Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Review

A Far Away Magic by Amy Wilson

Haunting prose that feeds the magical story as monsters are battled, fears are faced and grief is overcome. There is something quite beautiful in Bavar and Angel’s relationship. A special connection that makes them gentler, braver and more compassionate.

Angel doesn’t fit. Not in her new school or in her foster home in the vanilla house with nice Mary. The day her parents died was the day everything changed for her. A burglary gone wrong they said but Angel knows different. Angel knows that monsters really exist but when they don’t believe her she tries to forget the memories that haunt her dreams…that is until she meets Bavar.

He too is different except that he doesn’t draw attention to himself and seems to shrink back into the shadows even though he is seven feet tall. But Angel can see him, and she sees the magic that surrounds him. The two are drawn together by their differences, by the way they stand out and by the sadness that surrounds them. Soon they discover that they have an even deeper connection and Angel believes she’s found a way to stop the monsters but she needs Bavar’s help. He’s reluctant but if there is one thing she’s sure of it’s that she wants to stop the monsters once and for all and make sure that no one else suffers the loss she has.

Bavar, sees the light in Angel, in his world of shadows and darkness she is sunshine and starlight and his need to protect her draws him into her plan to fight the monsters. But are two young teens enough to defeat the Raksasa, the strange, winged creatures you’d only expect to find in a nightmare. Everyday they are growing stronger and it’s only a matter of time until before they break through the gate and kill again.

Beautifully written, filled with magic, love and grief, this is a powerful novel with wonderful characters – I was left feeling a little of the magic had stayed behind with me.

Suitable for aged 9-11yrs+

Discover more about Amy Wilson here.

Published by Pan Macmillan

Published on 25th January 2018

Advertisements
Christmas 2017, Young Adult Fiction

Christmas 2017 – Book Advent – Day Ten

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I first read this book three years ago now and it’s stayed with me ever since. Haunting and well crafted, this is a pretty special piece of YA fiction. It brought E.Lockhart to my attention and she is now one of my favourite YA authors. Edgy, gripping and at times shocking, this is one YA title that’s too good to miss.

We are the Liars. We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury. We are cracked and broken. It is a story of love and romance. It is a tale of tragedy. Which are lies? Which is truth?

This book actually made me gasp at the end, I just didn’t see it coming. Thoroughly recommended.

We Were Liars was published in 2014 by Hot Key Books

Christmas 2017, Picture Books

Christmas 2017 – Book Advent – Day Nine

Day Nine

A Christmas for Bear by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

IMG_20171220_001112Bear is having his first ever Christmas party.

He tells Mouse that there will be no presents. They will sit and eat pickles and maybe Bear will read a long difficult poem.

Surely that will do?

But Mouse thinks Bear is hiding something…

And he’s determined to find out where!

This lovely Christmas tale has a wonderfully nostalgic feel to it. Just beautiful.

A Christmas for Bear was published in November 2017 by Walker Books.

Christmas 2017, Picture Books

Christmas 2017 – Book Advent – Day Eight

The Magical Ice Palace by Suzanne Smith & Lindsay Taylor

Illustrated by Marnie Maurri

Now this is a wonderful picture book for those who live adventures, wintery fun and doodling.

img_20171219_2324501244307660.jpgDoodle Girl and her friends are having a wonderful ride aboard a Magical snowflake when…

TRUMPETY TOOT!

… they discover a Mammoth Prince wobbling and wobbling on top of a mountain!

Luckily, Doodle Girl is ready with her Magic pencil to help, but can they get to the ICE PALACE in time for the Mammoth’s royal part?

And once you’ve enjoyed the bright, colourful and fun illustrations there is a fabulous poster sized colouring sheet full of wonderful doodles to colour in.IMG_20171219_232307

The Magical Ice Palace was published in October 2017 by Simon and Schuster

IMG_20171219_232350

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour

Blog Tour – The Fate of Kings

The start of a new series is always exciting and so I’m absolutely delighted to be wrapping up this week’s blog tour for The Fate of Kings.  It’s my pleasure to be your host to share this thrilling novel with you.  Read on to the end for a Q&A with author Mark Stibbe.

The Fate of Kings by Mark Stibbe & G.P. Taylor

Fate of Kings cover(1)1793, As the Terror begins to cast a great shadow over France, Thomas Pryce, the new Vicar of Deal, crosses the Channel to find the missing parents of his beautiful French wife.  Facing grave dangers, he makes his way to Brittany where he not only discovers the fate of his in-laws but also uncovers a plot which threatens to topple the British monarchy.  Fighting against a sinister secret society in a race against time, Pryce battles to thwart the plans of a Parisian spymaster and his agents in London.

The Fate of Kings is the first in a series of gripping spy thrillers that will engross readers of C.J. Sansom, Dan Brown, as well as the many avid watchers of Poldark and Grantchester.  In the first years if the British Secret Service,

Thomas Pryce

TRULY IS THE ORIGINAL JAMES BOND

I was pretty excited by the blurb, it’s such an incredible combination of factors.  Set during the French Revolution, a time of great unrest, with the liberty of Britain at stake and the untamed violence that went with it. The Fate of Kings is an intriguing insight into those turbulent times.

Mark Stibbe and G P Taylor at book launch(1)
Authors G. P. Taylor & Mark Stibbe at the book launch of The Fate of Kings

G.P. Taylor is the author of the best-selling Shadowmancer and the Mariah Mundi series.  But for author Mark Stibbe, – a seasoned writer of many successful non-fiction titles – The Fate of Kings is his first foray into the world of fiction and it really works. (You can read more about Mark’s move from non-fiction to fiction in an earlier visit on the blog tour to historical fiction blogger Poppy Coburn)

The story is led by the characters that are all incredibly well written and many taken from the history books.  Within the acknowledgements the authors pay tribute to Elizabeth Sparrow, and her ‘ground-breaking book, published in 1999, Secret Service: British Agents in France 1792-1815‘ for providing a wealth of inspiration and information.  Through the pages of The Fate of Kings’ we are introduced to the very real first British Spy Master, William Wickham in the early days of His Majesty’s Secret Service.

Atmospheric but without unnecessary gore, The Fate of Kings was at times chilling and I keenly felt the horror and barbaric actions that some faced at that time.  A time when even a King could not escape the guillotine.   The protagonist, a fictional creation, is Thomas Pryce, a Vicar who provides an interesting contrast with the comparison of James Bond.  Pryce is young, heroic and cunning when he needs to be.  He is portrayed as being attractive and achieves his fair share of admiration from the ladies but unlike Bond, he is god-fearing and generally a good man with a conscience and a definite sense of right and wrong.  Like James Bond, his courage throughout is insurmountable and I loved his resourcefulness that helped him out of difficult situations.  The authors look to the weapons and innovations of the time to add another level to the story that makes Thomas Pryce stand out.  Events leave him a changed man though. He witnesses horrors and suffering that he has trouble coming to terms with and I feel that this will serve to add to his character in future adventures.  What he has seen has left quite a scar.

 

Written at a time of a great resurgent interest in 18th century history, following the success of Poldark and other period dramas, The Fate of Kings has been described as ‘the original British spy story’. Thomas Pryce, the new Vicar of Deal, crosses the Channel to discover the fate of his beautiful French wife’s missing parents –unwittingly uncovering a plot which threatens to topple the British monarchy. Fighting against a sinister secret society in a race against time, Pryce becomes locked in a desperate battle to thwart the plans of a Parisian spymaster and his agents in London…  The Fate of Kings draws on a deep fascination with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era which both authors have had since childhood. Set in a time when the Illuminati was founded and the world banking order was being set up, and when economics were valued more highly than patriotism, this fast-moving historical thriller will be enjoyed by men and women alike.

This is an exciting novel and one that never felt a chore to read.  I was immersed into the history without it feeling like a history lesson.  It captured my interest and I found myself wanting to research some of the characters so expertly brought back to life.

Mark Stibbe & G.P. Taylor have awakened a period of time of which my knowledge although not ignorant, is certainly sketchy and I came away with a thirst to know more.

I very much look forward to the second title in this exciting new series.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of The Fate of Kings then why not ask in your local book store or you go to book recommendation site Lovereading.co.uk where there is a price comparison option with links to make ordering a doddle.

The Fate of Kings was published on the 3rd of November by Malcolm Down Publishing.

For more information do visit the author’s website: http://www.thomaspryce.co.uk/ but I’m delighted to say I had the opportunity to put a few questions to Mark Stibbe.  Read on for more from this fascinating author…

Interview with Mark Stibbe, author of The Fate of Kings, the first story in the adventures of Thomas Pryce, Vicar and Spy during the years 1793-1821.

1. Where did your inspiration for protagonist Thomas Pryce come from?

It was in the New Year of 2013. I had just been to Bleak House in Broadstairs (Kent) and looked round the smuggler’s museum in the basement there. Many of the exhibits were from the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic era. Of course, the coastline of Kent is itself punctuated by Martello Towers from this time frame. All these factors stirred my imagination and within several weeks I had my USP – the Vicar of Deal who becomes a spy in the embryonic British Secret service. As soon as he began to emerge, the story lines for the novels followed quickly.

2. Can you tell us anything about the next novel in the series?

Yes, I’m well into writing it and it’s a lot darker and more complex than the first one. All I’ll say is that the title is The Drowning Man and it’s about the mass drownings in Nantes at the end of 1793 and the start of 1794. These were instigated by the cruellest city governor during the Terror, a very sinister and brutal man by the name of Jean Baptiste Carrier. In this novel, Pryce is going to be given a very tough mission by William Wickham, spy master at Walmer Castle. He will, however, be aided by a new character, Helin – a Chinese spy working for the British Secret service.

3. Do you have a typical routine to your writing process?

Every fulltime writer tends to have a set routine. I am a lark, not a nightingale. My optimum time for creativity is between about 0600 and 1300. I am very disciplined about this and seek to get at least 1500 words done every time I get to my desk. Good, strong, lattés are indispensable.

4. How did you meet G.P. Taylor and how did the project come about?

I’ve known Graham for many years. I had already written the first draft of The Fate of Kings when I invited him to join the project, particularly with a view to writing the screenplays. He was very down in May 2015, so I gave him this role to boost his confidence after five years of him not writing anything. This gave him a lift and it also gave me an expert in storytelling as a collaborator – someone with whom I could share and refine ideas.

5. Who are your writing heroes?

The first author I admired was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My father heard that I had become interested in the Sherlock Holmes stories. He drove from Norfolk to Oxford and bought every book by him in hardback. Dad had been an undergraduate at Oxford and a star pupil and friend of CS Lewis and he’d always loved Blackwell’s. Anyway, when he returned, he brought all the books into my room at bedtime. I must have been about 7 at the time. He gave them to me as a gift even though it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas. I was dumbstruck by his kindness. I have these books to this day. I believe this single act of extreme generosity was the catalyst for my calling as an author.

6. What books do you remember reading as a child?

We had holidays in Scotland as children, near Ullapool, overlooking Loch Broom. There was no TV so I went to the bookshop and bought an Enid Blyton novel, one of the Secret Seven books. I read all of them. Next came the Willard Price stories. Then Agatha Christie. In fact, I remember my parents taking us on a world cruise. When we got to the Holy Land I sat on a bus and read Murder on the Nile while the guide pointed to significant landmarks from ancient history. I missed all of them. I was too preoccupied with Poirot’s investigations. On the way back to the cruise liner, the same thing happened again, only this time I was reading Watership Down…

7. How important is accuracy of facts in historical fiction?

If you’re going to write historical fiction, you’ve got to be committed to a faithful recreation of the times in which your characters lived, even if some of your characters are fictional. However, this doesn’t preclude you exercising some artistic license where necessary. I have done this with The Fate of Kings in the matter of one or two details, but not in the broad picture. I have tried to provide the reader with an accurate picture of what was going on in the first three months of 1793, particularly on the Kent coast in Deal and Walmer, as well as in London, Paris, Jersey and Brittany.

8. There are many themes within the story that are highly relatable today, was this your intention from the outset or did they just evolve with the story?

I didn’t set out with the intention of commenting on the similarities between 1793 and 2017. These surfaced during my research and convinced me that we are living in similar times – or, more precisely, with similar challenges, particularly relating to immigration and Terror. This is one of the delights of writing historical fiction – discovering the extraordinary parallels between past and present history, and then using these resonances to enrich the landscape of your story.

9. Was the story born from your research or vice versa?

The story emerged first, the research followed. When I talk about the creative process, I describe the four phases of inspiration, incubation, investigation, and incarnation. With Thomas Pryce, I was already well on my way when I read Elizabeth Sparrow’s ground-breaking book on The Secret Service. This tour de force was a game changer in that it proved that what we would now recognise as the British Secret Service emerged in the 1790s, not during the first decades of the twentieth century. Her research proved to be invaluable and once I’d assimilated it all, I could truly say with Sherlock Holmes, ‘the game’s afoot!’

 

 

 

Christmas 2017, Picture Books

Christmas 2017 – Book Advent – Day Seven

Day Seven

I’m going back to a picture book for this one and it’s absolutely stunning. It’s by Kate DiCamillo, author of titles such as Ramie Nightingale and Flora & Ulysses and illustrator, Jaime Kim

La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo and Jaime Kim.

La La La

“La La La…La”

A little girl stands alone and sings,

but there’s no response.

So, gathering her courage and her curiosity,

She skips out into the world,

calling to the trees,and the pond and the reeds..

But will anyone sing back to her?

This is a book where the pictures literally tell the story. A story about loneliness and finding the courage to find your voice, step out into the world and connect with it. It’s a beautiful, gentle story with the most sublime illustrations that add warmth and tenderness. This is a book to share with your little ones, a book to talk about and look for the meaning in. “What is she doing? What is she feeling? How has she overcome that?”

La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo and Jaime Kim was published in October 2017 by Walker Books.

Just wonderful and to finish a few words from Lovereading4kids expert reviewer, Andrea Reece:

There’s no need for extra words to tell this story, children will understand exactly the girl’s need to be heard, seen and answered; impeccably told, it’s a story that speak to us all. ~ Andrea Reece, Lovereading4kids

Christmas 2017, Middle Grade Fiction

Christmas 2017 – Book Advent – Day Five & Six

Day Five & Six

Okay, I know I’m cheating here a little doing two days in one but I think I can get away with it because today I am featuring two books! Yes that’s right! Two books. Back in January 2016 I was lucky enough to be whisked away to London with my Lovereading4kids hat on to attend the Chicken House Books Big Breakfast. Chicken House are lovely. Not only do they publish some outstanding books for children, they are also a small, passionate team who put on a great breakfast event. Well it was at one such event back on a cold, dark January morning in 2016 that I first met Maz Evans. She gave us a taster from her debut novel Who Let The Gods Out and oh my goodness, did she make me laugh. The book sounded amazing. I am quite shy but I mustered up the courage to say hi to Maz and thank her for the amazing reading. Maz is incredibly warm, lovely and funny and I was was so glad I went along and met her that day. Back I trotted to the Lovereading4kids office and confirmed that this was definitely a book to look out for. I then had to wait over a year until it was published but boy was it worth the wait. Not only was Who Let Gods Out published in February 2017 but it’s sequel (Simply The Quest) was published just a few months later in August 2017. If your kids not only love funny books that have them howling with laughter but also books that are smart, full of adventure and unsual yet lovable characters then this is a series to get them reading. And the great news is that there is still two books to come! Now a little more about the books….

Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans

Here is a wee snippet from my review for Lovereading4kids…

Who Let the Gods Out

This book is laugh out loud hilarious and I just adored each and every character. Elliot is brave and good hearted and going through such a hard time. The Gods were hilarious and I love how Maz has made them so quirky, fallible and bang up to date. There is also a rather special appearance from her Majesty the Queen that was quite simply magnificent. Who Let The Gods Out is the first in a four part series and I for one am very excited to see what happens next for Elliot and his new friends.’ – Lovereading4kids

And here’s the synopsis:

Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too?

Who Let The Gods Out was published in February 2017 by Chicken House Books.

Simply The Quest by Maz Evans

Simply

Elliot Hooper’s troubles are far from over: his mum’s health worsens, he’s struggling at school, and a bunch of anarchic Greek immortals have moved into his home – including teen goddess Virgo, who’s in trouble with the Zodiac. What’s more, death-daemon Thanatos and his scary mum are at large. As even more immortal and enemies emerge, Virgo and Elliot must learn how to be heroes …

Simply The Quest was published in August 2017 by Chicken House Books.

I can’t wait to find out what happens next….

Find out more about Maz Evans by visiting her website here.

Find out more about Chicken House Books here.

And for more great books visit Lovereading4kids.