Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall by Karen McCombie – Blog Tour

Book Synopsis

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall

Ellis is losing track of time…

After leaving her friends to move to a crumbling Scottish mansion, Ellis is overcome by anxiety and loneliness. Then she hears whispers in the walls…and finds herself whisked back in time to 1912.

At first, she feels like she’s finally home. But the past may not be as perfect as it seems – and is there more to hope for in the present than she first thought?

Author

Karen McCombie

Karen McCombie is from Aberdeen but now lives in North London with her husband, daughter and one big ginger cat.

Before Karen became a full-time writer she worked for several teen magazines such as Just Seventeen, Bliss and Sugar in a variety roles – everything from Fashion Editor to Features Editor – all very exciting and glam!

Karen has sold over one million books in the UK alone and has been translated into 15 languages.

Find out more at http://www.karenmccombie.co.uk and take the opportunity to join Karen’s Club!

What I Thought

This was a quick and easy read and at its heart a touching story – it reminds me of something I wrote when younger which I think was probably inspired by watching Moondial. I wonder if all children being dragged round old houses imagine flitting back to the past and meeting the inhabitants of a past time?

Well for Ellis this really happens.

I like the extended metaphor that the jumps back in time are for Ellis in terms of her feeling out of place and unwanted. Her mother has just remarried and she has a new stepdad and stepsister – and all this has happened in the last few months. In 1912 she befriends Flora, a housemaid who is bullied by those around her, the two of them become each other’s shoulder and Ellis starts to explore how she had been treated by ‘so-called friends’ in the past.

Ellis transforms as the book progresses and begins to assert herself and challenge the secrets that are being kept from her. Her experience of anxiety and other people’s reactions to it were handled well – the whirlwind romance experienced by the adults is for Ellis a ‘Whirl, tilt, shift’. I would add this book to a list of those that deals with mental health in a sensitive way – but as part of a wider story and not the sole focus.

Now, I put the 1912 date together with another little clue before Ellis did but that was part of the fun – when was she going to twig? There was a twist though that I wasn’t expecting. Very clever McCombie!!

I received my review copy from Scholastic via Faye Rogers – opinions as ever are my own.

 

Please find details of the rest of the stops on the blog tour here:

 

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‘Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief’ Blog Tour – Interview with author Gabrielle Kent

The second book in the Alfie Bloom series – Alfie Bloom and Talisman Thief was released on the 2nd June. For my spot on the blog tour I have an interview with the author Gabrielle Kent and a review of both books in the series.

Alfie Bloom Talisman Theif

Summary

When Alfie Bloom inherited a castle and a centuries-old magic, his dull and lonely life was changed forever. But Alfie’s new life has come with dangers he never could have expected. When Ashford the butler is kidnapped in the middle of the night, the castle comes under threat from a terrifying enemy. Trapped inside with only his twin cousins and best friend Amy, it’s up to Alfie to defend his inheritance and prevent a terrible fate from befalling the whole of England!

Author

Gabrielle

Website: http://gabriellekent.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GabrielleKent

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hexbridge

Gabrielle has worked in and around the videogames industry since the mid 90’s. She currently teaches games development at Teesside University where she directs and presents Animex, a week long festival of games and animation talks and events bringing young people together from all over Europe to hear from world leading studios.

Gabrielle has written and contributed to a number of articles and broadcasts on gaming and is a regular judge on the Games BAFTA awards. She has been named one of the Top 100 most Influential Women in the games industry several times, and recieved a Woman of the Year award from MCV magazine.


In her spare time, Gabrielle writes books for children aged 8+. Her Alfie Bloom series has been published across several continents.

 

Interview

Is there an interesting story behind the origin of Alfie Bloom?

I have always adored castles and still remember visiting Alnwick Castle on a school trip thirty years ago. There was a medieval festival taking place in the market square at the time, little did I realise it would make its way into my books decades later! I came up with the idea for Alfie Bloom in 2006 when I visited Castle Coch in Wales. In one of the rooms is a carving of The Fates above a fireplace. I imagined talking to them and hearing my destiny. I suppose, in a way, they really did talk to me – they told me I’d write a book. As I made the long drive back from Cardiff, an idea for a story flew round and round my head, growing bigger and bigger. By the time I got home I was ready to start writing about the boy who inherited a castle.

When you were a child, what were your favourite stories to read?

Magical realism! When I was little I was sure that fantastical creatures and magic were all around us if we just knew where to look and I loved books that backed up my beliefs by setting magic and fantasy in our own world. I still do.

Do you write better in a specific place (i.e. office, bed, café…)?

I fidget a lot! I start writing at my desk, but move around the house a lot, then I start visiting the fridge for snacks. I find that the best place to actually get a lot of writing done is at a library. I like Liverpool Central library but it can be very loud so I always take noise-cancelling headphones.

Who is your favourite character in the Alfie Bloom series?

I adore Artan, the flying, talking, pun-loving bearskin rug. What better flying carpet than one that can talk to you and tell terrible jokes while you’re flying

If you could live in any fictional world ever, which one would you choose?

I always thought Xanth from the Piers Anthony novels seemed a magical and wonderful place to live with so much to discover. I’d like to live in Castle Roogna and travel into the magical tapestry that hangs there.

Do you have any odd writing rituals (i.e. writing in the dark, only at 3am, only after four cups of coffee…)?

I always light a candle while I’m writing. Fig, blackcurrant and woody scents are my favourite. I brew a pot of popcorn green tea and choose one of my favourite spotify playlists. Usually: Through the Woods, Deep Dark Indie, or The Far-North Folk.

There is a lot of mystery and magic in the Alfie Bloom books, do you know how everything works?

I do, and it takes me a long time to write because I like to have everything clear in my head. When I wrote the first book I was a bit unclear on what Alfie’s magic was and how it worked. and it caused me many problems later on as it became rather confusing for my proof readers. As a result I went back and clarified it, but it did involve quite a bit of rewriting!

What is your favourite aspect of the magic in Alfie Bloom?

Very little comes easily in life, so I like to show that magic also comes with consequences. As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. The powerful magic that inhabits Alfie is always hungry to feed. Alfie must learn to control it and to exercise restraint in using it.

 

What I Thought?

Thanks to Faye Rogers and Scholastic I was introduced to this series and provided with copies of both books to review. Opinions are my own – as ever.

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I really loved this series and its characters and raced through both books, and will definitely head back for a re-read when the next book comes out. I find that I do sometimes struggle with middle grade books feeling too young (as a 37 year old that’s not really surprising), but, for these books that wasn’t a problem at all. I was definitely hooked when the carriage from Muninn and Bone came calling. Although they work well for the intended age group 8-12 there is much for readers of any age to enjoy. This series has been compared to Harry Potter and there are some similarities – the fabulous cast of characters, joy and ease of reading and magic but it is also very different.

In ‘The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle’ poverty stricken Alfie finds out he has inherited a castle… and a ‘bit’ of magic. The only thing he will miss by moving is his best friend Amy, but his castle is in the village occupied by his dead mother’s family so he gains his twin cousins Robin and Madeline as friends, and Amy comes to visit. Together they explore the castle and its many rooms, secret passages and dangers. Alfie’s new school Wyrmwald House seems to be led by two Miss Trunchballs!! Something sinister is happening in the village and Alfie is driven to use his magic.

One of the things I liked is the idea that magic isn’t necessarily fun and simple to use and that it does come with responsibilities. Alfie isn’t necessarily that happy with the power he has been given and it will be interesting to see how he handles this as his experience grows. Alfie reminds me a little of Roald Dahl’s Charlie Bucket – he is very generous and kind-spirited.

Like Gabrielle, Artan the flying bearskin is my favourite character and his puns did make me giggle.

In ‘The Talisman Thief’ we find out more about Ashford the butler that was assigned to look out for Alfie and his father – thankfully because William – Alfie’s dad, a rather eccentic inventor – really can not cook. I can’t say much without spoilers but Ashford isn’t maybe what you might have expected. Hexbridge is invaded by fae and it’s up to the children to save the day.

Alfie’s school isn’t a magical one and his magical training comes via letters, deduction and trips between times. The rural village setting of Hexbridge is perfect to contain the magic and mysticism and I loved that the villagers follow old pagan festivals.

To summarise – read these books – to your kids if you have them – or to yourself if not. There is much more I could say and many more characters to meet but I’d much prefer you to find that out for yourselves.

Do also check out the rest of the blog tour.

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2016 Debut Authors Bash – Jennifer Mason-Black – Author Interview

Debut Banner copy

I’m thrilled to be sharing my interview with Jennifer Mason-Black whose first book ‘Devil and the Bluebird’ is out now.

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Synopsis and Image from Goodreads

Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice—inherited from her musically gifted mother—in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass.

Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself to finding family in unexpected places.

In Devil and the Bluebird, Jennifer Mason-Black delivers a heart-wrenching depiction of loss and hope.

Interview with Jennifer Mason-Black

jennifer-mason-black

The cover of Devil and the Bluebird is delicious. How much input did you as the author have in that?

I had no input on the initial design, which makes the fact that I love it so much more wonderful. The sole change I participated in involved the boots (they were originally something else). But that adjustment was really my editor’s suggestion; I just enthusiastically agreed. The elements inside the guitar all refer to specific pieces of the story. It was so fun to see them for the first time. Who am I kidding? It’s still fun to see them!

 

I’m a huge Supernatural fan and was very excited to read about a ‘Devil-at-the-crossroads’ YA tale. What were your inspirations for this story?

My inspirations are all over the place. I’ve known the story of Robert Johnson for most of my life and it definitely plays a role. Beyond that, all the musicians I’ve known have been wonderful, talented people who center their lives around music, but will never be household names. Their stories definitely influenced Blue’s. As do my own experiences as a writer…I’m interested in the roads we have to travel in order to test ourselves, learn who we are and what we’re meant to do. It’s really a story made up of bits of song I’ve heard and faces I’ve seen and unexpected kindnesses I’ve encountered—all sorts of things.

 

Music seems to be important to your character – why?

Blue grew up with music. Prior to her mother’s death, Blue’s family—herself, her mother, her sister, and her mother’s partner, Tish—had a life that revolved around her mother’s band. After her mother’s death, Blue turns to her mother’s guitar for solace. So much of her journey across the country is about her coming to terms with her relationship to music, with understanding that she’s more than the little sister singing along, the daughter waiting in the wings.

 

We grow up fluent in the languages of our parents. Not merely the spoken ones, but the creative ones that emerge in songs, or quilts, or novels. These things we learn sitting in our parents’ laps become part of us. Eventually, though, we become our own people, and in the process, we must develop our own relationships to these creative fires.

 

Are you musical?

No! Well, I can sing in the car with the best of them, but I play no instruments, have an appalling lack of rhythm, and would quickly starve if left to support myself with music.

 

Blue’s price is her voice? How hard would you find it to spend a few days without talking?

 

I’m a fairly silent person by nature, so I’d probably be okay. On the other hand, I’m a mom, and managing my family without being able to shout down the hall might be a challenge.

 

On a more serious note, while writing Blue’s story I spent quite a bit of time cataloguing all the noise I make. Not just conversation, but the sound that comes when stubbing a toe, or calling out to stop someone from moving into trouble. Not being able to discuss Shakespeare is one thing. Not being able to say “I’m scared” or “WATCH OUT” is something else entirely.

 

Which writers/books would you name as inspirations?

I have absorbed so many books so deeply that it’s hard to point to specific ones. As an adult, I tend to read with a bit more of a sense of wonder about the writing, with more questioning about things like whether I could handle overlapping POVs or create a captivating omniscient narrator. Which means I often feel less influenced and more challenged by other writers.

 

Books I read as a kid, on the other hand…those are a huge part of how I write. When I think of influences, those are the ones I pick. Madeline L’Engle, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Lois Lowry, Julia Cunningham, Stephen King—that’s a very short list of the many writers whose stories have helped shape my brain and my connection to words.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m a little superstitious when it comes to talking about projects. Or…maybe less superstitious and more aware that it’s easier for me to talk about the details of an unfinished story than it is for me to write it. So, in the interest of keeping me from being lazy, let’s just say that I have several different stories I’ve been playing with lately. To be honest, it’s been a hard spring when it comes to carving out space to write. I’m looking forward to the summer and more time to spend in my head in productive ways.

 

My new feature is asking authors if they were to rewrite a book which character would they Repeat, Rewrite and Remove and why. I’d love to know your thoughts.

I’m actually pretty happy with this group of characters. Most of them have fairly lengthy backstories that only I know about, which means that what you see in the book is the tip of the iceberg. There are things about Dill—another traveler that Blue meets—that I’m curious about. Were I to rewrite DEVIL, I might hone him a bit. I don’t think I’d remove anyone. I get very attached to all my characters. Once they’ve made it into a final version, I don’t want to lose them.

 

Giveaway

1 finished copy of Devil and the Bluebird – Now open Internationally. Yay.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck everyone.

 

While you are anxiously awaiting to find out if you’ve won do checkout the rest of the Bash schedule here and follow all the fun using #16DABash. I’d love to see you back here on 11th June for an interview with Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

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