October Wrap-up

Yes, it’s a teensy bit late into November to be doing October’s wrap-up but I’ve never let that stop me before, so why change things now? (I’m actually still hoping I’ll get wrap-ups done for July, August and September, but that might be wishful thinking!)

Anyway, this won’t be anything very exciting because as you know, October was a terrible month for me. Which means it was the worst possible time to go on a book buying ban. But I succeeded, so my book haul looks like this:

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How unlike me is that? All three were given to me (and it turned out I already have Aurabel, so that won’t be staying) and I didn’t buy. A. Single. Book. Obviously as soon as the calendar turned the page to November I was straight into Waterstones, but given I probably average about 20 books a month, I was quite impressed with myself!

Reading-wise, I only read seven books in October, which is almost as unlike me as only acquiring three books. They were:

  • Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
  • The Exact Opposite of Okay (which was amazing and highly recommended)
  • Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince (you may be noticing a theme)
  • Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows
  • The Serial Garden
  • They Both Die At The End (also amazing. I utterly loved this.)

I only managed one review sadly (linked above), but it’s better than nothing.

So how was your October? I very much hope it was better than mine! Link me your posts in the comments if you like – I’d love to see what you’ve been up to.

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Book Review: Michael’s Spear

So today I’m part of the blog tour for Michael’s Spear, the final book in the Hobbes End trilogy by Hilton Pashley. I didn’t want to clog up Hilton’s guest post by including a review there, so you get a second post today. (I know, nothing for weeks, then two at once!)

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The Universe is coming apart at the seams.

As Jonathan and his friends fight to save it, their every move is being watched from the shadows. Lilith, the last Archdemon, has plans of her own, and with the legendary Michael’s Spear under her control Jonathan has never faced a more lethal foe.

With the odds stacked against him, Jonathan will need all the help he can get if he is to fulfil his destiny.

It’s time for Gabriel’s grandson to finally spread his wings…

I’m so glad that Dome Press invited me to be a part of the blog tour, or I might not have come across this book. Even if I had, I suspect I would have been put off by it being the final part of a trilogy I haven’t read. If that’s ringing alarm bells for you as well, let me put your mind at rest – it doesn’t matter. Yes, there are references to what has gone before, and it’s true that we’re kind of thrown in at the deep end in terms of who everyone is, but I found myself getting to grips with everyone and everything quite quickly, and I think that’s testament to Hilton Pashley’s writing. There are enough explanations that everything makes sense, and it didn’t matter that I’d had two books less to get to know all the characters because I loved them anyway. I particularly loved Hobbes End as a setting. I don’t think it’s going too far to describe it as a character in its own right to be honest, because so much of what happens is because of Jonathan’s love for his home village.

Jonathan is a great character too. It’s easy to separate a children’s book hero from his parents for story reasons, but in Michael’s Spear Jonathan has masses of family and family-like friends around him, and they help him. It was really lovely to see that in a children’s book. And, in fact, all the supporting characters are well written and rounded people (and by people I generally mean angels, or fallen angels, or werewolves…), and I really did find myself caring about everyone.

What I really loved about Michael’s Spear though, was the way Pashley wove a ton of theology into it, without ever making it about religion. I know – I don’t know how he managed that either! But it is a story that is entirely without judgement, even with heaven and hell as literal settings and angels and demons as major characters. I mean, yes, the demons are generally the bad guys, but that’s mostly their choice. They don’t *have* to be. Jonathan’s mum is a demon and she supports her son in trying to save the universe, so to me it’s clear that there is a choice to be made. There are also some interesting points about the possibility of redemption – it’s clear Lucifer is searching for forgiveness, and he sees his caretaking of Hobbes End as a way to earn that, but it’s equally clear that the person who needs to forgive him is himself.

Michael’s Spear is a great middle-grade novel that works just as well as a standalone as I imagine it does as the end of a trilogy. There’s a definite sense of closure by the end, and while I’d love to see more stories set in Hobbes End, it seemed a good place to leave them. I’d highly recommend picking both this and the previous 2 books up, especially if you have middle-grade aged children, because I think they’d love it.

4/5

Michael’s Spear was published on the 16th November by Dome Press. ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Karen and Emily for organising the blog tour and sending me my copy!

Blog Tour -Michael’s Spear by Hilton Pashley

Michael's Spear Blog Tour Poster

Today on the blog, I am thrilled to share a guest post from Hilton Pashley, the author of the wonderful Michael’s Spear. I really enjoyed this book, and you can find my review in today’s other post. Suffice to say that I definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys an adventurous middle grade novel, and it poses some interesting questons about redemption. After all, there’s not many books where you find Lucifer as one of the good guys!

Anyway, it’s over to Hilton, who’s written a fantastic post about the life of a writer – sometimes solitary, yes, but with its own unique rewards.

Lonely, but not alone.’

The life of a writer can be a tad lonely at times; after all, it’s just you, your keyboard, and the indescribable weight of a blank page in Microsoft Word. The beginning of a novel is often the worst part for me, I’m not very good at them; it feels an almost Sisyphean task to get that narrative boulder rolling up that hill, hoping that it doesn’t roll backwards and flatten you in the process.

Prior to starting a novel I tend to write lots of messy notes – most of which I later ignore – and try to build up a head of steam before sitting down and banging out a first draft over the space of a couple of months. I’ve tried planning things out, but for some reason that process doesn’t work for me. In fact, the most useful piece of advice I was ever given was to know how the story ends. At first I didn’t get it, but after painting myself into a series of narrative corners with my first novel, Gabriel’s Clock, I realised that as long as you know where you want to end up, it doesn’t matter what detours the story takes you on as you’ll still end up at the right place.

I’ve also learned that sharing too much of a concept early on can sometimes be a bad thing. It’s human nature to takes the opinions of others to heart, and this can end up with you doubting yourself and that boulder grinding to a halt. However, there are counters to the solitude of the scribbler. The characters one builds become imaginary friends, and while hunched over a steaming keyboard they blather on to you about their loves and hates, hopes and fears. It’s probably good that the public don’t get to see that bit, lest they call the emergency services.

Then, we have the professional contacts such as agent and editor, who in my case have become friends too. You build close bonds when working on creative projects, and the feeling on sending in a new manuscript is akin to handing in an essay at school and hoping you don’t get a “Must try harder” comment in the margin.

Then one also gets feedback from fans, which is possibly the most fulfilling thing of all. Your baby is out in the world, and children (and adults) are sending you messages from all corners of the globe about their favourite bits, which characters they like the most and why, and what they want to see more of. It makes the slog of hammering out the words worthwhile.

And finally, every now and then, you get a surreal experience that you can tell the grandkids. For me, my favourite is from my first public engagement just after Gabriel’s Clock – the first of the Hobbes End trilogy – was published. I was speaking at the Hostry Festival in Norwich, and sharing a platform with authors Rose Tremain, Andrew Cowan and Louis de Bernieres. I spent most of the time being star struck and trying not to be sick, but when we were signing books at the end, I had to double take when Louis asked if I would sign a copy of Gabriel’s Clock for his children. A simple thing, but lovely for a debut author at the time. It just goes to show, be you author or reader, you’re never alone with a book.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write a guest post for me Hilton – I think we’ve all felt that pressure of a blank word document at some point!

If you want to find out more about Hilton, or the other books in the Hobbes End trilogy, check out his website here.

Michael’s Spear, the final book in the Hobbes End trilogy (although you don’t need to read the others to enjoy this one – I hadn’t!), was released on the 16th November by Dome Press. It’s well worth your time!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour above!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Scary Books I’d Like To Read (But Probably Won’t)

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So it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these! Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme run by The Broke and The Bookish, and this week’s theme is a Halloween freebie. I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to scary books, so a list of the books I’d like to read but probably never will seemed a good idea! (No fancy pictures this week though- I’m typing on my phone while on the bus and just no.)

1. The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

2. IT by Stephen King

3. The Magic Cottage by James Herbert

4. Haunted by James Herbert

5. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

6. Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

7. Pet Sematary by Stephen King

8. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

9. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson.

10. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.

I own two of the books on that list and my parents own most of the rest, but I still don’t think I’ll ever read them! How about you? Have you read any of them or are you a wuss like me? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Serial Garden

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This is a slightly unusual review in that The Serial Garden is not a book I’ve just read for the first time. In fact, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it since it was released 9 years ago, because it’s one of my favourite collections of short stories. I have a terrible feeling most of you reading this are too young to have grown up with Joan Aiken books, so I shall explain further.

Joan Aiken is probably better known as the author of a number of novels for children, including The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea. I never really got on with her novels, but I adored her short stories, particularly those that featured the Armitage family. The Armitages were your typical 1950s middle class family. They lived in a big house with a cook and a maid, and Mr Armitage went off to work each day while his wife was a lady who lunched and the children, Mark and Harriet, went off to boarding school or amused themselves. Unless it was Monday (or the occasional Tuesday). On Mondays, very unusual things tend to happen to the Armitages. They might end the day with a new pet unicorn, or find themselves going for afternoon tea with a ghost, or having lessons in the middle of the night with a ghostly governess. The stories were exactly the sort of magical things that seemed like they *could* happen, even though I came from a very different sort of family.

The only problem with particularly loving the Armitage stories was that they were scattered throughout various collections, most of which are now out of print. And then 9 years ago came the glorious news – they were collecting all the Armitage stories into one book and naming it after my favourite story. Not only that, there were new stories I’d never read.

It will not surprise you at this point, if I tell you that I absolutely love this book. The stories, especially the later ones, don’t always hold up but a hefty dose of nostalgia papers over any cracks. And the title story, The Serial Garden, is still, in my opinion, Aiken’s masterpiece. It’s such a magical piece of writing, yet it still feels like it could happen, and it’s so sad and bittersweet. Before this book came out, The Serial Garden was the story that always stuck with me. Mark and Harriet are very sensible young people who take everything in their stride, and exactly the sort of person I hope I would be if faced with their extraordinary Mondays.

If you’ve never read a Joan Aiken short story, I highly recommend The Serial Garden as a place to start. I don’t know how well the stories stand up without the nostalgia influencing your opinion, but I encourage you to at least give it a try!

5/5

Blog Tour – It Came From The Deep by Maria Lewis

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I am so excited to be sharing a guest post from Maria Lewis with you today, as part of the blog tour for her latest book, It Came From The Deep, a sci-fi murder mystery, and her YA debut. I’ve been a huge fangirl of Mazz since I met her last year at Nine Worlds, so I was thrilled when she accepted me as one of the blog tour bloggers. Check out her fantastic post on the inspirations behind the amazing cover for It Came From The Deep, which she designed herself, and which you can see at the bottom of the post. Over to you Mazz!

GUSTAVE DORE

If you ever wanna have nightmares while you’re still awake, I highly recommend taking a dive into the work of Gustave Dore. The French artist was a devil for the details and I’ve always been fascinated by works where the more you look at them, the more you see. I have a collection of his artwork in book form that deals exclusively with dragons, demons and monsters, which he drew unlike anyone else, ever. Seriously, it’s hard to pour that much malice on to the page through your pen and through such fantastical creatures. Specifically his piece The Destruction Of Leviathan from an illustrated printing of the Bible was a huge influence and if you compare that and the It Came From The Deep cover side-by-side you’ll see that quite clearly.

Link: http://www.artpassions.net/cgi-bin/dore.pl?img=destruction_of_leviathan.jpg&artist=dore

BOSSLOGIC

I’m lucky enough to call BossLogic a pal after years of crossing paths on the pop culture circuit and a legion of similar interests. His art is pretty damn jaw-dropping across the board and he did some posters for a film that I was working on a few years ago that absolutely rocked. I mean, he has a huge following for a reason. Boss was one of the first people I spoke to about what It Came From The Deep could look like visually and he did an illustration of the merman featured in the book – which I’m going to be debuting in a few weeks – that physically took my breath away. I’d describe his art as cinematic and I definitely think of my stories in terms of visuals when I write them, so Boss was a huge inspiration.

Link: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/12/1f/72/121f722334eb6c258673924b3a118356.jpg

HEMLOCK GROVE

Probably better known as that werewolf show that ran on Netflix for three seasons, Hemlock Grove is based on the book by Brian McGreevy. It also happens to be one of my favourite covers of all time, with the colour scheme, illustration, concept and execution flawless in my opinion. When you talk great book covers, Hemlock Grove is always the one I immediately think of. Although its influence on the It Came From The Deep cover isn’t obvious at first glance, I brought up the cover and stared at it for a good chunk of time before physically beginning work on my own cover. Whenever I would get stuck or lose sight of what I was after, I’d return to look at the Hemlock Grove cover as an example of what can be done in terms of visually communicating an entire story in a way that’s faithful but also an interesting piece of art.

Link: https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hemlockgrove/images/4/4f/Hemlock-Grove-Book.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130519014731

RAMON VILLALOBOS

Ramooooooon! That’s the only way you can pronounce his name, with maximum Os, as his illustrations draw out that kind of response. I’ve been a fan of his unique style for years across his work in comic books but also his Tumblr (which is like a geek haven). His unconventional and bold use of colour was one of the big motivators for the palette of the It Came From The Deep cover. He uses a lot of neon shades when he can and it engages the eye in such a way that I wanted the book to do the same. I bounced around a few different looks, but ultimately the bright turquoise was the final choice for It Came From The Deep and a lot of that decision making stems from being a fan of Ramon Villalobos’s work and movie posters that make those same jarring choices (think Atomic Blonde recently, but also Drive, Attack The Block, Byzantium, Vampire Academy, Thor: Ragnarok and Baby Driver).

Link: http://78.media.tumblr.com/22824c512885f9a4825e5fb76dedea85/tumblr_nu6a0bKRsK1qhbhvxo1_500.jpg

ANCIENT SEA MAPS

Ancient sea maps and illustrations from naval explorers are fucking wacky to look back on now. Especially knowing the mythic sea creatures they drew into these maps were nothing more than manifestations of horny men who had been left out at sea too long. But that doesn’t take away from the fact they’re rather interesting. I wanted It Came From The Deep’s cover to feel somewhat like an ancient sea map on a subliminal level and although you can’t see it, there’s drawn layers-upon-layers that make up the final pattern. Among compass sketches and boats that gently fade into the background, I’ve also added specific sea creatures on top that are supposed to be clues as to what’s coming in the story. The novel is all about what’s down deep below and I use that literally in the artwork that represents it, with something deep down below every illustration on the cover.

Link: https://espliego.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/1500px-carta_marina.jpeg

DR JAZMINA CININAS

Look, I know this is a merpeople book but God damn it if I can’t slip a few werewolf references in there. I first came across Dr Jazmina Cininas’s work almost a decade ago now, when I had a very rough draft of Who’s Afraid? She did The Girlie Werewolf Project which was technically brilliant from an artist perspective, but also thematically brilliant as it looked at the persecution of women as werewolves, monsters and beasts. A feminist scholar, her way of communicating her thoughts through these intricate, twisted versions of fairytales was something that I drew heavily from when mocking up the first It Came From The Deep cover. She manages to make work that’s extremely modern in its thinking and references, but simultaneously looks old and historical. I tried to capture that with some of the images used juxtaposed alongside the font and colour scheme. Her work is plastered all over my office, so naturally it bleeds into a lot of what I do. I also had a chat with her for my podcast, Eff Yeah Film & Feminism, and it was fascinating to pick her brain: https://soundcloud.com/eff-yeah-film-feminism/eff-yeah-film-feminism-ep29-dr-jazmina-cininas

Link: http://www.jazminacininas.com

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Thanks so much for such a fascinating guest post Mazz! I love looking at this cover after reading the inspirations for it, and I hope you all do too. I also highly recommend you click on the links Maria has provided so you can see the parallels for yourselves!

It Came From The Deep is released in eBook worldwide on 31st October. I hope you’ve enjoyed this guest post from Maria Lewis – check out her twitter (@moviemazz) for more fabulousness, and to see the other stops on the tour!

Synopsis

An elderly professor is murdered, leaving a puzzling crime scene for police to unravel and a laboratory housing all kinds of marine life. But something is missing … something huge. 

Recent highschool graduate Kaia Craig has problems of her own, with her career as an ironwoman on the Gold Coast in jeopardy after a horrific accident. Yet someone wants to hold her accountable.  

After nearly drowning in Lake Pelutz and her attackers on the run, Kaia is left with more than just physical injuries. She’s convinced she saw something in the depths of the lake: something that choose to spare her. Uncertain whether she’s running towards the discovery of a friend or foe, Kaia begins digging into a mystery that may have bigger ramifications than she or any of her friends can fathom.

It Came From The Deep is a thrilling combination of young adult and science fiction from the author of the critically acclaimed Who’s Afraid? series, Maria Lewis.

 

An Update

Hi guys! Sorry it’s been a while. There are a few reasons I haven’t really been active in the blogging community recently but I’m hoping things will be back on an even keel soon. I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten you, and I miss you!

So where have I been? Well first of all, my new commute is hard work and I haven’t really adjusted to it yet. Add to this that most evenings I visit my family, and by the time I get home it’s too late to switch my laptop on and still get to bed early enough. I don’t have much time to check Twitter either, which is killing me to be honest! Hopefully now I’m almost two months in to the job I’ll finally adjust.

Secondly, about a month ago, I ended up with conjunctivitis that lasted for THREE weeks. I was just about making it through work to be honest!

Thirdly, my mental health has not been good this month. It’s not something I ever really talk about, because I generally don’t suffer too much. But October has been pretty relentless. I know why it’s been kicking my arse, but that doesn’t really help much, does it? When I feel like this though, I do find it difficult to do anything, even read, though that’s what I tend to default to. Harry Potter has managed to keep me company, but blogging just wasn’t going to happen. I’ve felt much better this week though, and I think that black cloud is lifting. Fingers crossed this lasts!

So I’m hoping that next week will see me back here properly. I’ll never be a person who blogs every day, but more than once a month if I’m lucky would be nice.

I’m getting off to a good start with a fantastic guest post from Maria Lewis tomorrow, as part of the It Came From The Deep blog tour, so please do come and check it out. Maria Lewis is the author of the Who’s Afraid series, but this is her YA debut and features mermen. Who could resist?!

As I’ve been out of the loop for a month, please do let me know in the comments if I’ve missed anything, or any books you’re looking forward to this month!

Blog Tour: Fire Lines by Cara Thurlbourn

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I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Fire Lines by Cara Thurlbourn today. You can read my more detailed thoughts a bit further down the page, but for now let me tell you that I really enjoyed this book and would rather like the sequel right now thank you very much!

First though, Cara was kind enough to write a guest post for me about her top five inspirational authors.

Five Inspirational Authors

I’ve always wanted to be an author, for as long as I can remember, and I think what I find ‘inspirational’ has probably changed a fair bit over the years. It used to be that I was simply inspired by fantastic story telling, but now I think that the way authors interact with their readers and handle the business side of their lives plays a part too. At the moment, my top five would be:

  1. Margaret Atwood. Not just because of her incredible writing, but because of the way she conducts herself as an author. She interacts with readers, does lots of speaking engagements and is fiercely intelligent without being even a little bit patronising. Her work is also completely timeless, as we’ve seen with the reaction to The Handmaid’s Tale adaptation.
  1. William Nicholson. Nicholson wrote The Wind On Fire trilogy, as well as some adult novels. I saw him do a talk at Heffers book store in Cambridge when I was perhaps thirteen or fourteen and I’ll always remember him talking about the reality of being an author – that sometimes you have to take a script-writing job you don’t really want, in order to pay the bills so that you can keep writing what you love. The Wind Singer books were also a huge inspiration for me.
  1. Joanna Penn. Also known as J. F. Penn, Joanna runs The Creative Penn website which offers advice and guidance to authors hoping to self-publish. She is an absolute inspiration to me because she achieved exactly what I hope to achieve – she quit her day job and is now a full-time author/entrepreneur. She divides her time between writing fiction and non-fiction and if I could emulate even half of her success I’d consider myself very lucky indeed.
  1. J.K. Rowling. How could I possibly miss out J.K? It seems ludicrous to even list the reasons why she’s an inspiration because I think so many people feel the same. But, for me, the biggest thing is that she bridged the gap between children’s and adult’s fiction. Harry Potter was originally for kids but adults fell in love with it too and I think it was instrumental in YA and children’s literature being taken more seriously. I also love that she has crossed genres to write her adult crime books under Robert Galbraith. I love writing fantasy and, while I can’t see myself writing anything other than YA, I do want to explore other genres, in particular a crime/mystery series that’s been floating around in my head for a while.
  1. Alwyn Hamilton. Rebel of The Sands is one of those books that made me go ooh I wish I’d written this! Alwyn’s fab at interacting with her readers, has an awesome website and always champions fans’ artwork and blogs. Her world building is fantastic too and her heroine kicks butt.

About the author

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Cara Thurlbourn writes children’s and young adult fiction. ‘Fire Lines’ is her first novel and it’s a story she’s been planning since she was fifteen years old.

Cara has a degree in English from the University of Nottingham and an MA in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University.

She lives in a tiny village in Suffolk and has worked in academic and educational publishing for nearly ten years. Cara blogs about her author journey and in November 2016 she crowdfunded her first children’s book. 10% of its profits are donated to animal rehoming charities.

Cara plans to write at least two more books in the Fire Lines series, as well as a young adult mystery series, and has lots more children’s stories waiting in the wings.

You can sign up for Cara’s newsletter, for giveaways, updates and latest releases, here: http://www.firelines.co.uk

Thanks Cara!

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When your blood line awakens, how do you choose between family and freedom?

Émi’s father used to weave beautiful tales of life beyond the wall, but she never knew if they were true. Now, her father is gone and Émi has been banished to the Red Quarter, where she toils to support herself and her mother – obeying the rules, hiding secrets and suffering the cruelties of the council’s ruthless Cadets.

But when Émi turns seventeen, sparks fly – literally. Her blood line surges into life and she realises she has a talent for magick… a talent that could get her killed.

Émi makes her escape, beyond the wall and away from everything she’s ever known. In a world of watchers, elephant riders and sorcery, she must discover the truth about who she really is. But can the new Émi live up to her destiny?

Fire Lines is a great YA dystopian fantasy novel. I loved the structure of this world, and the way the Quarter you lived in demonstrably affected your chance in life – and how the other parts of the city didn’t understand the deprivations suffered in the Red Quarter. Sometimes it felt like the fantasy world of Fire Lines wasn’t too far away from our own.

That wouldn’t be a totally bad thing mind you. While I wouldn’t want to live in Nhatu, the rest of the world created by Thurlbourn is much more pleasant, and includes the angel-like Watchers, who take Emi under their (literal) wings to help her fulfil her mission. The gang quickly establish themselves, and I was genuinely fearful for them at some of the more dramatic parts.

Fire Lines does suffer a little bit from that age old problem of no-one talking to anyone else, when problems could be so easily solved by a bit of communication, and it is true that Emi and her friends don’t always take the wisest course of action. However, despite this, I did really enjoy the book. I want to know what happens next. I desperately want to know what happened to the people Emi left behind in Nhatu, and I hope we get to find that out in the next book – which I will be reading. If you’re a fan of dystopian fantasy, Fire Lines should definitely be at the top of your TBR pile!

4/5

Fire Lines will be published by Bewick Press on the 26th September 2017.

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35581157-fire-lines

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fire-Lines-Cara-Thurlbourn-ebook/dp/B075FTR12K

ARC received from the publisher via Faye Rogers, in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Midnight Peacock

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge fan of Katherine Woodfine’s The Sinclair’s Mysteries (and I’m so pleased that I got a chance to tell her that in person at YALC), so when I realised the latest (and final) book was available on Netgalley, I absolutely had to request it immediately.

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You are cordially invited to Sinclair’s Midnight Peacock Ball! The festive season has come to Sinclair’s and Sophie and Lil are spending the holidays at snowy Winter Hall. But it turns out that this is no ordinary house party …As sinister secrets come to light, our intrepid heroines find themselves faced with a more baffling mystery than ever before! With the help of their friends, can they uncover the truth in time to foil a truly diabolical plot? Or will Mr Sinclair’s New Year’s Eve Midnight Peacock Ball spell disaster for the dauntless young detectives? Prepare for shocks and surprises in the thrilling conclusion to the Sinclair’s Mysteries!

The Midnight Peacock is a fitting finale to the series. It ties up a lot of loose ends and brings back the secondary characters we’ve met over the course of the previous three books. I was particularly glad to see the Lims return and I hope that at some point in the future Woodfine fully explores the links between Grandfather Lim and Sophie’s father. (There are hints that while this might be the last Sinclair’s Mystery, it’s not going to be the last we see of this universe.) Also, I absolutely adore the idea of Sewing Club, and I love Song and Mei as characters. Song especially is very sweet and I hope that at some point, Sophie realises the same.

This book is perhaps more reliant on a knowledge of the previous books than the rest of the series, and therefore I’d recommend you don’t start with this one. However, it’s still a self-contained plot which rollicks along at a great pace, while still giving us ample time to reacquaint ourselves with Sophie and Lil, now established as a detective agency. I must admit that I worked out who the secondary bad guy was fairly early on, but there were enough red herrings strewn about to make me second guess myself, and the joy of a good mystery book is trying to play along! I also found myself thinking about the characters and wondering how they were getting on, long after I’d finished the book

As is usual with mystery books, it’s hard to talk about The Midnight Peacock without spoiling it or the previous books in the series. Rest assured that if you’ve enjoyed the other Sinclair’s Mysteries, you’ll enjoy The Midnight Peacock just as much. If you haven’t read the rest of the series then you need to go and read The Clockwork Sparrow right now. This is a great middle grade mystery series, and I’m sad that it’s finished – but looking forward to whatever comes next!

The Midnight Peacock is out on 5th October, and I highly recommend it!

4.5/5

ARC received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Things A Bright Girl Can Do

As is often the way, I’d seen a few people talking about Things A Bright Girl Can Do, by Sally Nicholls, for a while, and then my friend Sarah told me I had to read it because I would love it, so of course I had to give it a go. She was right of course; I did love it, because it is right up my street. History! Feminism! Wonderful characters! Everything I love to see in a book, in fact.

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Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.

Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women’s freedom.

May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who’s grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.

But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice? 

Things A Bright Girl Can Do starts in 1914 and moves through to the beginning of 1918, following the three young women throughout. It’s a really interesting way to look at the time period – we tend to concentrate on men’s stories in the war period, and although we all learn about the Suffragettes, we don’t tend to drill down past the leaders, and certainly not to teenagers, so I very much enjoyed reading about it from the point of view of three very different young women. All three stories are fascinating and cover the breadth of Edwardian society, and I particularly liked the way they all had different reasons pulling them towards the suffrage movement. It was also good to see the historically accurate potrayal of May and Nell’s relationship, and how it was clear that it was Nell who was taking all the risk, because of the different attitudes of their communities.

I loved Evelyn and Nell as characters, although if I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be Evelyn. She’s intelligent and stubborn right from the start, but once she discovers the Suffragettes she gives herself to the cause wholeheartedly, despite her previously cosseted lifestyle. I found myself desperately worried for her at various points in the book, which shows how much I engaged with her. I also engaged with Nell, but to a lesser extent. The hardships she and her family suffered were heartbreaking, and there was a point where I really regretted reading the book in public, because I knew I was about to cry. May I was much less interested in. Although she shows spectacular growth by the end, for much of the book she came across as a bit self-obssessed. She had no idea about the things Nell was going through, and treated her abominably, and it kind of put me off her, even though the other aspects of her story were interesting. An honourable mention here for Teddy, who was my favourite of the supporting characters. His relatonship with Evelyn was just so lovely, in the way he supported her even though he was worried about what the consequences were, and I was terrified for him when he went off to war.

The period detail in Things A Bright Girl Can Do is also fantastic. The social history of Britain in this period happens to be the area I studied most at university, so while my knowledge isn’t quite up to date, I fancy I’ve got quite a good idea of what it was like, and Sally Nicholls has done a great job of portraying it right across the social classes. From the lack of opportunities for women to get an education (they can study and sit all the exams at Oxford, for example, (if they’re rich enough) but they can’t actually get a degree), to the conditions Nell and her family live in in the East End, Nicholls has got it right. Not only that, she writes in such a way that the setting is vivid and real, even to people who don’t have the historical background.

Things A Bright Girl Can Do is a fantastic book, full of historical detail and great characters. I really enjoyed it, and as this is the first book I’ve read by Sally Nicholls, I will immediately be searching out her other books. I recommend you do the same.

Things A Bright Girl Can Do is out today, 7th September. You should go and buy it.

4.5/5

Arc received from Andersen Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.