Monthly Archives: July 2017

Rose Raventhorpe Investigates – Guest Post Janine Beacham

  

Today on the blog I am delighted to welcome Janine Beacham to the blog, with a special guest post on her ‘Top 10 Detectives’ to celebrate the launch of the second book in the ‘Rose Raventhorpe Investigates’ series ‘Rubies and Runaways.’ It’s a bitterly cold winter in Yorke and Rose Raventhorpe and her butler Heddsworth are stuck with Rose’s unpleasant cousin Herbert, and his equally horrible butler, Bixby.
When an orphan boy named Orpheus interrupts the Cathedral’s Mistletoe Service, saying that his sister has been kidnapped, Rose vows to help. Solving the mystery will be a lot better than accompanying ghastly Herbert! But the investigation is more complicated than Rose has anticipated and will lead her and her butler friends through fancy tea-rooms, horrible factories, secret underground passages and more.
Fireplace pokers are much more dangerous than you might imagine. This fabulous series is perfect for lovers of murder mysteries who love to work out just who did it!

 

Top 10 Book Detectives  – Janine Beacham

I love mysteries, and I love good detectives. My heroine owes something to all my favourites. Here are ten of my most loved book detectives, for kids or adults:

  1. Sherlock Holmes, created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock’s deductive powers are second to none. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a classic read, and Dr Watson the classic loyal sidekick.
  1. Hercule Poirot in the Agatha Christie books. I read a lot of Christie when I was growing up, and Poirot, with his ‘little grey cells’ always made amazing deductions. Christie blew me away with her clever whodunits.
  1. Brother Cadfael in the Ellis Peters Cadfael series. This medieval monk lived out in the world before he joined a monastery, and has a great deal of compassion, wisdom, and wry humour. I particularly appreciate that the ‘villains’ in these books can be normal people who make mistakes, rather than evil personified.
  1. Amelia Peabody in the series by Elizabeth Peters. I love Amelia. A strong-minded Victorian woman who lives in Egypt with her family, she is devoted to archaeology, mysteries, her family, and her sharp parasol. Funny, and very much an inspiration for my character Rose.
  1. Trixie Belden. Some readers prefer the other American girl detective Nancy Drew, but I couldn’t relate to Nancy. She was too grown-up and glamorous, with her car and red hair and boyfriend. Trixie lived on a farm, was ‘sturdy’ in build, and had to babysit her mischievous little brother. And still solved a fair few mysteries.
  1. Flavia in The Roman Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence. Flavia is a ‘detectrix’ living in the days of Ancient Rome, Ostia to be precise. Brave, impulsive, determined and smart, Flavia is one of the girls my heroine would love.
  1. Lady Grace Cavendish in the Grace Cavendish mystery series. Grace is a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth the First, and acts as her secret Lady Pursuivant. Her mysteries are written down in her ‘daybooke’. I love the historical setting, and Grace is fun to follow with her friends Ellie the laundress and Masou the acrobat.
  1. Precious Ramotswe in The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith. Precious is a kind, loving, ‘traditionally built’ and clever detective, accompanied by Grace Makutsi, her second-in-charge. Precious’s love of the Batswana way of life imbues the whole series.
  1.  Kinsey Milhone in the Sue Grafton alphabet series. Kinsey is a strong, independent female detective in 1980s America. She owns one dress and lives in jeans. I’ve read all the Kinsey books, starting with A is for Alibi, and look forward to the ones still to come – Y and Z!
  1. Philip Marlowe, in the Raymond Chandler books. Marlowe is the classic hardboiled American detective, a private investigator who carries a gun, drinks too much, and has a sentimental side. Also a wonderful way with words. ‘He was as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel-food cake.’ ‘A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.’

 

Janine Beacham

A former journalist, Janine Beacham has written all her life. She has always loved fairy tales and fantasy, and as a child would make up games for her friends to play at school. Janine once entered a competition where the prize was a real-life butler – which partly inspired the secret society of butlers in the Rose Raventhorpe Investigates series. Janine lives in Western Australia with her family.

Thank you to Stephanie and Hachette for inviting to host this guest post and for sending me a copy of this fabulous book.

Linwood Barclay – Chase Q & A

I am delighted to welcome the internationally bestselling author Linwood Barclay to the blog with a special Q & A to celebrate the release of his first children’s book ‘Chase’. This thrilling edge of the seat adventure had me captivated from the opening page and I devoured it in one sitting. Dark, dangerous and packed full of suspense and action this is a story that is guaranteed to enthral and entertain.

Linwood Barclay – Q & A

 

1.          I devoured ‘Chase’ in one sitting and absolutely loved it, can you tell us more about this brilliant book?

Chase stars Chipper, a border collie that’s been outfitted with computer software by a sinister organization called The Institute. He’s been designed for espionage work, but The Institute is going to pull the plug on him. His canine instincts often overrule his programming, making him unreliable. Chipper knows his days are numbered, so he escapes. And when he does, he immediately goes in search of an orphaned boy named Jeff for reasons that are not immediately clear. The Institute is in pursuit, and Chipper and Jeff are running for their lives.

2.         After years of writing bestselling crime books why did you decide to write your debut children’s novel?

When the idea for Chase came to me, I knew right away that it would not work as one of annual thrillers for adults, that it was really more of a book for young readers. But I liked the idea so much I did not want to abandon it, and my wife, a former kindergarten teacher, was so excited about it she said I simply had to write it. Girls will love reading it as much as boys, she said, but boys, who are often reluctant readers, will especially love it.

3.          Did you share your book with any children to get feedback during the writing process or after the book was completed?

The children I shared it with were of the 60-plus variety. I mean, do we ever really grow up? I gave my first draft to a couple of friends and they reported back that they could not put it down. My UK editor who works on my adult thrillers gave the early chapters to his young son, and said he was hooked.

4.         ‘Chase’ feels wonderfully thrilling and is filled with fast-paced action, was it very different writing for children and did you have to edit the story to make it less dark and dangerous?

The book is certainly lighter on foul language and violence, but there’s still plenty of darkness and lots of danger. I think we worry a little too much about trying to protect our kids from darkness in literature. I know I loved it as a young reader, and I think today’s kids do, too. But my approach with Chase was really no different than with any of my other novels. The story had to move, it had to be engaging, it had to make you want to turn the page, it had to have characters you could care about, and there had to be something big at stake.

5 .         Who if anyone inspired the characters in the story and how did your idea of a highly trained spy dog who is part dog/ part computer come about?

The idea for Chipper came to me at two in the morning. I woke up and the story was pretty much all there. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t been dreaming it, but when I woke up, as men my age tend to do around that time of night, the story presented itself. I suppose the Jeff character, and the environment in which he finds himself, is largely autobiographical. In my teens, I helped run the family business, which was cottage resort and caravan park that catered to fishermen. One year, I adopted a stray dog that wandered in and named him – you guessed it – Chipper. It was my wife, Neetha, who suggested I name the dog in my story after my own. After all, what better name could there be for a dog loaded with computer chips?

6.         I love how you open the story writing Chipper so the reader doesn’t realise that he is a dog. Is it important for you that the reader gets the same insight to Chipper’s thoughts as they do Jeff?

We are definitely in both their heads. We know their hopes and fears, and in that sense, we see them as equals.

7.         You left us with quite a cliff hanger, it was one of the moments when I just couldn’t believe I would have to wait to find out what happened to Jeff. When will the second book be released?

Book two, which is written, will be along in about a year.

8.           What’s advice you would give to children who want to be a writer and may be struggling to get started?

I started writing stories when I was around eight years old. The real struggle would have been not writing them. I believe that where children are concerned, writing is not unlike sports or music or riding your bike as fast as you can. No one has to talk you into it. You simply must do it. And for young writers, don’t worry about that old adage “write what you know.” Go ahead and write about anything you can imagine.

Thank you to Dom and Hachette for sending me a copy of this thrilling book and inviting me to host this Q & A. ‘Chase’ is available now to buy online or from any good bookshop.

Tamsin Cooke – Stunt Double Guest Post

I am thrilled to have the lovely and talented Tamsin Cooke on the blog today with a special guest post as part of the blog tour for her latest book ‘Stunt Double.’ I’m a huge fan of Tamsin’s first series ‘Cat Burglar’ and ‘Mission Gone Wild’ so I was intrigued to find out if ‘Stunt Double’ lived up to my high expectations and I can confirm that it has in fact surpassed them. When Finn is recruited as a stunt double he’s so desperate for fame that he doesn’t notice the warning signs that things are not exactly as they should be on the set of the film. Why would the notoriously eccentric director Novak hires a young boy as a stunt double and why is she demanding him to do more and more increasingly dangerous stunts. Pushed to his limits he’s in too far to back at now and finds himself mixed up in a deadly plot beyond the realms of his imagination. Full of danger and the unexpected this fast-paced action drama will leave you breathless. Tamsin Cooke really knows how to write thrilling and dramatic storylines that leave the reader wanting more and yet again she leaves us with an exciting hint of what’s to come next.

In this special guest post we learn more about she has developed these wonderfully, fascinating characters who make this story so compelling.

 

Out of your comfort zone – Tamsin Cooke

Characters are the life-force of a story. They drive the plot forward and evoke emotions.  You can have the most exciting story in the world, but if the reader doesn’t care about the characters or relate to them at all, everything will fall flat. This is why I spend so much time thinking about all the characters in my book, major and minor, making sure I know their backgrounds.  Life experiences shape us, so I want to know where they grew up, what are their likes, hates and desires. Each character needs a motivation, something that drives them forward.  Most of this will not be put in the book, but I know it.

I knew that I wanted a school age teen as my protagonist, but through research I’d learned you have to be 18 to be a stunt double (completely understandable considering the risks involved).  So I needed someone slightly rogue, who was wiling to break the law. That’s when Finn Gibson came to me.

Have you ever wanted something so badly it hurts? Finn is a fourteen year old boy desperate to be an actor.  Having won a scholarship, he’s spent his weekends and holidays at drama school. His mum scrimped and saved to pay for his karate and Free Running lessons, all in the hope that he can achieve his dream.

Finn only ever gets the role of an Extra. Jealousy eats at him from the inside. This is something I think we all can relate too – it’s an emotion we try to keep hidden from others, possibly even from ourselves. Finn’s envy is inflamed by the fact that his nemesis, Blake Saunders, born to Hollywood royalty, is the major star of a popular action movie franchise.

Finally Finn gets his big break, but it’s not what he was expecting. He becomes Blake’s stunt double.

On the surface, these boys look as though they have everything. Blake is a Hollywood superstar. Boys want to be him, and girls want to date him. But insecurity gnaws away at him. Hating that people think nepotism got him the role, Blake wants everyone to realise that he got the part because of his talents not because of who his parents are.

And now Finn is living the dream too – he’s a stunt double. He’s brave, adventurous, and physically very able.  But when you dig deeper, he is also filled with self-doubt. Desperate to prove himself, Finn will do anything the Director asks of him. Anything!!!!

So while I needed a teenage boy to break the rules, I also wanted someone to employ him. Therefore, I needed an even bigger rule breaker. I’d just read an article about filmmakers fed up with Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). They thought it was cheating and not pure authentic movie making. This gave me the perfect opportunity to develop Novak.

Novak is ‘old school,’ a director yearning for the golden years of cinema when human talent, props and set building were created and used.  Since men over 18 are too bulky to be disguised, women are often stunt doubles for children. Wide angled lenses are used to hide female curves. Novak is thrilled to have an authentic child stunt double, especially with Finn’s skills. Now she feels like her film is more authentic. But just how far is she willing to go to get that perfect shot? More importantly, how far will Finn allow himself to be pushed?

I throw these children into a dangerous world, and like Novak, push them to their utmost limits.  I suppose that means they wouldn’t like me very much, but they learn a lot about themselves. Their experiences change them and help them grow. And that is true of all characters, whether real or make believe.  When we’re thrown out of our comfort zone, that’s when we really discover what we are made of!

 

Thank you Tamsin for giving us a real insight into the characters in ‘Stunt Double’ Also thanks to OUP for inviting me take part in the blog tour, why not join in with the rest of the tour for reviews and more exciting guest posts.

 

The Never-Ending Birthday – Katie Dale

Today it’s my stop on ‘The Never-Ending Birthday’ blog tour. I’m a big fan of Katie Dale’s ‘Mumnesia‘ so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of her new book ‘The Never-Ending Birthday’. It’s twins Max and Anni’s 13th birthday and when they wake up to a breakfast of burnt bacon little do they realise that their day is going to get a whole lot worse. Max manages to miss a vital goal in the football Cup Final whilst Anni gets dumped by her best friend after a party goes wrong. To make matters worse they end the day being grounded FOREVER! As they blow out the candle on their birthday cake that might they both commiserate and make a wish to start their birthday all over again.  But little do they realise that their wish is going to come true – just not exactly as they might have imagined and they are going to have to relive their birthday again . . . and again . . . and again.

The idea of a never-ending birthday may seem like an ideal scenario for any child, who wouldn’t want to enjoy their birthday over and over again. But for Max and Anni with each day their life becomes more and more complicated and having prior knowledge of the day’s events is causing more harm than good. Katie deals brilliantly with the problems teens have when they’re growing up, from insecurities about their looks, friendship problems and the complexities of dealing with family life, which plays out against the background of a genuinely warm and funny story. I found it really interesting to see how Max and Anni both face very different peer pressure and experience a whole rollercoaster of emotions despite their contrasting personalities. The preconception that popular, seemingly confident children find life a lot easier is shown to be a myth as Max seems to struggle just as much as Anni. A story full of the unexpected, poor Max and Anni’s attempts to make their birthday enjoyable have the most bizarre consequences and their lack of control is brilliantly entertaining although at times quite sad. An energetic and entertaining read I devoured it in on sitting.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and guest posts.

Thank you to Katie for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and Macmillan for sending me a copy of this hilarious book.

Paula Harrison – The Darkest Dream Guest Post

Paula Harrison is back with the next book in the action packed ‘Robyn Silver’ adventure series. I loved ‘The Midnight Chimes’ and ‘The Darkest Dream’ is equally as entertaining. The boldest, brightest new heroine has returned: and Robyn Silver’s life hasn’t got any quieter since defeating the evil vampire Pearl in The Midnight Chimes. She’s now a fully fledged Chime Child and monster-hunter-in-training alongside best friends Aiden and Nora. The three suddenly start seeing nightmares – in the form of black beetles – appear around town. Who wants the people of Grimdean to be losing sleep – and why?

To celebrate the release of ‘The Darkest Dream’ I have a special guest post from Paula Harrison about sibling relationships.

 

Sibling relationships: Why I wanted to write about a family with five children in Robyn Silver: The Darkest Dream – Paula Harrison

Robyn Silver is the third in a family of five children and describes herself in the first book as “being smack in the middle, like the meat in a sandwich”. I decided to set up her family this way for several reasons. I knew writing about a large family would be great fun. My dad was also one of five and the tales he told of sibling rivalries and general mischief helped to inspire the Silver family. The chaos and disorganisation in the Silvers’ house is magnified by the number of children and this works well for the plot. Robyn has to deal with familiar family issues such as competition for the bathroom alongside her monster-fighting duties. I wanted to weave in the fantasy and gothic elements of the story with the everyday to make the story more real to the reader.

There are books with large families that helped to provide inspiration for the Silvers too. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is probably one of the best known. So many readers have come to know and love the close relationship between Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. Louisa May Alcott draws their different personalities beautifully and shows us how they comfort and annoy each other as siblings do. She also shows how the differing ages of the girls effect their bond – how the youngest can become frustrated by their role as the baby and how the older ones can be patronising and impatient.

A more modern story that also features four sisters is The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. This story has lots of hilarious moments and the delineation of the different sisters’ personalities is spot on. In The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, Will Stanton is the youngest of six children and the contrast between the everyday goings-on in the Stanton household with the fantasy plot brings the book alive. The sibling bond is one of the first relationships that many children form. It’s also one of the most rewarding and most fraught relationships there is. Young readers love to recognise their own experiences in stories and I hope many recognise Robyn Silver’s relationship with her brothers and sister in Robyn Silver: The Darkest Dream.

Paula Harrison

Paula Harrison is a best-selling children’s author, with worldwide sales of over one million copies. Her books include The Rescue Princesses series. She wanted to be a writer from a young age but spent many happy years being a primary school teacher first.

To find out more about Paula you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter @P_Harrison99

Thank you to Paula for stopping by the blog and to Olivia and Scholastic for my copy of this fabulous book.

The Accidental Billionaire – Tom McLaughlin

I’m a huge fan of Tom McLaughlin’s Accidental series. ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ was one of the first books I reviewed on my blog and I reviewed ‘The Accidental Secret Agent’ with some of the children at my school for the TES Class Review. So when I heard there was a new book coming I knew that I must get my hands on a copy as soon as possible, and luckily for me the lovely people at OUP sent a copy for me to devour and devour it I did!  What would you do if you became mega-rich over night? Well that’s exactly what happens to Jasper Spam when he accidentally invents the world’s first talking cat with the help of a crazy experiment involving a shed, a mallet and a poorly aimed laser beam. People desperate to get their cats to talk, start handing over huge wads of cash and before he knows it he’s a billionaire. But having every thing you ever wanted doesn’t guarantee happiness and soon his new life starts to unravel.

Yet again Tom uses an irresistible combination of slapstick and subtle humour to entertain and amuse the reader. Stuffed full of amusing episodes we see the chaos unfold as Jasper is let loose with money to burn. Furniture from IKEA is obviously not good enough for his new mansion so a trip to The British Museum with his very own personal shopper to buy accessories has to be de rigeur for any own young billionaire. The reader revels in the ridiculousness of Jasper being dressed from head to toe in gold and diamonds which make it too heavy for him even to walk but it has to be only the best for him even if it’s uncomfortable and unpractical. But playing against the background of his newly acquired fortune there are some unexpected circumstances. and a world full of talking cats soon proves to be problematic. We all know that they are incredibly intelligent and cunning creatures but who could predict that a bunch of cats who could suddenly talk would create the most disturbing plot?!?!? Tom’s fantastic and witty illustrations capture this rollercoaster of a ride that Jasper faces as he’s unexpectedly thrown into this bizarre and uncontrollable situation. This is a truly laugh-out-loud book, which is guaranteed to entertain and amuse both children and adults alike. A must have read, it is one of the funniest books I have read this year.

Thank you to Hannanh and OUP for sending me a copy of this hilarious book I know it will be a huge hit in my school library.