BLOG TOUR: All We Could Have Been

Hello! Happy Bank holiday! 

Today I have the utter joy of being part of the blog tour for T.E.Carter’s newest book: All We Could Have Been. I’m very lucky to be able to share an extract with you! You’ll find chapter 4 below – there is a bit of swearing, but we’re all adults around here! 

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“Five years ago, Lexie walked home from school after her older brother failed to pick her up. When she entered her house, her brother sat calmly, waiting for the police to come arrest him for the heinous crime he had just committed.

Treated like a criminal herself, Lexie now moves from school to school hiding who she is—who she’s related to. She struggles with loving her brother, the PTSD she now suffers from, and wanting to just live a normal life. But how can she be normal when she can’t even figure out how to just live? 

This is a powerful look at the assumptions we make about people. Lexie’s emotional journey to separate her brother’s horrific act from herself is stunning and heartbreaking. This is Lexie’s story and journey—not her brother’s—and it will stay with you long after you turn the last page.”

Chapter 4

Tuesdays are blue, which means my color-coding is less obvious to everyone, because jeans are blue. I like Tuesdays; they’re when I feel most like a real person.  It turns out I have third lunch with Ryan, which makes this Tuesday even better. He invites me to sit with his friends, and one of the hardest parts of each year passes just like that. Only 161 days to go.

“I am so pissed at Hawthorne,” a girl says as soon as she sits down at the lunch table. Dark hair, somewhat tall and thin, but still mostly average. Yet there’s something about her that draws my attention. Something about how sure she is of herself.

Two girls follow right behind her, flanking her across the table from where Ryan and I are sitting, and they wait for her to speak. The first girl drops her tray and stabs a straw into her orange-juice carton.

“Seriously? Fucking Romeo and Juliet? How ridiculously cliché can we get?” she asks.
“Shakespeare’s good for your portfolio,” Ryan says.
She rolls her eyes. “I have plenty of Shakespeare in my portfolio. What do you even think I do all summer? God.”
“Rory, Lexi,” Ryan says, flicking a hand between me and the angry girl. “Lexi’s new.”
“Hi,” Rory says. She drinks her whole carton of orange juice and crushes it. “Ryan, seriously. This sucks so bad.”

One of the other girls opens a bag of chips, but she pauses, waiting to see what Rory does. The greasy spud hovers in front of her open mouth. It’s not exactly fear. I can’t explain it, but it’s the kind of suspended animation that occurs when you can’t decide if your friend’s freak-out warrants putting your own basic needs, like hunger, on hold.

“It’s not always like this,” the other girl—the one sitting on Rory’s right—tells me. She’s prettier than Rory, but for some reason she fades beside her. “Drama’s just a big deal.”
“Oh yeah. Got it,” I say, pretending to understand.
“Sorry,” Rory mutters as she spears a french fry on her plastic fork. Chip Girl waits, and as soon as Rory puts the fry in her mouth, Chip Girl breathes a sigh of relief. Her stomach growls as if to confirm that hunger is, in fact, a bigger situation at the moment. The chip makes its final parabolic arc down her gullet.

“Look at it this way: You’re probably guaranteed Juliet,” Ryan says.
Rory shakes her head. “It’s not that, and you know it. She’s always going on and on about how ‘theater makes a difference.’ ” I imagine that Rory’s mocking lilt is nothing like how this Hawthorne person actually sounds, but everyone in our vicinity seems to be on board with it. “This was an opportunity. You know she’s just capitulating.”
“You need to lay off the SAT vocab,” Chip Girl says.
Rory glares at her but doesn’t respond. Instead, she turns back to Ryan, addressing me as well by accident. “All summer I was emailing her and she was totally into The Laramie Project or The Vagina Monologues. Something edgy. Something with a purpose. She swore she’d choose something that would matter. And we’re doing fucking Romeo and Juliet?”
“I don’t know,” I offer, which I probably shouldn’t. It’s not my place, and I don’t know the context. My head voice booms its countdown again, but I shush it and barrel on with my opinion, reason be damned. “It could work. I mean, prejudice, hate, judgment, assumptions. West Side Story tackles all the same key themes—”
Rory cuts me off. “West Side Story?”
“Yeah, I mean . . .” But the glare from the three girls across from me tells me to just keep my mouth shut.

“We don’t do musicals,” Ryan explains. “It’s a whole different kind of theater.”
“Sorry,” I mumble, and go back to my lunch. The peas are fluorescent. I wonder if they’re irradiated. That could be good. Everyone complains some more about Hawthorne, who I deduce is the teacher-director of the drama club, but I stop listening. Lunch is only twenty-seven minutes. Twenty-seven minutes of 161 days and it’s all over. I can survive this. They’re so wrapped up in the play that they don’t care about me or what I’m carrying. They won’t even notice me as long as I don’t talk about musicals.

“Hey, I’ll walk you to class,” Ryan says when the first bell rings to wrap up lunch.

Massive thank you to Hashtag Reads for inviting me to be part of this blog tour! This extract is sure to get people talking. Go treat yourself to this book now! And while you’re at it: check out the rest of the blog tour!

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S x 

The Words That Fly Between Us blog tour

Hello comrades! 

How are we all on this wonderful Tuesday morning? 

I have something very exciting to share with you all. I am here today to share an extract from the very brilliant ‘The Words That Fly Between Us‘ by Sarah Carroll. 

The Words That Fly Between Us

“Lucy’s father is a successful lawyer making a killing on the property market. She and her mother want for nothing. Nothing, that is, that can be bought. But money cannot buy Lucy the words she needs. The words to stand up to her bully of a father. The words to inspire her mother to do something about the family life that is suffocating them both. The words to become the person she wants to be.

Then Lucy finds something else: An escape route… 
Soon she discovers that every building on her row is connected, through the attic, to the next. As she explores the inner lives of those who live on her street, Lucy realises that she is not the only one to suffer in silence. She also sees ways she can help some, and ways to punish those that deserve it. But as the mighty fall, Lucy is forced to realise that while she can affect the lives of others from the safety of the attic, she will need to climb down to face her own fears.”

Words can be sticky. They nudge their way into the grooves of the tiles, and get wedged in tiny cracks in the plaster, and seep into the grain of the floorboards. And they stay there. If you look closely, you can see them. Our house is filling up with them. People don’t realize, though. They think you can just fling them around.

Chapter 1
I hate when Mum and Dad fight. Dad says they don’t, they have heated debates. Your mother gets heated while I debate. I’m with my sketch pad and pencil in the nook by the window in the living room. I’m not drawing anything in particular, really. 
‘Did I tell you, “Don’t get white wine”?’ Dad says from behind the double doors into the kitchen. Mum must have made a mistake with the order for his party tonight. 
‘Yes. You said you only wanted red—’

The higher Mum’s voice goes the flatter Dad’s stays. ‘Did I say, don’t get white.’ He’s doing that thing where he rolls the words around in his mouth before he spits each one out, just to be sure that there can be no mistake.
‘Here, look . . .’ She’s probably pointing to the piece of paper she’s carried around all week. It’s been opened and folded so many times it’s beginning to tear along the
creases. She’s right, there was no white wine on the list. ‘You wrote down—’
‘I’m aware I didn’t specify that you should buy white wine. I didn’t specify that we needed toilet paper either. Should I check the toilets?’
I know Mum’s searching Dad’s face right now, looking for just the right words. No more. No less. ‘Should I go out now . . . ?’
‘Oh, forget it, Alice.’
An intimate get-together, Dad had said. Starting around seven-thirty. Mr Reynolds will be dropping in. Mr Reynolds, who practically owns the bank. No fuss. Just enough hors d’oeuvres to keep the shareholders from dropping dead with hunger, so to speak. Four trays from Donnybrook Fair should do the trick. And champagne, of course. We’ll take one . . . No, wait, better make it two truck loads of the usual.

I realize I’m sketching Dad as he’ll look in a few hours, big smile, waving a fancy bottle around. We’re a champagne house, ha, ha. What’s that, you’re not a champagne drinker? Not to worry. Paula here will pop open a delicious little red. Oh, pardon me, it’s white wine you’re after… but… but… there is no white… Catastrophe. The whole night ruined. Dad’s head explodes. I don’t draw that.
‘You’ve had all week, Alice. I’ve so much on my plate, and I asked you to do one thing…’
The kitchen double doors open and I sit on my sketch pad so Dad doesn’t see. Wasting time drawing is bad enough. But I definitely don’t want to be caught drawing him. He’s already in his suit and a bright pink tie. His fun tie. He folds one door back so it’s flat against the wall. He sighs and shakes his head. Mum is standing behind him. She’s wearing her red silk dress. She’s had her hair curled and has her diamond earrings on too. After a while, she looks up. ‘Actually, I think there’s
a box of leftover white in the cellar.’ Dad acts like he hasn’t heard her, so she says, ‘I’ll go check.’

When she’s gone, Dad disappears through the kitchen too and I relax back against the wall. It’s got worse since he won that contract for The Old Mill last Christmas. It’s like underneath, things started turning bad, but from the outside you can’t see. Like an apple getting eaten up by a tiny worm. If you look closely you can see the
hole, but that’s all.

Take yesterday, for example, when Dad couldn’t find his golf shoes. Mum swore she left them on the washing machine, and she ran around looking for them while Dad
stood in the kitchen shaking his head and complaining that she was making him late for golf with potential investors. In the end, Dad found them in the conservatory. He
grabbed them and left without saying anything else because he was in too much of a hurry.

When he was gone, Mum went into the conservatory and stared at the spot where he had found them. She said, I was sure I left them on the washing machine around seventy times. Thing is, so was I. Because I saw her leave them there. I know it was only small, but things like that happen all the time since Dad moved into the big leagues. And the longer the development of The Old Mill is delayed, the more
stressed Dad gets.

It’s usually Mum that he gets annoyed with, but sometimes it’s me. And even when everything seems fine, you’re just waiting for that moment when the air sours. That’s why I hide my sketch pad. So he doesn’t give me that look – the same one he gets when he stands in dog dirt. Like I’m a disappointment. Or worse.

The side door to the front hall opens. Our cleaner, Paula, steps into the doorway and holds a champagne glass up to the light. She rubs at a smudge that’s not really there. She probably polished the wine bottles too. A great little cleaner, Dad calls her. Mum calls her a Duracell battery. Paula says, with her kids in school, she’s ready to do
something different. So she’s studying at night. But not tonight.
‘Have you eaten?’ she asks me.
‘Yup,’ I say.
She looks over the top of the glass at me. ‘Washed?’
‘Scrubbed,’ I say.
‘Good woman.’
She leans in a bit so she can see through the double doors.
‘What was that about?’ she whispers.
‘Mum didn’t buy white wine,’ I say.
Paula lifts an eyebrow. ‘He didn’t ask for white.’
‘I know,’ I say.
Now she lifts the other eyebrow. ‘And there’s loads
downstairs.’
‘I know,’ I say.

Mum comes back into the kitchen, carrying a box, walking like a robot because she’s trying not to trip in her high heels. ‘Found some!’ she calls and she tries to put the
box down carefully. But when she looks up, she sees Dad’s gone, and her words, and the box, drop with a thump onto the marble countertop. After a second, she claps her hands together and looks down at her dress to make sure it’s not smudged. I hop up to help but Paula says, ‘Stay where you are, honey. It’s covered in dust, you’ll ruin your clothes.’ She goes into the kitchen where Mum is saying, ‘Knew we had some.’
Dad comes in the other door behind them. He pulls a bottle out and turns it over to read the label. He sighs like his best friend, Oly, just died. ‘Best we can do, I suppose.’
Paula takes the bottle from his hand and whisks the box out of Dad’s way.

Dad comes back into the sitting room. He looks around at the platters and bottles and glasses on the tables. He plumps the cushions on the couch and runs a finger over the mantelpiece. He’s checking to see if anything is out of place. But there’s nothing wrong. Everything is gleaming. He notices me sitting in the window nook.
‘Ready?’ he asks.
I nod.
Then he says, ‘At least someone is.’

Who are his words for? They’re standing in the air like a glass of wine that someone was supposed to grab. But no one gets to them in time. They drop to the carpet and spread out in an invisible stain. That’s why the carpet’s so thick: it’s filled with words that no one wants.

‘You better go get ready.’ I look up. He’s talking to Mum, even though she’s been ready for over an hour. Her mouth drops open a bit. She looks down at her dress, then back at him. He breathes in deep and sucks up all the air in the room. Then he goes over to the couch. Reaches down behind it. Lifts something. It’s a box. He hands it to Mum.

Her hands are shaking a bit when she takes it. I’m leaning forward, as if that’s going to help me see better. All I can think is, Please let it be nice. Please. She lifts something out and the first thing I think is that it’s armour, like the chain mail stuff that knights used to wear. It’s not. It’s a dress. Silver and sparkly, in a really, really
expensive way.
‘Try it on. It should fit,’ Dad says.
‘Declan . . .’ Mum says. Her shoulders relax a bit. And the air rushes back into the room again. I breathe it in.
‘God, it’s just gorgeous,’ Mum says.
‘It would want to be. Cost nearly three grand,’ he says.
‘Three grand!’ I say. I didn’t mean to, the words just came out. Dad turns. But he laughs, too. He’s having fun now.
‘Why not?’ he says. ‘We have the money.’ He looks at both of us like our cat used to when he jumped in the window and plonked a dead bird down in front of us. ‘Mr Reynolds is going to be here,’ he says.
‘Thank you,’ Mum says and holds it up against her. She looks so happy that, for some reason, it makes me sad.
‘You. Are. Welcome,’ he says. Then he holds up his arm and shakes his wrist so his Rolex slides down. ‘Go on, go get changed.’
Mum rushes off. Dad surveys the room again and then goes into the hall. I hope the dress fits. And I hope Dad stays in a good mood.

If you’ve loved this extract, then I promise you, it only gets better. There’s so much I loved about this book. The characters, the interwoven lives, the secrets and lies. It’s great. The Words That Fly Between Us is out this month and I encourage each and every one of you to treat yourself! 

Massive thank you to Simon and Schuster for inviting me to host on the blog tour! Go check out the rest of the tour and get your hands on this brilliant book when it comes out! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: C.G.Drews

YOU GUYS ARE IN FOR A PROPER TREAT ON THIS HERE FIRST DAY OF APRIL. Don’t say I don’t spoil you. AND THIS IS NO APRIL FOOLS EITHER. 

As you all know I am a MASSIVE (and I mean MASSIVE) fan of the brilliant C.G.Drews’ books (as seen in my review of A Thousand Perfect Notes). When her new book The Boy Who Steals Houses was announced, the poor publishers received a VERY grovelly email asking if I could have a copy to review… and they were INCREDIBLE and sent me a copy. Well NOW GUYS IT’S ALMOST RELEASE TIME (in fact… THURSDAY IS THE BIG DAY). I consumed it in a matter of hours and I just adored it – you’ll find my review of the book here (clicky, click). 

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Then… astonishingly… I got an email from the publishers asking me if I’d like to kick off the blog tour and I WAS DELIGHTED. 

So here, I am, sharing with you a deleted scene from The Boy Who Steals Houses. This scene originally sat between Chapter 24 and 26, and don’t worry, it’s not too spoilery! 

So sit back, get a cup of tea and enjoy!! 

POTATOES ARE BETTER THAN ROMANCE

(Deleted Scene from The Boy Who Steals Houses)

His attention should be on the knife, on the whorls of potato peels slipping through his fingers. But Sam can’t stop worrying.

About summer ending.

About finally telling Moxie all his secrets.

About Avery boxing himself into a world of sharp corners and dangerous ledges and insisting he can take care of himself. Sam hasn’t checked on him in days. That selfishness twists his stomach like soured lemonade.

Moxie stands next to him as they peel potatoes together. The rest of the family are still out working at the building site, but Jeremy is home early for dinner duties. He’s seventeen, but definitely the best cook in the house. He clatters jars of herbs and butter onto the bench and then surveys them with a mournful expression.

“Why are you both so slow?” he says. “Are we having my infamous herb and garlic potatoes this year or at my funeral when I die at age ninety-four?”

Moxie throws peels at him. “Rude.” She nudges Sam with her hip. “Hey, you’re far away. Everything okay?”

Sam blinks. “I’m fine.” He needs to snap out of it or Moxie will press with questions he’s not ready to answer. He wants to keep this summer, this pretend honeyed paradise, for as long as possible.

Distraction comes in the form of Toby trotting into the kitchen with Jeremy’s phone clasped in sticky three-year-old hands. The De Lainey’s refer to the hour before dinner as the dreaded witching time, when the little ones will hurtle into hangry meltdowns if you even look at them wrong. Jeremy offered up his phone like a sacrificial goat so Toby would be occupied and they could get dinner on. The baby is licking the wall but seems fine. It’s just Toby now planted in the midst of the kitchen with the phone raised above his head as it plays tinny strains of music.

He jumps up and down. “Dance wiv me, Moxie!”

“Um, no.” Moxie stabs an apple. “I have standards.”

Toby forcefully crosses his arms and his bottom lip wobbles.

“If he starts crying,” Jeremy warns, “he will never stop and my fragile eardrums can’t take it. I’m not…not strong enough. Don’t be a monster, Moxie.” He flaps vaguely in Toby’s direction. “At least he put on Twice Burgundy. It’s a good band. Our little terror has taste.”

Toby tips back his head and wails, “Nobody will dance wiv me!”

“Quick put food in his mouth,” Moxie says. “That’ll distract him.”

But Toby’s already gone into a boneless heap, wail escalating.

Sam abandons the potatoes and slips over to the ensuing apocalypse. He’s really good at averting meltdowns. Lots of practice with Avery.

“Moxie is a terrible dancer.” Sam pats Toby’s back. “You don’t want her anyway.”

“Ouch,” says Jeremy.

Moxie raises an eyebrow. “I’m unsure whether to be grateful for that comment.”

Toby picks himself up, face damp, and then flings arms around Sam’s legs. “You dance!” He starts jumping up and down, clutching Sam’s leg with one arm and the phone with the other, which continues a song that tastes of violent summer storms.

Sam gives Moxie and Jeremy a helpless look. They smirk.

“Daaaance!” shrieks the tiny overlord.

Sam obeys.

He is not a dancer. His ears go hot as he tries to move his gangly limbs in some sort of rhythm. His undone shoelaces flick against the floor and he has no idea what he’s doing. But Toby beams and begins what looks like a demon-possessed-chicken-polka.

Moxie cracks up so hard she starts dropping potatoes.

“Dance! Dance!” Toby shouts.

“Yeah, Moxie. Dance, dance.” Sam snatches her hand and pulls her into a spin, because if he’s going to suffer, so is she.

Moxie is laughing too hard to protest. But when she finally gets her breath, she rests a palm against Sam’s chest. “Fine.” Her eyes are bright as a dare. “But this is how you dance.”

And suddenly they’re not messing around to good music on bad speakers. They’re truly dancing.

Their hearts pound and bodies brush together. Moxie’s arms twirl above her head and Sam’s feet skid across the floorboards. There’s a thump as Jeremy jumps into the middle, proving the demon-possessed-chicken-polka style is a disturbing De Lainey family trait.

They are so happy in that moment, so full of wild abandon, they could have outshone the sun.

They are also so distracted, by music and their own fierce delight, that they don’t hear the front door opening as Mr. De Lainey and Jack walk in.

The impromptu dance party ends with a shriek from Moxie and all three of them drop down behind the kitchen benches. Toby just squeals in delight at this new turn of the game.

“I’m pretty sure they saw us,” Sam says, breathing hard.

Moxie covers her face. “Bury me.”

Jeremy pats her shoulder. “Jack’s never going to let this go. We might as well leave the country.”

On cue, Jack starts crowing while kicking off his work boots. “What was that delightful sight?”

“I don’t know, Jack.” Mr. De Lainey’s voice is exaggeratedly loud. “Did you see several electrocuted noodles flailing in my kitchen?”

“It’s almost like they are sooo embarrassed,” Jack says. “I wonder why.”

“These embarrassed noodles are making you dinner,” Jeremy shouts, still safe behind the cupboards. “Don’t criticise us!”

“We did it for the three-year-old,” Moxie adds.

“Please forget you ever saw that,” Sam says.

Jeremy and Moxie look at him.

They burst out laughing.

Moxie laughs so hard she tips over into Sam’s lap, which he didn’t expect. But he doesn’t flinch. Instead he has a perfectly acceptable reason to gently slip arms around her. It doesn’t mean anything. Totally not.

Mr. De Lainey and Jack peer over the bench.

“They’re so freaking cute,” Jack says.

Mr. De Lainey’s voice is mild as always. “I’m off to shower, but try to get dinner on soon. Goodbye, embarrassed noodles.”

The embarrassed noodles on the floor make distressed sounds as Mr. De Lainey heads for the stairs.

Jack is still smirking as he hauls himself up on the bench, shedding sawdust and grime. He plucks a peeled potato off the stack and bites it.

Jeremy picks himself off the floor and looks disgusted at his twin. “You are an animal. Alright, up children.” He nudges Moxie in the ribs with his toe. “Be useful.”

Moxie is still buried in Sam’s lap. “I can’t show my face again.”

“Make her movie, Sammy,” Jeremy says.

Sam carefully sweeps Moxie’s dark chocolate curls away from her ear. His whisper is sweet gold and Moxie stifles a giggle as she pushes off him and they both get to their feet.

Jeremy watches with a dubious expression. “Hm, alright, wait. What did you say to her? Something racy? Because if so, I will have to beat someone with a potato masher. Probably myself. Because ew.”

Moxie flounces over to the pantry for more potatoes. “None of your business, Jeremy.”

Jeremy exchanges a hurt expression with Jack who helpfully offers him the potato masher.

Sam slips back to the pile of potatoes, tips of his ears still red. He tries to keep his voice breezy as he says, “Nothing. I just said she is a cute electrocuted noodle.”

“Oh but this is an adorable development,” Jeremy says with an eyebrow wiggle. “Calling each other cute. My, my. Whatever is next? True LOVE.”

Sam fumbles for potatoes, knocks them on the floor, feels his ears go volcanic red and then promptly wishes for death. He shouldn’t have said cute. He was just copying what Jack said. But OK, it sounded flirty from him. He’s not flirting. He wouldn’t…he…

Help.

“Like, I said, so adorable,” Jeremy says. “Look at your little blush! Aw!”

Moxie slams more potatoes into the sink and scowls at her older brother. “What would you know about love, dumbass? Your only love life is you and that potato.”

Jeremy caresses a potato gently. “Potatoes are better than boyfriends anyway.”

“Nobody thinks that,” says Moxie.

Jack stops eating his gross raw potato and points the masher at Sam. “Right, you. Potatoes or Moxie?”

“Man, don’t ask me things like that.” Sam chases the potatoes he dropped and it’s only when he’s set them back on the bench that he notices Jeremy choking on silent laughter and Moxie’s expression is brittle.

“You better say something romantic,” Jeremy says, gasping, “to make up for that.”

Sam panics. “Um, I mean, they’re on the same level. Equal appreciation.”

“That was not romantic,” Moxie snaps.

“What are you saying? It was super romantic.”

“Sam, no.”

Jeremy loops an arm around both their necks and drags them into an uncomfortable hug. Moxie fights. Sam gets far too close to Jeremy’s armpit.

“Let’s just make a unanimous decision,” Jeremy says grandly. “Potatoes are better than romance.”

Sam and Moxie shove him off before he tries to kiss their cheeks. Moxie gives her brother a foul look and then she and Sam go back to peeling potatoes. Dinner is going to be so, so late. Sam takes a careful step closer to Moxie so their arms brush. She doesn’t move away. He passes her a potato so their fingers catch for a second.

“Are you trying to romance me, young man?” she says.

“You’re my favourite potato,” he whispers.

She throws a potato peel at him. A smile plays on her lips and she doesn’t look away from him for a long time.

A massive massive thank you to the publishers and for C.G. Drews for sharing this with us! I just adore it! I WANT MORE FROM THESE GUYS. 

If you’re intrigued then PLEASE GO OUT AND BUY THE BOOK. It is so incredibly wonderful. I promise you, you will love it… I proper did. 

TBWSH Blog Tour

S x

BLOG TOUR: Jane Kerr

The Great Animal Escapade: adventure filled brilliance!

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When The Elephant Thief came out in 2017, I absolutely devoured it, so when I heard there was going to be a sequel I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour! My expectations were pretty high for this follow up book… and man was I not disappointed. Filled with adventure, mischief, mayhem and mystery, this book is just as good as it’s predecessor.

In a stark difference to the first book, Danny has left behind his life on the streets to be working and living somewhere far more comfortable. His past however is never far behind him, and he never really gets the chance to forget it! It hangs about him like a bad smell. He is now living with the Jamesons, who, despite the fact they have taken him in, never really trust himespecially when things start to go wrong! He never really feels like he fits in – not in this new life, or in his old life – and he has so many unanswered questions that it starts to play on his mind a little. Throw in the mysterious character who says he knows more of Danny’s life… and you’ve got one well and truly confused main character!

I loved Danny. I think that’s one of the biggest things about this book is that you proper fall for him and you want things to work out for him. We all love a good main character we can root for… so Danny fits that category perfectly. You want people to believe him and trust him, and you really feel for him when things start to go a little awry in his life – both in and out of the zoo! Danny’s got a brilliant heart and you can tell throughout the book that he just wants whats best for the animals – his care and attention for them is lovely to read. We see things aren’t perfect, but the animals’ one constant is Danny’s love. 

No book is complete without it’s very own villain… and there is definitely a character who lives that role perfectly. He’s a mysterious and untrustworthy character, who we don’t really know a lot about. He’s elusive and secretive and we definitely don’t know whether or not to trust him at the start. I like a character like this because it makes the guessing game all the more satisfying! Plus, they’re a little more interesting to talk about than down and out evil characters.

This book is filled with magic, mystery and intrigue and makes a brilliant read: perfect for Year 5s and 6s! I’d quite like to travel back to this time and experience what it was like… and maybe give Danny a big hug! This book delivers quite a punch with its messages, but does it in ways which are subtle and just plain great. If you’re after a book that is sure to make you want to read on, then look no further!

A massive thank you to the publishers Chicken House for sending me a review copy – it is now at school being consumed by my class! 

Check out the rest of the blog tour below: there’s some cracking posts to get your teeth into! 

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S x

 

BLOG TOUR: Proud

This year sees the release of one of my most hotly anticipated books, another brilliant anthology from the wonderful publishers Stripes. This year it’s an anthology to celebrate all things pride… and I’m not going to lie, reading it made me VERY proud.

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Today, I have the absolute honour of hosting one of the authors from the anthology, Michael Lee Richardson, as he talks about his top 5 queer teams. You’re in for an absolutely brilliant blog post, so get yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit! 

‘The Other Team’

Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin talks about biological families and logical families, the idea that we have the families we’re born into, and the families we make of our friends. For me, being queer is as much about our friendships and the people we choose to surround ourselves with as it is our romantic and sexual relationships. 

Queer friendship is one of the themes I wanted to work into ‘The Other Team’, the story I wrote for Juno Dawson’s Proud anthology.

With that in mind, when I was asked to write something for the #ProudBook blog tour, I wanted to focus on my favourite queer teams and my favourite queer teammates – so, without further ado:

Michael Lee Richardson’s Top 5 Queer Teams!

The Crystal Gems

I’m a huge fan of Steven Universe – at this point, figuring out which Crystal Gem someone is most like is basically its own form of zodiac sign – and I love the dynamic between the Crystal Gems: Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl and Steven. The fact that they compliment each other, celebrate each other’s differences, and make room for each others quirks and eccentricities is pretty inspiring, as is the fact that they know how to have a good argument and still be there for each other at the end of the day. In the real world, the fact that the Crewniverse – the team behind Steven Universe – is full of queers is also pretty inspiring!

The Fab Five

When I heard Netflix were remaking Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I was skeptical – the series had its place in the early 2000s, but it felt like we had moved on by 2017. Relaunching the show as Queer Eye – not all the makeovers are with ‘straight guys’ – was a good starting point, but the team Netflix put together was the key to the show’s success. Jonathan Van Ness is my favourite, obviously (when I wrote Alistair from ‘The Other Team’ flicking his ‘hair’ off his shoulders, I was definitely thinking of Van Ness!), but I love them all, and they all bring something unique to the team – not just in their skills, but in their personalities and personas, and it’s nice to see a diverse bunch of queer men working together (especially when it’s for the benefit of other queers).

House of LaBeija

Nothing speaks to the idea of logical families better than houses, part of the drag and ballroom customs which started in Harlem in New York and have become a staple of queer scenes all over the world. From the language – shade, reading, fierce, realness – to the fashion to the dance, ballroom’s influence on queer and mainstream culture can’t be underestimated. I’m particularly fond of the House of LaBeija – Crystal LaBeija, the founder of the House of LaBeija, is often credited as having started ‘house’ culture, and her successor Pepper LaBeija makes a star turn in the legendary drag documentary Paris is Burning.

Babysitter’s Club

Okay, so they’re not canonically queer – but one of the things Proud has made me revisit is the idea that, before LGBTQI+ YA was a going concern, we had to ‘queer’ our YA for ourselves, and there’s no way you could tell 11 year old me the every single one of these girls (and Logan Bruno, boy babysitter) wasn’t queer! The ‘theory’ checks out, too – Ann M Martin, author of The Babysitter’s Club, is queer, and came out publicly after the series was finished. 

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh

Slightly cheating, this one, as I said being queer teammates was more about friendships than romantic relationships – and Helen and Kate are both! Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh met playing for the England and Great Britain hockey teams – they married in 2013, three years before becoming the first same-sex couple to win an Olympic medal when Team GB won Gold in the women’s field hockey tournament in 2016.

For me, any blog post that celebrates Team GB, The Fab 5 and drag queens in the same blog post is an ABSOLUTE winner. A massive massive thank you to Michael for taking the time to write a blog post for me! I LOVE it so much. 

My review of Proud is coming in the next week or so, so make sure to keep an eye out for it. I promise you this much though… it is EXCEPTIONAL and I can’t wait to shout about it from the rooftops!! 

Why don’t you go celebrate some other brilliant #Proudbook content by checking out the rest of the stops on the blog tour? I have absolutely loved how this blog tour is celebrating all things pride related. 

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A massive thank you to the people of Stripes for sending me an early copy of the book and for inviting me on the blog tour. It’s been an absolute honour to shout about this book everywhere! I can’t wait for it to be released into the wild so everyone can enjoy its majesty! 

S x 

 

BLOG TOUR: Anna and Evan meet Charles Dickens

Hello!

Today is my stop on the Anna and Evan meet Charles Darwin blog tour. This new book promises to engage and educate children, and is ideal for encouraging curiosity and interest in the natural world and science.

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“Join Anna and Evan on a magical adventure to the Galapagos Islands where they meet Charles Darwin, discover unusual animals and learn some interesting scientific facts.”

Today, I get the joy of sharing 2 extracts with you! I can’t wait to share this book as I think it will go down brilliantly in both KS1 and KS2. 

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A massive thank you to the publishers and Faye Rogers for the invite to the blog tour and again I can’t wait to share this with school – I think it will be a big hit!

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour below! Find out what they think of the book and so many other delights! 

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Monday 25th February – Rosie Writes…

Tuesday 26th February – Heavenly Good Books

Wednesday 27th February – Big Book Little Book

Thursday 28th February – A Bibliophile’s Book Blog

Friday 1st March – Bound 4 Escape

Saturday 2nd March – Black Books Blog

Sunday 3rd March – An Awfully Big Adventure

Monday 4th March – Amazeball’s Book Addict

Tuesday 5th March – Jazzy Book Reviews

Wednesday 6th March – Fantastic Feathers

Thursday 7th March – Librarian Laura

Friday 8th March – Donna’s Book Blog

Saturday 9th March – Short Book and Scribes

Sunday 10th March – Yet Another Blogging Mummy!!!


Information about the Book

Author: Tanya Hutter and Lina Daniel
Illustrator: Karin Eklund
Release Date: 28th February 2019
Page Count: 30
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Goodreads Link: Clicky click
Amazon Link: Go on… treat yo’ self!

Bio of the authors Tanya Hutter and Lina Daniel

As a young girl, Dr. Tanya Hutter couldn’t imagine that she would end up being a leading scientist in nanotechnology and chemical sensing, and a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge. Currently, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and their two curious children that inspired the book.

Lina Daniel has been always interested in science and medicine, eventually becoming a chemist and a pharmacist, and currently working in the pharmaceutical industry. With her husband, she is raising three enthusiastic boys. They all share a passion for scientific experiences, engineering novelties, fun historical facts, travels and adventures.

Tanya and Lina have been close friends for over two decades. The fact that they are both raising young children enhanced their desire to encourage kids to learn about science, and finally, drew them to write their first illustration book for small children. Hopefully, this will be the first one in a series of books about notable scientists and engineers.  

BLOG TOUR: Will You Catch Me?

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting author Jane Elson on my blog as part of the blog tour for Will You Catch Me? 

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“Nell Hobs lives with a tortoise called Bob Marley, guinea pigs Asbo and Chaos, goldfish Beyoncé and Destiny, gerbils Fizz and Tyrone, Aunty Lou the Hamster … and her mum, who drinks too much. Nell does everything she can to be a good daughter so that her mum will stop. But when things get really hard, Nell stands on her head. Everything looks better upside down, don’t you know?

Nell wishes she knew who her dad was. When new teacher Mr Samuels makes history come alive and tells the class the story of Nell Gwynn, the Orange Girl who became one of the first actresses on the London stage, Nell is captivated and is determined to dress up as an Orange Girl for the Costume Parade. She hatches a plan with her best friend Michael: a way to make her dad step forward and claim her. Will she succeed?”

With a Little Help From My Friends: The highs and lows of friendship for the child of alcoholic

Oh, the complexities of schoolgirl friendships! Especially Years 4-7, it’s such a complex thing, often invisible to the adult world.

For children who have an alcohol dependent parent making friends in school can be nearly impossible. How can you have a sleepover or even have someone home to tea when mum or dad might be drunk?

Nell Hobs in my book Will You Catch Me? has a mother who is alcohol dependent and she has fallen out with best friend, Chantal Smith before the story even begins.

‘Chantal and I used to be friends, only she kept wanting to come round to my flat and I just couldn’t have her there, not with my mum the way she is. Chantal kept on and on about coming round, so I started ignoring her and now she hates me.’

Nell’s new best friend is Michael, a looked after child, who lives next door to Nell on the Beckham Estate with Aunty Lou. His mother has had a nervous breakdown and is being taken care of by relatives in Jamaica. His father is a busy business man who rarely sees him. These two vulnerable children stick together like glue. He is the perfect friend because he knows and understands the situation with Nell’s mum.

I had a lot of fun creating Michael. He is a genius and wants to be an inventor when he grows up. He is constantly taking things to pieces for his inventions and causing havoc! His wardrobe, the lock on the bathroom door, his school chair and so on. Michael is flamboyant in his dress preferring waistcoats, bright spotty patterned shirts and bow ties to trainers and tracksuits. This makes him stand out and he is bullied by the Beckham Street Boyz, the gang on his estate and the T Crew from the neighbouring Tarkey House Estate. Then one day he invents a remote control for the school clock and they get out of maths 45 minutes early. Michael, becomes a hero! He has earned respect and is nick named Prof M. Nell and Michael can now walk about the estate freely.

The complexities of school life are hard as fitting in seems to be the way to survive. Anyone who is different and stands out from the crowd has a rocky ride at some stage in their lives but often go on to achieve great things.

Nell and Michael’s friendship is strong, beautiful and I hope touching to my readers. Nell is not perfect; she is so driven by her desire to fix her mum and find out who her dad is that she fails to notice how much Michael is missing his mum.

She is also bossy and tells Michael what to do which leads to a dramatic climax to the story but I won’t spoil the ending of Will You Catch Me?. I loved writing about Nell and Michael’s friendship. They became my friends as I wrote the book and now that it is finished and out in the world I miss them dearly.

I believe that every child has the right to see themselves reflected in a book. I feel Will You Catch Me? is the most important story I have ever written. Not every one of the 2.6 million children who have a parent who drinks too much, like Nell does, is lucky enough to have a friend like Michael.

Nacoa- the National Association of children of Alcoholics- has a message. You are not alone. This week is COA Week- Children Of Alcoholics Week to raise awareness for children like Nell in Will you catch Me? If you are reading this and are one of those children, please phone The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics helpline number is 0800-358-3456 to talk to someone in confidence.

The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics (Nacoa) has a message for children like Nell. It is ‘You are not alone’. Their helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk

A massive thank you to Jane for writing this post and an equally big thank you to Fritha for asking me to be part of this blog tour!

Check out the rest of the blog tour, I know there promises to be some more brilliant posts coming up!

Will-You-Catch-Me_Blog-Tour

S x

BLOG TOUR: Sam Wu

Today I have the absolute joy of being part of the Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of the Dark blog tour! I ADORE the Sam Wu books, written by the brilliant Katie and Kevin Tsang, so when I was asked to be aprt of this blog tour, I jumped at the chance! Check out my review below (featuring some quotes from some of my kids!)

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“Sam Wu is NOT afraid of anything. Except for quite a lot of things. Like ghosts. Sharks too. And also THE DARK! And so when Sam goes camping in the woods with his friends and cousin Stanley, who knows what scary kind of things they’ll face . . .?”

The Sam Wu books are a brilliant series featuring the hilariously afraid of everything nothing Sam Wu and his bunch of friends! This third book in the series sees Sam taking on a new fear he definitely doesn’t have… the dark! 

Sam Wu ends up having to go camping with his friends and his cousin… a cousin who thinks he is excellent at everything! There’s MANY hilarious moments in the story – I was in fact cackling from the first page. As well as lots of hilarity, of course Sam’s arch nemesis ends up turning up on the camp site and they have to learn to work together to get over their fear not fear of the dark. There’s a scene at the campsite in particular that made me PROPER giggle – it’s funny seeing the world through a child’s eyes and things like getting from a tent to where adults are sat made me proper laugh. 

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These books are so perfect for children who are just building their confidence with reading and those who love a brilliantly illustrated story! The illustrations are just spot on for this story and they add so much to the story. Nathan Reed, the illustrator, has got the whole story and the feel of the story spot on in his pictures. 

Some quotes from the kids I teach:

“I love these books because Sam Wu doesn’t look like most characters in stories. He’s different and it’s good for us to learn about different kinds of people”.

“These books make me really laugh and I hope there will be more” (when this child noticed book 4 cover on the back, there was an audible YAY)

“I just love how some of the pages are different colours and that makes them really fun. I also like that Sam and his friends always work together. And Sam is really scared of everything, he’s just really brave too though”

My goodreads review:

Brilliantly fun! I love these stories. Full of laugh out loud moments, friendship, adventure and beautiful illustrations! This had me cackling from the first page!

Have you met Sam Wu and his brilliant friends yet?
What one thing are you definitely NOT afraid of?

Go check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour! And buy Sam Wu is NOT Afriad of the Dark when it comes out on Thursday! (In fact you might already find it in your local shops, so GO GO GO, or preorder it today!)

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A massive thank you to Egmont for sending me a copy of the book and for inviting me to be on the blog tour! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: A Pinch of Magic

Hello lovely friends! 

Today I have the ABSOLUTE JOY of hosting a Q&A with author Michelle Harrison – who has written the absolutely incredible A Pinch of Magic. Now, I read this book back in 2018 and guys… it’s PROPERLY stuck with me. I just adored it. It’s one of those that I hope I get to read aloud to my kids one day because I just loved it. EVERYTHING I COULD NEED IN A BOOK: Brilliant characters, magic and charm. WONDERFUL.

Anyway, you’re here for the Q&A, not my rambling on about the story! I asked my kids to help me think of some questions and once they started they didn’t want to stop! 

1. Where did you get the inspiration for the story? 
The idea came from a book called The Lore of the Land, which is all about Britain’s
folklore. I noticed a section on Essex, and read that the village of Canewdon will
supposedly always have six witches there. Whenever one dies, a stone falls out of the church walls. This was the starting point for the curse in A Pinch of Magic. I decided to write about three sisters as I’m the youngest of three.

2. Which character did you enjoy writing the most? 
I loved writing the sections in the past about the mysterious girl in the tower and how the curse all came about, but I don’t want to give too much away here! I also really enjoyed writing about Charlie, she’s a little scamp who brings lightness to the story.

3. Do you think you’d survive in the world you wrote?
No way! It’s damp and miserable in Crowstone ‒ I’d HATE it! I don’t handle the cold
well, and my hair is a lot like Betty’. One bit of damp weather and POOF. Fuzzball.

4. Is there one of the characters you think you’re the most like? 
Well, according to the quiz in the back of the book I’m most like Charlie. I’m fond of
animals and I’m usually thinking about my next meal. But there’s also a touch of Fliss, as I enjoy baking and homely things, although I’m not a disaster in the kitchen like she is. I’ve probably given my heart away too easily in the past, too. 

5. If you could have a magical object, what would you choose and why? 
From the book it would have to be the travelling bag ‒ the potential for adventures
and mischief would be impossible to resist. But if I could choose anything it would be something pretty like a dragonfly pendant or ring which could allow me to fly. I used to have lots of flying dreams when I was younger and they were so much fun I was always sad to wake up!

A massive massive thank you to the publishers (Simon and Schuster) for inviting me to be on this blog tour, and for Michelle for taking time to answer my kids’ questions! 

You should all DEFINITELY go out and buy A Pinch of Magic (if you need any more convincing, it’s also Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month) I really really loved it!

Go check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! I can’t wait to read the rest of the posts! 

APOM BLOG TOUR

S x

An Amazing Blog Tour

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Today I have the ABSOLUTE joy of being part of the Amazing blog tour. I was so incredibly lucky to be asked to host a Q&A with the incredibly brilliant Steve Antony – author and illustrator extraordinare.

As soon as I knew I was doing a Q&A, it was inevitable that I had to get my kids involved, so they helped me write the questions (there were SO many they had, so I had to whittle it down!)

Check out the questions and some brilliant responses from the man himself! 

What’s your favourite thing about going to schools?

Apart from chomping biscuits and nattering with teachers in the staff room, I always enjoy seeing all the artwork that classes have created. Whether it be acrylic self-portraits, cardboard dioramas, character pumpkins or even something as simple as paper snowflakes, I really do believe that art brings a school to life.

Funniest memory of visiting schools?

The funniest moments come during Q&A. Children don’t have filters, do they? The younger the audience the odder the questions. Is the Queen your granny? Are you Ed Sheeran? Why don’t you comb your hair?

Also, being greeted by over 200 children (and teachers) dressed as pandas on World Book Day was something I will never forget.

What memories do you have of reading as a child?

Most of my earliest and clearest memories of reading take me back to my school library. I remember that feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of stories just waiting to be discovered. I was never a fast reader and I preferred books with pictures, I still do, but there was something empowering about just being in my school library. Sadly, many children may never know that feeling, which is why the #GreatSchoolLibraries campaign is so important. The campaign aims to bring school libraries and librarians back to every school in the UK, because every child deserves a great library. You can find out more about the Great School Libraries campaign at: http://www.greatschoollibraries.edublogs.org

I also have fond memories of our public library. That’s where I discovered some of my favourite authors and Illustrators.

Do you remember the first book you read as a child that made you want to write?

Even as a very young child I loved to draw. But it was picture books like Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and The Munch Bunch (created by Barrie and Elizabeth Henderson and illustrated by Angela Mitson) that inspired me to imagine my own characters and tell stories with drawings.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I believe that inspiration is everywhere, but you have to tune in to it. I like to prove this theory in my story-building workshops. By the end of each workshop almost everybody has an idea for a story, and some even have synopses!

Books are a fantastic source of inspiration, which is why the library is the perfect place to feel inspired. Many of my stories were inspired by something I’d seen in a book, magazine or newspaper.

What is your typical writing routine? From first draft to final draft?

People often think I spend all day writing and drawing, but there’s so much involved in being an author and illustrator. In fact, last week I only spent around 5 hours working on my next picture book because the rest of my time was spent on emails, events, my website, blogs, taxes and marketing. As part of this blog tour, I wrote a ‘Day in the Life’ guest post for Acorn Books, which you might find interesting. https://acornbooksblog.wordpress.com

It takes about 4-5 months to start and finish a picture book. Normally my publisher will select a couple of ideas from my sketchbook for me to develop (this usually happens when I’m at the tail- end stages of finishing another picture book). In order to develop ideas into stories I do need plenty of time and space to breath because I find it hard to tap into my imagination during busy spells. I normally get a gut feeling if a story is working or not. As a general rule it has to feel easy, and if ever I feel like I’m rowing upstream, I let go of the oars. Once I’m happy with my story concept, I move on to character development, pacing and paginating. This can take weeks or months. The very last stage involves drawing the final artwork and tweaking the text, which can take anywhere up to three months.

What’s next for you?

Magic Light Pictures are currently developing the Mr Panda cartoon series, which is incredibly exciting. I’ve got more books in the pipeline, including a brand-new character that I’ve yet to create! The next Mr Panda book, We Love You, Mr Panda, comes out later in the year. I’ll soon be meeting with Swindon Libraries to discuss the next borough-wide art completion (I hold at least one art contest with them per year). Also, I hope to start writing a chapter book soon, but not even my publisher knows that yet! But before any of that happens, I’m going on my honeymoon, because I just got married!

It’s only day 3 of this blog tour and it has already been amazing (no pun intended!). Go check out the other blog posts so far, and watch out for the rest of the posts coming in the next few days! I am so incredibly excited for this book.

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Massive massive thank you to the brilliant people of Hachette Kids for asking me to be on this blog tour and Steve Antony for answering our questions! My kids and I had such a blast, and it’s been a pleasure reading Steve’s answers. I’ll be sharing them with my kids at some point today! 

S x