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  • Title: Wrecked
  • Author: Louisa Reid
  • Publisher: Guppy Books
  • Publication Date: September 2020

Copy received from publisher as part of blog tour.

Description:

Joe and Imogen seem like the perfect couple — they’ve been in a relationship for years and are the envy of their friends at school. But after accidentally becoming involved a tragic fatal accident, they become embroiled in a situation out of their control, and Joe and Imogen’s relationship becomes slowly unravelled until the truth is out there for all to see …

Structured around a dramatic and tense court case, the reader becomes both judge and jury in a stunning and page-turning novel of uncovering secrets and lies — who can be believed?


Normally here I would add my thoughts on a book; I would try to tell you what stood out most, or attempt to introduce you to the characters a little more, but first I want to share a wee author interview and introduce you to Louisa Reid.

Louisa Reid has spent most of her life reading. And when she’s not doing that she’s writing stories, or imagining writing them at least. An English teacher, her favourite part of the job is sharing her love of reading and writing with her pupils. Louisa lives with her family in the north-west of England and is proud to call a place near Manchester home. 

GLOVES OFF is her first novel in verse, and she’s fallen in love with the exhilarating and exciting challenges  and opportunities that writing in this form brings.  Reading and loving the work of writers such as Jason Reynolds, David Levithan and Sarah Crossan inspired her to rise to the challenge.

Louisa writes about things that she thinks are important to young people, and all people generally, really.  Drawn to write about themes of female empowerment and personal freedom, GLOVES OFF is about bullying and body image, with some boxing thrown in too. Louisa hopes the novel will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever had to fight for self-confidence and self-belief  – things which are, for many, very hard won.

Welcome to Children’s Books North’s Autumn Highlights – celebrating new books from CBN members with a tour of Northern and Scottish book blogs.

Children’s Books North aims to connect children’s book professionals living in the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Scotland. The network seeks to promote our members’ work, new books and events. Additionally, CBN is keen to bring focus on the importance of regional diversity in children’s books and the industry.

Autumn Highlights questions:

Tell us about your new book

Wrecked is my second novel in verse, and fourth novel overall. It’s a dark love story and also a tense courtroom drama. The novel opens with Joe Goodenough –  the protagonist – on trial for causing death by dangerous driving. Over the course of the trial, the story of how he came to be standing in court facing a sentence of up to fourteen years is revealed. And it isn’t pretty. Ultimately I think Wrecked is a story about first love, risk taking, and the ensuing tragedies when lives spin out of control.

Share your favourite spread/passage from the book

This verse is one of my favourites because it encapsulates so much of the devastation and distress that the characters have caused and felt. I love verse –  conveying much with just a little, and playing with layout and language…

What/who/where inspired this book?

I’m always inspired by real life events –  in this case the death of a teenager in a town close to where I live was on my mind;  Yusef Makki was allegedly stabbed to death by his “friend”, Josh Molnar, in a drug deal gone wrong, and the court case was very high profile at the time when I was researching and writing. In the end the accused was found not guilty –  a highly controversial verdict for many. So I wanted to write about truth, and guilt, and the factors at play when it comes to teenagers committing horrible crimes.

I was also inspired by reading Sally Rooney’s Normal People –  I just loved the first half of the novel, with the intense and powerful love story of the main characters when they were teenagers, and I wanted to write my own such love story! Wrecked is also inspired by The Great Gatsby – I only realised when I’d finished the novel that Joe’s initials are the same as Jay Gatsby’s…the subconscious clearly doing its work!  As well as love, I explore class and attitudes to money and power –  the carelessness and arrogance of the wealthy is something that really fires me up –  and that’s something that both Normal People and Gatsby look at too.

Nominate one children’s book by a northern or Scottish creative to read this winter.

I love Anna Mainwaring’s novels – I’ll disclose now that Anna is a friend, but I hope I can still nominate her brilliant work. I think as Lockdown Part 2 continues, lots of teenagers and adults would love Tulip Taylor –  Anna’s second book –  featuring a fabulously feisty heroine who stands up to all kinds of challenges. What Anna does so well is that she writes about serious and important topics but with wit and humour. I love her style. And I also love the fact that Tulip is a logophile, like me…

If you could be a character or meet a character from one of your books, who would it be and why?

I’d like to meet Imogen – Joe’s girlfriend – from Wrecked; I definitely wouldn’t want to be her, but I’d like to try to help her to realise what she has, and what she stands to lose. Difficult, selfish and demanding – but charismatic nevertheless – I think I’d approach her with trepidation and curiosity. In reality, I doubt we’d be friends and I also doubt she’d be interested in a word I had to say. Rather annoying, as I am her creator, after all!

Cover Credits: Guppy Books, designer Ness Wood

Publisher Credit: Guppy Books


My Thoughts:

I have to admit that Wrecked is not a book I would have ordinarily have picked up to read, but thanks to the blog tour being run by the amazing folks at Children’s Books North I have added so many new titles to my reading list! Also a few to my shopping list for Christmas … I can’t resist when the books sound so good. Check out the other reviews and posts via the Children’s Books North twitter page or pop over to their website to find out more.

Back to Wrecked … written in verse, it took a moment or two for my brain to adjust to a new style of writing and reading, but once I had become accustomed the words flowed so naturally and I loved the way it all clicked together. Have you ever read something and it just felt “right”? That’s how I felt about the style of this book, a bit like watching the details come alive from the pages, showing me the story, showing me what Joe faced and endured … not always comfortable reading.

There is a powerful but beautiful grittiness to Louisa Reid’s writing (now there’s an oxymoron!), she draws on language to evoke emotion both from her characters and readers. The scenes throughout Wrecked challenge the reader to think about so many things; to decide what is just and acceptable, guilt and what is wrong. But equally, you could just read it as a tale of Joe Goodenough and his journey to this point in his life, and take from it whatever message you felt the author was conveying.

As I read through the book, I felt compelled … I was invested in Joe and Imogen. I needed to find out about them, I needed to know what had happened to this point, and try to untangle the lies around them.

I’d highly recommend this book to YA readers, and others. There is so much woven into the story, and being written in verse means that each word is placed with precision and purpose, themes are explored with thought and give the reader something to ponder in return. I can’t quite put into words how much Louisa Reid’s writing impressed me, I just know that I might have missed out on one of the most moving reads I’ve ever had the privilege if it had not been for this blog tour, so thank you Guppy Books and Children’s Books North!

  • Title: Holly’s Christmas Countdown
  • Author: Suzie Tullett
  • Publisher: Bloodhound Books
  • Publication Date: 23rd November 2020

Copy received from author for review purposes.

Description:

Holly has been planning Christmas in the Caribbean with her boyfriend Jeremy for the last few months and welcomes the chance to do something different for the festive season. But when Holly catches Jeremy in bed with another woman her hopes are shattered.

Faced with no other option, it appears Holly is going to have to spend Christmas with her eccentric parents. Something she was keen to avoid. 

After a night out, drowning her sorrows with her friend, she has a chance encounter with a handsome stranger, Fin, who provides her with an opportunity to have a Christmas staycation away from her parents. 

But when it turns out that there is more to Fin than meets the eye, and the attraction between him and Holly grows, it looks like she is on the cusp of happiness again.

Will Holly get the Christmas she craved and the man of her dreams?

Holly’s Christmas Countdown is a feel-good romantic comedy, perfect to curl up with on those cold winter nights.

My Thoughts:

I love Suzie Tullett’s books, there’s something so comforting and enjoyable about them, like chatting with a friend and sharing a great story full of laughter.

Christmas is a time to look forward to, that is unless you’re Holly. Her love life has taken a nosedive, she’s keen to avoid her eccentric parents and have a quiet Christmas. Her quiet plans are thrown somewhat when she agrees to something on a night out … alcohol induced amnesia leads to an unexpected visitor that changes everything.

Holly is a fantastic character, she’s bright and bubbly. Readers cannot help but love her, her happiness is infectious, and you almost wish that she were one of your friends.
And then we come to Fin … oh what do I say about Fin?! I wonder how many readers will fall for his charm? I know I certainly did!

If the brilliant characters aren’t enough to keep readers entertained, the plot certainly will. I laughed so much at Holly being shoved into the cupboard, the descriptions of a certain house festooned with Christmas decorations, and the images that Tullett conjured with her words. Especially the wonky sounding Christmas tree! I don’t think I’ve chuckled so much reading a book in ages. But be warned though, some of the food mentioned in the book will have you feeling a little peckish.


Make no mistake, this is the perfect read for the Christmas period, so grab a hot chocolate (or other cozy beverage), get comfy in your favourite reading position and enjoy!

Now, who do we ask about getting this made onto Netflix as a Christmas special?! It would be the perfect wee Christmas film, and I’d love to see who they’d cast as Fin!

  • Title: Ring of Spies
  • Author: Alex Gerlis
  • Publisher: Canelo
  • Publication Date: 15th October 2020

Copy received from publisher & blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

As the war approaches its end, Prince once more has to risk everything.

Berlin, 1939: A German intelligence officer learns a top agent is quickly moving up the British Army ranks. He bides his time.

Arnhem, 1944: British paratroopers have been slaughtered in one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War. A shell shocked officer is convinced: the Germans knew they were coming.

But who betrayed them?

Back in London, Richard Prince, detective and spy, is approached by MI5 about a counterintelligence operation. Information is leaking and British troops are dying. Prince has to stop it, and crack the suspected spy ring at all costs. But in the world of espionage nothing is as it seems…

The latest WWII espionage thriller from Alex Gerlis is perfect for readers of Robert Harris, John le Carré and Alan Furst.

My Thoughts:

I have loved WWII espionage thrillers for some time, and Alex Gerlis is one of my go-to authors for books in this genre, along with John le Carré and Phillip Kerr.

For readers perhaps not familiar with the Richard Prince series, it’s not mandatory to have read the previous books (Prince of Spies and Sea of Spies), there is enough detail woven into the narrative to clue you into events that have led to this point, but if you want to really experience the mastery of Gerlis’s writing and get the full picture of Richard Prince then I would highly recommend reading them! I’d also recommend delving into the Spy Masters series by this author, those books are fantastic too!

As always, readers are spoiled with detail, intricate plottings, and fantastic characterisation. One of the things you can always rely on in one of Gerlis’s books is high level of detail, the research that must be done for his books must be immense, but it’s got to be worth it when the reader is faced with such a brilliant book. Bringing the settings alive, readers can almost watch the scenes play out in their minds, watch the characters become embroiled in dangerous situations and hold your breath as they try to break themselves free.

I found that I was racing through the book, eagerly devouring chapter after chapter, and couldn’t wait to see if Prince would crack the spy ring. I loved the way that tension was built throughout and kept me hooked. There is a feeling of authenticity in this that really brings the story to life and reminds me of the other great writers of this genre, and I would highly recommend Ring of Spies (and all the other books by Alex Gerlis).

  • Title: Hill Country Secret
  • Author: Kit Hawthorne
  • Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
  • Publication Date: 1st September 2020

Copy received from blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Just a detour…

Or the home she needs?

Lauren Longwood’s freewheeling existence has hit a bump—in more ways than one. Pregnant by her ex, she retreats to Texas and meets charismatic Alex Reyes, as tied to the land as Lauren is to the road. Once, all he wanted was to save his ancestral ranch. Now he wants to offer Lauren the steadfast love that’s eluded her, if she’ll trust him enough to stay.

My Thoughts:

Hill Country Secret is a lovely tale that brings together some really likeable characters, a great setting and some fantastic descriptive writing. You wouldn’t expect it, well I certainly didn’t, but I learned quite a lot about Texan historical reenactments through this book. So much so in fact that I ended up researching various aspects of costumes, crafts, as well as the general history that was mentioned in the plot. I love a book that can spark the curiosity in me.

But back to the story of Lauren and Alex …
In these characters we find people who have been hurt by trauma, we see through their eyes and are given a chance to understand some of their actions. By doing this, Kit Hawthorne makes her characters come alive for readers, she makes you want to know what will happen to them and how they will get past this moment in time that is a barrier to happiness.
The Texan backdrop is vivid and dare I say it, charming. I loved reading about the ranch, Lauren’s friends and the restoration of the bunkhouse. With such rich details about fixtures and fittings I could almost envision the various aspects that Hawthorne wrote about, granted some things I did Google, but I loved the detail and time that was taken to craft such a great narrative.

If you are looking for a heart-warming and enjoyable romance tale, then this is definitely recommended. There are highs, lows, good guys and bad buys. There is a gentle warmth that comes with this tale, and it makes it the perfect book to curl up with.

  • Title: The Slaughter of Leith Hall
  • Author: Lexie Conyngham
  • Publisher: The Kellas Cat Press
  • Publication Date: 17th February 2020

Copy received from blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

‘See, Charlie, it might be near twenty year since Culloden, but there’s plenty hard feelings still amongst the Jacobites, and no so far under the skin, ken?’

Charlie Rob has never thought of politics, nor strayed far from his Aberdeenshire birthplace. But when John Leith of Leith Hall takes him under his wing, his life changes completely. Soon he is far from home, dealing with conspiracy and murder, and lost in a desperate hunt for justice.

My Thoughts:

This is the first of Lexie Conyngham’s books that I’ve read and it won’t be the last.
Rich in historic detail, Conyngham weaves a tale that captures the reader’s imagination and you cannot help but become invested in the lives of the characters. Taking time to create a solid foundation for the story, readers are gently eased into the tale and details are built up to give a clear picture of the characters and the background before turning into a page turner that has the reader gripped by the twists and turns, wanting to find out what happens next, the whys and the hows.

The character list at the beginning of the book is great, it helps readers keep track of who everyone is and can act as a quick memory aid if you get lost momentarily.
What really stood out for me was the level of detail that the author has included in her work, she takes great care to evoke vivid images of the settings and period, which I found made me want to research various things and find out more.

If you’re looking for a new historical fiction author, I would highly recommend checking out the other books by Lexie Conyngham, I certainly will be!

  • Title: How The Wired Weep
  • Author: Ian Patrick
  • Publication Date: 30th June 2020

Copy received from blog tour organiser for review purposes, and electronic copy purchased via Amazon.co.uk

Description:
The Wire crosses the pond.

Ed is a detective who handles informants. He recruits Ben, a young man, who is treading a dangerous path into the criminal underworld.
Ben’s unsure of where his loyalties lie. They have to find a way to work together despite their differences.

Both men are drawn into the world of Troy, a ruthless and brutal leader of an Organised Criminal Network.

Ben is torn between two worlds as he tries to walk the impossible line between criminality and helping Ed combat crime.
He lives in fear of discovery.

When your life is thrown upside down who do you turn to in order to survive?

Set against the backdrop of the 2012 Olympic Games, How the Wired Weep is a fast paced urban thriller where time is against both men as they attempt to serve their own agendas.

My Thoughts:

There’s always something you associate with certain authors and their work, and when I think of Ian Patrick, I immediately think of an intense story, powerful writing and an authenticity that makes you feel like you’ve lived through an experience. How The Wired Weep has all of this and so much more, and I would urge readers to grab a copy!

Without rehashing the plot, I focus on the strong characterisation and intensity that are in this book. Ian Patrick gives the reader a character in Ed that is far from perfect, he walks a line between good and bad and often skirts the law but he has good intentions. He is close to his colleagues, something that is necessary in this line of work, but often that’s to the detriment of his home life and the fertility treatment he and his wife are undertaking.
Ben, recently released from prison, passes information to Ed to help take down one of the heads of the London criminal network. Ben’s life has been one filled with drugs, crime and abandonment. With no father figure to follow, Ben worries for his own child and the life it will have will it be taken into care like the other babies in his family. He looks to Ed as a role model at times, he seeks approval, but equally, he doesn’t always trust easily. The dynamic between these two characters makes for an intense and fascinating read.

Instead of presenting readers with a stereotypical police procedural, Ian Patrick offers readers a glimpse into the world of policing and criminals that is vivid and realistic. It is compelling reading and I thoroughly enjoyed this.

  • Title: Oi Aardvark!
  • Author: Key Gray & Jim Field
  • Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
  • Publication Date: 3rd September 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Baboons sit on balloons, crocs sit on clocks and donkeys sit on long keys . . .

Let Frog, Dog and Cat guide you through the alphabet from Aardvark to Zebra in this hilarious new picture book from the creators of Oi Frog! With a special fold-out surprise!

The laughter never ends with Oi Frog and Friends!

Our Thoughts:

Today I am thrilled to welcome my little bookworm to join me in reviewing a book. Small and I have been huge fans of the Oi series since we discovered them a few years ago and have patiently awaited new tales of Frog, Cat and Dog as they rhyme their way through the seating arrangements of the animals. Each book has brought much laughter and delight and we regularly revisit them so when the call went out to join the alphabet blog tour for Oi Aardvark we just had to volunteer to be letter Q!

With beautiful illustrations throughout, the story comes to life perfectly and readers of all ages are drawn in to the story, the cunning ways of Frog play out well as he tries to think of how to solve the problems left over from the previous book, where there’s a will …. But I have to admit that Cat is probably my favourite, the dry delivery of the comments just makes me laugh even harder.

Although aimed at an audience of 3-5 year olds, we find this series perfect for bedtime reading, and Small who is starting on her reading journey loves being able to recognise the words in the book and tries to read several pages herself until she comes to a tricky word. The rhyming prose is perfect for helping younger ones learn and link words together, and we found that we were trying to find rhymes to go with our names or the things around us.

But the final word has to go to Small … “I liked the funny words, I liked that Frog kept trying to find everyone a place to sit. He’s silly. Are there animals left for a new book?”

Follow the blog tour and see what everyone else thinks!
  • Title: Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers
  • Author: Robin A. Crawford
  • Publisher: Elliott and Thompson
  • Publication Date: 20th August 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

A celebration of the irreplaceable magic of language, and the wit and wisdom of 1,000 Scottish words.

The Scots language is an ancient and lyrical tongue, inherently linked to the country’s history and identity, its land and culture. In Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers, Robin Crawford has gathered 1,000 words from his native land – old and new, classical and colloquial, rural and urban – in a joyful and witty celebration of their continuing usage and unique character.

airt o’ the clicky – bawheid – carnaptious – dreich – eejit – forefochen – Glasgow kiss – haver – inkie-pinkie – jags – kelpie – loch-lubbertie – meevin’ – neuk – oxter – pawky – quaich – ramstam – simmer dim – tattie bogle – usquebaugh – vratch watergaw – yowe trummle

My Thoughts:

It should come as no surprise by now that I adore books like this, I enjoy flicking through the pages and stopping at random when something catches my eye, learning something new and finding a new word to try out. But this book is slightly different … instead of being packed with new words to learn and try to get my tongue around, this book contains many words and phrases I grew up hearing.

As the book cover suggests, this is book of Scottish words, so it’s no surprise that the Scottish lass will have heard many of these before, however, many of them are generational. I fondly remember being told by my grandma to “get that bahookie on a chair” when it was lunchtime and I was far more interested in creating perfume from rose petals and water in a bucket. Or being told to stop haivering … things I just don’t hear that often now. Granted, I have been known to repeat these phrases to my own child, and she just stares at me in confusion …

So for me, this book is a rediscovery of language from childhood, a moment of fond recollection of days long since past, as much as it is a celebration of the wonderfully colourful Scottish language. Where else will you find such fantastic words like “skite”, “coup”, “tackety” or “loupin'”? Throw them into a sentence … get yer tackety beets aff, an’ nae skitin’ on the clean fleer. Min’ and nae coup the bucket, the watter’s loupin’ … I can almost hear my grandma’s voice now. I would highly recommend this book, it makes a pleasant read and would be a great gift for any fans of linguistic collections.

Now, back to my fly cup and rowie while I see what other delights there are to be enjoyed in this book.

  • Title: Ritual Demise
  • Author: Sally Rigby
  • Publication Date: 25th August 2020

Copy received from author and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Someone is watching…. No one is safe

The once tranquil woods in a picturesque part of Lenchester have become the bloody stage to a series of ritualistic murders. With no suspects, Detective Chief Inspector Whitney Walker is once again forced to call on the services of forensic psychologist Dr Georgina Cavendish.

But this murderer isn’t like any they’ve faced before. The murders are highly elaborate, but different in their own way, and with the clock ticking, they need to get inside the killer’s head before it’s too late.

For fans of Rachel Abbott, Angela Marsons and L J Ross, Ritual Demise is the seventh book in the Cavendish & Walker crime fiction series.

My Thoughts:

I am a huge fan of the Cavendish and Walker series that Sally Rigby writes, there’s something really clever about the plotting and the character development really hooks the reader’s attention, keeping them reading on to find out what is going to happen next.

This has to be one of my favourite books of the series, the case that DCI Walker gets involved with is complex, twisted and had me scratching my head about how it all linked up. What connected everything, would Whitney and her team solve it all before it was too late? Could Dr Cavendish provide the insight they needed to get inside the head of a incredibly twisted killer? The killer, well that was one seriously scary individual that had me feeling unsettled and a little spooked when out for a walk in the woods with the dog …
But aside from this intriguing case, Rigby allows readers to get to know more about her main characters by giving glimpses into the private lives of Walker and Cavendish. Expanding on fantastically detailed backstories, fans of the series get another instalment in the tales that make these women who they are, but readers new to the series will find that they can slip into the book with ease as the writing is such that you don’t feel lacking in detail about the relationships between the dynamic duo. I loved seeing more into the life of Dr Cavendish. George is such an interesting character and seeing more into her life gave a greater sense of understanding about her family and her sense of loyalty.

If you’re looking for character-driven action, strong plotting and an exciting read, then this is the series for you. And although it is book seven, you can easily pick it up and start reading now. I would strongly recommend going back to the start and discovering Cavendish and Walker as they started out, it makes the series so much more enjoyable.

And now, I cannot wait to find out what happens in book eight, I’ve got my pre-order in already!

  • Title: Lucy’s Last Chance
  • Author: Elle Sweet
  • Publication Date: 12th August 2020

Copy received from author and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Lucy was a high-powered attorney who had a nervous breakdown after her husband left her.
Broken, she came to the town of Moonshire Bay to start over as a yoga instructor; determined to find inner peace in all things this time around.

Brant is running for Mayor and running after Lucy, but she is scared of his drive and need for success.

Can Lucy realize she’s stronger than she thinks and take a chance on love?

My Thoughts:

I was delighted to take another trip to Moonshire Bay and properly meet a character who had intrigued me from a previous book, the owner of the yoga studio, Lucy.

In Lucy, the reader finds someone with a past. Someone who has been hurt and has learned to move forward and do what’s best for them, but she also accepts that it’s been some time since she’d felt any desire towards love or companionship.
Enter Brandt, the town mayor. By all accounts, Brandt seems like a lovely guy, although at times a little foolish … his plans are well meant, but often lead to misunderstandings where matters of the heart are concerned.

For fans of the Small Town Romance series written by Elle Sweet, they will soon recognise the various locations mentioned throughout the book, and it almost feels like catching up with an episode of your favourite Netflix drama, there’s a lovely homey feel to it. The story itself has just the right amount of action and detail to hold your attention, making it the perfect read for an afternoon curled up on the sofa with a cuppa. And fear not, although it is book four of the series, you can jump straight in and start reading now.

Elle Sweet brings her character to life from the pages with detailed backstories and rounded personalities. And it’s fair to say that Moonshire Bay comes alive too, I could almost see the main street of the town, the properties mentioned … and if Lucy runs more yoga classes like the final one in the book, I’ll be booking a ticket to move to Moonshire Bay!

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