisa Williamson, author of ‘The Art of Being Normal’, which has had an emotional impact on our students, chaired.
Adolescence can be a painful and confusing time as well as a voyage of discovery. The panel spoke about the different ways teens can ‘run away’ from life focusing on ‘the word of the moment’- ‘pieces’ and describing how their characters coped with their emotions caused by changing circumstances. They found a way through by going on a journey of the heart and head. Themes of loneliness, grief, difficult relationships, changing family dynamics and mental health issues were explored. These are empathetic reads which focus on connecting to a YA audience.
Too Dark To Seeby Chloe Heuch
“An evocative, debut YA novel about a grieving teenage girl who finds hope in a wild landscape.”
Debut author, writer and teacher Chloe Heuch @clogsulike introduced readers to her debut novel ‘Too Dark to See’ which has been described as an ‘intense portrait of love and survival’. It follows the story of Kay. Suddenly bereaved, she turns to a period of self destruction and unhealthy crutches to escape her feelings of loss and grief when they ‘threaten to overwhelm her’. Only when her father relocates them and she discovers the ponies of Black Moss mountain and meets someone special does she begin the healing process. But more challenges lie ahead.
Publisher: Firefly Press Ltd ISBN: 9781913102166
Every Little Piece of My Heart by Non Pratt
‘Sometimes it’s not about who’s gone, but about who they leave behind…’
Non Pratt, who specialises in writing authentic teen characters, spoke about the importance of friendship and creating memories. In ‘Every Little Piece of My Heart’, Freya leaves town and nobody knows why. Six months later her best friend Sophie receives a parcel within a parcel, with each piece addressed to different people who are strangers to her. Only by coming together can they understand who Freya is.
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd ISBN: 9781406366945
Eight Pieces of Silva by Patrice Lawrence
“An addictive mystery that refuses to let you go.”
Can Becks piece the jigsaw together and find her sister before Silva loses herself?
In her new novel , ‘Eight Pieces of Silva’ Patrice examines the dangers of ‘obsessive love meets obsessional falling in love’. Becks, who investigates her step sister Silva’s sudden disappearance with the help of a box of clues, was Patrice’s opportunity to ‘write a queer black working class Londoner with real agency’ and to engage with popular culture along the way.
Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group ISBN: 9781444954746
The Missing Pieces of Me by Amelia Mandeville
‘Meet the couple you’ll fall for head over heels, and discover the novel that will break your heart and put it back together again‘
Amelia used clues as a hook for her story using dual perspectives and focusing on mental health. ‘In the Missing Pieces of Me’ childhood sweethearts Dustin and Willow, who have a young child Zara, and a happy life, are not what they seem to be on the surface. When Willow suddenly abandons Dustin, leaving Zara behind, he starts to wonder whether he really knew the love of his life at all.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group ISBN: 9780751571752
Different ways of writing whether ‘plotter’ or ‘pantser’ or ‘snowflake method’ where you build upon sentences [which Non Pratt experimented with], the writing process during lock-down, writing locations, song tracks for their characters, advice for new writers [“Never Give Up & Write from the Heart”] and upcoming projects were also discussed.
If you’d like to learn more about these diverse and exciting new releases which all have an element of mystery at their heart you can watch the full video courtesy of Walker Books & friends at
WWW Wednesday is a weekly event where bloggers share their reading choices. There is such a lovely cornucopia of great books out there that
I’m tripling up for this post this week on-
What I’m currently reading
Revenge, redemption and conspiracies. Such an intriguing opening line and an interesting period of history to set it in. Patrick Ness is a powerful writer and I’m looking forward to getting absorbed in this exciting new novel.
Lucy Adlington is a skilled historical writer. I’ve read ‘The Red Ribbon’ which is an amazing, surprising and emotional story set during WW2 so I’m delighted to discover another title by her and looking forward to letting the mystery unfold.
This book was recommended by a colleague on the #NationalShelfService on You Tube so having read a few in this entertaining series starring audacious teen detectives I decided to check it out. I like that Stevens has moved the location to Hong Kong and that we’re learning more about Hazel’s family.
What I’ve recently finished reading
Stoker’s dehumanising description of Dracula’s female acolytes as ‘two dark with aquiline noses and red eyes’ is reclaimed in this daring feminist YA from Kiran Millwood Hargrave. She tells the story of dark haired traveller twins, Kizzy and Lil who are unintentionally trapped in Dracula’s world searching their souls, hearts and heads in an attempt to find a way to cope with what fate has dealt them. Thrilling scenes and descriptions abound which will raise the hairs on the back of your neck as the sisters explore their feelings, discover their talents and face their fears. Chilling and thrilling.
Published by Hachette Children’s Group as part of the breakout YA Bellatrix collection aimed at re-imagining classics by empowering disenfranchised female literary characters and championing diversity.
I’ve just finished listening to this series on audio book. The cadences of actor Will Patton’s tones bring the diversity and emotional intensity of the characters to life. You can visualise the fantastical dreamscapes and experience the cliffhanger moments of tension and peril. Quality writing from Stiefvater.
Inspired by the lush jungle landscape of Sri Lanka, this Middle Grade adventure is exciting and surprising with rich imagery and lively characters.
What I think I’d like to read next
I enjoyed Victoria Williamson’s ‘The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle’. It is an absorbing and emotive read about two diverse girls with different social circumstances and a shared secret.
Victoria has a talent for empathetic writing. I’m looking forward to reading ‘The Boy with the Butterfly Mind.’ What a beautiful, expressive title too.
One of my favourite books is my great grandmother’s copy of ‘The Arabian Nights Entertainments’. It enchanted me as a child because each story was like a Chinese box of fantastical possibilities. Can’t wait to read this next as I enjoyed Aisha’s last novel, ‘A Pocketful of Stars.’
Meg Rosoff is a perceptive writer and good at exploring teenage angst. I loved Rumer Godden’s ‘Greengage Summer’ and just reading the blurb of this is giving me vibes of another compelling coming of age story.
Storyline- This magical series enthralled me as a child. I loved reading about the adventures of Carbonel, the imperious Royal Cat. He commands Rosemary and John to help restore him to his kingdom and they discover magic, mystery and friendship along the way. I was so influenced by these wonderful books I even considered calling my commanding cat either Carbonel or Calidor. Luckily he became Gizmo.
Quote- “There are many kinds of magic…and once magic is in your blood it attracts more magic.”
Themes- Magic, Detection, Adventure.
commands Rosemary and John
to do his bidding.
Title- GobbolinoThe Witch’s Cat
Year First Published- 1942
Three Facts About Ursula Moray Williams
Born in 1911. Died in 2006.
Started writing when she was 9 years old
Wrote and illustrated over 70 books during her lifetime
Storyline- Gobbolino has a distinctive white paw, blue eyes and sparky whiskers. His jet black sister Sootica teases him that he can never be a true Witch’s cat. She loves to soar on a broomstick and help to cast spells. He has a kind heart and just wants to be happy. Gobbolino has many adventures on his journey to be accepted and understood for who he is and find a loving home as a kitchen cat. A story about wanting to belong that will strike a chord with children.
Quote- “Why was I ever born a witch’s kitten?”
Themes- Magic, Loneliness, Friendship
longs to be accepted for
who he really is
Title of Series– City Cats
Year First Published- 1987
Three Facts About Colin Dann
Born in 1943 in Richmond, London
Worked at the publishing firm William Collins Sons & Co
Known for ‘Animals of Farthing Wood’ which became a TV series
I went through a real anthropomorphic phase in my childhood. I discovered ‘The Animals of Farthing Wood’ which led me to the City Cats series because I loved Colin Dann as an author. His animals are so expressive and adventurous.
Story line-In ‘King of the Vagabonds’ Sammy is warned not to stray into the dangerous Quarter mile Field but he wants to find his mysterious father. His decision is the start of a wild and chaotic struggle for survival.
Quote- ”Don’t stray into the Quartermile Field. Any animal with sense avoids the spot.”
Themes- Anthromorphic Adventure, Quest
Cats on the run who
discover challenges when
Title- The Mouse Butcher
Year First Published- 1982
Three Facts About Dick King Smith
Born in Gloucestershire
Worked as a farmer for 20 years before becoming a teacher & author
Known for his animal stories which he referred to as “farmyard fantasy”
Storyline- On an island run by animals, Tom, a former ‘Mouse Butcher’, must fend for himself & take on the monster of Hobbs’ Hole. Imaginative adventure with thrills and chills.
She is six authors- Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, Tui Sutherland, Gillian Philip, Inbali Iserles and Victoria Holmes
Warrior Cats was filed under Erin Hunter so that they could be easily found in bookstores & libraries
Series entitled ‘Bravelands’ [Baboons, Elephants, Lions], ‘Seekers’ [Bears] & ‘Survivors’ [Dogs] are also by Erin Hunter
This immensely popular series is vast including Field Guides, Digital Novellas, graphic novels, seven box sets, short stories, super editions and manga
It tells the story of six cat clans- River, Shadow, Sky, Star, Thunder and Wind
Story line- These stories excite the imagination. They are full of action, magic and perilous situations. The series began with ‘Into The Wild’ when Rusty the kitty pet bravely fought a discovered a new life as Fire Paw. Our students have praised ‘Warrior Cats’, saying, “It is so amazing. You can hear the cats voices in your head.”
Quote- “You must either live with us and respect our ways, or return to your Two leg place and never come back. You cannot live with a paw in each world.” – Lionheart
Story line- Varjak is a pampered pet who is curious about the world outside and the legacy of his ancestors. Where does he really belong? Whom can he trust? Caught up in an action packed adventure, Varjak must learn some difficult lessons. Haunted by dreams, he must discover his true destiny.
Said’s writing is sensory as Varjak learns the skills needed to survive in a hostile environment. He discovers how to use his instincts and awareness to form alliances. As the tension builds and he is compelled to solve a disturbing mystery, he must harness the inner strength he has found.
McKean’s dramatic and dark silhouette style illustrations communicate a sense of menace which perfectly complements the sinister terrain Varjak finds himself in. Varjak is scared but courageous. He is an empathetic character that children will relate to as he finds his way.
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Quote- “There are Seven Skills in the Way of Jalal,” whispered the Elder Paw. “We know only three of them. Their names are these. Slow-Time. Moving Circles. Shadow-Walking.”