Monthly Archives: February 2018

Cover Reveal – The Secret Ruby by Imogen White

I’m really excited to be sharing with you today the cover of Imogen White’s newest addition to The Rose Muddle Mysteries, ‘The Secret Ruby.’ The follow up to the deliciously dark ‘The Amber Pendant‘ will be published on 3rd May 2018 by Usborne books.

So without further ado here it is…….

I just love this bold and wonderfully dramatic cover illustrated by Davide Ortu and designed by Will Steele. It captures brilliant the bold and fierce Rose and the loyal and clever Rui who prides himself on being able to solve any mystery. ‘The Amber Pendant’ is an irresistible combination of magic and mystery with rich, beautiful storytelling, so I can’t wait to read ‘The Secret Ruby.’

To celebrate the cover reveal, I’m delighted to welcome Imogen to the blog today with a special guest post about how important it is for children to find the right book just for them.

 

Why Finding the Right Book Matters! – Imogen White

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

This quote, by the incredible Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, reflects how I remember feeling as a child – and, how I’m sure many others feel too. Growing up, I was insecure and self-conscious, and I felt like I was very odd compared to everyone else. I’d make up my own worlds and disappear inside them; I had imaginary friends, and I constantly expected to find buried keys, lost treasure and underground passageways in my house and garden. I even wondered what would happen if I was to find gateways to other worlds – despite the fact we lived on a Croydon housing estate.

I believed in all things magical and improbable (and still do!) – from the existence of ghosts and fairies at the bottom the garden, and old magic waiting to be unearthed. But, I learnt quite early on that it was better to keep these ideas to yourself, hidden and secret, because it wasn’t “normal”.

But it was the discovery of books – and of the right books for me, that changed all this…

I remember first finding the likes of The Dark is Rising, The Owl Service and The Giant Under the Snow – and feeling just slightly less peculiar! It was like I had found other people who thought a bit like me, and I remember how wondrous this was to my twelve-year-old self.

This is the joy of reading, and the difference it can make to all children – once they find books that suit them. And this is, especially as we face ever more cuts to library services, exactly why all children need access to libraries and to librarians – so they too can find the rights books.

The remarkable stories that I found as a child have undoubtedly shaped my writing today.  From ancient warlords and underground sects, to magical objects buried in Bronze Age graves, these have woven their way into my work in all sorts of shapes and forms.

There was also a very important part of my younger self that I carried forward into my work – what would happen if the fate of the world were to rest in the hands of an insecure twelve-year-old girl? I think my twelve-year-old self would have found lots to relate to in my heroine, Rose Muddle, who came from the workhouse – and thought she was a nobody, only to discover she had a very real and important role to undertake with her inherited magic pendant…

The Rose Muddle Mysteries combine elements of real local history with the fantastical – and this is the space I feel most at home with. The first book in the series, The Amber Pendant, is set in Hove on the south coast of England, and seeds in the dark elements that Rose Muddle finds herself pitted against. Book two in the series, The Secret Ruby, sees Rose escape to Jaipur – only to encounter even bigger problems, as the ways of old magic bleed foul across the globe – as the mystery of The Secret Ruby unfolds into a monkey filled adventure, full of danger, twists and hidden enemies.

I’m so excited to be sharing the cover of my second book, The Secret Ruby, with the world, and thank you so much to Jo – librarian blogger extraordinaire! – for doing this reveal!

I now can’t wait for May when the book will publish. I am certain I would never have been a writer was it not for those childhood books that made me feel like I belonged. So, here’s hoping every child finds the right books for them – just as I did.

Imogen White

Imogen White won her place in the Undiscovered Voices 2014 Anthology with the opening to The Rose Muddle Mysteries. Imogen loves local history, and children’s stories that aren’t limited to beautiful countryside locations or secluded seaside coves. Imogen lives in Hove with her husband, children and belligerent ginger-tomcat.

Davide Ortu

Davide is an Italian artist now living in Spain. He studies Art in Cagliari Arts Lyceum FOISO FOIS, Sardinia. Here, on the Italian island, he works as a graphic designer in advertising. At the same time, he develops his pictorial side showing in different exhibitions. In 2008 he moved to Madrid where he discovered the world of children’s illustrations.

Thank you to Imogen for this wonderful guest post and to Usborne for inviting me to host the cover reveal. ‘The Secret Ruby’ is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

Advertisements

Twister – Guest Post Juliette Forrest

I am delighted to welcome Juliette Forrest to the blog today with a special guest post to celebrate the publication of her magical and deliciously dark debut ‘Twister.’ When Twister’s father goes missing she bravely embarks on a mission to find him and on her way she stumble across a witch called Maymay living in the woods. She gives Twister a magical necklace that holds the souls of living things and can turn the wearer into a wolf, or a rushing river, or a rainstorm, with the promise that it will help her find her pa … but at a price. Maymay warns her there’s a dark foe on the hunt for the necklace, a baddie who wears a coat crawling with creatures, who might have something to do with her father’s sudden disappearance. Will Twister be able to save her father from a fate worse than death, before it’s too late…?

Juliette really knows how to write a villain who will strike fear into your heart and chill your bones, so let’s find out what inspires her to create these terrifying baddies.

Conjuring Up a Villain – Juliette Forrest

It would be fair to say I had a bit of a misspent youth. If I wasn’t sneaking off to hire scary movies with my gran’s video card, I was pinching my brother’s Stephen King and James Herbert novels. As a teenager, I was pretty clueless about most things in life, but ask me about creatures of the night (or day) and there wasn’t much I didn’t know. I’m certain this fascination with all things grisly and ghoulish came from family gatherings, where we would revel in telling ghost stories. Films were another great topic of discussion with my uncle and aunt being enthusiastic horror buffs. I would listen in to all the conversations and when it came to bedtime, pretend I was invisible in the hope that my mum would forget I was there. Gran’s house was spooky and my bedroom at the end of a long, dark corridor. Needless to say, I felt right at home creating White Eye, the evil villain of Twister. White Eye doesn’t appear immediately in the story, so I wanted to give him a name which would make the reader start to picture him in their own mind. It was my brilliant editor at Scholastic, Lauren Fortune, who suggested he should be more of a bogeyman figure. This struck a chord with me, as when I was growing up and not behaving myself, I would be told Sawney Bean would come and get me. Sawney Bean lived in a cave in the west coast of Scotland and dragged unsuspecting travellers off the highway to eat them. Although he was only a local legend, the thought of him hunting me down always made me behave as good as gold.

I think the best baddies have something about them that is visually distinctive and with White Eye it was his coat, which had a whole host of undesirable critters crawling around it. One night, as I was working away on Twister, the hairs went up on the back of my neck at the thought of him standing next to me. I knew I had to have a scene in the book where Twister suddenly realises White Eye is right behind her. That moment still gives me a bit of a shiver! Throughout Twister, White Eye never speaks. I felt a voice would somehow make him a little less creepy and so I had to create another character that could do all the talking for him.

I will always love dreaming up terrible villains. And if you think White Eye sounds dreadful, wait until you meet the baddie in my next book.

Juliette Forrest

Juliette Forrest has worked as both an Art Director and a Copywriter for some
of the best advertising agencies in the UK, picking up awards for her TV, radio,
press and poster campaigns. In Twister, she wanted to create a firecracker of a
heroine, who saw the world in her own unique way. Juliette lives in Glasgow
where she runs her own freelance copywriting business.

You can find out more about Juliette by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter.

Thank you to Juliette for her interesting writing advice and to Lorraine and Scholastic for inviting me to host this guest post. ‘Twister’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Running On Empty – written by S.E. Durrant & illustrated by Rob Biddulph

AJ is a boy who just loves to run. Swept away on the belief and hope that anyone can achieve their dream after watching the 2012 London Olympics, all he wants to do is run on the hallowed track where he saw his idol Usain Bolt win gold. His incredibly running ability makes him different from most 11 year old boys but the thing that makes him really different, well that’s just too difficult to talk about. In fact if AJ tells the world why his life is so different it might just bring his world crashing down around him. For AJ is struggling to deal with dramatic change in his life and he’s not quite managing. Not only does he have to adjust from moving between primary and secondary schools but the death of his beloved grandfather has placed him in a role of carer with too much responsibility for such a young boy – looking after his parents who have learning difficulties. How can he ever hope to fulfil his dream when he is struggling to keep his family together.

Incredibly emotional and powerful storytelling from S.E Durrant makes ‘Running On Empty’ a truly, compelling read. As a parent of a child who has just made the transition to secondary school for me it has a times felt like an emotional and logistical minefield.  So my heart goes out to AJ and his parents, how on earth are they meant to negotiate this tricky and complicated process without the support that they so desperately need but so desperately don’t want in case questions start to be asked. The characterisation is flawless, she has created the most wonderful characters who you genuinely feel an absolute connection to and you become so caught up in their lives that it is a wrench to say goodbye to them at the end of the book. AJ’s determination and desperation to succeed is just heart-breaking. The small barriers that are in the way to his success are seen as unsurmountable to him and you would do anything to help him on his way but life isn’t always that simple. There are so many moments of sheer sadness met by sheer joy that make for an emotional rollercoaster of a story but ultimately it’s uplifting without being unrealistic or overly sentimental. An outstanding, empathetic read that I absolutely loved. With a stunning, vibrant cover and chapter illustrations from Rob Biddulph this book deserves to be in every school library, an absolute must have read.

Thank you to Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this stunning book. ‘Running on Empty’ is released on the 1st March and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

Waiting For Callback: Take Two – Perdita & Honor Cargill

Elektra James is back in the brilliant sequel ‘Waiting For Callback: Take Two’ and it’s got a fabulous new cover illustrated by Lisa Brewster who also collaborated on the design with Jenny Richards. If you haven’t had a chance to read this series then now is the perfect time to start, you can read the first two before the final book in the series ‘It’s A Wrap‘ is released.

Life is looking up for our aspiring actress, who has landed a starring role in an actual blockbuster film and nearly become the girlfriend of her massive crush Archie. True to form things don’t always work out quite like she imagined it! With a hessian cloth for a costume and Archie away filming a teen vampire movie surrounded by beautiful ladies, Elektra’s dream summer is turning into a major nightmare. Warm, witty and filled with hilarious highlights this is a real treat of a book. And on a personal level please can Eulalie adopt me she really is the most glamorous, gorgeous grandmother, I will even forgive her for having way more Twitter followers than me!

I am delighted to share with you again today the fabulous guest post from Perdita and Honor Cargill to celebrate the new look for ‘Take Two.’

Scouting – Perdita & Honor Cargill

Today we’re talking about Scouting  – well, how we researched Take Two and how (because our plot, our characters and the laughs will always come first) we played fast and loose with what we learned.

We knew from the start of writing the Waiting for Callback series that we wanted a lot of the scenes in Take Two (or book-two-with-no-name as it was for months) to take place on a studio set.  The dream would have been to have done lots of reconnaissance at Pinewood when a big movie was filming but studio sets are closed sets.  To be fair, cast and crew have enough to contend with without a couple of writers with notebooks standing around (probably in the wrong place) and on the look-out for material that they could (very gently) ridicule… But we were lucky enough to have help from an actor friend with loads of on-set experience who read our early drafts as well as some young actors who’d done some holiday studio filming (none of them bear any responsibility!).  And of course, thank God for Google (P: I don’t say that every day; H: I do).  Ok, we ended up with slightly dodgy search histories (P: ‘hot young teen actors’ is one that I’m slightly uncomfortable with) but at least we weren’t writing about terrorism or grisly murders. Although some of the health & safety on-set research was terrifying (“Fight scenes, falls, pyrotechnic incidents, malfunctioning fog machines. Flying objects can be an issue, boulders, heavy weaponry, winged creatures, elves…” Ch. 11).   And costume research! Honor had had all the fun of being fitted for costumes at Cosprop but we couldn’t resist hours more research. Poor old Elektra in her brown hessian sack…

We probably don’t want to add up how many hours we watched of behind the scenes footage of movies like The Hunger Games and Lord of the Rings but A LOT. There’s more basic stuff on the web too like maps and plans and photos of the big studios (including dressing rooms with Those lights around the mirrors – something Elektra gets borderline overexcited about). Basically we on-line stalked the studios.

taketwo1

Some of our research was inside-out research.  For example, Hon came up with the speaking/squeaking-boulder scene (that won’t make any sense until you read the book) and then we did some research until we could be reassured that yes, indeed, there had been unfortunate incidents with sets built out of polystyrene and plywood…

We also had some fun researching the movie business elements that we put into things like the slides in chapter 3.  The more we researched this world, the more confident we were that no matter how mad we went we’d be credible in spirit if not in every detail. 

taketwo3

And sometimes we intentionally went for something a little different.  Not just when we took things further on set than any competent director would have put up with (poor Havelski!) but, for example, we didn’t use the full standard film script format. Our script segments are very much part of the story and important to the plot and we didn’t want to risk them being jumped over so we went for a compromise style that sat more easily with the rest of the text. It felt right.

taketwo4

We read some great books in the name of research and, to get those A-list diva details right, a regular supply of celebrity magazines – we possibly did more ‘research’ there than we strictly had an excuse for.

So we’re owning up to hours of watching behind the scenes footage, reading celebrity mags and actor memoirs – it’s a tough job…

‘It’s A Wrap’ – Sneak Peek

I am delighted to share with you the gorgeous and brilliantly vibrant cover illustrated by Lisa Brewster who also collaborated on the design with Jenny Richards of the new book ‘It’s A Wrap.’  So without further ado here it is…….

Also the lovely Perdita shared on Twitter a sneak peek of chapter one which I’m happy to also share with you today.

Thank you to Perdita and Honor for this fantastic guest post and letting me share your fabulous new covers and a sneak peek of Chapter One on the blog. ‘It’s A Wrap’ is released on 31st May and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

 

 

Waiting for Callback: Casting Queen – Perdita & Honor Cargill

‘Waiting For Callback: Casting Queen’ is the first book in the hilarious teen series from mother and daughter duo Perdita and Honor Cargill. This series has been a firm favourite of mine since I first read it two years ago and now it’s back with a gorgeous new cover illustrated by Lisa Brewster who also collaborated on the design with Jenny Richards. If you haven’t had a chance to read this series then now is the perfect time to start, you can read the first two before the final book ‘It’s A Wrap‘ is released on the 31st May.

Who knew that I would strongly identify with a 15 year old girl struggling to keep track of her life whilst endlessly waiting for the phone to ring. This book made me laugh out loud and remember my very own cringe worthy growing up experiences from seriously unrequited love to struggling to fit in at school. I think that any teenager will really empathise with Elektra’s unsuccessful attempts in dealing with friendship problems, parents and having to deal with a major crush.

Elektra is living a normal teenage life when she is discovered by an agent but instead of this launching her into a successful acting career we see the harsh realities of this world with terrible auditions seemingly for lots of ‘dead girl’ roles, constant rejections and her highlight being the lead squirrel in a TV advert. I love that Elektra is just a normal, awkward teenager she is not at all shiny and glossy like the popular girls at school. Despite her best efforts  to try and replicate the cool girls she can’t pull it off when she tries the ‘messy bun’ look It makes her look like ‘a cow has pooed on my head.’ I remember at school trying to pull of this weird sticking up fringe look back in the 80s and just looking like I had got locked inside a wind tunnel. It is comments and dialogue from Elektra like this which make her so endearing and likeable.

Throughout the story it is the subtle references which make this story such a fantastic read my favourite and I admit to being totally biased is the Pride and Prejudice remarks.  I particularly love the scene where Elektra and her best friend Moss are at a school social and are comparing it to the Meryton Assembly they recognise the irony that nearly 200 year later girls are still taking turns around the room in an attempt to catch the eye of boys. Elektra also compares her mother ‘channeling her inner  Mrs Bennett’ loving nothing better than to interrogate her about boys (or girls) desperate to know if she has ‘snogged anyone’. It feels like a very witty social commentary on the world teenagers are growing up in today. Bubbling underneath the surface of this funny, enjoyable read we feel the pressures teenagers face today from the constant threat of being exposed on social media, to demanding pushy parents who schedule their childrens lives to such an extent that they can’t just have ‘me’ time. Yet the storyline itself is so compelling  we desperately hope that Elektra will get that illusive callback and willing for her to rise above those who seek to make her life miserable.

The characters in the story are wonderfully substantive, instead of just being one dimensional in the background we get a real sense of the roles they play in Elektra’s life . You can feel the love from her parents who are genuinely trying to do the best for her whilst protecting her at the same time. I loved the hilarious scene where Elektra finds them ‘twerking’ in the kitchen after having too much champagne much to her embarrassment. The conversations that take place between them feel very honest and real so that you almost feel you are eavesdropping on their lives.  Another fabulous character who I adored is her glamorous eccentric French grandmother Eulalie who defies stereotypes in every way including posting photos of herself in sarongs on Instagram. I think it’s fantastic that she plays such a key role in Elektra’s life and I loved the bond between these two characters.

I think this book will be massively appealing and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m looking forward to more from Perdita and Honor in the future. You can pre-order ‘Waiting For Callback: Casting Queen’ online on from any good bookshop. Watch this space for more #WaitingForCallback news coming very soon!

 

Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts written by Katie & Kevin Tsang & illustrated by Nathan Reed

Sometimes a book comes along, smacks you in the face and demands to be read and ‘Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts’ is definitely one of them. Illustrated fiction is my favourite of all the type of books I review, they are perfect for newly confident readers allowing them to gain confidence without being overwhelmed by pages of text and this one stands out from the crowd. Despite what Ralph Philip Zinkerman the Third (aka the school bully) says, Sam Wu is definitely not a scaredy-cat. Ok well maybe he is but he has to prove to Ralph that he isn’t, which requires an extreme plan of action which may or may not involve obtaining a terrifying and deadly pet as a sidekick and defeating the Ghost king once and for all. Sound easy doesn’t it? But no it really isn’t that simple!

A joy from start to finish, it’s a real treat for fans of comedy and chaos. The Tsangs have assembled a brilliant cast of characters who are engaging and entertaining.  It has a really appealing interactive format with it’s zany and fun layout crammed with Nathan Reed’s superb illustrations which are filled with humorous and witty details.  I have a particular soft spot for Sam’s wonderfully inquisitive sister Lucy and their evil ninja cat Butterbutt, perhaps its because I share qualities with both of these characters – only kidding I’m nothing like Lucy. This is a story which will have you laughing out loud, cringing with embarrassment and being completely perplexed as Sam and his friends try to get work out how to catch a mysterious ghost.

What makes ‘Sam Wu’ stand out for me is that it is genuinely diverse and culturally rich in a way I have seen very little representation for in this age group. Sometimes when I’m reading a book the only way I realise that the characters are diverse is through the illustrations but Sam’s cultural heritage resonates throughout this whole story without it actually being part of the plot. When Sam’s friends visit his house he worries that they may find it strange that his family eats with chopsticks and one of his favourite meals is duck and turnip cake. But this could have easily been about Sam being embarrassed about his Mum singing loudly to the radio, or wearing skinny jeans, all children inherently find their parents embarrassing for one reason or another. Diverse, hilarious and just a little bit bonkers I can’t wait to read the next adventure to find out what trouble Sam and his friends find themselves in next time.

Thank you to Egmont for sending me a copy of this fabulous book, ‘Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop. Watch out for more Sam Wu action coming soon in ‘Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Sharks’ which is released on 28th June and is available to pre-order online now.

Spyder – Written and Illustrated by Matt Carr

Today it’s my stop on the ‘Spyder’ blog tour with my review of this bold, bright picture book. Being a super special secret agent is challenging enough for any top spy but it’s even more tricky when you’re a teeny tiny spider. However small details like these don’t get in the way of this intrepid investigator. Her latest mission is to prevent any party pandemonium when Tom Webster’s birthday cake is under threat from a deadly enemy, code name Bluebottle. It’s time to pack her spy-kit with all the essentials binoculars, a disguise, a top-secret laser pen and not forgetting of course every secret agent’s secret weapon……..a flask of tea! It’s a race against the clock as time is ticking away, will Spyder save the day and the party before it’s too late?

Bursting with bravery and bugs ‘Spyder’ is an energetic and entertaining read, that is bound to delight younger readers. Matt’s distinctive style seen in the fabulous ‘Superbat‘ is evident, his use of  a vibrant but limited palette creates a bold, stylish book which has a vintage feel that I really love. It offers a unique mix of different layouts and spreads that make it visually intriguing and appealing.  The danger Spyder faces being so small, lends itself to lots of perilous but comic moments which is captured brilliantly in the perspective used in the illustrations. It’s refreshing to see a female cast in the role of secret agent because as we know girls (even arachnids) are more than capable of being crime-busting crusaders. For lovers of thrills, spills and peril Spyder is a humorous and exciting read.

Matt Carr

Matt Carr is an incredibly talented graphic designer and author-illustrator whose debut picture book, SUPERBAT, was published to international acclaim in the UK, US, Spain, Korea and Israel, and is currently shortlisted for a number of upcoming awards. Matt loves tea and lives in East Sussex. You can find out more about Matt by following him on Twitter or by visiting his website.

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Olivia and Scholastic for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for my copy of this fab book. ‘Spyder’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.