Publisher Showcase

HQ Fiction Summer Showcase = A whole lotta fantastic books coming our way.

First of all…

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This was my view for the evening on Thursday June 14th 2018.  The photograph, taken on my phone, certainly doesn’t do it justice but it gives you an idea.  Add to this a constant flow of delicious canapés, Prosecco and a room full of authors all keen to talk about their soon to be published novels and you have a pretty wonderful Thursday evening.

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This was of course the Fiction Summer Showcase for HarperCollins imprint, HQ.  It is a relatively new imprint within the powerhouse that is HarperCollins and this was their first Showcase.  It was wonderful.  Not only did everyone have a name badge (saving many an awkward moment) but the room was full of warm, friendly people who were all there because of one common interest – a love of books.

The whole team was lovely and made you feel instantly welcome and at home.  It really was a wonderful evening and I returned home not only with a lovely big bag FULL of books but with an unbreakable, Cheshire Cat grin on my face.

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HQ – One Place, Many Stories

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HQ really do have a wealth of stories coming over the coming months.  Something for everyone.

As I walked out of London Bridge Railway Station I was momentarily blown away by my surroundings.  This is the first time I had been to this part of London and The Shard looked absolutely stunning reaching up towards the blue, June skies.  It actually made me feel dizzy to look up.

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After entering The News Building I was whisked up in the lift and emerged onto a floor dedicated to the celebration I was attending this evening.  Coats were hung and drinks given.  A super start to the evening.

The authors were scattered around the room, along with their books and a themed table that in some way reflected the tale they were telling.  A majority had finished copies or proofs whilst others gave just a tantalising glimpse into what is coming later this/early next year.

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Author Jenny Oliver with her latest novel ‘The House We Called Home’.

The House We Called Home by Jenny Oliver

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The House where Stella and her sister Amy grew up never changes – the red front door, the breath-taking view over the Cornish coast, her parents in their usual spots on the sofa.  Except this summer, things feel a little different…

Stella’s father is nowhere to be seen, yet her mother – in suspiciously new Per Una jeans –  is curiously unfazed by his absence, and eager to talk about her mysterious dog-wlaking buddy Mitch.

Amy has returned home with a new boyfriend she can’t stand and a secret to hide, and Stella’s husband Jack has something he wants to get off his chest too.  Even Frank Sinatra, the dog, has a guilty air about him.  This summer, change is in the air for the Whitethorns….

Warm, funny and gloriously feel-good, this is the perfect summer read for fans of Lucy Diamond and Milly Johnson.

The House We Called Home is due to be published on the 12th of July 2018.  It looks a perfect summer read.

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The Beauty of the Wolf by Wray Delaney

The Beauty of the Wolf by Wray Delaney

I have to say I was a little star truck upon meeting Wray (the pen name of Sally Gardener – award winning children’s novelist). She has created some wonderful novels/stories for children and so I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to receive a (signed:) proof of her latest novel The Beauty and the Wolf – A timely retelling of Beauty and the Beast, reversing the gender roles of the original fairytale.  The proof itself has a stunning purple and gold foil cover and is certainly eye-catching.
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In the age of the Faerie Queene, Elizabeth I, a period of ruffles and lace, of wrought velvet and blanched satins, two newborn babies are cursed, one with unimaginable beauty and the other, in its mirror image, a beast.  But how could beauty ever be a curse?

Not only will all be blind to Beau’s true self, for all will lust after him but none will have the power to see past such an enchanted face – but the curse shall cause his own father’s death.

Meanwhile the beast, Randa, is locked away in her father’s cellar – lonely and hidden away.  She longs for love, but how could anyone ever see past her wings and beak and fierce talons?

Is it possible that these two cursed creatures could be one another’s salvation when all hope is lost?

The Beauty of the Wolf is due to be published on the 21st of February 2019.

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After the Snow by Susannah Constantine

After the Snow by Susannah Constantine

Susannah Constantine is a well know TV personality and fashion journalist so it was a treat to meet her in the flesh and hear her chatting about her debut novel, After the Snow.  The paperback is due to be published in November but it is available in Hardback if you can’t wait that long.  I’m really looking forward to this one AND I know there is another on it’s way from Susannah so I’m doubly excited.  She was incredibly warm and friendly and it was an absolute pleasure to meet her, Oh and I discovered she doesn’t live too far away from me. 🙂

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All eleven-year-old Esme Munroe wants for Christmas is for her mother to be on one of her ‘good’ days – and, secretly, for a velvet riding hat.  So when she finds an assortment of wet towels and dirty plates in her stocking, she’s just relieved Father Christmas remembered to stop at The Lodge this year.

But later that day Esme’s mother disappears in the heavy snow.  Even more mysteriously, only the Earl of Culcairn seems to know where she might have gone.  Torn between protecting her mother and uncovering the secrets tumbling out of Culcairn Castle’s ornate closets, Esme realises that life will never be the same again after the snow…

Susannah Constantine provides a rare glimpse into the secret lives of the scandalous upper classes.  Perfect for fans of ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘The Crown’.

Now, before I move on I just have to share this from the back cover of the book.

And there was Princess Margaret,

soaking in the bath.

A cigarette dangled in one hand and she clutched her

whisky in the other, her face fully made-up, the rest of

her body hidden beneath the surface.

 

The soft humming of a popular tune could just be

heard floating up out of a side-window.

 

‘Lexi and Esme,’ called a velvety voice from below,

‘I know you’re up there.  I can see the reflection of your

grubby faces in the mirror.’

 

The Princess took a sip from her crystal tumbler 

and stubbed her cigarette out in the soup dish…

After the Snow will be published in paperback on 15th November 2018 but is out now in  hardback

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Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister

Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister

Now thesis one title that I was keen to see/hear more of and the table display made me even more intrigued.  I absolutely love the sound of this novel.  The synopsis made me think of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and the Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick.  I don’t mean to compare but it gave me the same warm, lovely feeling.  Seni was so lovely to chat to and I really can’t wait to get reading.

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Seni Glaister, author of ‘Mr Doubler Begins Again’

Mr Doubler lives alone at Mirth Farm, on top of a hill.

Back when she was around, Doubler’s wife was always surrounded by friends.  But Doubler is different.  The only company he needs are his potato plants and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who visits every day.

So when Mrs Millwood is taken ill, it suits everything – and Doubler begins to worry that he might have lost his way.  But could the kindness of strangers be enough to bring him down from the hill?

 

 

Mr Doubler Begins Again will be published on the 24th January 2019 (but I have a feeling this will definitely be worth the wait.)

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I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

We are going to have to wait until the 20th of September for I Invited Her In but the good news is that Adele has a wonderful backlist of titles to read first if you haven’t discovered her yet.  I’m really excited about this one.  It sounds like a super thriller and one that will have me on the edge of my seat.  Adele was an absolute pleasure to meet.

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When Mel hears from a long-lost friend in need of help, she doesn’t hesitate to invite her to stay.  Mel and Abi were best friends back in the day, sharing the highs and lows of student life, until Mel’s unplanned pregnancy made her drop out of her studies.

Now, seventeen years later, Mel and Abi’s lives couldn’t be more different.  Mel is happily married, having raised her son on her own before meeting her husband, Ben.  Now they share gorgeous girls and have a chaotic but happy family home, with three children.

Abi, meanwhile, followed her lover to LA for a glamorous life of parties, celebrity and indulgence.  Everything was perfect, until she discovered her partner had been cheating on her.  Seventeen years wasted, and nothing to show for it.  So what Abi needs now is a true friend to lean on, to share her grief over a glass of wine, and to have some time to heal.  And what better place than Mel’s house, with her lovely kids, and supportive husband…

This dark, unsettling tale of the reunion of long-lost friends is a thoroughly gripping exploration of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy and revenge.

I Invited Her In by Adele Parks will be published on the 20th of September 2018.

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Liz Fenwick, author of The Path To The Sea

The Path To The Sea by Liz Fenwick

Oh my, it was such a pleasure to meet and chat with Liz.  We talked about Cornwall and the joys of research and glorious houses full of stories waiting to be told.  And she had the most delicious fudge too. We still have to wait a while for this one as it’s not published until April 2019 but it is definitely one for my reading pile.

The Trewin women all had their secrets but Joan, the matriarch, is keeping hers until her deathbed.

On a summer’s night in 1965, at a party in her glorious cliff-top home in Cornwall, she made a choice…her country or love.  The morning after, a body was found at the foot of the cliff path.

But a little girl saw what happened that night.  Not only did she witness the awful events played out on the cliff path, she lied and made it worse.  And now, decades later, the past is catching up with the Trewin women, as a deathbed confession puts Nicola on the trail of a mystery which has remained undisturbed for fifty year, offering a chance to unpick the past…

No cover for this one as of yet I’m afraid as it’s THAT new.

The Path To The Sea by Liz Fenwick

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The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts

The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts

IMG_20180614_182711__01.jpgThis looks great fun, light and pure escapism.  Perfect for a summer read.  I can imagine myself relaxing on a warm, summers day and escaping into this one.

Sophie was incredibly warm and friendly.  I think she had fun with this and is looking to make her readers smile.  When she signed my copy she said ‘I so hope this makes you laugh!’ and oh my goodness do we need books that do that these days. :). Can’t wait!

The Plus One [n] informal ‘a person who accompanies an invited person to a social function or a reminder of being single, alone and absolutely plus none.’

Polly Spencer is fine.  She’s single, turning thirty and only managed to have sex twice last year (both times with a Swedish banker called Fred).  but seriously, she’s fine. Even if she’s still stuck at ‘Posh!’ magazine writing about royal babies and the chances of finding a plus one to her best friend’s summer wedding are looking worryingly slim.

But it’s a New Year, a new leaf and all that.  Polly’s determined that over the next 365 days she’ll remember to shave her legs, drink less wine and generally get her s**t together.  Her latest piece is on the infamous Jasper, Marquess of Milton, undoubtedly neither a plus one nor ‘the one’.  She’s heard the stories, there’s no way she’ll succumb to his charms…

The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts will be published  on the 9th of August 2018.

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How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan

How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan

This one was just published on the 14th of June.  The table was wonderfully decorated with a miniature beach scene – a perfect holiday read and with more to come from Sarah later this year with The Christmas Sisters in November and One Summer in Paris in April 2019.  Lots to look forward to from Sarah.

Screen Shot 2018-06-23 at 21.09.46Matriarch Nancy knows she hasn’t been the best mother but how can she ever tell her daughters the reason why? Lauren and Jenna are as close as two sisters can be and they made a pact years ago to keep a devastating secret from their mother – but is it time to come clean?

Lauren’s teenage daughter Mackenzie masks her own pain by keeping her mother at a distance.  Her mother, aunt and grandmother keep trying to reach her but will it take a stranger to show her the true meaning of family?

When life changes in an instant, the Stewart women are thrown together for a simmer and suddenly they must relearn how to be a family.  And while unravelling their secrets might be their biggest challenge, it could also be their finest moment.

A story about family, being brave and opening up to new love, ‘How to Keep a Secret’ is a feel-good  and emotional novel that will keep you hooked until the final page.

How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan was published on the 14th of June 2018.

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This was the first Showcase from the HQ team and it was a wonderful evening.  The setting and location was perfect and the team warm and welcoming.  It can be quite daunting walking into a room full of people but I never felt out of place and always felt welcome.  I had met some wonderful people on this sunny evening in London and I came home with a bag full of books.  It has created one problem though – I really don’t know what to read first.  What I can say is that I’m looking forward  to reading each and every one.  I look forward to sharing my thoughts on them with you too.

That you HQ for inviting me to your Summer Showcase.  I had a fabulous time.

 

 

 

 

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Adult Fiction, Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight – Louise Beech

Each month my author spotlight shines a sparkly light upon authors I admire and whose books I heartedly recommend. Read on to discover more about these spellbinding story makers who weave their magic into our lives through the pages of a book.

November 2017

November 2017 has gone in a flash and the nights are cold.  I absolutely love this time of year.  I’m just starting to feel festive, nature has been providing us with beautiful autumnal colours and the cold weather provides the perfect excuse for staying in the warm with a good book.  With Christmas approaching it also give me an extra reason to buy books for others too.  I adore giving books.  They make the perfect gift (easy to wrap too!) and I always hope I manage to match the right book with its recipient.

This year has been an amazing year for books.  I’ve read so many fantastic stories for both adults and children but one of the standout books for adults for me this year has to be Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech.  I have therefore decided to shine my light on Louise this month.

Louise Beech
Louise Beech

Louise has been writing for many years and has won awards for her short fiction.  In 2015 her debut novel, How To Be Brave was published by the small but wonderful publishing house, Orenda Books.  Orenda have a knack of finding excellent writers who produce outstanding work and Louise is certainly a great example of that.

I read Maria in the Moon towards the end of the summer and have since found my mind returning to it many times.  It is a wonderfully absorbing read, incredibly moving and absolutely beautifully written.  Louise is a skilled writer whose characters draw you into their world and when you finally reemerge a part of them and their story will always remain with you.  Maria in the Moon is an expertly crafted exploration of the mind and the power of the memories we hold there.

Maria in the Moon

Maria in the Moon

Opening lines….

Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name.

     When she called me it in her sing-song voice, I felt as lovely as the shimmering Virgin Mary statue on the bureau in her hallway.  When I went for Sunday lunch, I’d sneak away from the table while everyone ate lemon meringue pie and I’d stroke Mary’s vibrant blue dress.  Then, listening for adults approaching the door, I’d kiss her peeking-out feet – very carefully so that I didn’t knock her over.

     I didn’t want to break her.  Not because I knew my mother would send me to bed without supper.  Not because I knew I’d be reminded of my clumsiness for weeks after.  But because Nanny Eve was given Virgin Mary by her own mother, and she loved it dearly.  She would whisper to me that ‘virgin’ meant ‘pure’. Pure Mary.  Some of the letters in Mary were like those in my middle name.

     But that was all we shared.

Set after the destructive floods of 2007, we join Catherine as she begins a stint as a volunteer for a local Flood Crisis call centre.  She listens to others who are suffering, others who are in pain.  Yet deep within her memory lies a secret that is working it’s way towards the surface, a secret that has stayed suppressed in her memory since she was a child.  This is an emotive read.  It made me laugh, it made me cry and I was swept away by the story and the many varied characters that I met along the way.  Catherine was complex and damaged but also very compassionate.  Her story is heartbreaking and I felt every bit of her pain and confusion due to the wonderful writing.   The human mind will always inspire dark subject matter, but Louise has also captured the beauty there too and shows that sometimes out of the flood comes a chance for healing and for light to lay where darkness once was.

Absolutely stunning, I recommend this wholeheartedly and if you haven’t discovered Louise Beech yet, well, you’re in for a treat.

Synopsis

‘Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’

Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.

With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything.

Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

‘Like a cold spider, the memory stirred in my head and spun an icy web about my brain.

Someone else crawled in.

I remembered.’

Maria in the Moon was published by Orenda Books on 30th September 2017

Also by Louise Beech…

The Mountain in my Shoe

Mountain in my shoe

Synopsis

A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself.

On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family …and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love.

The Mountain in my Shoe was published by Orenda Books on 19th September 2016

How To Be Brave

How to be Brave

Synopsis

All the stories died that morning – until we found the one we’d always known. When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love – and what it really means to be brave.

How To Be Brave was published by Orenda Books on 17th September 2015

Find out more about Louise by visiting her website and blog here.

Thank you for visiting.  Please do share, like or comment below. Happy Reading!

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight – Kaye Umansky

Each month my author spotlight shines a sparkly light upon authors I admire and whose books I heartedly recommend. Read on to discover more about these spellbinding story makers who weave their magic into our lives through the pages of a book.

October 2017

October, 2017 and it’s Halloween so what better place for the sparkle of my spotlight to land than on the fantasmical children’s author and poet, Kaye Umansky.

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Kaye Umansky

Kaye is of full of wonderful wit and humour and has written over 130 books!! Including: novels, picture books, music books, plays and poems and the ‘Pongwiffy’ series that she is most well-known for – which, by the way, is currently being rather fantastically reissued by publisher Simon & Schuster and is full of brilliant illustrations by the talented Katie Riddell.

If you’d like to find out more about Kaye then do visit her website, it’s rather wonderful (and sparkly).  She was kind enough to answer a few questions for me to share with you, so do take a moment to read on if you can.  Right, back to the books….

There are so many of Kaye’s books that I admire.  Published by Barrington Stoke, The Knights of the Drop-Leaf Table is particularly good for reluctant or dyslexic readers and Algy’s Amazing Adventures in the Jungle holds a special place in my heart as it was one of the first books my own son read and reviewed as part of the Lovereading4kids reader review panel (he was 6 at the time). But unfortunately time and space is limited, so for now here is a little more information about two of my personal favourites.

The Pongwiffy Stories by Kaye Umansky and Illustrated by Katy Riddell

Pongwiffy is hilarious and if you haven’t yet discovered her then I recommend buying the recently published bind-up edition of the first two books. The remaining two will be published in 2018.

Pongwiffy has just moved into a new cave, and it’s dirty, smelly and damp – in other words it’s perfect for a witch like Pongwiffy!  At least it would be if her next dPongwiffy storiesoor neighbours weren’t a group of extremely noisy Goblins… Before long Pongwiffy can bear it no more and enlists the help of her best friend, Witch Sharkadder, to find her somewhere else to live.  And that’s when the problems really start!In the second story , the Goblins are back and up to their usual tricks!  But this time Pongwiffy also has to deal with a badly behaved broom, a bonfire disaster and a strange genie…

Two laugh-out-loud stories of humour and warmth, enticingly mixed with sludge, slime and very bad habit.

The Pongwiffy Stories was published on the 24th of August 2017 by Simon & Schuster.

Witch for a Week by Kaye Umansky and Illustrated by Ashley King

Now Kaye has a new series to add to her wonderful collection of stories.  Meet Elsie Pickles, a young girl whose time is mostly spent helping out in her family’s shop, in the dull town of Smallbridge where life ‘trickled on with calm monotony’ until that is a ‘wind came howling out of nowhere’ and suddenly life for Elsie begins to become rather unexpected and exciting.  “this is a lovely read; full of fun and adventure, comedy and excitement, it will keep children smiling from beginning to end.” Andrea Reece, expert reviewer for Lovereading4kids. For Witch for a Week, Kaye has been blessed with yet another talented Illustrator.  Ashley King’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment and the beautifully, sparkly cover will appeal to any young wannabe witches (or wizards) out there.

Witch for a weekWhen clever, unflappable Elsie offers to house-sit the mysterious home of local witch Magenta Sharp, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. Left with a talking raven and a scruffy dog for company, and a book of instruction called Everything You Need to Know, what could possibly go wrong? With an assortment of weird and wonderful neighbours banging at the door and a box of volatile magical ingredients that must be used immediately, Elsie is forced to get experimental with magic!A brand new magical adventure from Kaye Umansky the bestselling author of Pongwiffy!

Witch for a Week was published on the 5th of October by Simon & Schuster.

Now some words from Kate herself…

Which is your favourite book to read aloud from?

My favourite book by somebody else is Just William, by Richmal Crompton – particularly the story where he meets Violet Elizabeth. As to books that I have written – I like reading out scenes featuring the Goblins in the Pongwiffy books. They are incredibly stupid and I love doing their voices.

You have two cats, Heathcliff and Jeremy. Who was Jeremy named after?

Well, I wanted to call him Mr Rochester, who is another dashing romantic type from Jane Eyre. I thought it would go with Heathcliff. But my family wouldn’t let me. My husband thought he looked like a butler, all black and white. For some reason, my husband thinks Jeremy is a butler-ish name. So there you go.

What one piece of writing advice would you give a) to children wanting to write stories and b) to adults wanting to write books for children?

A. Children wanting to write stories. Read, read, read! You will get hundreds of good ideas from books which will stimulate you to have a go at stories of your own.

B. Adults wanting to write books for children. Be clear on the age group you are writing for and use the appropriate vocabulary. Do a bit of research by visiting a library and seeing what is available and popular.

Of all the objects you have in the little office you write in at the top of your house, which is your favourite?

Hmm. Difficult. There are hundreds of bits and bobs. Possibly the tiny pair of brown leather boots I wore as a two year old, sixty eight years ago. I take them in to show the children when I visit schools. They look like they’ve been made by a fairy cobbler.

If you could live for one day as one character from any book, who would you be?

I would love to live for a day as Granny Weatherwax, the cleverest witch in the books by Terry Prachett. She has all sorts of wonderful skills, including being able to enter the minds of birds and animals. And I’d love to fly on a broomstick!

I do hope you’ve enjoyed my author spotlight.  Kaye Umansky really is a treasure and she’s been an absolute delight to write about.  Have a super Halloween and may all your stories be suitably spooky.