BLOG TOUR: Slay On Tour

Today’s post is coming to you from the boyband tour bus in Japan as part of the Slay blog tour. If you don’t know the world of Slay yet, then you are 100% missing out. Check out my review of the first book in this series here!

Slay on Tour: slaying in all the VERY BEST ways!

“SLAY are BACK…and this time they’re headed to Tokyo to track down another hell-raising demon. When they’re invited on tour with a super-cool band of holographic girls, SLAY find themselves whisked off around Japan – until strange things start happening on their tour train. Suddenly it seems it’s not just SLAY’s fans following their every move…”

Slay on Tour sees the boys of Slay (a demon fighting boy band, obviously) fighting demons in Japan! Having read the first book and LOVING IT, I needed this second book in my life so much. This series is SUCH fun and it’s so incredible to read a book with such personality. The characters, the settings, the friendship and the family explored in these books makes me so happy. 29 year old me loves these books and I know that 15 year old me would have too: boybands and demon fighting… what more do we need?

Slay on Tour sees the boys in Japan, having been given the opportunity to tour alongside a new and incredibly revolutionary Japanese band. I always knew there was something up with the band and their people – a band of holographic girls who are “perfect”. Yeah, cause that’s normal… but I loved it. There was a bit of the feminist in me going “WE DON’T NEED TO BE PERFECT TO DESERVE TO BE IN A BAND”. 

Obviously, in the midst of all of this touring, the boys are still fighting demons. The demon slayers (I bloody love how descriptive the word slayers is!) have to fight some pretty dark and deceptive demons in this second installment. A demon who steals souls? Yeah. No thanks actually! There’s even the reappearance of an old “friend”. 

A massive shout out to the folklore in this book too. I loved the little nuggets of Japanese folklore information thrown in. (You all know I’m a PROPER sucker for a bit of a mythological story, so this made my heart sing!) Learning about other cultures and the stories from them is just mint – so to see this thrown into the book was another massive tick!

You get the fun of the demon fighting as well as those brilliant characters who we met and loved in book 1. The boys are just lush. I like each of them for very different reasons. I’d love them to be a real band, so I could join them (I don’t know that I’d be a great demon fighter like!) Not only that, but there is a lovely exploration of something which happens in book 1. This something (I don’t wanna share too much cause spoilers!) happens to have a massive impact on the dynamic of the band, with ever trusty Milly having to come to the rescue. I really love Milly. She’s sassy, brave and bold: she has to be. She’s thrust into this life of being in one of the biggest boybands in the world. And because she’s a badass, she takes it ALL in her stride. 

I loved this book. I may have even loved it more than book 1! I know, I know. I have my fingers crossed that there MAY be a third book. PLEASE. 

I even have an incredible exclusive quote from the brilliant Kim herself on why boy bands, fandoms and blurred lines! It sums up the Slay books so brilliantly!

“When I was growing up in the 90s, I had properly drunk the patriarchal kool aid. Without knowing why exactly, I put all things ‘girlie’ into a mental box labelled shameful. It’s internalised the misogyny that placed things that boys love above stuff that girls love. And, to my great sadness, that included boy bands. I was into Star Wars and The Teenage Ninja Turtles, X-Men comic books and Grunge rock music – all the geeky-cool stuff that defined a lot of ‘boy culture’. But, as I got older and began to examine my choices, I discovered there was a world of amazing ‘girl culture’ I’d been missing out on. As an adult, I loved it all. Twilight, Sailor Moon, High School Musical. And yes, One Direction! Now, I’m on a mission to see that all the things that teen girls love are given the same respect and the same value as the stuff boys love. And that when it comes to entertainment, gender should play no part in it. When writing Slay and Slay on Tour I consciously blurred all the lines between ‘girl’ stuff and ‘boy’ stuff to create something that’s just fun – which transcended gender.”

So please! Go out and buy these books if you’re looking for something EXCELLENT, FUN and PROPER GREAT. 

Have you read Slay?
Would you make it as a demon fighter?
Do you think I’d make it as a demon slayer?

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour… it was a proper honour to kick it off! Thanks so much to the brilliant humans of Usborne for asking me to kick off the tour! 

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Let’s get talking about #SlayonTour on twitter! These books deserve so much love! 

S x 

 

BLOG TOUR: Rosie Loves Jack

Happy Wednesday!

Today I’m here as part of the blog tour for the brilliant Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon.

They can’t send you away. What will we do? We need us. I stop your angry, Jack. And you make me strong. You make me Rosie.

Rosie loves Jack. Jack loves Rosie. So when they’re separated, Rosie will do anything to find the boy who makes the sun shine in her head. 
Even run away from home.
Even struggle across London and travel to Brighton, though the trains are cancelled and the snow is falling. Even though people might think a girl like Rosie could never survive on her own. 
See the world through new eyes in this one-in-a-million story.

This is a blog tour like no other… today, in the spirit of the book, I’m going to share with you some people that I’d quite happily write to every day and why I think it’s important that we don’t let the art of letter writing die!

Dear everyone I love,

I think letter writing is a brilliant thing, that unfortunately is getting lost. It’s getting lost in our need for immediacy. I get it. I know that letter writing isn’t a thing that is necessary in the world of emails, text messages and WhatsApps – we get the answers we need today much faster. However, as much as it might not be necessary, it is JOYOUS. Tell me there’s something more exciting than receiving a letter in the post. Tell me there’s something more lovely than knowing someone’s taken some time to write you a letter.

I love receiving a letter. It makes me so happy. I’m not talking about bills and pension statements: I’m talking about letters from friends. Even the people I know the best in the world. I love receiving letters from them. One of my best friends and I go through phases where we write letters to each other and it makes me so happy. The sending and receiving of letters. I sent all of my children a postcard in the Summer holidays and the joy it brought them, and their parents, was such a testament to the power of letters for me.

Now I know I can’t write letters to everyone I know, every day of my life. If there was one person I had to write to every day, I would choose my brother or my best friend Kelly. Both of these people have a MASSIVE impact in my everyday life. Neither of them live particularly close to me – Kiruna (Sweden) and Cardiff… both FAR AWAY.

However, I’ll write to anyone who is willing to write back. There’s something very personal and therapeutic about writing a letter. I love that Rosie Loves Jack explores letters.

So hello, yes, you reading this – write someone a letter. If you don’t think you have anyone who would like to receive a letter, then send it to me. I’ll happily respond. It’s a lovely thing to do!

You’re all brilliant,

S x

Massive thank you to the brilliant humans of Usborne for asking me on the blog tour! It was a lot of fun getting to ramble on about writing letters and my love of it!

BOOK BLOG: S.A. Patrick

A Darkness of Dragons: a brilliant adventure!

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“After playing a forbidden spell-song to save a village from rats, 12-year-old piper Patch Brightwater is thrown in jail. But there he meets Wren – a noble girl under a rat-shaped curse – and together they befriend Barver, a fearsome dracogriff, and set off on a grand adventure filled with sorcerers, dragons, bandits…and one very deadly enemy.
From the depths of the Tiviscan dungeons to the highest peak of Gemspar Mountain, this stunning book reminds us of the soaring joy of adventure, the captivating danger of magic, and of the delight of finding friends in unexpected places.”

The brilliant humans of Usborne sent me a copy of A Darkness of Dragons a while back, but I’ve been in a bit of a state of reader’s block (as I explained in my November wrap up post). I’ve just been unable to read/do anything bookish of late… blame it on tiredness/SAD/general life. I read the first five chapters of this before said reader’s block started. Then, on Saturday, I picked this back up and within the space of a few hours I had CONSUMED the whole thing – that’s how good it is! 

This book is based in the world of the Pied Piper of Hamelin (which for me made my heart SO SO HAPPY – I love when books are based around traditional tales. If someone could write a book like this based on Rumplestiltskin, that would be incredible! I am a massive Rumplestiltskin fan!). Obviously, the Pied Piper is a terrible man and in this world, pipers are well loved and respected people. I loved the world of the pipers – the thought that music and magic were very much intertwined was a sheer delight to read. This was one of those books that once I was there, I was immersed in the world. I was walking through the forest with Patch and co. It’s an incredible world to be part of too… although I don’t know that I’d survive ha!

As well as this book being an incredible adventure, a young man, his dragon friend, his rat friend and an adventure to save their world, it features some absolutely incredible characters. Patch (the main character) is an incredibly brave and somewhat stubborn protagonist that I think kids will absolutely adore. Throw in Wren, a brilliant young girl who has been hexed into being a rat, and an incredibly sarcastic and dry dracogriff in the mix and you have this excellent bunch of characters who I just wanted more from. (I can’t wait for book 2 because I am a SUCKER for sequels!)

There’s some brilliant themes of friendship in this story. Unexpected friendships particularly. I loved the friendship that grew between Patch and Wren in particular. It showed that friends are there to support and guide each other through everything. These friends don’t have it easy, but they stick through the thick and the thin with each other! I mean, how many friends would stick by you when you’re thrown into one of the worst prisons imaginable?!

I think this book is going to go down a STORM at school. I can’t wait to hand it to some of the readers in my class. 

Have you read A Darkness of Dragons?
Can you think of a story you’d love to see revived?
Would you like a dragon friend?

Talk to me! Send me a dragon… please… someone?! Massive thanks to Usborne for sending me a copy!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Peter G Bell

Today, I have the utter joy of hosting author Peter G Bell on my blog, talking about the story opening in The Train to Impossible Places. You’ll also get to hear about his wonderful main character, Suzy, and her rationalist beliefs and how these relate to the action of the story and the reader. Hope you enjoy!

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Reason Vs Weird

Most of us would love to discover that magic is real. Imagine if you came downstairs one night to find a trans-dimensional train, crewed by fantastical creatures, waiting to whisk you off to uncharted realms were anything was possible. You’d be thrilled, right?

   This is exactly what happens to Suzy, the main character of The Train To Impossible Places. And she is not thrilled at all.

   On the contrary, she feels positively offended. Because, as an eleven year old rationalist, she knows full well that magic can’t be real, and that trolls can’t exist. The laws of physics are sacrosanct. In short, the train shatters her understanding of the world. How she chooses to deal with that will determine both her fate, and the fate of everyone she meets on her adventure.

   I made Suzy a rationalist because I knew the train and its crew were going to be fairly anarchic and unpredictable, and I wanted a main character who would push back against that. In doing so, Suzy keeps the story grounded, even when she’s out of her depth (which is most of the time) and always asks the questions the reader needs answering.

   When it comes to science, the trolls’ rule of thumb is this: the laws of physics are all well and good, but as soon as they become inconvenient, a dash of magic is needed to help grease the wheels. This is fuzzics (like physics, only fuzzier), and it drives Suzy up the wall. Sometimes literally.

   I’m no sociologist, but I suspect many of our culture’s current problems stem from the conscious uncoupling of reason from the other human faculties; a nasty habit we picked up during the Enlightenment, and which has been indulged to a greater or lesser extent ever since. On the one hand, this culminates in people choosing to dismiss the valid spiritual, philosophical and emotional foundations of so much human experience. On the other, it leads to a suspicion of empirical knowledge, which opens the door to all manner of charlatans eager to present us with “alternative facts”. Neither condition is good for us.

   That’s why, in the midst of all the fantasy elements, I made sure never to undermine Suzy’s belief in science. It is never shown to be untrue – on the contrary, she uses Newton’s Laws of Motion to save herself from danger at one point – but she also discovers that science isn’t the neat and tidy solution to all life’s problems that she thought it was. She is never tempted to reject it, but she does have to expand her thinking beyond it and, to her credit, that’s exactly what she does.

   She makes room in herself for a broader perspective. And that’s what sees her through in the end.

You should definitely check out The Train to Impossible Places! It’s such a great story and the cover is JUST EXCEPTIONAL. 

Massive thanks to Peter for this blog post! I love getting an insight into authors and their characters – authors really do know their characters inside out! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Theatrical

Today I have the sheer joy of being part of the blog tour for Theatrical, the newest book from the wonderful Maggie Harcourt. Today’s blog post is not only a review but I get to share a little bit of my love for theatre too… what a joyous thing to read on a Monday morning! 

Theatrical: a book to make you smile and show the magic of theatre!

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“Hope dreams of working backstage in a theatre, and she’s determined to make it without the help of her famous costume designer mum. So when she lands an internship on a major production, she tells no one. But with a stroppy Hollywood star and his hot young understudy upstaging Hope’s focus, she’s soon struggling to keep her cool… and her secret.”

Theatrical follows the story of Hope, a young girl who is trying to make her name in theatre, without people knowing who she really is. She’s fed up of being handed opportunities because of who her mother is. She wants to make a name for herself, to fight her own battles and to find her own corner of the theatre world. Her mother is a well-known costume designer and a big name in theatre, but Hope has no interest in costume design (much to her mother’s disapproval), she wants to work backstage. That’s where the magic really happens for Hope. 

When Hope is offered a chance to work on a production in a theatre, she snaps up the chance, without knowing exactly WHO will be working on this production. Imagine being Hope in that scenario. You’ve just been offered your dream opportunity (to work in a production) and then they announce that one of the biggest names in Hollywood is also working on this production, along with another pretty famous name (and the two have a connection). Hope is gobsmacked (so would I be…. I have 0 chill… ask anyone who knows me!). 

Keeping secrets from her mam and her friends, Hope ends up a bit jumbled in her life, and when she ends up in the papers, things end up blowing up in her face. Poor Hope. But she’s living her dream. She’s doing the thing she wants to do. She’s living her opportunity. 

I really REALLY loved Hope. She’s a marvellous main character. She made me laugh a lot. She’s sweet, brave and she’s not afraid to stick to her guns. She’s a main character you really root for and I need that with my main characters. Along with really falling for her, there was part of me that felt like I know her pain. Making a name for myself this year as a teacher, outside of my normal role has been a thing. 

This book, just like Unconventional, made me really smile. I think there’s something to be said for Maggie’s incredible ability to write books that just make me so happy. There’s not enough books out there that are just happy books (if you can recommend me any then I will take them off your hands because I love a feel good book!)

A quick shout out to the romance in this book because I’m ALL ABOUT IT. 

My goodreads review of Theatrical reads:

A gorgeously fun, light hearted and just lush story, filled with characters you’ll fall for in a heartbeat. The epilogue made me cry a lot. It’s family that matter most, getting their approval means EVERYTHING. I adore Hope – she’s bold, gutsy and despite how brilliant she is, she doubts herself (maybe, just maybe I see a lot of myself in Hope). Maggie Harcourt has yet again written a book which will make you smile. 

Another of the things that I loved about Theatrical is how nostalgic it made me for the theatre itself. I loved the backstage secrets and the glimpses into life as someone who works in the theatre. As a massive Carrie Hope Fletcher fan (I wonder if that’s where Hope came from?!), it was lush to see what life is like on that side of the curtain. I’m very lucky in that I’ve had the chance to see Matilda the Musical twice and both times it just blew my mind. (I rambled on about it in my first ever blog post… Matilda The Musical).

Just recently though I had the opportunity to go and see an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it was wonderful. The acting was incredible. It was funny, irreverent and I was engrossed the entire way through. There’s something to be said for the wonder of Shakespeare himself. 

I think there’s something really magical about going to the theatre and Theatrical really manages to encapsulate that.

Thank you for sticking with me… this ended up being a LONG one.

Check out the rest of the blog tour! Just look at how many people there are on the tour! There’s going to be some cracking reviews. I can’t wait to see all of the love for the theatre too! Share your theatre love stories with me on twitter, use the hashtag #Theatrical for the world to see too! Let’s show all those actors/actresses/directors and stagepeople how much we love the theatre!

Theatrical blog tour

S x

BOOK BLOG: S M Wilson

Exile: new friends, old friends; new enemies, old enemies; same old dangerous dinosaurs. 

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“Betrayal. Sacrifice. Survival. Welcome to The Extinction Trials.

After surviving on Piloria once, Storm and Lincoln are the obvious candidates to return to the dinosaur continent to test the new virus that should clear the way for human settlement. But they have their own priorities – finding a cure for the plague that’s sweeping Earthasia, and keeping themselves alive.”

For those of you who have been living under a rock, The Extinction Trials is one of those brilliantly excellent series that comes along and kicks you in the face with its brilliance. Last year, the first book in the trilogy (I think?!) was released. The Extinction Trials was our first introduction to Stormchaser and her world – trying to rid their world of dinosaurs. If you’re interested in finding out more about The Extinction Trials, check out my review here BLOG TOUR: The Extinction Trials. It’s actually a little bit different that review – it’s an aesthetic/mood board that the book inspired. You should DEFINITELY read the book though

For those of you who have read book 1, welcome to my review of book 2. Yes, hello, I have read Exile and I LOVED IT OK. (I could stop this review there, but I’m sure you came for more than I LOVED IT OK. I love lots of books. That’s probably one of the things you’ve noticed about me. But anyway, less rambling, more reviewing).

So Exile leaves off not long after where The Extinction Trials finishes. Storm, Lincoln and the crew are back in their home land, away from the land of the dinosaurs. Safe. Ish. Life has carried on while they were away – Arta is still poorly, people are still starving, there are still more people than there is land. At the end of Extinction Trials, Storm makes a very brave decision which benefits those siblings who are left behind. She’s kind of bending the rules; she’s been brilliant. Things start to change for Storm. She ends up getting a new job, which obviously leads her to going back to Piloriaback to the dinosaurs. Back to the danger, the nightmare. But also back to the colour, the warmth, the dream. (I won’t spoil it for you as to HOW she comes about this situation… but I thought it was an INTERESTING turn of events that made sense! And YAY Lincoln gets to go back with her!)

So here we go again, ready to fight the battle again – dinosaurs, danger and DNA. It’s always dinosaurs and their DNA. It’s always dinosaurs and their death. 

I absolutely loved being back on Piloria with these characters again. I didn’t realise how much I missed these characters until I started reading again. It’s so wonderful when you read the second book in a trilogy and you remember what you loved about them so much. I very much have that about Storm and Lincoln. I remembered their stories. The things these kids have to go through for their government are astounding. I just think I don’t know what I would do. The assortment of dilemmas thrown at them through the book are eye-opening. Would you choose to kill dinosaurs? Would you do anything to save your sister? Would you rescue the families of the people you watched die? Would you go to a VERY dangerous island with your estranged father? (I know what I would do, and it would not be noble. I am much too duty bound)

I absolutely loved seeing Blaine again. He was one of the things I loved the most about book 1 so getting to see him again in this book made me so happy. (I clearly have something about that kind of character – the man left to survive on the island. The Explorer from The Explorer was one of my favourite things about that book too!) Adding new characters, new dynamics, new relationships to the mix meant there was another level of risk, danger and love in the mission this time. There’s daughters and fathers, old friends and new friends, enemies and friends. Add in new emotions and new people to a mission that some have already been on before and you’re bound to have some frought tempers.

Another thing I absolutely adored in this book (and in book 1) was that it was JUST THE RIGHT amount of peril. There were moments where I was like OMG NO. DONT DO THAT. SHUSH BE QUIET. THEY’LL HEAR YOU. (I know the characters can’t hear me, that doesn’t stop me though, shush now!) DINOSAURS ARE SCARY GUYS. I mean, I wouldn’t want to mess with a T-Rex. I don’t care who you are. The dinosaur scenes are intense. A lot intense. 

This book is BRILLIANT. I love a good bit of dystopian YA fiction (hello have you met me?) and Susan Wilson just keeps hitting the nail on the head with these books. If you’re looking for a brilliant, brave main character, some danger and beautiful writing, then you’ve come to the right series!

My Goodreads review is SO terrible, I really must work on these:
“SO GOOD. I missed these characters, this world. There’s some new friends and enemies in this book and the plot is woven deeper this time round. Just lush.”

Also, a massive massive cry happened when I saw this… THAT’S ME. I definitely did cry. Me and some of my favourites. Thank you so much to Susan. I will forever shout about these books because they’re WONDERFUL.

Anyway, yes. There you go. Sorry to keep you here so long. Have you bought the book yet? Are you tempted to? Well you should because it’s brilliant. I don’t lie to you guys ever. I wouldn’t. 

Are you tempted to buy The Extinction Trials?
Would you like to follow Storm and go to Piloria?
Do you have a favourite dinosaur?

Let me know in the comments or on twitter! I’m always free for a chat – @eenalol!

S x

 

BOOK BLOG: Politics for Beginners

Don’t have a clue where to start when it comes to politics? Want a fun and accessible way to teach your kids? Politics for Beginners is a great starting point!

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Politics for Beginners is a brilliant book filled with facts to teach kids all about politics – not just our politics in the UK, but the history of politics, politics around the world and so much more! It’s filled with wonderful illustrations and facts galore. 

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The contents page lays it out so clearly that it makes this book super accessible. There’s chapters on all kinds of things that kids might want to know about. Think you have a revolutionary on your hands? They might want to check out ‘Political Change’. Have a budding historian in the making? They’ll love ‘All Kinds of Governments’. My favourite chapter however has to be ‘Big Questions’ which deals so brilliantly with all kinds of things from Am I a feminist? to What is terrorism? Big, big questions that kids will ask and want to be able to answer, dealt with in ways which are relatable for kids.

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I absolutely love this page – explaining all kinds of governments in one handy chart. (I could easily have chosen so many pages to take pictures of!)

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Now, I wouldn’t say I’m ignorant when it comes to politics (I keep up with what’s going on around the world and in the UK) but I learned an awful lot reading through this. It’s as useful for adults as it is kids! It’s gone down really well at school, with a few classes using it for one off lessons or for finding out about politics.

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There’s a brilliant glossary at the back of the book too to define some of the words set out in the book.

This is a great tool for educating kids about politics. It’s full of facts, quizzes, charts and some thought provoking questions. Ideal for KS2+ (as an adult, it’s BRILLIANT because it’s accessible without being condescending). It’s the kind of book I wish I had had when I was a kid. Politics needs to be accessible for everyone, it’s our future at stake at the end of the day! 

S x

 

 

BOOK BLOG: Kim Curran

Slay: shout outs to Charmed, my favourite boyband feels and an awful lot of fun!

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“Meet SLAY – SLAY do two things and they do them well: they play killer music and they slay killer demons.
When Milly, the lonely daughter of a world-famous opera singer, arrives home to discover that her mum has been taken over by something very evil, she finds herself in mortal danger. But the last people she expects to rescue her are the hottest boy band on the planet…
Enter SLAY: playing kickass gigs in the spotlight, and saving the world from demons in the shadows… Suddenly, Milly’s on the road with JD, Tom, Niv, Zek and Connor, racing against the clock to stop the demons who killed her mum… One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a hell of a show!”

So… a book that is a boyband who are also demon fighters? If you’re not already into this, then I’m not sure we can be friend. (I jest, I jest… or do I?) But seriously, I had seen a lot of talk about this book, so when Usborne asked me if I wanted to review it, I was MOST curious and guys, for real, it’s A BLAST

It’s not every day you read a book that makes you feel like you’re a teenager reading about your favourite TV show (Charmed, yes thank you very much, don’t judge me) and your favourite boy band (I mean… all of them. Teenager me was a massive boyband fan… Westlife, Boyzone, BSB, *Nsync… I loved them all) merged together. This is exactly what Slay is. 

Meet the first demon slaying boyband. They’re BRILLIANT. Like, properly. They know what they’re doing. They’re masquerading as a boyband because, as you can imagine, fighting demons around the world isn’t cheap business. You need all the gear: the motorbikes, the weapons, the brilliant outfits, the brilliant manager (who is obviously a demon slayer too). I mean… they’re living the life. AND THEY’RE ALL SO LUSH. I love when I like lots of the characters in a book – it makes me want to keep reading (and trust me, I want more from Slay!) I was apprehensive at first about one of the boys, but I soon came around to loving him. 

So you have a brilliant boyband fronting this… who else? Well, there’s Milly. Her mam has this new manager, who she definitely does not trust. They’re in a new city; Milly doesn’t have many friends; she’s just trying to get on with her new life. Things start happening and her mam ends up being possessed/had her soul stolen and her body ends up being taken over by a pretty ferocious demon from many moons ago. Milly is scared, she’s lost, she’s definitely not sure what’s going on in her house. IN FLY SLAY. Milly is BRILLIANT. She’s brave and bold and unafraid to speak her mind. I’d love to be her friend.

What ensues is an awful lot of fun, frolicking and globe-hopping! 

Comin across a book that’s fun, enjoyable and that I wanted to KEEP reading is lush. (If you want another book like that, see Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt!) I would 100% recommend this to everyone – I finished it more than a week ago and it has definitely made me want to keep talking about it. (and rewatch Charmed… but let’s not talk about that!)

My goodreads review reads:

Great fun! One of those wild rides. Think Charmed meets your fave 90s boyband. Badass, funny, charming and brilliant. I absolutely loved Milly – she’s great. Bring on more!

So yeah… GO GO GO. Go meet Slay and Milly. I can’t wait to read more from them!

Have you read Slay?
Did you have a favourite 90s boyband?
How hard are you judging me for my tastes now?

Talk to me! I wanna have a reminisce about terribly great 90s boybands with you pals!

S x

BLOG TOUR: The House With Chicken Legs

Today I have the absolute joy of hosting the brilliant Sophie Anderson, author of the gorgeous The House with Chicken Legs, on my blog. She’s here to talk all about one of her favourite Russian fairy tales and what it means to her. 

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The House with Chicken Legs is BRILLIANT. My review will follow in the coming days, but I can not wait for you all to read it because it’s an incredible story which kids and adults alike can adore. Can we also appreciate that cover please?!

Fifteen Russian Fairy Tales and What They Mean to Me

The Cat Who Became Head-Forester (on the dangers of a single narrative)

‘If you drop Vladimir by mistake, you know he always falls on his feet …’

In this Russian fairy tale, retold and published by Arthur Ransome in 1916, Vladimir is a tomcat who is always fighting. He has lost an ear in a fight and is ‘not very pretty to look at’. His owner decides to get rid of him, bundles him into a sack, and abandons him deep in the forest.

Vladimir tears his way out of the sack and sets off to explore the forest. He was head-cat in the village he came from and decides he shall be head of the forest too, so walks along like ‘the Tsar himself’. He finds an abandoned forester’s hut and moves in. When hungry, he catches birds and mice in the forest, and when tired he sleeps in the hay loft. But he is not content, as he must catch all his own food and do all the work for himself.

One day, Vladimir meets a pretty young vixen and tells her his name is Cat Ivanovitch and that he has been sent from the far forests of Siberia to be Head-forester over all. The vixen is impressed and invites Vladimir to her earth, where she feeds him tasty game. She asks to be his wife, and spends each day catching game for her grand husband.

While hunting, the vixen meets her old friend Wolf and tells him about her new husband, the Great Cat Ivanovitch, Head-forester over all. Wolf wants to pay his respects, so the vixen tells him to leave a sheep near their earth. Next, the vixen meets Bear and tells him to leave an ox as an offering to her husband, the Great Cat Ivanovitch.

Wolf and Bear leave their offerings near the earth and decide to hide nearby, hoping to get a glimpse of the Great Cat Ivanovitch. Wolf hides amongst dead leaves beneath a bush, and Bear climbs to the top of a fir tree.

Vladimir emerges from the earth and begins eating the ox, purring as he does so. Wolf moves his head, attempting to get a better look, and the leaves around him rustle. Vladamir stops eating and listens. Thinking the rustling is a mouse, Vladamir leaps onto Wolf’s nose with claws extended.

Wolf yelps and Vladimir, startled, darts up the fir tree. Bear, at the top of tree, thinks the Great Cat Ivanovitch is attacking him and jumps down, breaking branches and bones along the way. Wolf and Bear run off, terrified and …

‘Ever since then all the wild beasts have been afraid of the cat, and the cat and the fox live merrily together, and eat fresh meat all the year round, which the other animals kill for them and leave a little way off.’

When I first heard this tale, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I started off feeling sorry for poor Vladimir, abandoned in the forest. But he lands on his feet, and by the end of the story is head of all the forest. I wondered if I was meant to admire his tenacity and resourcefulness; his ability to turn his luck around.

But how he achieves success is morally questionable. He lies to the vixen, and is lazy, making her do all the hunting. By the end of the story I felt sorry for the vixen, the wolf and the bear, who had all been lied to and tricked into hunting for Vladimir. However, I also felt they were partially responsible; for believing Vladimir without question, and for wanting to ingratiate themselves with the Great Cat Ivanovitch. I felt particularly cross with the vixen, as she offered to marry Vladimir simply because he was Head-forester, and she perpetuated his lies. 

It seemed to me they might all be in the wrong; Vladimir for lying, and the others for believing him. But then again, it didn’t seem fair to blame the others for simply being trusting. After all, I don’t think it would be good to assume everyone we meet is lying to us. The story made me think about trust versus suspicion, and at what point it is important to do some fact checking.

Certainly, before you marry someone, or work for them, or repeat what they have told you as fact, I think it is a good idea to be sure they are being honest. The vixen, the wolf, and the bear, only ever hear Vladimir’s story – that he is Head-forester – and accept that as fact. But if they had checked his story, done a little research, listened to the thoughts and opinions of others, perhaps they wouldn’t have been fooled so easily.

As I have grown older, this lesson has become only more relevant. The internet has appeared and grown to unbelievable proportions. Endless information is out there, easily accessible, yet still people are fooled by cats like Vladimir. Still people share information without fact checking, like the vixen. And still people rise to power through morally questionable actions.

Perhaps if we all sought out and listened to more than one side of every story, then cats like Vladimir (or Trump) wouldn’t have so much power.

The Cat Who Became Head-Forester can be found in Old Peter’s Russian Tales, written by Arthur Ransome, published by Puffin.

Sophie Anderson - new author pic

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson publishes in paperback, 3 May, £6.99 from Usborne.

 

 

Go check out the rest of the blog tour, there are sure to be more incredible stories like this one to be shared! 

Chicken Legs Tour Graphic

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BLOG TOUR: Matt Killeen

Today I have the utter pleasure of hosting the author of Orphan, Monster, Spy on my blog: Matt Killeen! He’s here today to talk to you about one of his female heroes! The rest of the blog tour has been fascinating and I have loved reading all of Matt’s other posts! When this one arrived in my inbox I was very excited to read it!

I hand you over to Matt’s words now…

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Ada Lovelace

Some visionaries are so ahead of their time that they can seem laughable, even insane. One such man was Charles Babbage. In 1822, he designed a sophisticated calculating machine that promised to change the world but just could not get his crap together. So intricate was Babbage’s Difference Engine that it was forever unfinished, exhausting the pockets and patience of the British Government and London society that once fêted him, even as he dreamed of the Analytical Engine which was, basically, the first programmable computer.

People like this need an early adopter. There was one person that truly understood him, and his inventions and she was also a visionary. She went far beyond the cogs and gears of the physical and predicted the entire information technology age.

Ada Gordon was born the daughter of “mad, bad & dangerous to know” poet Lord Byron and maths geek Annabella Milbanke, after a whirlwind and disastrous marriage of science and the arts. With a childhood designed to mitigate any of her father’s “poetical” or chaotic tendencies that bordered on abusive, she inherited her mother’s love of logic and mathematics, but also more than a little of his imagination.

She was fascinated from an early age by machines and mechanics and the numbers behind them, which is why, at 18 years old, she ended up at a party where her mentor Mary Somerville introduced her to Babbage. Babbage’s machines were so complex that few people could even understand the basic principles, let alone see what their application might mean, so they became firm friends and collaborators. For Babbage it was all about the numbers, but it didn’t take Ada long to swap those numbers for broader more metaphysical concepts. What she saw was a world where machines could be told to think. Make decisions. Write and perform music.

The scale of her contribution is hotly debated. It is widely believed that she wrote the very first computer programme, and certainly she perfected it. Her work directly influenced Alan Turing, whose work helped define the information age, although she didn’t believe in conscious machines or computers that could create, a contention that it took Turing 107 years to rebut. Seven decades later we’re still arguing about what that might mean. Indisputably, she was a prophet. She saw the future and she described it. How it would work. What it would do.

Her wealth and privilege allowed her to study with some great minds and to promote Babbage’s ideas, but this was no substitute for real academic rigour and research. One can only guess at what her brain would have created had she been born in a different era, of equal educational opportunities and longer lives.

And she was not without her vices…she was Lord Byron’s daughter after all. She had a string of affairs and sexual encounters, as well as a serious gambling problem and it was the latter that highlighted her limits – it transpired that she did in fact have some. She simply refused to believe there wasn’t a mathematical solution for effective betting on the horses. In pursuing finances for Babbage’s work, she became mired in financial scandal, losing a fortune of her syndicate’s money and then chasing her losses. She was bemused and frustrated by her inability to unravel this Gordian knot, when so many other mathematical mysteries uncoiled themselves effortlessly in her brain. It was an ignominious and uncharacteristically unsuccessful end, coming as it did just a year before she died of cancer at just 36.

Admittedly, I can’t think of Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace without thinking of Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. This glorious fictionalised account of her work, culminates in them using the completed analytical engine to fight crime for Queen Victoria in an alternative timeline. It always felt like the future she should have had, rather than the hobbled, overlooked and all-too short time on an Earth that would come to depend on the things that she envisioned.

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Check out the rest of the blog tour – there’s some amazing bloggers and some brilliant blog posts to read too! My review is coming soon too, so keep an eye out for that! 

ORPHAN MONSTER SPY BLOG TOUR GRAPHIC

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