BOOK BLOG: The Snow Dragon

The Snow Dragon: a beautiful story filled with hope, dreams and wonder!

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You can be late for many things in life, but you should never keep an adventure waiting…

In Griselda Bone’s gloomy orphanage, daydreaming is banned, skipping is forbidden and Christmas is well and truly cancelled. But for Phoebe and her sausage dog Herb, is it possible that, just when things seem at their bleakest, magic awaits in the swirling, snow-filled air?”

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As a massive fan of Abi Elphinstone books, I knew I needed to get my hands on this book as soon as it came out. I was in fact very lucky to get an early sneak peek at this at Abi’s Rumblestar launch and I’ve been waiting for its release ever since then! This book does not disappoint… it has been well worth the wait! This is a tale full to the brim with emotion, danger, wonder, hope, friendship and love. 

Filled to the top with magic, this book makes me so happy. We all know I love a bit of magic. It sweeps you away. It made me feel like a child again. The illustrations, beautifully crafted by Fiona Woodcock, add such a charming depth to Abi’s ever-gorgeous words. I loved exploring the pictures. There’s so much you can see and read into the pictures, without even reading the story! The words and the pictures pair together to give you a tale you want to go on. You’re swept up into this magical world of a girl, her sausage dog and a magical dragon. Who wouldn’t want to go on an adventure with a magical snow dragon?

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You can’t not fall for Phoebe. She’s a brave and brilliant character. She’s like every child. She wants something she thinks she’ll never have. She doesn’t realise how special she is. She’s a young girl full of hope and compassion. Her story is captivating and you really will root for her. She worries no one will ever hear her. I think this is something lots of children will feel at some points in their lives. Luckily, Phoebe is heard by the gorgeous Snow Dragon, who hears her hopes and needs, and takes her on an adventure of a lifetime

This book is one of those gorgeous “definitely winter-y but can be read at any time of the year” books. We all know that when it comes to winter, Christmas books take over, so this is a refreshing book to have in my arsenal of books. 

Have you read The Snow Dragon?
What would you want the Snow Dragon to grant you?
What are your favourite winter picture books?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. You need to read this beautiful picture book if you haven’t yet!

S x 

 

BOOK BLOG: YA wrap up!

Hello everyone!

I’m back at it again with some mini reviews! I’ve had a very busy August of reading so far and thought I’d share some mini reviews of some of the amazing YA I’ve been reading! 

Scars like Wings by Erin Stewart

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“Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her. A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever. But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.”

My my. Reading this book was like a punch in the gut. This book is one of those that makes an impact and fast. We all have scars, but not like Ava. Ava was burned in a fire and she’s hidden herself away from the world ever since. This all changes when she is told she is ready to go back to school. Obviously, a young girl who has been cordoned off from the real world for a year, who now has to go back into the world of school is going to be terrified. What happens when she gets there is an emotional rollercoaster. From her incredible family, to the friends she makes, to the shout outs to musicals, this book was just wonderful. It hit me where it hurt and made me cry. I love Ava’s group of friends; they’re all lucky to have each other. I’m sad to be finished; to say goodbye to the sarcasm, friendship, bravery and love they shared. Massive thank you to Simon and Schuster for the review copy!

I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory

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“When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about. But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?”

MY GOD. I don’t know that I can use the word “enjoy” about this book because I hate Aaron SO MUCH. I can’t talk about this book without giving away too many spoilkers, but Aaron is possibly the WORST character I’ve ever come across. The ending was NOT what I wanted, no was it what he deserved. Telling a story of love, you see through both Gemma and Aaron’s eyes what their relationship is. This book was gripping, tough to read and made me so angry. I can’t talk about this book without being angry and I need someone else to join me in the anger. However, in amongst all of that anger and that weird obsessive Aaron behaviour, there’s also so much love, friendship, fighting for the ones you love and kindness. Gemma is surrounded by so much love (some of it more toxic!)

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

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“Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.
The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.
Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?”

I’m a sucker for a bit of romance. I’m even more of a sucker for “shouldn’t be trogether, but let’s be honest, they’re meant to be together”. This book tells the story of Stella and Will, two young people who are in hospital. Two young people who aren’t allowed to be around other people because it could be life-threatening. However, when they find each other, they find something they’ve both been looking for. I loved this book, an awful lot. I love Will. I love Poe. Stella is an angel. Barb is lush. This is a beautiful story of love at its limits. There’s just so much love in this book. Let’s not deny the fact that I definitely cried. There’s so much lush about this book. And now it’s been made into a film… but I don’t think my emotions are ready to be battered again just yet! Massive thank you to Simon and Schuster for the review copy!

Dead Popular by Sue Wallman

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“The reigning queen bee, Kate, knows that you don’t become the most powerful girl at school by playing nice. But when other students start revealing long-held secrets anonymously, she realizes someone is playing a much more dangerous game – and they know too much about Kate’s past. If she doesn’t figure out who’s behind this, her final year at Pankhurst could be exactly that: her final year.”

This tells the story of a boarding school full of entitled, posh scholars who are obsessed with beauty. I loved the setting of the boarding school and the beach. I think it’s a great combination. If you’re a fan of a boarding school book, this will be right up your street! I really really loved Munro – I think the characters in this book make it enticing and dark. There’s some dark motives and even darker deeds. There’s a mystery element that I enjoyed too… I didn’t see it coming, but when it did BAM! This is one of those books that starts to show itself to you slowly, but once you’re there, it’s like YEP that’s why you went a bit slower. You get to know the characters and their dynamics really well before you get into the action. Massive thank you to Scholastic for the review copy!

PHEW. There we go! Just 4 of the YA books I’ve read recently. I really enjoyed them all! If I had to pick a favourite though, I’d have to say Scars Like Wings would just snatch the title from I Hold Your Heart (seriously though, someone else be angry with me!). 

What have you read recently?
Have you read any of these books?
Can you recommend me a book?

Talk to me! I wanna know what you think of my wrap ups: do you like them? Do you prefer my full reviews? Do you not care? (ha!)

S x 

The One Where I Read Two Books In One Day And Cried…

Hello. 

If you know me, you know I cry at all of the books.

I decided to read two books in one day the other day. Both of them which would make me cry. 

Why did you decide that? I hear you cry.

BECAUSE I AM A FOOL. A FOOL.

However, since I read them both, I figured I would write quick reviews of them because they were BOTH incredible and they need to be read ok? Excellent. 

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The Art of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

The Art of Being Normal tells the stories of David and Leotwo boys who are going through A LOT. David wants to be a girl: he knows he’s in the wrong body. Leo wants to be forgotten: he wants no attention. These two boys are so very different, but there’s something that they very much have in common (something I did NOT see coming). What you get when you put these two boys together is a brilliant story of unlikely friendships, solid bonds and an awful lot of tears! (I cried for the last 50 pages)

I loved this book so so much. The thing that stands out the most about this book is the incredible portrayal of relationships (between families, friends, enemies) and the power that these relationships have on our day to day life. You see the two boys’ relationship grow in front of your eyes and realise that sometimes the most important relationships you have in life are the non-romantic ones – it’s friendships built on love, respect and acceptance. You get to explore the incredible relationships between siblings; with parents and their children; not only that but negative relationships like the one between bullies and their victim; misunderstood relationships between parents and children. 

This book doesn’t shy away from the issues around a main character who is transgender and I really respect that. There’s discussions about all kinds of thtmes: clothing, acceptance, body image, coming out to parents, coming out to friends, bullying. I think this book has a place in every teenager’s life and I think it’s important. I don’t know why it’s stayed on my TBR for so long. If you haven’t picked it up yet you absolutely should. I want to give Leo a massive hug because I adore him.

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They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Imagine living in a world where you get a phone call to tell you that you’re going to die that same day. JUST HOLD THAT IN YOUR HEAD FOR A MINUTE. IMAGINE THAT. (I can’t, it’s too big an idea for my head, I don’t know where I would start, who I would see, what I would do. I think I’d be too overwhelmed and just cry for a day) This book explores a world where this is the reality. A reality for two teenagers who are told they’re going to die before midnight. 

We meet Rufus and Mateo, two very different boys, who have been given their call. They’ve got one more day on this earth. Mateo needs someone to help him along on his day otherwise he’ll just end up in his bedroom all day. He needs to tell his dad he loves him and his best friend. Rufus needs to say bye to his family, to the girl he loves. These two meet and what happens is a wonderful story about how sometimes you can meet the person you need most when you need them most.

The two boys grow together and change massively through the day. Rufus starts his story beating someone up and by the end his actions couldn’t be more gentle and caring. Rufus doesn’t push Mateo to do the things: he’s just there and him being there makes Mateo more brave. These boys do more for each other in one day than I think some people can do for each other in years. 

This book BROKE MY HEART. It tells us in the title what’s going to happen, but my god I was NOT prepared. Typical Adam Silvera breaking my heart. Again, you need to read this book. It’s just wonderful and it makes you think. 

There we go – two books, one day, LOT OF TEARS. 

RECOMMEND ME MORE BOOKS THAT WILL MAKE ME CRY.

I love a good cry!

S x 

BLOG POST: Morag Hood

Morning friends!

Today we have a very special post from author Morag Hood who is here to talk about how she came up with her character Sophie Johnson and how she developed. 

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I love hosting authors because it’s really interesting getting an inside peek at their creative processes. 

Where did the idea for Sophie come from and how did she develop?

The character of Sophie initially came about when I was thinking about picture books in general. One of the things I like most about the format is the tension that can be created between the words and the pictures. I’ve always especially enjoyed books where the reader knows what is going on better than the characters themselves. I think I am probably quite in touch with my inner four-year-old and I seem to remember relishing that feeling of being in on the joke and being smarter than the characters in a book. It was with this in mind that I started playing around with the idea of the main character being oblivious to what is going on around them, and Sophie started to emerge.

She has been such a fun character to write and develop. She is very forthright and certain, despite not necessarily having understood a situation, and she loves to explain everything, while in actual fact knowing very little about what is truly going on! Once I worked out her voice and perspective on life, I started to come up with scenarios in which she could shine.

My editor at Simon & Schuster, Helen Mackenzie Smith, gave me a brilliant note about thinking of Sophie as giving an interview about herself and I try to hold that in my head whenever I am writing for Sophie. The first book, Unicorn Expert, came about partly because it was the first book I was writing for someone else to illustrate and I tried to think of something I wasn’t very keen on drawing but would be fun for another illustrator! And then I had so much fun with the first one that I wanted to give Sophie some other things to do. She became a Detective Genius because, as well as having a personal love of detective stories, I felt it would give lots of room for her getting things wrong and missing some fairly obvious clues. I always enjoyed the rather hapless police officers who are outwitted by clever detectives such as Hercule Poirot, or Jessica Fletcher, so having Sophie outwitted by her dog seemed to fit well into her world.

Sophie Johnson has been such a fun character to create and work with, dancing the fine line of being over-confident while still being likeable. I think a lot of that likeability comes from Ella Okstad’s joyful illustrations. It really has been a treat to see how the book has come together with Ella’s input. The pictures are so full of life and really help to make Sophie endearing.

Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius is a WONDERFUL picture book and it has the most incredible cover. It is sparkly goodness. 

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Sophie Johnson studied very hard to become a detective and it’s a good thing she did – there has been a terrible crime!
Someone has stolen Lion’s tail. Unfortunately, this means that Sophie doesn’t have time to train her new (and not very good) assistant, Bella. However, is it possible that, while Sophie is busy rounding up suspects, she doesn’t see that Bella may be better than she thinks?
The Sophie Johnson series is perfect for bright young minds and great fun to read aloud as children spot what’s really happening in the story right under Sophie’s nose!

Sophie Johnson: Detective Genuis is out now! You should all go and pick it up!

Massive thank you to Morag and the publishers at Simon and Schuster for inviting me to share this wonderful blog post! Happy reading!

S x 

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 

Ollie’s Magic Bunny Blog Tour

Happy Tuesday!

Today I have the utter joy of hosting author Nicola Killen and we’re getting a tour around her studio. I’m really nebby so I absolutely adored reading this post when it dropped into my inbox! 

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Hello and welcome to my studio tour!  This is the place where I worked on the story and illustrations for Ollie’s Magic Bunny.  

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I share a space with two other artists – it’s a converted garage on the side of a photographer’s studio.  The door to the studio is very grey and boring so it’s hard to imagine what’s inside!

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Tada! Here’s my workspace. I’m quite embarassed to be showing you round when it’s SO messy.  I’m always untidy, but when I’m in the middle of working on a new book (like I am now), it gets even worse!  As you can probably see, I’ve got two desks: one for sitting at my computer, and one for standing at when I draw and paint.

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On my computer desk I have an iMac, and I use a wacom tablet with it.  I also have a very comfy chair and most importantly, there’s a heater next to my desk!  As it used to be a garage, the studio can get very cold at times. I always have lots of lists of things to do on my desk – I like to be able to tick things off!  

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I usually stand up when I’m painting or drawing.  I have a drawing board in the middle of the desk, which is hidden by my lightbox at the moment.  There’s an A3 scanner tucked underneath this desk, as well as sketches, boxes of books and some portfolios too.  I used to have lots more postcards and pictures up on the wall, but they keep falling down and it’s very hard to reach to put them back up!  You may also have noticed my Studio Stegasaurus which lives on this desk – it roars when you squeeze it. I’ve had the anglepoise lamp since I was at school so it’s lasted a long time!

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This is all the brushes, dip pens and inks which I’m using for the book I’m working on.  

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Then, squeezed into the corner, is my bookcase.  It’s got lots of my books in it, as well as reference, sketchbooks, paperwork and some of my childhood favourites too!

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I’m not sure I should show you this photo! When I opened the cupboard, I was worried that everything was going to fall out . . . It’s chock full of materials, inks and paper. Tidying it is on my lists of things to do!

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That’s all of my space, but we also share an area just inside the door where there’s a big plan chest with a very useful cutting mat on top.  I store a lot of my artwork and paper in the drawers here. I’m preparing some Ollie’s Magic Bunny themed activities today so have been using the cutting mat – but I will need to clear it up later in case anyone else wants to use it!

Thank you for letting me show you around my studio space – I hope you’ve enjoyed having a look around and sorry about the mess!

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I hope you guys enjoyed that as much as I did! It’s fascinating to see where people work and their process! I’d love to snoop in everyone’s workspaces! Check out my review of Ollie’s Magic Bunny here: BOOK BLOG: Nicola Killen

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Nicola Killeen

Ollie’s Magic Bunny: a beautifully illustrated and charming story, perfect for bedtime!

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“Ollie and her toy Bunny have been waiting for the day that the rain would stop and they can play in the puddles… Finally that day has arrived! But when a magical breeze of blossom turns Bunny into a real rabbit, Ollie’s day takes an unexpected turn. After Bunny runs off with the other rabbits, Ollie has to find and save her beloved pet toy!”

Ollie’s Magic Bunny is a wonderfully charming tale about Ollie and her bunny rabbit, who one blustery day ends up turning into a real rabbit. When Bunny turns into a real rabbit, it runs away from Ollie, and she must find different, ingenious I may add, ways in which to save Bunny! 

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Lots of children have a teddy that’s special to them, who they carry around with them constantly, so this will appeal to them. It would make a brilliant rainy day read, or a bed time read. It would make for a brilliant question: what would happen if your teddy came to life? Kids will come up with some weird and wonderful answers! 

Ollie has to be clever to follow her bunny as he goes across a big puddle of water, and jumps into the air – transforming her brilliant yellow umbrella into a boat and a parachute at different times!

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The colour palette for this book makes me so happy. It’s all yellow, green and grey. I’m particularly fond of Ollie’s bunny onesie and her yellow boots. The simplicity makes this so much more appealing. There’s cut outs and some beautiful gold foiling on the pages too… to make it even more pleasing to the eye! 

This is a gorgeous and sweet story that would go down brilliantly at bedtime, or any kind of story time. I look forward to reading it to my own bunch of wonderful kids at school! 

Thank you to the brilliant publishers, Simon and Schuster, for sending me a review copy! 

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

BOOK BLOG: April Tucholke

The Boneless Mercies: a beautifully brilliant book!

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“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