Chat · Guest Post

Guest Post: Bath, book, bed by Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland.

I am delighted to welcome Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland to my blog. A Cup Of Wonderland is a beautiful bookish blog with amazing photography and great reccomendations. If you haven’t found Hannah’s blog already, do check it out

Back in April, I wrote a post in support of BookTrust’s bath, book, bed campagain. I suggested adults and teenagers would do well to adopt this routine too. Hannah kindly agreed to give us a look at her own bath, book and bed habits. A big thanks to Hannah for your time. 

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Bath, Book and Bed.

 A while ago on BookMurmuation, Louise published a post which was inspired by the Booktrust recent campaign of Bath, Book and Bed routine. Louise wrote about the importance such a routine has not only for children but for adults as well. I found her post incredibly insightful as Louise illustrated the importance of this routine by discussing her own. Now I happily admit that I am quite an inquisitive person, which perhaps is just a polieter way of saying incredibly nosy, so I quite enjoyed her post. Which is why I was equally delighted when Louise invited me onto her blog to write this post presenting my own Bath, Book then Bed routine.

I feel that before I begin this post, I should include a disclaimer. The majority of the time my routine is quite chaotic and probably not good because I am a phone addict and will watch YouTube videos or Netflix instead of going to sleep. But at least once a week or a couple of times a month, I like to set some time aside especially for this routine. I think it’s a great way of recharging your batteries, allowing yourself a break which is incredibly important if your a bit of a workaholic like me. Now onto my Bath, Book and Bed routine.

 

The Bath:

hannahbathIn my household I live with both my parents so normally when I plan to have one of these types of evenings, I make sure I get in the bathroom last as it means I can happily spend an hour or two in the bath with a nice bath bomb with no complaints or someone (my dad) banging on the door telling me to get out. At the moment my bath bomb of choice has been Lush bath bombs which I love immensely which is due to the fact that it’s one of the few types of bath bombs which don’t irritate my skin or psoriasis. The one which I used for this bath in particular was the Monster one which Lush released for Halloween and it’s my favourite which is why I been rationning the ones which I have remaining.

Once in the bath, I always have a book in hand. After all I will happily spend an hour or more enjoying a good soak with a good book and a cup of tea too.

 

The Book:

hannahbookThe most important part of the evening. Now I normally read in bath for a good portion of time before I get out and light some candles, dry off and then dive right back in. The book in choice for this post was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I saw the movie adaptation when it was released. I adore the film but reading the book made fall entirely in love with every single character, place, and aspect of the novel. If you haven’t read it then I would definitely recommend you purchasing it. 

 

Bed:

hannahbedNow if the book is really really juicy, and I’m unable to put it down. I blow the candles, get my pjs on and slip into bed and continue reading. Which is better than normal as it means that my phone is not being used and I’m not working at all. Now when I finally put the book down and decided to go to sleep, unfortunately the plan deviated a little because my 6 month old pup Oscar, decided to bring his Micky Mouse up and wanted to play. So it was almost completely perfect then? Eventually I’ll to sleep.

 

Huge thank you to Louise for inviting  me to write this post as I too think it’s incredibly important to use your bedtime routine as a way of relaxing and having an allocated downtime.

 

blogging advice

Blogging Reflections: Find what works for you

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Here is some advice for bloggers. New and not so new.  

Eighteen months ago I started a book blog. I expected to review and analyse books. Maybe ten or twelve people would follow me but mainly I was in it to talk about something I loved. Almost 400 followers later, here we are. Blogging is a hobby which has become a large part of my life. It is a hobby which I am getting better at. A hobby which I am still learning about. 

If I have discovered one thing in eighteen months it is this – you can’t do it all. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Snapchat. Not to mention all the other websites and platforms you could engage with. There are bookish Twitter chats nearly every night of the week, and that is without readathons and challenges and one-off events.

Here’s the big question most bloggers ask themselves – how do you find out what works best?

Blogging is a journey. New bloggers are like explorers standing on the edge of uncharted territory. Sure, they have cobbled together a map from advice posts and videos and things they have picked up in conversation. That doesn’t mean you know what to do. Until you have checked out those platforms and spent some time creating content you don’t know what works. Here’s the secret all new bloggers need – every one of those platforms is about communication, but every one requires a slightly different approach.

I love Twitter. It is about summarising key information, catching people’s attention and building a like-minded Network. Aside from my blog, Twitter is my social media home. I’m enjoying figuring out Instagram although I’m finding it a challenge. Thankfully I am past the point of just snapping a wonky shot of the book cover but it has taken time for me to use my books to create something visually attractive. There’s a long way to go, but I’m enjoying the process. Facebook isn’t for me.

Eighteen months on I know which platforms I like best, That’s not to say I regret the earlier stages of my blogging when I juggled too much and tried a bit of everything. I learned so much along the way and I know that made me a better blogger in the long-run.

New bloggers are like explorers on the edge of uncharted territory. Find the lay of the land, then figure out which route works best for you. Your answer will be different from mine will be different from someone else’s. In short:

Find out how things work before you discount them.

Once you have learned about a platform, figure out to what extent you want to use it. If at all.

What works best is what works for you. You can’t do it all, but you need to know what is out there. In a constantly shifting landscape, you need to remain open to new ideas and new methods of communication. So long as you are open to learning and friendly to everyone you meet along the way, you will do fine.

 

Louise Nettleton

Do you use multiple platforms? What works best for you?

 

 

 

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: What Manor Of Murder? by Christopher William Hill.

What Manor Of Murder? – a new middle-grade mystery perfect for fans of Robin Stevens.

 

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Extract:

‘His bramble claws scratch scratch at the windowpanes. And his face …’ He shook his head and moaned in horror. ‘Such a terrible face. It’s not skin as you might think, but more alike to sackcloth than human flesh. His breath is of the marsh. There’s no hair to speak of; instead the creature’s all over brambles. And when he catches his victims, he drags ’em down to their deaths in the marsh water …’ 

(What Manor Of Murder? by Christopher William Hill. PP. 24 – 25.) 

birdSynopsis:

On Michaelmas Eve, Old Bramble Head rises from the marshes and claims another victim from the Bleakley Household. So says legend. Brothers Eustace and Horatio Bleakley are sent to stay with their aunt and uncle on Michaelmas Eve. When a body is found in the study, the pair must work out whether the death was down to Old Bramble Head, or if there is foul work at play.

Joined by their cousin Loveday and ‘Poor Unfortunate’ Oliver Davenport, the children set to work investigating the suspects and solving the mystery. An entertaining middle-grade mystery.birdReview:

Mix Robin Stevens with Gareth P Jones and this would be the result. The puzzle – because all mysteries have puzzles at their heart – is a classic murder mystery. A body is found and a group of suspects is investigated and ruled out in turn. What makes this spectacularly entertaining is the setting. It is lightly gothic. Regular readers know I am a sucker for anything folksy, and the legend of Old Bramble Head was the perfect hook to keep me interested at the characters were introduced.

The detective gang is made up of memorable characters. I particularly liked Loveday, who writes and edits the Murder and Mayhem Magazine to pass the time at boarding school. I also liked Oliver Davenport, the ‘Poor Unfortunate’ who capitalises on the sympathy of his late parents’ wealthy connections and talks about murder in a totally off-hand way. Although the series sets Eustace and Horatio up as the main characters, I would get behind a story lead by Loveday and her co-writer and partner-in-crime.

The suspects and victim were equally interesting and their backstories helped to set the story early in the 20th Century. Great Aunt Henrietta is a crime-writer to rival Agatha Christie. Uncle Theodore is an explorer and Egyptologist with a stash of treasure. The characters come from both upstairs and downstairs, with the change in butler and footman causing an inciting mystery for the children to investigate.

The ending brought a satisfying ending to the puzzle and made total sense when I looked back over the clues. The old legend gave a fresh twist to the traditional murder-mystery. I am excited to see where this series goes and look forward to the next mystery from Christopher William Hill.

 

Thanks to Hachette Children’s for my copy of What Manor Of Murder? – opinions my own.

Young Adult Reviews

Q&A: Author Melvin Burgess

Q&A: YA Author Melvin Burgess answers some questions. 

51ffcqken9l-_sx323_bo1204203200_I am delighted to welcome Melvin Burgess to my blog. His title – the Godfather of young adult fiction – is justly earned. Burgess’s fiction approached subjects and styles which appealed to a young adult audience years before YA was recognised as a category. Burgess is one of the most versatile YA authors. He has written about drugs, Vikings, WW2 and virginity. His forthcoming novel – The Lost Witch – is a fantasy about a young woman with visions who doesn’t know who to trust. Should she believe her parents, who tell her she is hallucinating, or the mysterious strangers who tell her she has the power of a witch. 

NYALitFest – The Supernatural And The Strange

Melvin Burgess will appear at NYALitFest – The Supernatural And The Strange on Saturday 21st July. Regular readers will remember how impressed I was with the first NYALitFest earlier this year. The line-up for the forthcoming event is equally impressive and I can’t wait to hear more. Tickets are still available here. 

A big thanks to Melvin Burgess for your time. 

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Interview with Melvin Burgess

Q: Bea is a skater. What made you think of a skater-witch?
A: I always think of skating as an alt hobby – little bit different,
little bit left of field. How else would a witch spend their spare time? My
witches have a relationship with the spirit world, that’s where they
get their magic from. But if they were the storybook kind with spells
and black cat, I reckon they’d have replaced their brooms with a
skateboard by now.
 
Q: Your story is set in the modern day, yet it is a story of
ancient powers. Why did you decide to set it in the modern day?
 
A: The past has already happened, it’s safe. the future isn’t even here
yet – but the present is right where you are. I like my stories to have
an edge – I like it so that you never really know what’ll happen next.
Yes- the present is definitely my favourite tense.
– Being disbelieved by her parents is as frightening to Bea as
being hunted. 
 
Q: Can you tell us more about the psychological story?
A: In that first part of the book, it’s all about who Bea is are, who
she belongs to, who she belongs with. As you grow up you gradually find
your parents play a smaller role in your life, but to be taken away from
too soon is a very scary and dangerous thing. Bea is a loving person –
she can’t help it, that’s just the way she is – and the idea that she’s
turning into something that her parents can’t understand, or that she
could even be dangerous to them, is a dreadful thing for her to cope with.
Q: If you could choose a magical power, what would it be and why?
A: I’d choose the power to make to make friends – which answers your
next question as well! But if I could have a power without losing my
friends, I’d pick one of the powers witches have – to have my spirit
enter the body of any creature I chose, and to share their life for
a while.
 
Q: Would you rather have friends and no powers, or magic and no
friends?
A: Friends any time.
Thanks to Melvin Burgess for your answers and to Hazel Holmes for arranging the interview. Melvin Burgess will be at NYALitFest – The Supernatural and The Fantastical on 21st July.
Young Adult Reviews

Review: The Survival Game by Nicky Singer

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Synopsis:

This boy is not my responsibility

Resources are running out. Many countries have pledged that their citizens will only live until the age of 74 to preserve resources for as many people as possible. Years can be gifted from one person to another and criminals pay their sentence in life years. This is the world Mhairi lives in.

Mhairi has walked across continents. Since the thing that happened at the checkpoint, the thing she cannot think about, Mhairi has been set on one thing – survival. She has reached the Scottish border, but everything has changed since she was last here. There are checkpoints and detention centres and border patrols. There are crowds of displaced people looking for the same thing – a place where they can survive.

A young boy needs Mhairi’s help. He is an illegal, an alien,  and joining up with him will make Mhairi’s journey more difficult. He’s not her responsibility … is he?

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Review:

An exceptional piece of work which will make you look at the world a different way. The Survival Game poses a question. People in Britain are used to hearing about displaced people on television. What if we became the displaced – and how long before it happens?

Mhairi is fourteen, but she is not fourteen as we know it. She has crossed continents and fought for food and survived things so traumatic that she can’t think about them. She keeps those memories locked inside her ‘castle’ – the mental fortress she has built in her head in order to survive. Her voice is distinctive and harrowing. There are children in our world living Mhairi’s life. There are children in our world who are traumatised and desperate and prepared to do whatever it takes to survive. This is not a voice you will forget.

I kept turning the pages. I kept reading. There wasn’t any question of putting the book down because I had to know what happened to Mhairi and the boy she called Mo.  

The story is set in the near future. In my lifetime. It’s proximity to the present makes its messages more chilling. This is a world where people have become so desperate they have lost all sense of humanity. There are too many people without resources. Instead of working to reverse the problem, those who have everything they need become defensive. They fight to protect what they have. To keep enough for themselves and their close family. The most frightening thing is this dystopia has already begun.

Following Mhairi – who, for all her protestations, is unable to see the little boy as a problem beyond her control, as a statistic, enables the reader to think about their own attitudes. If we want to leave the world in a better state than this we need to act. Fast.

This novel is exceptional in several ways – first in its craft. If this isn’t on several major prize lists next year there is no justice in the world. The voice is exceptionally strong, and the story opens the reader to empathy towards other human beings. On a big scale. I’m not going to pretend this is a cheerful read but it is compelling. This is a book we should celebrate.   

 

Middle Grade Reviews · Young Middle Grade

Round-Up: Younger Midde-Grade Fiction – July 2018

img_6102Seaview Stables – The Pony With No Name by Tracey Corderoy 

A short and sweet story for pony-mad readers.

Bryonny has moved house and wants to make some new friends. While exploring the woods, she meets a beautiful Bay pony. She and the pony make an instant connection. Bryonny responds to an advert calling for someone to help with a pony. She is delighted to find it is the same pony, but the pony’s owner is less than happy. Georgina has a reputation as a bully. She doesn’t care about the pony and she isn’t going to let Bryonny help. Can Bryonny help the little pony find a loving home?

I loved the connection between Bryonny and the pony (who she nicknames Red), and the friendships Bryonny makes around the village. There is some interesting exploration of settling down and being new to a place. The village has an old-fashioned feel – think vintage cars and summer fetes and pony-rides. It is a sweet, nostalgic story and the setting will make a lovely series.

 

img_6006Buttercup Sunshine And The Zombies Of Doom by Colin Mulhern

It’s a perfect day in Briar’s Cove, except for the hoard of zombies walking down the road. Granny Fondant and Buttercup Sunshine must investigate what has happened. Armed with a chainsaw, huge mugs of tea and a talking toad, the pair investigate why their neighbours have turned into zombies.

This is hilarious. Think Scooby-Doo – comedy-horror and a young detective. Every time I saw the zombies I burst out laughing. Sunshine Buttercup (the lovely little girl who happens to be holding a chainsaw) and Granny Fondant are a brilliant duo. The ending will leave you wanting to know what happens next. This would be lovely for new readers and would be particularly good for older children with a lower reading level because it has a wide age appeal.

 

img_6246Magical Kingdom Of The Birds – The Sleepy Hummingbirds by Anne Booth 

Maya’s big sister is going to university. She gives Maya a present – a colouring book called Magical Kingdom Of Birds. The book transports Maya to a magical kingdom where she is greeted by fairy Willow as the new Keeper of the Book. Unfortunately, the Kingdom is under the grip of the evil Lord Astor. Lord Astor has enchanted the hummingbirds’ nectar. His plan is to capture and cage the hummingbirds. Can Maya and Willow save the day?

This series has a beautiful feel, from the glittery cover to the borders to the colouring pages inside the jacket. The setting is beautiful too – think fairies and flowers and riding on the back of a giant magpie called Patch. The writing is fantastic – every chapter builds the story just enough to keep the reader hooked. I recommend this series and will look out for the second book.

 

img_6292My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella by Jerry Mahoney

Maddie’s stepbrother Holden is the most obnoxious boy in the whole world. Why did he have to ruin her report? Even if some of his questions were valid – how did Cinderella get home from the ball? Is shoe size a reliable way to identify someone? If the prince loved her so much, why didn’t he remember her face?

Maddie and Holden find themselves in the world of Cinderella, in the aftermath of the ball, but all is not happily-ever-after. One of the Wicked Stepsisters is about to be crowned queen, Cinderella is shut in the dungeon and Darreth, Duke of Darkness has brought disease and hardship to the land. If Cinderella doesn’t escape the dungeon, she can’t marry the prince. 

Can Maddie and Holden work together to fix the story?

A humorous and lively adventure. This is like Gregory McGuire or Marissa Meyer for young readers and is the start of a Middle-Grade series which we totally need to bring over to the UK. I will be writing more about these during Panto season because I think they would make lovely stocking fillers children off to see a pantomime. 

 

img_6399Animal Ark – Kitten Rescue by Lucy Daniels 

Amelia and her Mum move following Mum’s divorce. Living with Gran in Welford is nice, but it doesn’t feel like home. Amelia misses York and has no idea how she will make friends. Then a miscreant puppy runs in front of a car, and Amelia discovers the community around Animal Ark vets. 

This first adventure in the new series introduces us to Amelia and Sam and reintroduces characters from the old series who have grown up several years. It also follows the fate of a litter of kittens and Sam’s cheeky puppy, Mac. 

At risk of giving away my age, I grew up with Animal Ark. Book club at school meant buying the latest installment. There were Kittens in the Kitchen, Owls in the Office, and enough other animals to satisfy a small child whose life’s ambition was – and still is – to head a sanctuary. There is a huge amount of snobbery around books like Animal Ark which are devised and written by a team of authors, but I think they form a big part in many children’s discovery of reading. Bonding with a favourite character is the best way to get children enthusiastic about visits to the library, and I for one am delighted to see Animal Ark return for a new generation. 

 

Thank you to the publishers and authors who sent copies of the featured books for review. Opinions my own. 

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Time School – We Will Remember Them by Nikki Young

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Extract:

People don’t often notice their surroundings, especially when they’re in a hurry. That morning, none of the four friends stopped to question why there was a Shire horse and carriage waiting outside the station … 

(Time School by Niki Young. P12.) 

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Synopsis:

Jess and her friends are running late for school. Their train gets them to school but not as they know it. They have gone back in time to 1918 – to the time of WW1. Why them? Jess feels the key to understanding what they must do lies with that question. She befriends a girl called Martha and makes a connection with her. There is something she needs to tell Martha.

An engaging time-slip about exploring our connection to the past.

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Review:

A short and engaging story about a group of children who visit the past. Jess and her friends are a likable and friendly group who see their situation as an opportunity to experience the past first-hand. They witness the differences between life today and in 1918, and they are humbled by Martha’s living conditions. I loved how this tour of the past focused in on local history – the school grounds, the housing and the railway all look different in the past.

Martha explains what it is like to have family on the war front. I loved Martha. Hearing about the war from the viewpoint of a character can make it easier to imagine than seeing it as a list of facts. This book certainly does a good job of helping children to empathise with people from the past, and Niki Young’s descriptions brought the setting right into my head.

I appreciate this review is short but is difficult to say too much more without spoilers. This would be a lovely read for fans of Charlotte Sometimes, Evie’s Ghost and similar time-slip novels. It would also be a great book to use during projects about WW1. The author’s website says the book with be part of a series. I’m really excited to hear this and hope to see it evolve into something like the My Diary series which was around in my childhood.

 

Thanks to Anne Cater for organising the blog tour and for my copy of Time School. Opinions my own.

 

 

Lifestyle · Round-Up

Wishlist: Literary Mugs

Confession time. I have a cupboard full of mugs, a box full of mugs and mugs acting as pencil holders. That doesn’t stop me from buying another. Print something I love on the front and I’m a sucker. 

One thing I’m short of is bookish mugs. I have a Shakespeare mug from when I won the English prize at secondary school but one hardly does justice to my infatuation with the printed word. It seems a pity, especially because reading goes hand-in-hand with tea-drinking. (Well. Mug in one hand. Book in the other.) 

A quick scout of the internet brought up literary gold. Here is my literary mug wishlist. (And a unicorn, because people who read books believe in unicorns.) Do you have any literary mugs? What do you drink when you are reading? Let me know in the comments below. 

 

(L-R, Top to bottom – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory * The Secret Garden * Penguin Books * Unicorn * Literary Cats * Library Slip * Books * Moomin * Alice * Reepicheep

waiting on wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday: The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth

light-between-worlds-website-678x1024Synopsis (from Chicken House Books)

 

Six years ago in wartime London, sisters Evie and Philippa were transported to a magical realm where they became woodland queens. Now, returned to the real world, they must come to terms with more ordinary lives.

For Evie, it’s unbearable. A patchwork girl, pieced together from pain and longing, she dreams of the whispering trees and a daisy-chain crown.

For Philippa, it’s a relief – until her sister goes missing.

As the weeks unfold, Philippa must discover if Evie crossed safely between worlds or if the light was too bright – and she fell.

A mesmerising, dual narrative YA fantasy; The Magicians meets The Chronicles of Narnia.

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Why I can’t Wait to read The Light Between Worlds: 

 

The Light Between Worlds addresses a question left unanswered by one of my favourite books. The Chronicles of Narnia are among my all-time favourites. In The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, four children disappear from their own world and become rulers in the land of Narnia. They remain for years, but when they return to England no time has passed at all. Neither this story nor Prince Caspian, explains how the Pevensie children cope with the transformation from great rulers back into school children in wartime Britain. 

I am excited to read about another magical woodland realm. These are the lands of my daydreams, the worlds to which I am constantly drawn in both my reading and my writing. 

The sisters react differently to their situation. I’m intrigued about what sort of conflict this causes after their return. I also want to know how they fared during their time in the magical realm. Did one do better than the other?

What happened to Evie? What does the synopsis mean by if she fell and does anyone know what happens to people who fall? There are so many questions. How can anybody not be intrigued? 

 

The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth

Chicken House Books

October 2018

Chat · Young Adult Reviews

Floored blog tour: ‘It’s grim up North’

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Floored is a collaborative novel written between seven young adult authors. The story is told by six characters and a narrator. This post is about wealthy, inconsiderate Hugo. Hugo is one of my favourite characters in the novel because he personifies an issue which has become apparent in recent years – the contempt held by the metropolitan elite for the working class outside of London.

Hugo’s opening line – It’s grim up North – is a snapshot of his character. He believes that people begrudge his privilege because they can’t be bothered to work for it themselves. He has no understanding of opportunity or inequality. Things go downhill as Hugo treats one of the girls as a cheap one-night stand.

 It’s grim up North is where Hugo starts. A cliché which he has never bothered to challenge because it doesn’t affect his life. This is where Hugo starts- but Floored is a story, and stories begin with a promise that our protagonist will not be the same person by the end. All stories, at their heart, are about transformation. Hugo may be entitled and arrogant and cruel but he isn’t content. The way he lives gives him no pleasure.

I hope people reading Floored will take note of Hugo’s disdain and start to see his attitude in other places. In the politicians who take photo-ops in deprived cities at election times then fail to provide the jobs and infrastructure those cities desperately need. In the national newspapers which continually pitch their work to a metropolitan middle-class readership. In the public-school educated television personalities who make jokes at the expense of working-class Northerners.

 

Catch everyone in my Floored group blog tour: 

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