July and August 2015 Reads – Part 3.

The third and final part of my July and August reading catch up.

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt. Usborne Books
There is not enough YA fiction set in Wales. Or fiction as a whole for that matter. This is a lovely, contemporary YA story set in Wales that includes some main characters who speak fluent Welsh – it was already onto a good thing with me before I got reading. This is a road trip story, the three main characters are close friends but all struggling with something at the moment. They escape the realities of their lives for a few days and get back to basics, road tripping and camping.

One of the central themes of this is the realisation that the adults in your life are flawed, fallible beings. All three of the main characters have difficulties in the relationships with their parents and this is dealt with really well within the book.

There is a romantic element to this book, I wasn’t sure about it to begin with but ended up really enjoying it. This is an excellent debut, another author to add to my watch out for list.

Counting Stars by Keris Stainton. Hot Key Books.
When I first heard Keris mention this book I knew it was something I wanted to read – I’ve long bemoaned the lack of decent stories set post sixth form and the wave of New Adult that promised to fill that gap certainly did not deliver. This is a great story filled with warmth about Anna as she moves to Liverpool to take up a role in a theatre. She’d been on the university path like her friends but a work placement made her realise that maybe this wasn’t the right path for her at this time. This in itself was something I loved, I think it’s really good to see narratives that involve alternatives to university for young adults.

Anna’s story has a secondary thread to it, she is a vlogger and we see her tell her story to her subscribers, and their comments to each video. This storytelling technique is really interesting, seeing telling her viewers what’s been going on rather than experiencing it alongside her works really well. There’s also a nice reflection on privacy and social media that clearly illustrates a point without coming off as prescriptive.

I enjoyed this book immensely and hope it brings along more books set in this time of life – there’s so much potential for stories about this life transition so let’s see more of them!

Elspeth Hart and the Perilous Voyage by Sarah Forbes. Stripes Publishing.
I read and reviewed the first Elspeth Hart book earlier this year over at Middle Grade Strikes Back. I loved it, and particularly liked that the ending was setting up the next story. I’m very glad to say that this, that next story, picks up the action straight away and continues it brilliantly. The characters have left the school that provided the setting for book 1 and spend much of this book on board a luxury liner. These close quarters again make for plenty of near misses and tense moments, I couldn’t read fast enough. This is an excellent second instalment to Elspeth’s story – I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Charlie Merrick’s Misfits in Fouls, Friends and Football by Dave Cousins. Oxford University Press.
I always enjoy Dave Cousins’ books, they never fail to entertain and make me laugh. Charlie Merrick’s Misfits is no exception to this. Pitched at a slightly younger audience than Cousins’ previous books this is an illustrated tale of a football team made up less than stellar players. It has a lot to say about friendship, about teamwork and about learning what the important things in life are. I enjoyed it hugely, it made me laugh, it made me wince as I could see characters make bad decisions, and it made me really root for this team of misfits. There’s already a second book in this series, I expect to be reading it sooner rather than later!

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell. Random House Children’s Publishing.
When this book was published I remember reading lots of reviews and thinking it was a book I really wanted to read. Then, at NineWorlds I had the fortune of meeting Sarah and immediately bought my copy of the book. It took me a few days to read, something which is quite unusual with how fast I read, but I found myself wanting to savour every word (plus I got too emotionally invested to continue reading it in public on my commute!)

This book tells the story of Sora, a Japanese teenager who has been diagnosed with the progressive neurological disease Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Sora is dying, his condition is progressing faster than he or anyone wants and this book is him telling his story. We get to know his family, see him trying to make sense of his ever changing new normal, and see him make new friends. This book is a challenging read, but I know I feel like I’m a better person for having read it. I’m going to be recommending this book far and wide.

Demon Road by Derek Landy. HarperCollins Children’s Books
I haven’t read anything by Derek Landy before (yes I do intend to catch up with Skullduggery Pleasant, even more so since I enjoyed this book so much) so I went into this book knowing nothing more than the synopsis. The idea of a teen girl suddenly discovering her demon heritage and having to go on the run sounded good to me and the book really didn’t disappoint.

This is a fast witty book with a good share of action and gore. It’s tone and style is evocative of many of the tv shows I love, both those showing now (things like Supernatural) and those no longer on our screens (Buffy seems like the obvious link to make). I think this book would be an easy sell to many teen readers and probably many grown up ones too. The characters are brilliant, I fell in love with main character Amber pretty much straight away and am thrilled that this is only the first part of her adventures.

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July and August 2015 Reads – Part 2.

Day two of my catch up with the books I read in July and August.

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton. Bantam Press.
I’ve read a few of Sharon Bolton’s earlier books and really enjoyed them so I jumped at the chance to read her newest. Set on the Falkland Islands, the book follows three former friends as the community is torn apart when a child goes missing. The plot has bucket loads of tension, I found I spent most of the time wondering who to believe – at various points I decided I didn’t believe a single one of the characters!

I loved the Falkland Islands setting of the book, I’m always keen to explore new places through literature and this book certainly allows you to do that. Sharon Bolton’s writing really evokes a sense of the place, I feel now that if I ever visited I would feel like I was returning rather than being there for the first time. This is yet another excellent book from this author, she’s so consistently good!

Stitch Head: The Beast of Grubbers Nubbin by Guy Bass. Stripes Publishing.
This is the 5th book about Stitch Head, I hadn’t read any of the previous ones but hoped it wouldn’t matter. Essentially it didn’t, the story is told in such a way that you understand that these characters have spent time together already but you can follow this plot completely without knowing what happened. I think I would have got even more from the reading experience with prior knowledge but that just means I’m going to have to catch up and re-read – I’m glad to spend more time in the world of these books!

The story itself is fun and fast-paced, Stitch Head and his fellow are playing host to a group of children who they rescued in a previous book. There’s a monster about however and they all start to suspect each other. The book is illustrated by Pete Williamson, his art adds a lot to the reading experience. I enjoyed the resolution of the story, it worked really well and left me keen for the next story.

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
This book has an interesting premise, when Kelsey’s identical twin sister is killed in an accident can’t bring herself to break the news to her sister’s boyfriend who is currently serving in the armed forces. Instead she pretends to be her sister and finds herself falling deeper into the lie she is spinning. I was intrigued by the idea of the story but wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy the way it played out. Many of the fears I had for the plot were unfounded, it works pretty well though I did feel the resolution to the story came a little quickly and easily.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell. Bloomsbury Children’s.
I really loved this book. It’s incredibly atmospheric, it reminded me a little of Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child which I also loved. The book is written in such a way that really evokes the setting, I felt like I was actually walking alongside the characters for much of the story.

The book is set against the backdrop of early communist Russia, something I studied a little in my GCSE History lessons but don’t feel I know a lot about. This didn’t matter, the necessary aspects of Russia at that time were woven easily into the story and I never found myself wondering about anything. I loved Feodora, the main character, she’s a great blend of tough and vulnerable – the sort of character you’d happily spend time around. The wolves that are under her care are also wonderful characters, they’re so distinct and as fully realised as the human characters

I haven’t yet read Rooftoppers, this author’s previous book which won the Waterstones children’s book prize 2014 but based on how much I loved this I know I need to read it sooner rather than later.

Almost Grace by Rosie Rowell. Hot Key Books.
I have really mixed feelings about this book. There were aspects I loved, particularly the South African setting and the idea of the group of friends going away together for a holiday after finishing their education. I didn’t however enjoy much of the main character’s storyline, particularly her relationship with . This doesn’t seem like the healthiest of relationships and at times I just felt a bit uncomfortable reading.

My overarching feeling at the end of the book was that I wanted to read other YA books set in countries I don’t usually see in books. This in itself makes me realise this book was a bit of a miss for me.

Remix by Non Pratt. Walker Books.
Trouble was one of my favourite books last year so my hopes for this book were high. It definitely lived up to them, it’s another brilliant, realistic YA read, this time set at a music festival. Told in dual narrative best friends Kaz and Ruby are off for a weekend of music and fun, but the unexpected presence of the two boys who’ve broken their hearts puts an unexpected spin on things.

I’m a huge fan of books with multiple narratives providing this is done well, Non really, really does it well. The voices are distinct and the perspectives wind brilliantly around one another. On top of this the characters behave in an entirely believable manner, poor decisions and all, and are allowed to be teens which is just brilliant. I loved this book and I know that my music obsessed teen self would have probably loved it even more.

The Secrets of Sam and Sam by Susie Day. Red Fox.
I absolutely love Susie Day’s series of books featuring Pea so I was really excited when it was announced that she was going to be writing a companion novel that focused on Sam and Sammie who lived next door. Sam and Sammie are boy and girl twins who are very different, they have different interests, different personalities and different challenges facing them. With a school residential trip looming these challenges become all important – how can Sam tackle some of the adventurous activities when he’s so scared of heights and how can Sammie share a room when no one can see how good a best friend she could be?

At the same time that the twins are preparing for their trip their mums also seem to be keeping secrets, and Mum K is writing her book about child development based on bring the twins up. This adds further layers to the story, most entertainingly the excerpts from the book that come complete with corrections by Sammie. The way each of the individual plotlines plays out and wraps round the others is brilliant, this is such an excellent addition to the series of books focusing on Pea and her family.

I’ve commented before about how brilliant Susie writes books featuring diverse characters. This book is no exception to that, characters differences are acknowledged and included and happen to just be. This whole series should be an automatic inclusion in school libraries as far as I’m concerned.

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July and August 2015 Reads – Part 1.

The first part of this week’s catch up on the books I read in July and August.

Reasonable Force by C.T. Sullivan. Pegasus Publishing.
This book is a debut novel published by an independent publisher and therefore something that would generally pass beneath my radar. I was approached for a review however and the book sounded interesting to me, so I duly received a copy and got reading.

There are a number of plotlines within this book, they’re well balanced and directly affect one another so that as something changes for one character you find yourself wondering what impact that’s going to have on the other characters. The initial event, where Nick kills an intruder and Nathan advises him on how to cover it up, throws up some interesting discussion about how much force is reasonable in a burglary (hence the book title), but the ever evolving situation means that the plot moves further away from this as time goes on.

There was a lot to enjoy about this book, as I say there were some interesting thinking points, and I found I liked some of the characters. One thing that didn’t work well for me was the character of Mel, Nick’s wife. She doesn’t get the same attention or development as the other characters, instead existing as a convenient (and unfortunate) plot device on a couple of occasions – there was a point where she suddenly made a statement about religious beliefs that had a significant impact on the plot, this came out of nowhere and also didn’t appear to then be applied consistently for the remainder of the book.

The overall flow of the book worked well. There is a real tension in Nick’s plotline in particular, I found myself getting quite anxious on his behalf – I was definitely invested in his story and was satisfied with the overall ending of the book.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Tor.
Before reading Uprooted all I had seen about it was glowing praise. It almost started to become a little intimidating as a prospective reader, what if I was The One who didn’t like it. Eventually I decided I needed to just dive in and hope for the best.

This book is every bit as good as everyone had said! I was immediately drawn into the world created by the author, a world of magic and wonder, and of an evil wood determined to wreak havoc and misery. It begins with the choosing, an event that happens every ten years when the Dragon – an aging wizard who acts as guardian to the people living in the villages surrounding his tower home – chooses another young girl and whisks her away to said tower for ten years. When Agnieszka is unexpectedly chosen her life is instantly turned upside down.

There is something very sympathetic about Agnieszka, the reader is straight away drawn to her cause – I think because of the downright unfairness of what is happening to her. This is good because as the plot develops Agnieszka becomes, rightly, obstinate and focused and this feels right rather than petulant as it may have done if the reader didn’t care about her story this way. I loved her as a character and I loved reading her story.

For Holly by Tanya Byrne. Headline.
This book is wonderful. It’s a slow burner that draws you deeper and deeper into the characters’ lives, pulling you into their world and making you entirely invested in what happens to them. I read it over a couple of days and whenever I wasn’t reading I was thinking about the book and wanting to get back to reading it. Typical of a book from this author this book is twisty and tugs you emotionally – I loved the way I kept thinking I had worked out what was behind the story and then quickly realised I still wasn’t right.

One thing I really liked about this book was its structure. The story is told in a non-linear manner, the jumps in time are seamless and work brilliantly. On top of this the story is a continual stream and whilst initially I found this a bit unusual (I’m very much a read to the end of the chapter type of reader) the more I read the more I loved it and the more I felt it served the story well. This is a stunning book, definitely one of my best of 2015.

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. Random House Children’s Publishing.
This is a fantastic debut novel with a truly brilliant concept – Cara and her family suffer dreadful accidents for a month each year, serious accidents that involve hospital visits and necessitate the removal of anything potentially dangerous from the home. The story follows the characters as they enter this year’s accident season and explore both what is happening to them and why it might be happening.

This is a really difficult book to review as the twists and turns and reveals are so deftly handled and I desperately don’t want to give even the tiniest hint away. I really recommend this book, I’m looking forward to re-reading it with the knowledge I picked up while I read it for the first time.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten. Electric Monkey.
Some books start great and then lose something along the way, sadly for me this was one of those books. The book begins by introducing us to the main characters in what appears to be a fairly standard contemporary novel. Part way through big twists and reveals change the course of the book and this for me was where I found myself disconnecting from what I was reading. I don’t mind big reveals or twists if they feel like they’ve been coming all along but in this book they just don’t work that way unfortunately and I found the more I read the less I was actually invested in what was happening.

Sister, Sister by Jess Bright. Oxford University Press.
This book grabbed my attention with its title – there was an American tv show with the same title back in the 1990s. When I read the synopsis, that the book was about a girl who suddenly discovers a whole family she doesn’t know that includes a half-sister who is seriously ill I was really intrigued to see how the story would work, particularly for the tween audience it appeared to be aimed at. Very quickly after I started reading I became impressed – this continued for the entirety of the book.

Willow, the main character, was easy to identify with – particularly with her love of writing. I clearly remember how much I loved reading about characters who liked to write too, this book would have been a very easy sell to younger me. I thought she was a very real character, she reacts to the situations she’s experiencing in what feels like a very genuine manner – her life is turned upside down and at times she doesn’t handle it brilliantly, I like it when authors allow characters to be real. There are strong themes in this book of friendship and of family, and of the overlap between the two. This is a debut novel and an accomplished one at that, Jess has revealed the cover of her new book this week – based on the synopsis I’m already looking forward to it!

Homecoming Ranch by Julia London. Montlake Romance.
I’m a long time fan of contemporary romance, if I see one that has some reference to a ranch in the title or blurb chances are I’ll be clicking buy before I’ve stopped to think about it. This was one such purchase.

The book is not narrated by one of the main characters but instead one of the supporting cast. This seemed like an interesting choice, it didn’t necessarily always make that much sense as a choice but I found that I quickly forgot about this most of the time while I was reading.

The main plot focuses on Madeleine and Luke, she is one of three half sisters who’ve recently inherited the ranch in question and he is one of the family whose home it used to be. They naturally butt heads immediately, and continue to do so for much of the book. They both have other things going on in their lives – this makes their story work even better and makes them more rounded characters. I enjoyed this book and am glad that there are follow up books featuring the other sisters – I think they’ll be automatic purchases too!

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Is this thing still on?

Ever get that feeling there’s something you’ve forgotten to do?


I spent a few weeks feeling a lot like Neville, I knew there was something outstanding but was so wrapped up in work that I couldn’t quite work it out. Finally the penny dropped, I completely missed my July reads round up post. Whoops! I realised this as I was getting ready to go on holiday for 10 days and so decided once I was back I’d do a grand round up for July and August together – this week is the week! Wednesday to Friday will see three posts which wrap up all of the books I’ve read through the summer months. I’ll add the links to this post over the weekend so it’ll become a landing page for the 20 or so books I’ll be reviewing.

For the first time this year I’m not reviewing every book I read. I read 4 books for something I’m not currently able to talk about (the post wrapping up September will contain the fifth and final one of these). I also re-read the first 3 Harry Potter books but there will be a post about these once I’ve finished the series. And finally, I started Kiera Cass’ The Selection series, reading the first 2 books in the quadrilogy. Again expect to hear about these once I’ve finished the series.

In a look at what I’ve learned from this moment I’ve already started writing my September reads post so hopefully I’ll keep this up and get it posted at the very end of September rather than a month later!

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Cover Reveal – Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton.

I’m thrilled today to be one of the bloggers revealing the gorgeous cover for Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, an exciting debut coming from Faber Children’s in February 2016. The book is the first in a trilogy and follows Amani, a sharpshooter who goes on the run with a boy wanted for treason.

But enough, let’s get straight onto the reason for the post, this:


I’m really excited for this book, I can’t wait to have more to share with you about it!

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June 2015 Reads.

Look at how organised I am! We’re only a few days into July and here I am with my June reads round up post all written and published. I’ve got one book that is unfinished so that will roll over to my next round up.

In June I read a total of 10 books. There was a bit of a mixture, a couple of adult books alongside lots of YA. and a few different genres and time settings. One book in particular left me scratching my head, it took me a couple of weeks to even work out what star rating to give it on Goodreads and you’ll see that my review is still on the rambling side (some of my thoughts are impossible to discuss without being spoilery – if you want to discuss this book though feel free to email, I’d love to talk more about it). I’m still thinking about it though so maybe I’ll come back to it in the coming weeks for an expanded post.

Code Red Lipstick (Jessica Cole: Model Spy #1) by Sarah Sky. Scholastic
This book was so much fun! I actually found myself stopping a couple of times to take in how much I was enjoying reading it. It’s the story of Jessica, a teen model who happens to also be the daughter of a former MI6 spy. Her father has had to retire, he has MS and is unable to do everything he formerly did, but instead he works privately and Jessica helps out when she’s needed to. When he goes missing in highly suspicious circumstances she puts all the skills she’s learned from him, and from modelling, to work as she tries to find him and solve the case that seems to have landed him in hot water. This makes for a fast-paced, highly entertaining read – I loved seeing how Jessica brought together the seemingly disparate parts of her life together. She’s a great character, I like the way she has these unusual skills but is still very normal and real feeling – I think young readers will really identify with her.

Anything to Have You by Paige Harbison. MIRA Ink.
I enjoyed this book well enough but I could only say that I liked it, i was far from loving it. It’s a story about friends who are very different, one quiet and studious, the other outgoing and fun. The quieter one suddenly decides to cut loose a little, there’s a party and shenanigans and then the cat is firmly amongst the pigeons. I think this book is supposed to work on the basis that you’re in the dark like the characters but I’m afraid I could see what was going on and what had happened and so the reveals didn’t work and I just got a bit irritated. This isn’t a bad book, it’s just a bit non-descript and didn’t do much for me.

The Memory Hit by Carla Spradbery. Hodder Children’s Books.
I started reading this book on my way to work on morning and got completely sucked in to it. Around lunchtime I realised I’d been feeling low level worry all morning, which was odd as the day was all running very smoothly. Eventually the realisation hit – I’d been fretting about the characters and what was going to happen to them!

This is a gritty read, set in our world though with added memory boosting drugs. The main characters get caught up in the underworld of dealers and gangland bosses, quickly you realise that you don’t know who you and can trust and you don’t fully know what has happened between these characters before the events of the book. This adds to the intrigue and the reading experience. The book is tense and twisty, the final sequences in particular are unexpected but fit what’s come before so well. I really enjoyed Carla Spradbery’s debut The 100 Society, having followed it up with this she’s fast becoming one of authors to watch out for.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine. Egmont.
This is a lovely, historical middle grade novel set in a Selfridges-esque department store. Sophie, our main character, is going to be working as a shop girl in the millinery department in this brand new store. Quickly though sinister things begin to happen and she, along with her new friends, get drawn into a world of mystery. This is a real throwback of a book, it’s evocative of the stories I loved when I was young and this made it all the more enjoyable to read. The mystery element is well done, there are moments of real peril and suspense that had me on the edge of my seat. What I loved most of all was the friendship element of this book, from Sophie who has found herself having to adapt to life as an orphan who lost her fine lifestyle alongside her parents, to Lilian who is working as a model in the shop while trying to make it as an actress, Billy who loves nothing more than hiding with a good mystery to read and then Joe who’s fallen into bad ways but is desperate to go good again. The four have not met before the events of the book but they come together so well and form wonderful friendships. This is the first book in a series, sign me up now for book 2 please!

Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes. OUP Children’s Books.
I have always had mixed experiences with Ali Sparkes’ books, there have been some that I’ve loved and some that have left me underwhelmed. I liked the sound of the premise of this book and I’m really pleased that it falls into the camp of love. This book follows the misfortunes of Jack, a child genius, who is accidentally kidnapped when his parents’ car is stolen from the forecourt of a petrol station. The car-jacker, Ross, has unwittingly got far more than he bargained for, and seeing how he and Jack both cope with the situation they find themselves in makes for a really good story. I got very invested in both character’s stories – there were many laughs along the way and also a few tears. My only slight misgiving was in the characterisation of Jack’s mother, she’s an over-protective, over-invested mother who has focused her everything on Jack and his genius and this makes her come across in a manner that is very hard to take. Jack’s upbringing has a definite impact on the plot so I understand why she’s written the way she is I just wonder if maybe she isn’t a little over-done. That said this is a minor quibble in an overall excellent book.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider. Simon & Schuster Children’s Books.
This book, well I still can’t make my mind up about it. It’s set in a modern residential setting for children and teens with an incurable form of tuberculosis. We arrive with Lane, a straight A overachiever with the next decade or two of his life planned out. He is our way in to this odd world, we learn about it alongside him and see how it changes him. His development is interesting, while it feels understandable at the same time it had me wanting to roll my eyes periodically. The ending of the book is, as I’m starting to come to expect from books about sick teens, complete with its huge emotionally charged, tear-jerking moments. Well, I could see that’s what they were supposed to be and a quick scan of Goodreads’ reviews of this book suggests that this is the impact they had on most readers. For me however they left me cold, they were entirely unnecessary and if anything verging on the manipulative. I think my overall feeling about this book was that I was let down, seeing illness portrayed in fiction is something I feel strongly about and I had high hopes for this book but sadly they were unmet.

Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell. Jo Fletcher Books.
After reading the first book in this series, Traitor’s Blade, and falling completely in love just last month I was planning on waiting a little before reading this second book. Then I spotted it on NetGalley and found myself compelled to request a review copy, and then start reading it almost immediately. I suspect some magic at work!

This book picks up shortly after the ending of Traitor’s Blade, and continues to follow the Greatcoats as they first regroup and then begin the new fights that have come as a result of what has gone before. One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the character development, characters are given the opportunity to breathe and grow and evolve – not always for the better. I loved seeing how some of the characters changed, this never goes against the flow of the book no matter how hard the changes may be to accept. The humour that comes in the relationships between the characters continues as does the more touching side of these friendships. This book brought me to tears on numerous occasions, I felt so deeply involved with the plot and the characters. There are a number of take your breath away moments, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this series throwing surprises at me. This is a brilliant continuation of the story of the Greatcoats, my only sadness is that I now have to wait until next year for the next instalment!

Blueprints by Barbara Delinksy. Piatkus.
I nearly gave up on this book. I got a little way in to it and one character in particular was getting me so wound up that I considered stopping reading because I wasn’t sure I could bear to read much more. Then a huge shift happens in the story and from this point on I got far more invested in what I was reading and ended up really enjoying the book. The story is, on the surface, about a mother and daughter who co-host a home improvement show based around their family firm and the difficulties they face when TV bosses decide the mother might be too old to host. It’s really about so much more, it’s about family and relationships, it’s about finding happiness and about being true to yourself. I’m really glad I stuck with it.

Thirteen Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt. Orchard Books.
Luke gets the sudden news that his estranged father, a world famous paranormal expert, has died and that he must go and meet his father’s lawyer. Upon meeting the strange lawyer he discovers he’s inherited a huge amount of money, and signs away merrily on each document the lawyer tells him he must sign in order to get said money. Soon after strange things start happening and it’s not long before Luke’s life is turned upside down as he discovers he’s also inherited his father’s collection of ghosts. I must say I haven’t read many paranormal thrillers like this one, and this makes me sad. There’s a great creepiness to this story, it left me so unnerved at times that I had to have a second book on the go that I could switch to – books don’t often get under my skin in this way. The world the author has built makes sense(something I value in books set in other worlds), and while its certainly not one I’d want to experience in person I’m happy that the book has a somewhat open ending that feels like we could easily revisit for a second story. This is an accomplished debut novel, Leo Hunt is going on my ones to watch list.

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Macmillan Children’s Books.
I truly believe you can never go wrong when you pick up a book by Frank Cottrell Boyce. It doesn’t matter the specific subject matter of the plot, it’s going to be written brilliantly and leave you entirely satisfied. Millions is no different. It is the story of brothers Damian and Anthony, they’ve recently moved following the death of their mother, and are trying to find their feet again. They’re slightly unusual children, Damian is obsessed with saints and Anthony with economics, when they “acquire” a hold all full of pounds sterling that will soon be obsolete (the version of England in this book is one where the pound was exchanged for the euro) they decide to spend it all before it can’t be used any more. This certainly helps their social standing but brings its own problems as the money belonged to someone and that someone wants it back. This story is warm and thought-provoking, there were little moments that were touched upon so lightly but actually revealed a real depth to the characters and their situation. This isn’t necessarily as funny as some of the other books I’ve read by this author (that’s not to say it isn’t funny, it definitely has some funny bits) but it’s just as enjoyable.

My copies of The Memory Hit, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, Car-Jacked, Extraordinary Means, The Knight’s Shadow, Blueprints and 13 Days of Midnight were all provided in for review consideration. All of the opinions expressed here are my own

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Guest Post – Dan Metcalf on Why He Writes.

Today I’m pleased to be welcoming Dan Metcalf to my blog – he’s launching a new children’s series The Lottie Lipton Adventure tomorrow with the first two titles, The Secrets of the Stone and The Curse of the Cairo Cat. He’s written a great post on why he writes, so with no further ado here’s Dan.

The title of this blog post is a lie. It leads you to assume I’m going to tell you exactly why I write, when in actuality, I have no idea.

I’ve always written. Not direct from the womb, obviously, but ever since I could hold a pen and get my thoughts down on paper. Before that I would make up stories and tales (and lies, let’s be honest) about everything I did not understand. I thought that was how the world worked – you don’t know something? Just create it. I remember innocently asking where babies comes from and my mother cleverly turning the question around on me.

“Where do you think they come from?” she asked. I created a grand fiction where there were hundreds of babies in a factory, lying on conveyer belts, deflated like a punctured beach ball. Someone would come along and plug a hose into their bellybutton and pump them up like a bouncy castle. Well, why else would you have a bellybutton?

At school the only thing I was ever good at was daydreaming. If there was a window, I’d stare out of it. If the teacher gave us free reign to write whatever we wished, I would create page after page of fantasy/scifi/adventure stories. None ever got finished but some still live in my mind like a stubborn squatter.

When it came to choosing careers, I had no clue what I could do. The computerised test brought up ‘scriptwriter’ and so I enrolled on a degree course, graduating with several hundred pages of cringingly bad stories but having had a really good time.

And from there I moved into my first love of books, rising at 5am to cram in a few hours of writing my opus before going to work to argue with students about overdue fines. Slowly but surely my technique refined.

But why do I write? You might as well ask why an athlete runs, or why a fish swims, or why a dog does that thing with other dog’s bottoms. It’s what we’re good at. It’s all we know. It’s in us, and has to get out.

Which is why when my agent told me that Bloomsbury Publishing wanted to put my books out, I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was no longer the schoolboy staring out of the window. I had now graduated to being a grown-up, one who stares out of windows and then writes down what he sees.

Why do I write? Probably because I can’t turn off that compulsion to daydream, so instead I just write it down. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to look absently into the distance (it’s work, I promise…)

Thanks Dan, I always love hearing writers talk about writing!

Dan’s books are out tomorrow, published by A & C Black, a Bloomsbury imprint. I haven’t read them myself but they sound great, they’re described by Bloomsbury as “Perfect for developing and newly confident readers, Lottie Lipton Adventures are packed with action, adventure and puzzles for the reader to solve” so I’m definitely planning on checking them out! You can find out more here.

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