Letters From the Lighthouse – Emma Carroll

I have to admit to being a massively impatient reader. By this I mean, if I love an author and their book isn’t released for a long time or if for whatever reason it gets delayed I feel hugely disappointed. But last week the opposite happened and it filled my heart with joy! If you have read my reviews of ‘In Darkling Wood’ and ‘Strange Star’ you will know that Emma Carroll is one of my most favourite writers. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered her latest book ‘Letters From the Lighthouse’ had been chosen as Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for May, meaning I was going to get my hands on a copy a month early. I even managed to get my hands on a slightly earlier copy after spotting it behind the tills in Waterstones and begging the bookseller to let me have a copy. I then locked myself in a room and devoured ‘Letters From the Lighthouse’ in one sitting and without doubt I can confirm that it is now my favourite book by Emma Carroll, in fact I would go as far to say that it is my favourite book I have read this year!

It’s February 1941, the middle of World War 2 when London was being subjected to numerous bombs being dropped by the Germans. Olive is at the pictures with her brother Cliff and her older sister Sukie, who then mysteriously disappears and they find themselves all alone when an air raid is announced. Making sure her brother is safe in an air raid shelter she desperately tries to find her sister only to catch sight of her talking to a stranger just as a bomb lands nearby. When Olive wakes up after the blast, Sukie is missing and she finds a peculiar coded note in the pocket of her Mother’s coat, the only clue to Sukie’s disappearance which seems to link her to Devon. With London unsafe, Olive and her brother are evacuated to Devon to live with a mysterious lighthouse keeper and Olive begins to suspect that her sister may be caught up in something dark and dangerous.

It is difficult to convey how much I loved this book!  Having loved all of Emma’s other books I tried to understand why ‘Letters From the Lighthouse’ had such an impact on me and I think the reason has to be that it feels like she has given us a real glimpse of the hardship of war for children at that time. I genuinely cared about the characters of the book, feeling distraught for Olive and Cliff when they were taken away from their mother to a place where nobody really wanted them. It was heart breaking when you realise how the seemingly difficult and unkind Esther had been shaped by the horrors she had experienced first hand when she is only a child. Emma has the ability to touch your soul when she writes, it’s a true privilege stepping into her characters lives and  to feel their emotions so deeply. This is a really important book, a must have read for any UKS2 or KS3 child and needs to be in every primary and secondary school.  If teachers are studying World War 2 with their classes and want their children to have a real empathy for the experiences of evacuees and refugees then this is a book that they need to share with their class. I finished this book in tears, it is incredibly moving and beautifully written! If you read any book this year then let it be ‘Letters From the Lighthouse’.

You can buy a copy now from Waterstones or pre-order from any good independent bookshop where it will be released on the 1st June.

Gaslight – Eloise Williams

‘Gaslight’ by Eloise Williams is an irresistible gothic mystery which takes us back in time to the dark and grimy streets of Victorian Cardiff, where secrets are hidden in the most unexpected places. When Nansi was found at the docks, almost half drowned with her mother missing, she has nowhere to go. An orphan with no family to turn to, she is forced to seek shelter with  despicable theatre owner Sid, who makes her live a dual life as an actress and a thief to earn her keep. Desperately trying to save money to help find her mother, she tolerates this misery clinging to the hope that they will be reunited one day.  But everything in her life changes when Constance and Violet join the theatre and Constance recognises Nansi. She finds herself in incredible danger and must run to save her life. Can she save her mother and can she save herself?

‘Gaslight’ is a thrilling, gritty adventure which will enthral and scare you in equal measures. It takes the reader to a bleak place filled with ruthless and despicable villains who will stop at nothing to get their own way. Wonderfully atmospheric, Eloise’s writing is rich and evocative, stimulating all your senses with the most intricate descriptions giving the reader a real sense of the darkness of the time and place .But there are shades of light scattered throughout the story, allowing the reader to feel that there may be light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Nansi is in the most hopeless of situations but she doesn’t lose her humanity. Despite being treated appallingly she seeks solace in books and takes care of Bee even risking herself to protect her. A breath taking adventure full of twists, turns and the unexpected, prepare to be shocked and surprised by the glorious ‘Gaslight.’

To find out more about Eloise visit her website or follow her on Twitter @Eloisejwilliams

Thank you to Firefly Press for sending me a copy of this glorious book!

The Huntress: Sea – Sarah Driver

‘Sea’ is the first adventure in ‘The Huntress’ trilogy a thrilling and compelling new series from Sarah Driver. This has to be one of my favourite books of the year. It held me firmly in it’s grip until I turned the very last page, feeling breathless like I had been caught up in a unstoppable whirlwind. It is definitely one of those books that demands that you lock yourself in a room and allow yourself to be fully immersed in this stunning story.

Thirteen-year-old Mouse lives aboard The Huntress, a ship captained by her indomitable one-eyed grandma. The sea runs through her blood and the spirits have declared that one day she will captain the ship so Mouse feels inextricably bound to ‘The Huntress’. But when her Dad goes missing and a long lost navigator ‘Stag’ appears, she soon finds herself and her brother Sparrow in terrible danger when a mutiny takes place. A coldness is sweeping across their world and something sinister is approaching, which threatens them all.  Her only hope is a message left by her Dad telling her that she must find the scattered storm-opals of the sea, sky and land to stop the darkness. Can Mouse find them before it is too late?

Sarah has created a magical but world filled with the most glorious and fascinating details. The Huntress is a terrifying place for Mouse and her sickly brother to live, with Terrodyls flying threateningly overhead, menacing merwraiths lurking beneath the water and enemies waiting to prey on them at any given opportunity. But Mouse embraces this danger having reached her thirteenth moon she feels ready to fight to protect the ship that will be hers one day. Mouse is a remarkable heroine, her fierce determination is her salvation but also her failing drawing her into treacherous situations. We are swept away on a perilous journey  with Mouse  – as she struggles to save her family and home – beset on all sides with danger that will fill her with fear and pain. Her resolve is tested to the limits as she leaps from one impossible challenge to another, refusing to give up. Wonderfully atmospheric and deliciously dark you can’t help but being totally entranced by this beautiful tale.

Thank you to Egmont for sending me a copy of this marvellous book.

Black Knight – Andy Briggs Guest post

I am delighted to welcome Andy Briggs back to the blog today as part of his ‘Black Knight’ blog tour with a special guest post. ‘Black Knight’ is the third book in the fast paced  ‘ The Inventory’  adventure series, packed with high-tech thrills and excitement. After an ancient artefact is stolen from a museum, Dev and his friends worry that someone is trying to trigger a spectacular, long-forgotten weapon: the Black Night. Is criminal network Shadow Helix behind the latest raid, or is a new enemy on the rise?

Without further ado I will pass you over to Andy with his book recommendations for fans of ‘The Inventory’ series

5 favourite adventure books

‘if you’ve read The Inventory series so far you will love these…’

If you’ve enjoyed The Inventory series so far then I would suggest these awesome titles for further epic adventures:

Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer

A masterpiece of fusing action and fantasy, all seen through the eyes of a wonderful anti-hero. What’s there not to like?

Cherub – Robert Muchamore

Spies with attitude. Great plots weaved with typical Muchamore skill. Love ‘em!

The Bodyguard – Chris Bradford.

While I loved Chris’ sword-swinging samurai series, Connor Reeves won me over as the young bodyguard in this awesome series. Action, glamour that puts Bond to shame.

Time Riders – Alex Scarrow

This is a super fun series – that blends time travel with heady adventure. Mind bending and thrilling. Grab ‘em now!

And for the slightly more accomplished reader, I would have to recommend the grand-daddy of action adventure books –

Clive Cussler

Cussler seems to have written approximately a bazillion books. Not enough in my view. They are wonderful edge of your seat adventure books that fuse stunning action with global adventure. A perfect read for a beach – and I thoroughly recommend his Dirk Pitt series. Pure joy.

A huge thank you to Andy for stopping by the blog today with a brilliant list of recommendations. Thank you also to Scholastic for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a copy of this fantastic book, I can’t wait to put it in my school library!

Andy Briggs

Andy Briggs is a screenwriter, producer and author of the Hero.com, Villain.net and Tarzan series. Andy has worked on film development for Paramount and Warner Bros, as well as working with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee and producer Robert Evans. With a strong social media following, Andy tours the UK regularly, doing festival, school and library events.

You can follow Andy on Twitter @abriggswriter or visit his website to find out more.

Blog Tour

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


Bad Mermaids – Sibéal Pounder & Jason Cockcroft

Being  huge fans in my house of Sibéal Pounder’s fabulous ‘Witch Wars’ series, I was delighted to do the cover reveal for the first book in her new series ‘Bad Mermaids.’ So you can imagine the squeals of excitement when an early copy landed on our doormat one morning, only for it to disappear into my daughter’s bedroom who claimed the first read of this much anticipated book. I eventually persuaded her to give my the copy back so that I could share it with you and having read it, I now know why she didn’t want to give it to me back, because it’s just glorious.

Mermaids Beattie, Mimi and Zelda are enjoying what you might call a ‘legcation’. An idea put in place by the Queen of the Lagoon Arabella Cod to stop young mermaids spending all their time dreaming of having legs and living on land – yes Ariel has a lot to answer for! They’re enjoying their summer on land with legs when they receive a strange Crabagram ordering them to return home at once cutting their holiday short. Instructed to return to Swirlyshell by the back pipe entrance they are confused, only to discover the reason why! There are bad mermaids on the loose and only they can stop them!

I absolutely loved ‘Bad Mermaids’!Sibéal has constructed this zany underwater world of The Hidden Lagoon that she realises with the most wonderful and hilarious details. Who wouldn’t want a clam car with sculpted coral seats, sea-lion proof windows and a shell-studded exterior! Packed full of puns and laughs, readers will be giggling along with this seatastic tale, it really made me and my daughter chuckle. It’s a real page turner, as this fast paced and exciting tales whizzes us around the lagoon with our fabulous heroines, who are trying to evade the evil piranhas as they hunt for Arabella Cod who has mysteriously disappeared. With twists and turns aplenty, it becomes apparent that this is no easy mystery to solve.  Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more marvellous,  then along comes Jason Cockcroft with the most sublime illustrations capturing the energy and humour of Sibéal’s story brilliantly. Unfortunately I have only seen a proof copy so I’m really excited to see the completed version with the final illustrations inside. If you love magical mysteries, fabulous fashion, and loathsome baddies then this is the book for you!  I predict this new series will be a triumph, it gets a huge thumbs up from me and my daughter and I can see it being an instant hit in my school library.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me a proof copy of this brilliant book, ‘Bad Mermaids is released on 1st June and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop,

One Silver Summer – Rachel Hickman

‘One Silver Summer’ by Rachel Hickman is a gorgeous teen romance that will whisk you away to a windswept Cornwall for a modern day, fairy tale that is bound to delight. Sass is sent away to live in Cornwall with her Uncle after the untimely death of her mother in a car accident. Consumed by grief she seeks solace in the outdoors traipsing over Cornish hillsides and scrambling through rocky shores desperate for solitude. When she spies a silver horse in a quiet meadow, they make a connection and this fragment of stillness bring her a moment of  happiness. Feeling like she has found a friend, for the first time she feels at peace only for it to be shattered by the appearance of a boy called Alex who is hiding a secret.

I was really intrigued to read ‘One Silver Summer’ because I have an 11 year old daughter who just adores romantic stories but I struggle to find anything suitable for her. And yes this fitted the criteria wonderfully and I was totally entranced and captivated by this beautiful, romantic story. It’s really refreshing to have a book that is suitable for teens which is clean enough but also ticks all the boxes in terms of having a thrilling and interesting storyline outside of the romance.  It is the kind of book that I would have loved to have read growing up because it does – without giving away and spoilers – fulfil  one of those magical dreams that you may have had of stumbling across your dream man in real life. (For me I have to say it was Joey from New Kids on the Block -(if you’re 30 or under you may need to Google him). The relationship that develops between Sass and Alex is like all the very best of stories beset on all sides with problems, the path of true love never does run smooth. With an unexpected and dramatic ending there is plenty of action to keep the reader engrossed and entertained. A glorious novel that explores the pain of loss perfectly, whilst capturing the all consuming excitement and torment of first love.

‘One Silver Summer’ is now available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

Thank you to Old Barn Books for sending me a copy of this glorious book to review, watch out for a special guest post from Rachel Hickman next month on the blog.

Amazing Activity Books

For every parent who is about to embark on a long journey, activity books can offer a lifeline and help delay the inevitable ‘are we nearly there yet?’ They can also provide an inexpensive way to keep children amused on a rainy day. But when you walk into any bookshop you will be faced by a huge variety to choose from, how do you decide which ones will manage to captivate your child for more than half an hour. Me and my girls decided to test out a wide variety of books to see if they kept us entertained.

Think and Make Like An Artist – Claudia Boldt & Eleanor Meredith

This is an activity book guaranteed to have your children engaged and enthralled. First, children discover how artists think, research and experiment, then they try art projects for themselves. If like me you struggle to be creative with your children and the thought of pva glue, tissue paper and paint turns your mind to jelly then this is the book for you. Combining clear visual instructions but still allowing children’s imagination to roam free, it invites them to create unique artworks and join in with fun activities. It also helps encourage children to make their own creative decisions, giving them the confidence to express themselves and experiment with a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, photography, costume design, illustration and many more.

Woodland Hedgehugs Activity Book – Lucy Tapper & Steve Wilson

I’m a big fan of the lovely Hedgehugs books, so I was delighted that Maverick Books had produced a gorgeous activity book which encourages children to explore the woodlands together with Horace and Hettie. I love how this combines inviting children to go outside, with rainy day activities for when it’s just too wet to brave the big outdoors.  Children can go on a bug hunt, collect a rainbow of leaves, crunch through leaves and build a den. There is so much to do and see with this lovely book it’s a perfect way to coax children into the great outdoors on a woodland adventure. Perfect to keep younger children amused on a long walk and provide lots of fun activities for when they get home.

Under Earth/Under Water – Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski

Me and my girls absolutely loved ‘Under Earth, Under Water’ so we were really excited to receive these companion activity books in the post, just in time for the Easter holidays. Packed full of facts and activities these activity books will keep children amused for hours on end. In ‘Under Earth’ you can complete a dinosaur skeleton, visit an underground city and pack passengers into the Tokyo subway. Come on a drawing expedition in ‘Under Water’, create your own coral reef, find the shortest route through the wreck of the Titanic and wrestle with the tentacles of a colossal squid. Gloriously illustrated, these books will capture your child’s imagination and help them find out lots of fascinating facts on the way.

We’re Going On An Egg Hunt Activity – Illustrated by Laura Hughes

This is the gorgeous Easter treat, so if you’re looking for an alternative gift to chocolate this is the activity book you need. Accompanying the beautiful picture book ‘We’re Going on an Egg Hunt’ sublimely illustrated by Laura Hughes, this book is packed with puzzles, stickers, games and much more. Join in the fun with the Easter Bunnies as they play hide and seek, make their way through mazes, help animals find their way home as they go about on their Easter Egg Hunt. Pitched perfectly for younger readers they will love decorating eggs, completing word searches and making Easter bunting.

Botanicum Activity Book – Katie Scott & Kathy Willis

Botanicum‘ is back and this time Katie Scott & Kathy Willis have produced the most sublime activity book. Bursting with fascinating facts and puzzles, this book offers hours of entertainment to artists and nature lovers, young and old. Featuring a myriad of activities it challenges the reader to discover something new and use their imagination to draw, decorate and design. Like ‘Botanicum’ this divine celebration of plants features a colourful array of intricate and dazzling illustrations combined with comprehensive botanical knowledge. An absolute joy of an activity book.

Thank you to Big Picture Press, Bloomsbury, Thames and Hudson and Maverick Books for sending me copies of these amazing activity books.