Monthly Archives: June 2021

Cover Reveal – Toby and the Silver Blood Witches by Sally Doherty

I’m really excited to be able to reveal for you today, the cover of Sally Doherty’s debut, ‘Toby and the Silver Blood Witches,’ which will be published on 19th July.

So without further ado here it is…

This beautiful cover was illustrated by Sarah Jane Docker. For me this stunning artwork hints at the mysterious and magical tale that lies beneath the cover. I’ve been lucky enough to have an early read and this is a really thoughtful but entertaining story. Full of twists, turns and the unexpected, it has just the right amount of peril to keep readers turning the pages. A satisfying and enthralling read. Let’s find out more about what Sally has instore for us in, ‘Toby and the Silver Blood Witches‘.

Toby and the Silver Blood Witches

A sinister plot. A secret city in the sky. A boy with an impossible choice.

Twelve year old Toby has little time for friends or football since his mum fell ill. All he wants is to stay at home and keep an eye on her. 

But mysterious things are happening beyond his garden hedge. And who is the strange woman in his attic with her clumsy magic and bothersome bat?

Entangled in adventure, Toby must embark on a dangerous mission. A girl’s life is at stake and time is running out.

Thank you to Sally for inviting me to host the cover reveal. ‘Toby and the Silver Blood Witches,’ is available to buy from the 19th July. 10% of profits from the sale of this book will go to The ME Association.


Taylor and Rose – Visit Paris with Katherine Woodfine

Today I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour to celebrate the final book in the Taylor and Rose Secret Agents series written by Katherine Woodfine and illustrated by Karl James Mountford. We are going back to the beginning and visiting, ‘Peril in Paris,’ on the blog today and I have a special guest post and Q & A with Katherine. Without further ado, let’s see the sights of Paris…


Bonjour Paris! With the final book, Nightfall in New York, being published on 8th July, what better moment to revisit the previous books in the Taylor & Rose Secret Agents series — beginning with Peril in Paris?

This first book in the series sees young detectives Sophie Taylor and Lil Rose leaving London behind, on an exciting mission for the mysterious Secret Service Bureau. In Paris, they must go undercover to investigate a murder and a sinister plot. It was great fun to write about Sophie and Lil (who also appear in previous series The Sinclair’s Mysteries) settling into their thrilling new role as secret agents for the British government, facing all kinds of dangers along the way.

I loved writing this story, which is set in one of my very favourite cities. I was able to draw on lots of my own special memories of visiting Paris, as well as to indulge myself in researching the city as it would have been in 1911. Sophie and Lil’s adventures take them everywhere from the streets of Montmartre, to sophisticated night-club La Lune Bleue — inspired by the legendary Moulin Rouge.

Strolls in the Jardin Du Luxembourg helped me to imagine the park scene

Of course, I couldn’t resist a visit to Paris to help me research the book — and if that wasn’t enough, I also took a little day-trip there to celebrate its publication. That seems incredibly decadent now (and it’s certainly the fanciest way I’ve ever celebrated a new book!) but it’s so lovely to be able to look back on a memorable day of lunch in the sunshine, a boat trip on the Seine and of course a visit to wonderful bookshop Shakespeare & Co. I’m looking forward to being able to go back to Paris again soon — which is now even more special to me, as the setting for the first Taylor & Rose adventure.

Returning to Paris celebrate the book’s publication in 2018 – I couldn’t resist posing with Peril in Paris in front of the Eiffel Tower

Why did you decide to use Paris for the setting of the first book?

Paris is not only one of my favourite cities, it’s also one I know reasonably well. I can navigate the Métro, I understand the layout of the city, and I speak some French. For that reason, it felt like a good, solid place to start — and the ideal city for Sophie and Lil to begin their travels.

 On my research trip in 2017, I scouted out key locations including Au Lapin Agile in Montmartre, which helped inspire the Café Monique

What’s more, I knew it would be interesting to explore the Paris of this period. 1911 is towards the end of what we now call the ‘Belle Époque’, which saw the construction of the Eiffel Tower and the Paris Métro, grand exhibitions like the Universal Exposition of 1900 which showcased the latest innovations in everything from art to technology, the birth of cinema, the Ballets Russes, the Impressionists… I could go on! This was a moment at which Paris was hugely influential in terms of art, culture and fashion, and I knew it would offer lots for me to write about — and of course, lots of scope for adventure.

What inspired you to have Sophie and Lil recruited to the Secret Service Bureau?

While I was writing the final book in the Sinclair’s Mysteries series, The Midnight Peacock, I learned that the real-life British Secret Service Bureau (which would later become MI5 and MI6) was established at around the time this book was set. That caught my attention at once — and in fact, there’s a hint at the end of that book that Sophie and Lil may find themselves working for a mysterious new government organisation in the future.

The idea of Sophie and Lil turning their detective talents to becoming secret agents was really intriguing to me, and I soon found myself reading more about the early days of the Secret Service Bureau, as well as exploring some of the stories of spies and espionage that were so popular in the years running up to the First World War. From this research, the idea for Taylor & Rose Secret Agents soon evolved.

When writing Peril in Paris, what kind of research did you do?

I read a lot — both fiction and non-fiction, and consulted maps, travel guides and even railway timetables from the period! As always, I looked at lots of images for inspiration, from fashion illustrations to 1900s photographs of Paris. Of course, writing the book was also a great excuse for a trip to Paris to scout out some of the key locations that appear in the book. I also wanted to take the time to absorb all the small details which are so important when you’re trying to evoke the atmosphere of a place — the colours, smells, sounds, and of course, the food (especially essential in France!)  While I couldn’t visit Paris in 1911, I could mooch about the present-day city streets, trying to imagine myself back in time — and stopping for a few all-important patisserie breaks along the way…

Of course, no Paris research trip would be complete without visiting a patisserie!

Thank you to Katherine for this really insightful guest post and a wonderful trip to Paris, it’s really making me want to hop on the Eurostar and visit my favourite city. If you want to listen to Katherine read from, ‘Peril in Paris,’ click here or have a sneak peek of her Pinterest click here. ‘Nightfall in New York,’ is published on the 8th July and you can pre-order online or at your local bookshop.

Blog Tour

The next step on the blog tour is St.Petersburg with Miss Cleveland is Reading next week…

Marvellous Middle Grade Reads

So I blinked and June is now upon us, this year is just flying past! After being heads down for most of the year there has been a slight breather which has happily coincided with the half-term holidays. There are so many wonderful books sitting in my to be read pile so it was really tricky to choose which books I should share with you but these were the ones that caught my eye.

Emma Carroll – The Week at World’s End

A new book from Emma Carroll is always a highlight in my literary year, so when an early copy of ‘The Week at World’s End,’ dropped through my letterbox I had to abandon everything and read it straight away. Set against the background of the Cuban Missile Crisis when the end of the world seemed like it was within touching distance, Stevie finds a runaway girl hiding in her coal shed. The girl is desperate for help claiming someone is trying to poison her and Stevie – along with her best friend Ray -can’t resist the chance to have some excitement in their lives. But Anna’s increasingly strange behaviour unsettles Stevie, she knows that she isn’t being completely honest with them. The discovery of a dark family secret convinces Stevie that Anna has come to World’s End Close for a purpose. With time ticking away can she uncover the truth before it’s too late? This story is Emma at her finest. Exquisite storytelling brought to life with rich period detail and glorious characterisation. She captures all the tension of the escalation of the Cold War brilliantly, at times the tension is almost unbearable, it took my breath away. Emma has this incredible talent for bringing history to life, allowing the reader to be completely transported to a different time of place. It tackles some incredibly poignant themes including feminism, racism and loss, in a thoughtful and unsentimental way. I was gripped from start to finish, this book is an absolute triumph and I absolutely loved it!

When The Sky Falls – Phil Earle

I’ve been a huge fan of Phil’s writing for many years. He has an incredible talent for finding stories wherever he goes, hidden behind doors in the Storey Street series, in the ‘Mind the Gap,’ announcement on the London Underground and now in the extraordinary, ‘When the Sky Falls,’ he was inspired by a real life story about a friend’s dad during WW2. We are familiar with stories where children are sent away to the country to escape the threat of bombing but here we meet Joseph, a boy who has been sent to the very heart of the War. He has been sent to live with a woman, Mrs F, who has no time for children and is simply repaying a debt by looking after him. The only thing she loves is her rundown zoo and its former star attraction, Adonis, the silverback gorilla. Joseph is initially terrified of this ‘beast,’ but the more time he spends with him, he forges a bond. But with the bombers getting closer can they make a terrible decision to save others from a horrific fact? I was completely overwhelmed by the characterisation in this story, the anger that Joseph can’t contain pours out of the pages, contrasting with the hidden vulnerability and pain of Mrs F. On the face of it they have little in common, yet they are both struggling to come to terms with grief in their own ways. Set against the background of intense bombing, destruction and loss this exacerbates their feelings building up the tension to a dramatic climax. There are not enough words to do justice to how much I loved, ‘When the Sky Falls.’ All I can say is that it’s raw, powerful, beautiful and poignant, one of the most accomplished books I’ve read in a long time.

The House of Serendipity: Sequins & Secrets – Lucy Ivison, illustrated by Helen Crawford-White & Catharine Collingridge

I’m completely fascinated by the 1920s, a period of time when the world was emerging from a long period of war, life seemed full of optimism and change was in the air. in the first instalment of ‘The House of Serendipity,’ series, Lucy introduces us to two very different girls, Sylvia Cartwright a rich socialite who feels suffocated by her destiny and Myrtle Mathers who is forced into service after the death of her father, giving up her dreams. Both girls come from very different worlds but are brought together by their shared love of fashion and their dazzling designs become the talk of London. But their friendship is threatened when they agree to help a glamorous debutante escape, can this scandal crush their dreams forever? I absolutely adored ‘Sequins and Secrets,’ it was completely dreamy, rich in period detail and the characterisation is sublime. Sylvia and Myrtle make for an unlikely but inspired pairing and you can’t help but be swept away by their seeming success. I loved the attention to the detail in the intricate descriptions of their creations, beautifully brought to life by Catharine’s stunning illustrations. Daring, dramatic and utterly delicious it truly captured the essence of this period of time.

We Made a Movie – Charlotte Lo

Charlotte’s debut novel, ‘We Won an Island,’ was a wonderfully uplifting read that filled my heart with joy. It was with much anticipation that I dived into the follow-up, ‘We Made a Movie,’ and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint. Life has settled down for Luna and her family, her dad is embracing their new life, while her mum’s experimental yoga classes are causing lots of interest. But when developers threaten their dream, Luna is determined to find a way to save Wishnook. Her plan to make a movie to showcase it’s uniqueness is scuppered by bitter rivalries as the residents become divided. Is this the end of the road for Luna and her family? Pure escapism at its best, it was an absolute treat to return to this world. There are so many brilliant moments filled with chaos, confusion and downright quirkiness which will entertain and amuse younger readers. Charlotte deftly mixes humour and heart in the lively and entertaining romp of an adventure whilst thoughtfully exploring the decline in rural communities and the threat of overdevelopment. This is an irresistible and charming story which I completely devoured in one sitting. A must have summer read!

The Cooking Club Detectives – Ewa Jozefkowicz, illustrated by Katy Riddell

Ewa has a gift for creating stories that are warm and entertaining but have so many hidden layers waiting to be discovered. in ‘The Cooking Club Detectives,’ she assembles an intriguing cast of characters who on the face of it have nothing in common. Ewa is worrying about money after her mum is made redundant, while Tanya lives a privileged life with her own housekeeper and a wealthy dad. A firm friendship is forged when Ewa convinces Tanya to join an after-school cooking club at the local community centre where they meet Frixos and Sam. When they discover that the centre is to be sold, the friends, the newly named Cooking Club Detectives set off on a mission to discover the identity of the new owner, convinced they can change their minds! This story shines a spotlight on the vital roles places like Skipton House play in the community, from the very basics of making sure that families are fed, to enriching their lives with activities and opportunities that they might not have without it. Without these places people risk being forgotten about and becoming isolated, facing hardships alone. It highlights the importance of family, friendship and realising that it’s never to late to embrace your dream even when it seems impossible Brimming with warmth and filled with heart, it is a joyful and life affirming tale that entirely charmed me.

How To Be Brave – Daisy May Johnson

When I first heard about, ‘How to be Brave,’ I knew immediately it would be just my cup of tea, as Calla’s mum has a passion for ducks (you did read that right, I did say ducks), I have a complete obsession with boarding school stories and mysteries, this story delivers these both brilliantly. Calla has never had what you would call a normal existence, she’s spent most of her childhood parenting her mother and when her mum’s dream job offer arrives, she finds herself packed off to a very unusual boarding school run by nuns, which has a more practical than educational curriculum. But something very strange is going on at the school. The headteacher has been usurped, there are strange men in suits patrolling the grounds and they’re forcing the girls to drink kale smoothies – quelle horreur! Things go from bad to worse when Calla’s mum disappears off grid and Calla uncovers a terrible plot, together with her new friends the eccentric but marvellous Edie and Hanna she must find a way to thwart their dastardly headmistress. A truly extravagant romp of an adventure that is bound to delight and entertain readers with it’s terribly bad behaviour and wonderful characters. Despite the contemporary setting, it has (and I mean this in the very best way) an old fashioned charm that really endeared me to the story. It was totally irresistible with it s midnight feasts, hidden passageways and pranks all produced with a very modern and humorous twist. Original and quirky, this is simply wonderful.

Thank you to Andersen Press, Faber, Nosy Crow, Pushkin Press, Usborne and Zephyr for sending me gifted copies. All of these books are available to buy or pre-order online by clicking on the the title. If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.