BOOK BLOG: Melinda Salisbury

Hello. It is me. Your resident superfan of Melinda Salisbury. You might need a cup of tea and a biscuit to get you through today’s post. I’ll try and keep this as brief as I can, but I can not promise anything. So get comfy, and prepare yourself for an epic review. 

Hold Back the Tide: a slightly terrifying, but incredible, piece of storytelling

img_2012

Everyone knows what happened to Alva’s mother, all those years ago. But when dark forces begin to stir in Ormscaula, Alva has to face a very different future – and question everything she thought she knew about her past…

So Mel. Writing a bit of horror are we? Well. I was ready, or at least I THOUGHT I was ready. I don’t think I actually was ready. I’m not a massive reader of the old horror books (I’m a total scaredy cat) but I will read anything Mel writes – superfan here.

img_2011


First up: LOOK HOW HAPPY I WAS WHEN IT ARRIVED.
I’ll not tell you that I cried and did a MASSIVE SQUEAL when I opened it though. When it arrived, it PROMPTLY went to the top of my TBR because, let’s be honest, that’s how it was always going to be! (There’s also a hilarious outtake of this picture that I’ve only shared with about 3 people that is my true fangirl spirit coming out). I’ve been waiting a year for this book friends. It was finally time. 

Right. Let’s stop putting off my inability to put into words what I truly thought of this book. Let me preface this review with my usual spiel: when I love a book, I find it harder to review because I always worry that my words will not do justice to how much I loved it. I always worry that it won’t come across what I thought of the book. So just know now that this book was everything I wanted and so much more. 

Hold Back the Tide tells the story of Alva, a young woman who lives with her TERRIFYING father in a cabin in the glorious north of Scotland. Her dad is, we learn in the first chapter, a murderer and Alva lives her life trying to make herself seem useful and/or silent in her father’s wake, so that nothing happens to her. Her father murdered her mother and Alva does everything to make sure that she’s not the next one. We learn quite quickly that Alva is planning to escape her father’s clutch and the place she’s known her whole life for a new life. But when things start going very wrong, Alva has to make a decision between staying and fighting, leaving behind everything and everyone she’s ever known or following her dreams. 

FIRST UP. I have to just say how much of a PUNCH the first chapter gives you. It might be one of the best first chapters I have ever read. It’s Alva’s rules for living with a murderer and it ends with one of those lines in a book that just punch you in face… If you were lucky enough to get a sampler at YALC, you know exactly how much of a banging first chapter it is. I must’ve reread my sampler about 20 times before the book arrived JUST for that first chapter. The rest of the book is JUST as terrifying.

This is going to be hard to write without going SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. So if I’m crypic, please bear with me haha 

You open the book with an incredible first chapter, and so you’re starting in a bit of a tense mood. You’re not sure what’s going to go down. You’re a bit scared; you’re a bit worried; you know Alva is a proper badass. And the book carries on in much the same vein. You get a lot of unexpected goings on. There’s a lot of moments where I was like OMG WHAT NO. There’s so many twists and turns and things I didn’t see coming that I was just engrossed. There were shocks and surprises. There were moments I needed to stop and just take it all in. People came who surprised me. People went who I was glad to see the back of. 

Much like Joey in Friends, there was a moment or two when I wanted to put the book in the freezer. There’s a wonderful kind of tense terrifiying-ness in this book (which for me made it all the more scary). I was on the edge of my seat a lot. I didn’t know what was coming, whcih made me both more scared and more gripped. I’m not a massive horror/scary book fan, but this was one that I needed to get through because I needed to know what was coming. I needed to know what the FRICK was going on. Poor Mel had to put up with a lot of my messages about my theories and predictions – but that’s how you know you’ve got a good book! A book you’re involved in and theorising about is a book that you’re gripped on! 

The setting is wonderfully done too. Something Mel does wonderfully is world building, so I was really looking forward to seeing how she did this different genre. It’s a wonderfully spooky and kind of uninviting setting. It sets the scene so gloriously for what’s going to happen. You get a complete sense of the setting so brilliantly from Mel’s writing. You’ve got this village out in the woods by the loch where the people aren’t too inviting. Alva and her father are out in their house. There’s a lot of isolation. There’s a brilliant bit with Ren’s house (we’ll come to Ren later… *swoon*) that really bloody kicked me in the feels. The settings are all so vividly written without being forced. (Just don’t expect me to go there cause I don’t think I am tough enough ha!)

I’d like to take a moment for you all to enjoy the cover designed by Jamie Gregory. It’s the very best mix of spooky, creepy and ‘WTF is that?’ – just like the book.

Image result for hold back the tide

Did you appreciate it? Good. I’m glad. 

I can’t go through this and not talk about the characters. We all know – if you’ve been here a while – that I love a character. You could give me a shit book with brilliant characters and I’d enjoy it. I stan good characters… and let me tell you, BRILLIANT CHARACTERS APLENTY here (which is no surprise to be honest).

Let’s start with Alva. Oh Alva. Brilliant, wonderful, brave Alva. (side note: I bloody love the name Alva). She’s got a kind of strength I’d love to have. She’s got dreams she wants to chase and she’s got a plan. She knows what she wants. She’s secretive and bold with it. She’s a little bit proud. She’s a bloody badass. I mean she’s much braver than me. She does things that she HAS to do. She stands up for herself. She stands up for other people. There’s a gorgeous softness about her too. She pushes on through some HORRIFIC and SCARY things that are going on. She fights against BAD MEN (Giles, I’ll get to you in a second). I just think she’s a brilliant main character. Mel always writes the best female main characters (hello Twylla and Sorrow).

I can’t not go through this and give a massive shout out to Ren. Gorgeous, kind Murren Ross. I just adore him. He’s the kind of friend everyone wants to have. He doesn’t leave Alva’s side, even when she hurts him. He’s got his own crap going on, but he’s always there. He’s just wonderful. He goes through a lot being Alva’s friend. He remains at her side. I love that he’s just so loyal and protective without being smothering. A lot of my converns throughout the book were not for if Alva was hurt (I know that girl can protect herself), but for Ren. I needed him to be protected and OK. I love him with all of my soul. 

This book of course has some baddies. We all love a ruthless baddie in a book. The baddies in Hold Back The Tide are quite psychologically testing. Like Giles. Giles is a BAD BAD MAN. He makes Alva do things which are plain creepy. He does things to Alva that show how terrible a person he is. I would like to use a swear word to describe him, but I’ll not. He just is one of those BAD TO THE CORE men. He’s the kind of character who makes my skin crawl. Mel has always written delicious baddies, but I think Giles might be the worst of them (and that’s saying something cause I HATED Vespus in Sorrow). Friends, I just need you to read this book so I can talk about the bad things he’s doing. 

THE FEELS. PLEASE SEND HELP.

I finished this book 2 weeks ago now and I am STILL scared, triumphant and slightly heartbroken. We all know I cry at all of the books, but I wasn’t expecting to have to cry at this. There’s a lovely scene between Alva and her dad that just made me feel a lot of things. It’s just a small thing, but my god. There’s other moments in this book that just punched at my feels so hard. I went through a lot of this book on the edge of being sheer terrified. It’s a very tense kind of vibe. It’s delicious in that way. 

My Goodreads review:

JUST WHAT. This book was everything I wanted and hoped for from Mel: incredible characters, a spooky setting, wonderful writing and scary. I just went though every emotion… mainly being SCARED. This is a wonderfully atmospheric story set in the wilds of Scotland with an incredible main character and her murderer dad. There’s so much appearances can be deceiving moments here and I was here for all of them. Yes, I cried. I love Ren with all that I am.

Naturally, I finished this book and NEEDED to make a little moodboard. I hope you all like it. For me, this moodboard is this book in like 7 pictures. 

HBTT moodboard

YOU MADE IT TO THE END. Congratulations. 

Thanks for sticking with me. It’s not often I write mammoth posts like this. 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Lisa Williamson

Hello loves!

How are you today? What’s going on in your world? Anything exciting?

Today I’m here to be part of the blog tour for the paperback edition of Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson! To coincide with the release of the paperback, the publishers have also rereleased 2 of Lisa’s other amazing books with gorgeous sprayed edges and I couldn’t have been more happy to see them! Just look at them!

Updated Lisa Williamson Jackets Nov 2019

Now I’ve read both Paper Avalanche (I read it in hardback) and The Art of Being Normal and I’ve shared my thoughts about them, so I thought today I’d share my thoughts on ‘All About Mia.’

 All About Mia: a brilliant story with family at it’s heart

32615725. sy475

“One family, three sisters. GRACE, the oldest: straight-A student. AUDREY, the youngest: future Olympic swimming champion. And MIA, the mess in the middle.

Mia is wild and daring, great with hair and selfies, and the undisputed leader of her friends – not attributes appreciated by her parents or teachers. When Grace makes a shock announcement, Mia hopes that her now-not-so-perfect sister will get into the trouble she deserves. But instead, it is Mia whose life spirals out of control – boozing, boys and bad behaviour – and she starts to realise that her attempts to make it All About Mia might put at risk the very things she loves the most.”

I remember picking up this book knowing that I was going to be impressed. Lisa has this incredibly effortless way of punching you in the face and making you feel all of the things. This book was just great and it made me laugh AND cry.

Mia is the middle sister of the family; older sister Grace is the over-achiever who’s scored herself a spot in a much sought-after university; younger sister Audrey is a swimmer who has the Olympics in her sight. Mia is just Mia. No university, Olympics, greatness in her sights. She doesn’t know what her “thing” is and feels like she’s living in the shadow of her sisters’ greatness. With all of this, and then a revelation from one of her sisters, Mia’s life doesn’t go QUITE how she planned. 

I loved the exploration of family dynamics in this book. I only have a brother myself, so getting to read about life with 2 sisters was great. Some of the things I could relate to! There were lots of moments in this book between the sisters that made my heart just jump with joy and that’s what I’m here for. It’s always great to read HONEST portayals of families too because we all know that our families aren’t perfect, so reading this imperfect family was refreshing. 

I started the book and I didn’t love Mia. I don’t know what it was about her, but we just didn’t click, but as I read, she grew on me. I learned to love her. She makes mistakes, she said some of the wrong things and DEFINITELY DOES some not so wise things. Her character arc was just wonderful to experience with her. She becomes someone I want to hug and love. She has a wonderful sense of humour – if you’re a fan of a sarcastic, sassy MC, then Mia is definitely a girl for you!

This book is one that I really did love. It’s like one of those brilliant YA books that you just wanna devour. With characters you wanna fall for, emotions you will definitely feel and moments that we can all empathise with, this is how it’s done. It’s like reading about yourself, or your friends, without being pointed at. Mia learns that it’s OK to not know what your thing is, it’s OK to make mistakes and it’s OK to still be learning… and we learn and appreciate this alongside her. 

Lol, my Goodreds review is of course as helpful as ever!

Give Mia a chance. She’ll grow on you.

Have you read All About Mia?
Are you, like me, a massive Lisa Williamson fan?
Can you recommend me some books like this one to read?

A massive thank you to the publishers David Fickling Books for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. I love Lisa’s work a lot! Check out the rest of the blog tour to see what other’s think! 

If you’d fancy a copy of Paper Avalanche for yourself, click on over to Waterstones to get yourself a copy! I would TOTALLY recommend it! 

Paper Avalanche blog tour banner

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Respect

Respect: an informative and approachable way to teach children all about the importance of consent.

IMG_9067

“Your body belongs to you and you get to set your own rules, so that you may have boundaries for different people and sometimes they might change. Like when you hi-five your friends and kiss your kitten, but not the other way round! But consent doesn’t need to be confusing. From setting boundaries, to reflecting on your own behaviour and learning how to be an awesome bystander, this book will have you feeling confident, respected, and 100% in charge of yourself and your body.”

Due to changes in the curriculum and the importance of conversations around consent, it has been added to the PSHE curriculum which all schools must teach. Respect is a wonderful little book which ties in so beautifully with that: it’s child friendly, doesn’t shy away from some tough topics and deals with them with great respect (lol) and isn’t patronising at all. 

IMG_9072

One of the things that I loved most about this book was how it managed to bring to life some of the toughest conversations we might need to have with children around these themes. Using the incredible illustrations, children learn quickly all about these things. It’s fun, it’s playful and most importantly it’s smart: it teaches kids at their level. It’s certainly been a big hit in my Year 6 classroom with quite a few of my children picking it up and then having some tricky conversations and asking some big questions. 

For parents and teachers alike, themes like consent can be really bloody daunting, so teaching them, when appropriate, about these things is an absolute necessity. When you’re able to do it through the medium of a book which children find engaging, that’s when you’ve hit a winner. 

I really do think this book is brilliant and I think it’s an important one for parents and teachers alike to think about. Our kids are a lot more savvy and clued up than I certainly was when I was younger, so we need to equip them with the tools for the world they live in now and this book, while it couldn’t have all of the solutions, is a brilliant tool for kids to have at their disposal. 

IMG_9070

A massive thank you to the publishers for inviting me to be on this blog tour! This book is already a hit at school and I’d love to see more books like this available to children, parents and teachers alike. 

Can you recommend any books around these themes?

Speak to you all soon!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Elizabeth Acevedo

With The Fire On High: following your dreams is hard, but you’re so worth it!

img_1107

“Ever since she got pregnant, seventeen-year-old Emoni’s life has been about making the tough decisions – doing what has to be done for her young daughter and her grandmother. Keeping her head down at school, trying not to get caught up with new boy Malachi. The one place she can let everything go is in the kitchen, where she has magical hands – whipping up extraordinary food beloved by everyone.

Emoni wants to be a chef more than anything, but she knows it’s pointless to pursue the impossible. There are rules she has to play by. And yet, once she starts cooking, and gets that fire on high, she sees that her drive to feed will feed her soul and dreams too. And anything is possible.”

I was sent this book in the post a while ago and it took me a while to pick it up… and my god did I regret it taking me forever to read! This book is just wonderful: the voice, the writing style, the rollercoaster you go on.

Everything about this book spoke to me: as a reader, a dreamer, a woman and a human.

This book tells the story of Emoni, a young mother who is trying to keep all of her plates balanced on their sticks. She’s trying to be the best mam she can be to Babygirl; the best coparent with her ex (who is a bit of a twat tbh); the best granddaughter to her lovely Buela; the best student she can be at school. As soon as she manages to get one of these plates balanced, another one manages to unbalance itself. She’s dealing with all of these things and then her dream opportunity comes along. 

Emoni loves cooking. She’s free in the kitchen. She can play by her own rules. There are no rules. It’s all about feel and flavour. It’s something she just gets. It’s a place for her to be her truest self. She can play and experiment and feel without worrying that she’s going to be wrong – because she knows she KNOWS this stuff. Or at least she thinks she does. When she gets the chance to choose a cooking class at school, she starts to realise that there are rules to cooking. There’s things she has to do. It isn’t always just knowing and following your gut: it’s about following a recipe how it is. Emoni finds this a hard lesson to learn. Her teacher is hard on her (this frustrated me at first because I was totally #teamEmoni) but you realise that there’s a reason for this!

As you read the story, you follow this wonderfully charming and beautiful young girl on an exploration of accepting and loving who she is and following her dreams, even when it seems that all of the odds are stacked against her. She’s given the chance to go to Spain as part of her cooking class… and of course she knows she’ll never be able to afford it. 

I loved this book. It’s one of those brilliant books that comes along and shocks you with its gorgeousness. Emoni’s voice is spot on. Her story is one I wanted to know more about. I wanted things to work out for her. She’s fiercely brave. She’s flawed. She worries. She’s trying her hardest to be everything for everyone else, so when the chance comes to be something for herself, she initially decides she’s not worthy. I could’ve happily read this book if it were 100 pages longer. I wanted more of Emoni’s story. She’s one of those characters I just fall for and root for completely. 

This is the perfect story about the brilliance of women and their spirit. Emoni is surrounded by wonderful women, from her bloody marvellous Buela, to her Babygirl and her best friend. We all know women are brilliant and this book is a wonderful celebration of this. 

My Goodreads review:

Loved this. Bloody gorgeous voice and a really interesting plot. I loved Emoni so much. She’s brave, scared and a proper mama bear. I loved her Buela too. This book is like a hearty meal: it leaves you satisfied and warm. Bloody yes.

A massive thank you to Hot Key Books for sending me a copy of this book. I wanna hug it so hard. 

Have you read With The Fire On High?
What’s one of your secret ambitions?
Where is the one place you’d love to visit?

Talk to me! I’d love to know if anyone else has read this!

Speak to you all soon!

S x 

Monday MG Mini Reviews

Hello friends! 

How are you all? I hope you had a lovely weekend! I had a wodnderful time celebrating the wedding of one of my loveliest humans, then on Sunday I had a date with my book and breakfast before doing a bit of work and a bit of blogging! Gotta keep those blog posts coming for all you guys. As I write this, I’m listening to Gareth Gates (I know, I’m a cool kid) and sitting in my pyjamas – yay for Sundays!

I’ve read A FAIR FEW brilliant MG books recently and I thought I would share some mini reviews with you all, until I have time to write full, in-depth reviews. I love writing mini reviews because it means I get to share LOADS of books in one post and not just one! All of these books will get a full review, but I couldn’t hold in my thoughts on them any longer! Without further ado…

Mov 18

The Star Outside My Window – Onjali Q. Rauf

43866010. sy475

“On her tenth birthday, Sophie makes a wish — a wish for her mum. After school that same day, Sophie and her brother are rushed out of school and driven far, far away. So Sophie sets out to find out the truth — about the wish and about what happened to her mother. And in doing so she ends up on an adventure she never could have foreseen…one that involves a very clever squirrel, a homeless man named Harry, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and the biggest star in Hollywood…”

I picked this book up on the buy one, get one half price table of Waterstones Newcastle and it just kept shouting to be read, so I needed to pick it up. It tells the amazing story of young Sophie who is in desperate need to remember her mam. She knows her mam is the brightest star in the sky, and she needs the star to be named after her mam. This book is full of adventure, friendship and fun, while being moving and charming. The characters are all so bloody wonderful. I finished this on the metro going to my friend’s house and I just had to cry quietly. It’s just wonderful. Some tough issues dealt with beautifully and I can see why it’s been so popular! I devoured the last 100 pages very quickly because I needed to know. Gripping, heartbreaking and filled with love.

Look Both Ways – Jason Reynolds

47968654. sy475

“Parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, nosy neighbours, babysitters – there’s not much of your day that isn’t dictated by someone else. Unless you walk home from school – walkers have independence – those fifteen-minutes from school to home, completely unsupervised. What waits for them is the mischief of curiosity, allies and enemies, a taste of freedom, and plenty of humour.”

If you’ve been here for a while, you will know that I am a MASSIVE MASSIVE fan of Knights Of and Jason Reynolds’ books. Ghost and Patina are two of the most incredible books I’ve read recently and I can’t wait for the rest of the series because they have my heart entirely. When I heard there was a new Jason Reynolds book coming out, I was DESPERATE to get it. The brilliant humans of Ed PR sent me a copy and it just made my total half term. This book is a wonderful anthology of stories of the walk home from school. Told from 10 different perspectives, with a thread of commanality running through the stories, this book just is full of personality, charm and love. Jason Reynolds keeps writing absolute winners. This book is jam packed with gorgeous characters and I adored each of them. I’d love to know more about all of them (and that’s the true sign of an amazing book). The friendship, the love, the sense of community in the book gave me such warm vibes. The stories are the perfect length and I think this would make an absolutely wonderful read aloud to my class.

Look Both Ways tweet

Frostheart – Jamie Littler

43805740. sy475

“Way out in the furthest part of the known world, a tiny stronghold exists all on its own, cut off from the rest of human-kin by monsters that lurk beneath the Snow Sea. There, a little boy called Ash waits for the return of his parents, singing a forbidden lullaby to remind him of them… and doing his best to avoid his very, VERY grumpy yeti guardian, Tobu.But life is about to get a whole lot more crazy-adventurous for Ash. When a brave rescue attempt reveals he has amazing magical powers, he’s whisked aboard the Frostheart, a sleigh packed full of daring explorers who could use his help. But can they help him find his family…?”

This was another book that I picked up because it was in the BOGOHP deal at Waterstones Newcastle (it was Children’s Book of the Month at the time… in fact it was CBOTM for 2 months!). Everything about this book just spoke to me. It was a little bit magic, fantasy, a massive adventure and even a bit of learning on the way. This book just warmed everything about my heart. It’s one of those incredible books that comes along and I just didn’t want to leave the world. The characters, the illustrations, the adventure, the messages: it’s all just SPOT ON. This book deserves all of the love that it is getting. If you haven’t read it yet, please, please do! It is exceptional. It’s fun, daring, dangerous and cool. I absolutely loved my journey on Frostheart with Ash and the crew. A proper icy cold ride, with a massive heart. The illustrations throughout add so much too. Absolute smasher! I’ve already shared this with a few of the kids at school and it is going down a proper storm. PLUS, knowing that book 2 is on its way makes me SO BLOODY HAPPY – you all know I love a series!

Frostheart tweet

Tilly and the Lost Fairytales – Anna James

42427479. sx318

“Tilly Pages is a bookwanderer; she can travel inside books, and even talk to the characters she meets there. But Tilly’s powers are put to the test when fairytales start leaking book magic and causing havoc… On a wintery visit to Paris, Tilly and her best friend Oskar bravely bookwander into the land of fairytales to find that characters are getting lost, stories are all mixed-up, and mysterious plot holes are opening without warning. Can Tilly work out who, or what, is behind the chaos so everyone gets their happily-ever-after?”

I read the first Pages and Co book last year (I think) and I fell in love with it instantly (you can find my review for that book here). It’s one of those special kind of books which shares the love of books, stories and the bookish world with us. Tilly has magical bookwandering powers that we would all want if we’re being honest! I absolutely adored that it took me to Paris and I got to explore Paris as well as exploring fairytales. I loved that. The infusion of many fairytales in Tilly’s story just enriched the whole thing. Anna has a wonderful writing style – you’re looked after, but there’s always a slight sense of danger. There’s fun, there’s friendship, there’s some dastardly actions. There’s loads of talking points in this too. Lots of tangents that you could go down to talk about! The characters in these books are my absolute love. Wonderfully brave Tilly is in another brilliant, book-loving filled adventure with some familiar faces from fairy tales. If you’ve not picked up these books yet, you absolutely should. I wish I was Tilly’s friend. (I wish I was Tilly to be fair… she lives in a bookshop, she’s got magical powers and she’s surrounded by some of the best people ever!)

Tilly tweet

Right, that’s it for now! This turned into a longer post than I thought it would, but I just adored these books and it’s only fair that they all get some time and space on this here blog! 

Have you read any of these books?
Are you a fan of a mini review?
What are you reading at the minute?

Shout me some recommendations… I can never have too many! 

Speak to you all soon!

S x 

BLOG TOUR: The Ghouls of Howlfair

Hello hello hello friends!

How are you all? I know, I know I’ve already posted today… but today is one of those special days here at A Little But A Lot: a TWO POST DAY! 

I was invited to be part of the blog tour for The Ghouls of Howlfair by Nick Tomlinson and I absolutely jumped at the chance! This book is absolutely perfect for our upcoming SPOOKY time of year… and I tell you now, my kids are ABSOLUTELY devouring it! We can’t get enough of it – so much so there’s a waiting list for the book!

image001

Nick has been lovely enough to provide some content all about . I’m a massive fan of hearing about the inspiration behind stories, so this piece was SPOT ON for me! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 

The Story Behind Howlfair

To me, Howlfair isn’t so much a place as a kind of mental scrapbook where I’ve put every silly ghost story I’ve made up since I was four.  In The Ghouls of Howlfair, it’s a very quaint, eerie tourist town nestling in the spooky Ethelhael Valley, cut off from the rest of England.  It has sinister trees and plants you won’t find anywhere else – darksbane, tangle-trees, Judas Root – and it also has more scary legends that anywhere in the world.  Every street and building, it seems, commemorates some ghastly folk tale about the Dark Days of Howlfair’s history, back when monsters (supposedly) terrorised the town.

My main character – stubborn, serious historian Molly Thompson – has lived here all her life, and she’s obsessed with finding out the truth behind the legends.  Unlike almost everyone else in town, Molly thinks that the legends might be true.  As she discovers, they’re not only true, but they’re starting to come true once more!

According to Howlfair folklore, some greedy miners came to the valley centuries ago in search of precious jewels.  They dug too deep, and supposedly exposed a secret gateway to hell.  A mysterious mist seeped from the mine and transformed locals into vampires and werewolves and zombies.  In the Dark Days that followed, the people of Howlfair formed monster-fighting Orders and Guilds to drive back waves of supernatural attacks, giving rise to vast numbers of scary camp-fire tales.

Nowadays, though, the people of Howlfair think that there must be a sensible explanation for the old stories.  The mysterious mist, they claim, was probably just a noxious gas that caused wildlife to mutate.  The creepy landmarks have become silly tourist attractions (like the infamous Loonchance Manor, home of Howlfair’s Ghoul Tour) and monster-themed gift shops.  But some people – including Molly Thompson – think that something supernatural really did show up in Howlfair centuries ago, and (more to the point) it never really left.  And because nobody in town knows the scary old stories nearly as well as Molly, she’s the only person who can figure out a way to save the town when the monsters from the legends start turning up again.

Howlfair isn’t based on any particular place – over the decades I’ve dreamt up lots of tales about hauntings and werewolves and ghouls, and the different spooky settings for them slowly formed in my imagination.  However, I’ve always been a bit obsessed with haunted places, and a few years ago my wife and I went on a tour of Britain’s most haunted hotels.  These were hotels I’d read about as a boy in a book called Haunted Britain, and I’d always dreamed of staying in them.  It turned out that I wasn’t as brave as I thought.  I spent pretty much the whole time hiding under duvets shouting WHAT WAS THAT? every time a floorboard creaked.  I’ve tried to capture some of this terror in the book; Molly and her friends aren’t exactly typical brave adventure heroes, and they have lots of WHAT WAS THAT? moments, but they know they must confront their fears if they’re to save Howlfair.  I hope readers enjoy sharing in Molly’s frights as she creeps ever closer to the ghastly secret lurking beneath Loonchance Manor!

A massive thanks to Nick for writing this brilliant piece for us to read. I can’t wait to share all of this with my class… I think they’ll find it incredible! Another massive thank you to publishers for sending me a review copy! I can’t wait to share what we think about this brilliant book in the coming weeks. 

Check out the rest of the blog tour to see what else others are saying about this brilliant, Halloween’y book!

Ghouls-of-Howlfair-Tour-Image

If you’re interested in The Ghouls of Howlfair, it is out NOW. I can’t recommend it enough! 

Are you a fan of a spooky story?
What’s your favourite thing to learn about an author?
Can you tell me your scariest story?

Talk to me in the comments… although don’t scare me too much! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System

WELCOME TO WORLD SPACE WEEK.
Settle in for a review of a book filled with stars, surprises and SUNthing wonderful!

Sorry for the cheesy opening! Today I’m here with a review of an absolutely beautiful non-fiction book I was sent! I’m honoured to be part of the blog tour to share this book because it is going down a STORM at school and I know it’s going to be VERY popular with teachers and children alike! 

Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System

“This mind-blowing book invites readers to join BBC presenter and renowned space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (MBE) on an epic journey through the Solar System – visiting planets, moons, asteroids and satellites, and travelling to places where no human has been before.

Along the way, kids can discover how we could live on Mars, learn about the hunt for a mysterious super-Earth, have a snowball fight on Mercury, climb the tallest mountain in the Solar System and much, much more. From spotting solar flares on the Sun to exploring objects at the edge of the icy Oort Cloud, this fun, action-packed title leaves no question unanswered and no meteorite unturned.”

img_0890

This book is an absolute victory in the way in which it teaches children about our wonderfully complicated solar system. It’s told as a tour of the solar system with Dr Maggie telling us everything she knows as she goes on. In recent years, there’s been an insurgence of beautiful non-fiction books and this one absolutely has a place to live in that category. There’s so much information jam packed into this book that there is always something new and interesting to be learning about the solar system. As you can see from the contents page (above), the tour takes us all around space visiting our own planet, to planets far away and gives children an insight into so much in between. 

With information packed on gorgeously laid out spread, it can be sometimes easy to be overwhelmed, but this book does it so well that the children have been loving it! It is certainly inspiration for when we do our own information books about space! This book fits perfectly into my life as the Y5 teacher as we study Space in Science! 

This book breaks down some really complicated science into bitesize chunks that children can process and use. There’s beautiful graphics and illustrations aplenty to enhance what is a BLOODY EXCELLENT science book. For teachers (like me) who feel like they don’t really know their stuff about Space, this would be a great read to maybe enhance knowledge. I certainly learned a few things about Space as I read! I loved that this book also has the potential to create some wonderful questions and talking points in a classroom!

img_0899

As a school, we are having a push on vocabulary (as I think most schools are) and I was delighted to look in the back and see an accessible and scientific glossary in the back. There is nothing better for inquisitive minds than a glossary they can read and access! I love how simplistic, yet scientific, this glossary is! 

If you’re looking for a brilliant book all about space, this is definitely one I would look out for. It’s out now and I promise you, it is brilliant!

Dr Maggie Blog Tour

A massive thank you to the publishers, Michael O’Mara books, for sending me a review copy and for inviting me on the blog tour… I can already tell this is going to be a book that my children and I love for many years to come! 

Would you like to visit space?
Have you got an interesting space fact you can tell me?
What’s something you’ve always wondered about space?

Talk to me in the comments or on twitter! I’d love to know! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Sophie Anderson

The Girl Who Speaks Bear: storytelling at its finest

Image(proof copy: see further down for the finished copy)

“Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, 12-year-old Yanka has always felt out of place in her small village. When she wakes up to find that her legs have become bear legs, she sets off into the forest to discover who she is, on a journey that takes her from icy rivers to smouldering mountains, with an ever-growing group of misfits alongside her… Interwoven with traditional stories of bears, princesses and dragons, Yanka’s journey is a gorgeously lyrical adventure from the best-selling author of The House With Chicken Legs.”

The Girl Who Speaks Bear tells the story of twelve-year-old Yanka who constantly feels out of place in her tiny village. She knows she’s different to the people around her. She was found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby and feels the tug of the forest calling out to her. When something happens to her which is unexplainable, she sets out on a journey of discovery. She’s desperate to know who she is, where she came from and how she got to where she is today. 

43893965. sy475 (finished cover)

Now, I must preface this review with… I read this months ago and my notes have been sitting in my notebook ever since. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because, like other books that I have absolutely adored, I worry that my review won’t do this book, this beautifuly, incredible, book, any justice. 

This review could quite easily just be a list of statements starting with “I loved” because there was so so much I loved about it.

Sophie is one of those authors who manages to weave and wind a story with so many intricacies and a beautiful narrative without you feeling like you’ve lost the path. She showed us that in House With Chicken Legs and has done it again in Bear.

In this story, there’s traditional Russian folks stories dotted throughout and this addition created for me a whole host of intrigue, and added delight and wonder to the story. I love a story which contains other stories. I found myself off researching and reading other Russian folk tales once I’d finished because I wanted to know more. It takes a special kind of author to write stories within stories and do it successfully. Beautiful storytelling is giving the reader what they didn’t even know they wanted and that’s what I got with Bear.

This is a story about love, what it means to be human, family and finding yourself. 

While I love a narrative, I’m a big fan of a character. If I can’t/don’t love a character, it doesn’t matter how good the plot is. When you think of your favourite stories, it’s the chraracters that come to me first, then their adventures. In Bear, I got a main character who I connected with. I think she’s a character that adults and children alike will love for many years to come. The way she grows and questions through the story is just brilliant. Yanka kept me wanting to read on. I wanted to know more about her because I wanted her to find the answers to her questions. She’s a wonderful main character because she’s scared, but brave. She’s curious, yet quiet. She’s also got a wonderful bunch of characters around her… I have a particular love for Mousetrap (her house weasel friend). 

This book, with its wonderful characters and beautifully written words, is an absolute epic fantasy. It’s gentle and it’s bold. It’s brave and it’s quiet. It’s winter and warmth. It’s a total adventure. It’s princesses, dragons and we even get a shout out to Sophie’s other book House With Chicken Legs (which was something I absolutely adored). Put all of these things together and you get something that I think will be a massive hit for a long time. 

Image

A massive shout out to Usborne for their pre-order offer that they were running. If you preordered the book, they sent you a hand stamped print of the front cover. I absolutely love it. I can’t possibly part with it, so it’s living in my Matilda frame until I get it its own picture frame. 

My goodreads review:

Storytelling at its very finest. Brilliant characters, beautiful worlds, exciting adventures and powerful messages. I just adored this. Yanka is a character that kids and adults will adore, and relate to! You can’t beat a bit of finding yourself and your people (or animals) with a good bit of story woven together. Just bloody brilliant.

And there you have it. Did you get from my review that I loved this book? I hope you did because I really loved this book. I think it’s special. 

Have you read The Girl Who Speaks Bear?
Can you recommend me any books which have stories written into them?
What’s your favourite thing about a book?

Talk to me, I’d love to know your thoughts!

S x 

Book Box Club: Purely Books Subscription

Hello! 

How are we all?

Today I’m here to talk about EXCITING book post. We all love book post, don’t we? What if you could treat yourself to book post every month? WELL YOU CAN with Book Box Club!

What is Book Box Club?

Book Box Club is a subscription box and secret society for the bookish folk. Book Box Club have two different subscription options:

Book Box Club Subscription – each month, you will receive a gift-wrapped, brand new, YA book, an invitation to their online book club and a selection of themed goodies to match the book you’ve been sent.

Purely Books Subscription – each month, you’ll receive a featured read and an invitation to their online book group. 

All postage to the UK is free, but Book Box Club do send parcels all around the world (postage costs apply).

Purely Books Subscription

The Purely Books Subscription is perfect for the bookish reader like me: I love books, but I don’t collect a lot of bookish goodies. If you’re a bit like me, then the Purely Book subscription is perfect for you! Regardless of the subscription you choose, you get the same book, so when it comes to the online chat, everyone can share in the bookish chat! 

If you’d like to sign up for a subscription, you can get to Book Box Club’s website HERE and use the code BLOGARMY5 to get a discount on your first Purely Books or Book Box Club subscription. (5% off a three month Purely Books Subscription or month-to-month Book Box Club Subscription).

My Experience

Bold and Brave was the theme for April: I received an email on to say my book was on its way and it arrived 2 days later! What’s that for service! Since it was only a book, it fit through the letterbox (so no hassling your neighbours, no waiting for it and no having to collect it from the post office: perfection!).

My book was wrapped in silver paper and tied with very cute blue and white string. It also came with an envelope with my name on – now that is the kind of personal touch I love! Inside the envelope was an invite to the Clubhouse (which is the book club) on with the details of Bold & Brave book group. In the book group, you get the chance to talk to the author, ask any questions you have and make new friends. New BOOKISH friends… the best kind of friends in my humble opinion!

The book

I was chuffed when I realised what the book was! I have heard so much about this book. I haven’t read anything by Zoe Marriott and this makes me so happy. I know there’s been a lot of controversy around this book, but it’s one of those that I’d like to read. That cover is GORGEOUS too… I mean who wouldn’t want to pick this up? It has REAL shelf appeal! 

You can’t beat a good signed book plate too! *swoon* and look at that print (this is in fact the back of the information about the Clubhouse, dual purpose win!)

I love the idea of a Purely Book subscription. For a reader like me who just wants the books and not the extras that go with it, it’s PROPER perfect. I loved the personalised invite and the themed invite too! I am extremely happy with my experience so far! Keep your eyes peeled for my thoughts on the book club! 

Thank you so much to Libby and Kate for inviting me to be in the Blogger Army! Don’t forget you my discount code! 

Have you subscribed to any book boxes?
Have you read this book?
What kind of books would you love to receive?

Speak soon!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: April Tucholke

The Boneless Mercies: a beautifully brilliant book!

img_4235 

“Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are Boneless Mercies – death-traders, hired to kill quickly, quietly and mercifully. It is a job for women, and women only. Men will not do this sad, dark work. Frey has no family, no home, no fortune, and yet her blood sings a song of glory. So when she hears of a monster slaughtering men, women, and children in a northern jarldom, she decides this the Mercies’ one chance to change their fate. But glory comes at a price …”

ANY book that has this gorgeous a cover is SURE to catch my eye. Just look at that turquoise, the black and the foil… and yes, that gold is metallic and shiny (my picture just does it NO justice at all). I had high hopes for a book with such an incredible cover, and my gosh, this book did not disappoint. 

The Boneless Mercies tells the tale of Frey, her friends and a journey through some wicked and wild enemies. Frey and her friends are Boneless Mercies – young women who are hired by people to do mercy killings for anyone who can pay. None of these girls fell into being a Mercy on purpose, they all became mercies because of the way their lives fell into place. No matter though, they are frightfully loyal to each other and there is an awful lot of love between them. I think they friendship might be one of the things I loved most about this book… their unrelenting loyalty and love for each other. We all need friends like that. 

There’s some BRILLIANT themes of life and death in this story. The way that death is approached in this story was fascinating to read. There’s no glorification of death, but a gentle acceptance of it and a giving of death. I loved the girls’ dedication to their jobs, even when they don’t want to do that job anymore. 

Another thing I love SO MUCH about books is the incorporation of folk stories and myths (I know, what a surprise, I’ve definitely typed that sentence before) and this book doesn’t shy away from it. There’s a lovely sense of storytelling in this story. “Storytelling can keep you warm on the coldest of nights” (that’s not a direct quote, but it’s paraphrasing a quote!) You see the girls’ lives and the lives of the ones they meet through their storytelling, and it made me feel like I was sat by a fire, listening. This is the perfect book to read while sitting next to a fire… just incase you want a recommendation! 

I have to take a very little moment here to write a little appreciation for Trigve here. I don’t wanna give any spoilers, but guys. I think he’s just wonderful. If there is to be a book 2, I need my shipper heart to be happy, thanks! 

I’m not gonna lie, yes, there was a bit when I cried (again, no one will be shocked by this!). This book made me 100% invested in these girls’ lives, and I needed them all to keep powering on, keep surviving. Cause I tell you now… I WOULD NOT. In the cold and the snow and the outside all the time? NO THANKS. 

If you, like me, are a lover of books with BRILLIANT characters, some incredible storytelling and set in an intriguing world, then this is 100% the book for you! GO GO GO FRIENDS.

My Goodreads review:

A brilliantly written book with characters I absolutely adored. There was so much in this that I need time to process it. Badass characters, a sense of mythology and an interesting world. I REALLY hope there’s going to be a second one.

Have you read The Boneless Mercies?
Do you think you’d be a good Mercy killer?
RECOMMEND ME BOOKS LIKE THIS PLZ. Thanks.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, because I need to know if ANYONE ELSE was with me on the Trigve thing. I love him. A massive thank you to Olivia at Simon and Schuster for senging me this book! I wholeheartely loved it! 

S x