Hello everybody! Today, I`m going to be sharing my reviews for all of the books I read in August, which was a pretty great reading month even though it was my worst of the year so far in terms of quantity. Onto the post!
Today, I`m going to be reviewing all of the books I read in May, apart from Northern Lights as it`s so well known and beloved by so many it just felt very odd trying to review it! Given I had only read 5 books by the 16th May, I`m incredibly pleased with how much I managed to read!
What Lexie Did by Emma Shevah (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is about Lexie, a young Greek Cypriot, as a new girl and her family arrive in their close-knit community and this sets in motion a chain of events in which Lexie tells a lie about a family heirloom that threatens to break her family, and her friendship with cousin Eleni, apart forever. The friendship Eleni and Lexie had was so sweet, and I absolutely adored the heart-warming big family dynamic of the book. I thought Lexie was a fantastic character even though she has flaws, and I thought the situations she faces, such as how people treat her when she `tells tales` are incredibly relatable and will be to lots of people who read the book. The subtle humour throughout made me chuckle often, and while I was unsure how things would end for most of the book, I thought the climax and the ending fit the book perfectly. A truly lovely contemporary MG. 4.5/5
Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This book has such a unique premise, which I`ve never read anything similar to that I can recall; it`s the story of Lily, who wakes up one morning on the side of the road and realises she has died, and we follow her as she watches her family grieve and then later as she is given the chance to take over her twin`s body and be alive again for a few days. Lily was such a likeable character, and I felt so upset for her as I was reading, and I also loved seeing glimpses of her relationship with her twin Ben (the scenes between them made me shed quite a few tears). Watching her family grieve was deeply emotional, and though it was initially slightly confusing I thought being able to have Lily`s first person POV and a third person POV focusing on how others were feeling worked really well. Finally, I loved Lily`s narrative voice; the writing was absolutely exquisite in quality, yet it gave such a sense of her personality and felt authentic. 4.5/5
Max and the Millions by Ross Montgomery
This is the story of Max, who is deaf and attends a boarding school, as he discovers an incredible miniature civilisation (created by his school caretaker) who are desperately in need of his help (which I think is such a cool concept!). The story is told in a dual narrative, with 3rd person POVs of Max and Luke, who is the prince of the Blue group within the civilisation, and I found seeing both perspectives really interesting. The budding friendship between Max and Sasha was absolutely adorable and drives home the message that you shouldn`t make assumptions about people before you really get to know them. The humour in Luke`s sections provided plenty of chuckle-worthy moments, and I was a big fan of side character Ivy in his sections and Sasha`s sister/ the builders in Max`s. Even more than all this, I loved the fact that Max wore hearing aids. While my hearing loss is less profound than his, a lot of his experiences resonated, and it was amazing to have that as part of the book. 4/5
The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This book sees a Scottish bully called Caylin and a Syrian refugee called Reema who is newly arrived to Glasgow team up to save a fox and her cubs, discover a shared passion for running and forge a friendship that alters both of their lives, and it also explores their family lives/the grief they are navigating from the recent loss of family members. It is every bit as heartbreaking, yet ultimately heartwarming and uplifting as that description makes it sound. The characters are so complex and imperfect, yet I loved both of them a lot, and was beyond desperate for their lives to improve and for them to succeed with running. Their friendship was beautiful too; it took a while for them to move past their initial dislike of each other, but it was wonderful watching them support each other once they were friends. The book tackles alcoholism and depression, which Caylin`s mum has, and also explores how refugees may feel when arriving in a new country, which is an all too often ignored perspective, and both of these added to my love for the protagonists as I had so much sympathy for how much they had to face. I highly recommend this if you want to read a contemporary MG that make you consider what life would be like for people who have led very different lives to you. 4.5/5
Rose`s Dress of Dreams by Katherine Woodfine and illustrated by Kate Pankhurst (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is part of Barrington Stoke`s Little Gems series, which are short, young MG stories with full colour illustrations, and this was a lovely first one to read. It`s a delightful story, and I think it`ll appeal to a lot of people. Kate Pankhurst`s illustrations are gorgeous, and my personal favourites were the one at the opening of chapter 3, and that on page 43. The descriptions of Rose`s designs were divine, and I was able to picture them vividly even without an accompanying illustration. Lastly, I really liked Rose as a character because she was so determined to achieve her dream, and it was interesting to learn that she was based on real historical figure Rose Bertin. 4/5.
The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge
This is the story of Jamie, whose dad is an astronaut, as he receives alien communication on his phone whilst his dad is away on a dangerous mission. Jamie was an incredibly endearing protagonist, and I also had a soft spot for Buzz and his granddad. I like that the book acknowledges women can be astronauts and scientists too, and I also liked the message that families don`t have to be conventional to be happy that`s shown throughout. Like with the Many Worlds of Albie Bright, I felt the science elements complemented the contemporary storyline, and is better explained than science in the vast majority of books. 4/5
Gangster School by Kate Wiseman (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I am all over books about boarding schools, and with a concept as interesting and different as a boarding school for future criminals, I knew I had to read it, and it twisted boarding school tropes fantastically in a way that made it feel different but also maintaining the quite cosy feeling you get reading a boarding school story. The book particularly focuses on Milly and Charlie, who have just begun their time at Blaggard`s and I really liked both of them as they rather stood out by being less ruthless than some of their schoolmates. I especially liked Milly, as she was incredibly quick thinking and clever. The plot of defeating villain Pecunia Badpenny was fast paced and exciting, and I`m looking forward to seeing what Milly and Charlie get up to next as the series continues. 4/5
Across the Divide by Anne Booth (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
In this timeslip middle grade, we follow Olivia as she is sent to stay with her estranged father on Lindisfarne after her mum gets arrested at a peace rally, and she is attempting to work through her thought on her mum and recent arguments among both her family and friend group focused on her wanting to join the new cadets group at school. I`ve never seen the theme of pacifism explored before that I can remember, and if I have, it certainly wasn`t as fascinating, well balanced and thought provoking as the way in which it is tackled here. I also liked that the timeslip plotline included discussion of conscientious objectors, which is in my opinion a heartbreaking historical event that isn`t remembered anywhere near enough. I liked Olivia lots as a protagonist; she manages to deal with all of the situations she faces in a very mature way, and I also really liked William, who is the boy she meets from the past. Finally, the setting brought me so much joy. Northumberland is pretty much my favourite place in the entire world, and seeing places I know and love referenced was lovely! 4.5/5
I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
As I read this, my main thought was that Alice Oseman is incredible at writing character driven novels. I Was Born For This is about a fangirl called Angel, and a member of the boyband she loves (the Ark) called Jimmy, as their lives collide over one week and they question whether they actually want to dedicate their lives to the Ark anymore. The dual narration worked perfectly as both Angel and Jimmy`s voices were so clear and distinct, and it allows the positive and negative effects of fandom to be explored from both sides. The book was utterly gripping, and I`m super glad I could read it in one sitting as I was very concerned for each and every character, and needed to know they`d be okay. Finally, I have to talk about the characters, who are diverse and all round phenomenal. Jimmy and Angel are of course amazing, but my personal favourites were Rowan, Jimmy`s bandmate and longstanding best friend, as he was such a grumpy, hilarious delight and Bliss, who I think it`s a spoiler to describe the role of, other than to say she is a complete and utter queen and I love her more than I can express. 5/5
How to Bee by Bren MacDibble (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I had heard amazing things about this, but overall it didn`t live up to my expectations. It`s about a dystopic future in which bees no longer exist, and specifically a girl called Peony, who desperately wants to become part of the group of children who now carry out the work of bees but is forced into moving to the City and then has to find her way home. While the idea sounded amazing, I found this hard to get into as it was so slow paced, and the writing style was also a factor in this. I found the slang that Peony uses jarring, and it took me a while to work out what everything meant. Additionally, I liked some of the ending, but found another part very confusing. However, I loved the friendship between Peony and Ez, as they brought out the very best in each other and had such a lovely relationship. 3.5/5
Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury by Jennifer Killick (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
After their last mission, all has been quiet for Alex and Jess, but when animals in their local area start behaving in bizarre ways, they start volunteering at their local animal sanctuary to work out what`s going, and who`s behind it, coming up against several foes in the process. Alex is a tremendous character- he`s so cheeky and cocksure, and never far from a smart remark, but he has a heart of pure gold and this is shown so well by his relationship with one of the new animal characters Mr Prickles (who is absolutely adorable, and caused me to be in tears more than once during this book). Jess is also a fantastic character, and I envy her gift of speaking to animals so much. Her bickering, bantering friendship with Alex is just brilliant, and the dialogue in these books is definitely what makes them so hilarious. The animals all add to the humour too, and I was delighted to see the return of Bob the goldfish and to meet new introduction Harry the horse (and, as you already know, I was enchanted by Mr Prickles). Alongside how much the book made me laugh, Alex and Jess`s new mission ensures it`s super-fast paced, packed full of tension and full to the brim with excitement. 5/5
A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
In her first novel in the YA age category, Laura Wood tells the story of a girl named Lou, as she becomes embroiled in the lives of the ultra glamorous Cardew siblings when they return to Cornwall for the summer of 1929 and is swept up in their world of lavish parties and societal politics. The beautiful descriptive writing conjured images of the lush setting and stunning outfits in my mind, and it was so immersive. Lou was a wonderful protagonist; headstrong, feisty, determined and funny, and I fell rather in love with her love interest Robert, who was arrogant yet deeply charming at the same time. Their relationship was super slowburn, and I was desperate for them to get together. His sister Caitlin was a total sweetheart and such a good friend to Lou, and Lou`s family were so eccentric and humorous. The company the Cardews keep is as interesting as you`d expect, and it was really fun seeing who showed up to which party and how that effected everyone else there. The secrets of the Cardews are revealed gradually, and the tantalising hints are what I think made the book so exciting. All I can really say about the ending is that it was perfect, and I can`t wait to read more from Laura. 4.5/5
Evie`s Ghost by Helen Peters
I`ve had this book on my TBR for so long, and I`m kicking myself for not reading it sooner; it came highly recommended and sounded like the sort of thing I tend to really enjoy. It tells the story of Evie, as she is sent to stay in the middle of nowhere with a godmother she`s never met, and finds herself transported back to the past, where she assumes the role of a maid in order to save someone in the mansion from a terrible fate so she can return to the present day. As the book is timeslip, Evie knows very little about life as a maid, and this means that the reader is able to learn a lot alongside her. Learning about the lives of servants in the past also allows Evie to really develop as a character to become kinder and more empathetic, and my heart ached for so many of the characters in the past (the servants, and also Sophia, who is the person in desperate need of Evie`s help). I was so glad the ending gave closure to all of their stories as well as Evie`s, along with the way everything tied together and made sense. 4.5/5
The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
From the moment I heard this existed, I was 99.9% sure I`d enjoy it; a middle grade mystery/fantasy blend combines several of my favourite things, and the book lived up to my high expectations of it. It`s about the Last Chance Hotel`s much put upon kitchen boy Seth, when a group of mysterious magicians arrive for a secretive dinner party, and he is accused of fatally poisoning the VIP, Dr Thallomius. Each and every other person within the hotel is a viable suspect, and this coupled with the fact we got to get to know each one in quite a lot of detail made it all the more fun to try and be a detective alongside Seth and try and work out whodunit. I`m not entirely sure if I was meant to, but I loved enigmatic Angelique, and I was rooting so much for Seth, who was so loveable I dare anyone to read this and not adore him, to clear his name. His rather critical, gloriously funny cat Nightshade was definitely my favourite though; she was a phenomenal animal companion. The magic system was really unique and clever too, and I hope to learn more about it in a sequel (or possibly several sequels, given the exciting loose ends the ending left). 4.5/5
Kat Wolfe Investigates by Lauren St John and illustrated by Beidi Guo
The Laura Marlin Mysteries are one of my very favourite mystery series, and I have a feeling Kat Wolfe Investigates is going to live up to that. It follows Kat as she and her mum, who is a vet, relocate to idyllic Bluebell Bay, and Kat gets caught up in a missing persons case after starting a pet-sitting service. She soon meets an American girl called Harper, and together they decide to investigate. I thought they made a great detective team as their strengths really complemented each other, and their friendship was fantastic too. I also adored the wide array of animal characters, who you can see beautiful illustrations of on the French flaps at the back of the book (and opening those at the front of the book will give you the treat of seeing the map). Though the mystery plot doesn`t really kick in for a little while, this worked well as we`re given a comprehensive introduction to both the setting and the cast of characters, and once it going I thought the mystery was unique fast paced, with chapters from the point of view of the antagonists adding even more intrigue/tension. 4.5/5
Which books have you particularly enjoyed this month? What are your thoughts on the books I`ve mentioned? Are any of them on your TBR? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!
Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be reviewing all the books I read in April! Onto the books!
Today, I’m going to be reviewing the stories of acclaimed anthology A Change is Gonna Come, featuring 12 BAME writers writing on the theme of change, which I finally got round to reading this month after owning it since the day it was released. Onto my thoughts!
Welcome to my young adult portion of reviews for the month of January. If you want to read the MG post, you can find it here. Onto the books!
Today, I`m going to be reviewing all of the middle grade books I read in January. Usually, I don`t read as much as I have this month (or don`t review a few as I wouldn`t rate them higher than 3 stars, my personal cut off for what I do and don`t review), but aside from a few DNFs early on in the book, I enjoyed all of the 20 books I got through this month. I thought 20 reviews in one post might be a bit much, so I decided to split them into middle grade and young adult posts (the YA one will be here in a few days!). Without further ado, onto the books!
The Snow Angel by Lauren St John
What a way to kick off my reading year the Snow Angel was! I`ve been a huge fan of Lauren`s work for years, and I thought this book was reminiscent of the White Giraffe series due to it having the same setting, but was also unique enough to stand out and feel very different. It is about Makena, who lives with her parents in South Africa until tragedy strikes and her life changes forever. From cruel relatives, to life in a slum, to having to begin again in Scotland, my heart was absolutely breaking for Makena during this book, and I cried more than once reading it. However, there are some beautiful, joyful moments too, such as the concept of having three magical moments every day, the friendship of Makena and Snow, and both when Makena discovers the foxes, and the mountains, of her new home. I also thought the ending was perfect for the story, and I very much recommend this if you enjoy contemporary MG with a hint of adventure. 4.5/5
How to Catch a Witch by Abie Longstaff
While I initially struggled to get into this, I definitely enjoyed the 1st book of Abie Longstaff`s middle grade series. It`s the story of Charlie, who moves to a new area and finds out that magic may be real after all, when she becomes embroiled in preventing quite a sinister plot. I really liked the way the book handles magic (it was very easy to understand but also interesting and had a logical system, which is something I like to see) and I thought Charlie was a relatable, interesting main character. I particularly appreciated the fact that she has a stammer, which seemed to be sensitively tackled (though I don`t have a stammer so can`t speak fully to that), as I can`t recall ever having read that even though it`s fairly common, and I was happy it didn`t prevent her from participating in the magic, and in fact is an asset. The other main character Kat, was also excellent. Finally, the book reminded me a bit of the World of Wishes series by Carol Barton, which was one of my absolute favourites when I was in the target age group, which was lovely, and I`ll definitely be picking up How to Bewitch a Wolf at some stage to go on another adventure in Abie`s world. 4/5
Rubies and Runaways by Janine Beacham
If anything, Rose Raventhorpe`s second adventure is even better than her first. I absolutely love the dry, witty narrative tone and I think that Rose is a really excellent heroine who is a great detective and glorious in the way she stands up for herself against what people expect of her (e.g in this book, she may have to marry her stuck up horrible cousin Herbert, and her retaliations/reactions to this) made me giggle more than once. As well as `Ghastly Herbert`, in this book Rose must investigate where a missing orphan is. The mystery is well plotted and paced, and I would never have guessed the exact outcome. The secret society of butlers continued to be a really cool concept well executed, and I love how their presence feels so natural to the stories, and the characters it allows to be part of them are brilliant (I particularly adore Bronson). I`m very much looking forward to reading Hounds and Hauntings at some point hopefully soon. 4.5/5
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone
From the prologue till the last page, Sky Song captured me and took me to the magical kingdom of Erkenwald, which is under the rule of the evil Ice Queen, as young heroes Eksa and Flint attempt to rescue the kingdom from the queen`s plan to take over completely. The characters, Flint and Eksa, and also Flint`s little sister Blu, were wonderfully endearing characters who I wanted to succeed in their quest desperately, and the animal companions (particularly Pebble the fox) were so sweet and The Ice Queen, though not loveable, was a sinister, chilling villain. The book itself is excellently paced, and I was always eager to read on, and as previously mentioned the best way to describe it is simply magical. 4.5/5
The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson
After enjoying last year`s the Goldfish Boy, I was surprised that I liked Thompson`s 2nd novel even more. This is the story of Nate, as he and his mum move to a cottage in the country to escape his mum`s abusive partner Gary, but when his mum doesn`t return from shopping, Nate must navigate a few days on his own, aside from a few unexpected friends who involve him in a mystery linked to the past of the cottage. Nate was such a lovely character and I was so sympathetic to everything he went through, and the flashbacks to his life with Gary were so emotional, and showed that domestic violence isn`t always the stereotypical physical portrayal. I also really liked both of the other plot threads; the mystery, in which Nate hunts for a mysterious treasure with Kitty, who lives nearby and the magical realism of the imaginary friends, which had really intriguing, well done worldbuilding, and isn`t a thing I`ve seen done often. The ending was incredibly heart-warming, and I`m already looking forward to seeing what Lisa Thompson does next. 4.5/5
I Swapped my Brother on the Internet by Jo Simmons and illustrated by Nathan Reed (received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)
While I wasn`t sure this was my sort of thing, I thought it was absolutely excellent younger middle grade. It`s about what happens when Jonny swaps his older brother Ted on new website Sibling Swap, and gets a few more brothers than he bargained for. There are a variety of bizarre new brothers, ranging from merboys to monarchs to meerkats, and I thought the concept was really clever, and imagine this idea would be even more relevant to those with siblings of their own. I think my favourite scene had to be those with Henry the 8th as they were laugh out loud funny in places, and I would highly recommend this book. There was also a mystery element to the plot, which I totally (and shamefully, for a mystery fan) didn`t pick up on over who ran Sibling Swap, and I was rather surprised at the outcome of that. I highly recommend this if you enjoy some funny middle grade and are looking for something that`ll give you a giggle. 4.5/5
The Curse in the Candlelight by Sophie Cleverly
The 5th in the Scarlet and Ivy series was as gothic and mysterious as ever, as new pupil Ebony McCloud arrives, and seems to have an unnatural influence over both pupils at Rookwood and the staff. I still loved both of the twins, but funny, feisty Scarlet is my favourite for sure, and I`m so glad we now have a dual narrative that includes both the twins so I can have both perspectives. Another interesting point of this was that the relationship between the twins and their friend Ariadne was further explored, and it felt like a realistic scenario of not knowing how to fit in with each other and the tensions that could cause, and also touched on the idea of giving people a second chance. The mystery itself was also rather creepy, and I had no idea what would happen till almost the very end (I am far too easy to fool with mystery books, even though I read loads of them!), which kept me hooked. If you want spooky and creepy MG mysteries with a hint of possible magic that still have a sense of humour, these are the books for you. 4.5/5
Here Comes Hercules by Stella Tarakson and illustrated by Nick Robertson (received from publisher in exchange for my honest review)
While I didn`t dislike this, and enjoyed it for the most part, it didn`t quite fully meet my expectations. First, I did like main character Tim as I thought he was sweet and smart, and rather capable, and I always enjoy stories where mythology and modern day meet. This introduced some more basic aspects of Ancient Greece too, so it would be good to introduce readers from the age group to the concept before learning many of the actual myths. Another aspect of the book I thought was fun was that Hercules wasn`t as heroic or helpful as expected, and some scenes showing this were really humorous, so I do wish there had been a few more of these. However, I found some parts of the story, for example Tim`s mum`s job, unrealistic, and I thought the ending was a bit too abrupt, but I look forward to trying the sequel Hera`s Terrible Trap.3.5/5
The Mystery of Me by Karen McCombie and illustrated by Cathy Brett (received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)
This was my first Karen McCombie novella, but it won`t be my last. Somehow, she managed to pack in her trademark combination of humour and heart into a very small amount of pages, in telling the story of Ketty. Ketty has just had brain surgery, and this is the story of her returning to school and regaining her memory. As someone with some experience of this scenario myself, I thought it was spot on in capturing how overwhelming and exhausting and downright terrifying the whole thing is. I also really liked Ketty and seeing the world through her eyes for a while, and I thought Otis, who makes a special point of looking out for her, was lovely. I didn`t expect the twist that comes quite near the end at all. Cathy Brett`s illustrations also add to the book and made me like it even more, particularly the last image we see. 4.5/5
Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson
This book was quite different to my expectations of it, but I still liked the story as a whole. It`s about Amelia Fang, who lives in a fictional world called Nocturnia, as her family are arranging the Barbaric Ball and manage to draw out the king and his son from their palace for the first time in years. Amelia was an enjoyable heroine, her friends Florence and Grimaldi were both very distinct and unique, and the supporting characters such as Amelia`s family or butler Woo were great too. My favourite character was most certainly the adorable pumpkin Squashy, who is taken by the rather unpleasant prince and must be rescued, and Laura`s illustrations were absolutely wonderful and helped me visualise all these characters and like them even more. The story also took a few unexpected turns, particularly with regards to revealing more about the prince and why he`s been so unkind since meeting Amelia and her friends, and I`m intrigued enough by the twist that I`ll be reading more of Amelia`s stories as they are released. Finally, I thought the worldbuilding of Nocturnia was extremely clever as it not only subverts typical story conventions but also includes some adapted pop culture references which I smiled about when I found. 4/5
Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans
In a gloriously imaginative tale, Lissa Evans transports Fidge to the world of her sister`s favourite books, after Fidge`s frustration with sister Minnie`s toy Wed Wabbit ends in disaster. In the world of Wimbley Woo, Wed Wabbit is now a dictator, and to find her way back home, Fidge must work with irritating cousin Graham, a toy elephant and a tiny carrot toy who thinks it`s a doctor, as well as negotiate Wimbley Woos and avoid the wrath of Wed Wabbit. The world is entirely unique, really does feel like the sort of thing a young child like Minnie would be obsessed with, and the tasks they must undertake themselves were exciting to follow along with. I thought Fidge was a brilliant heroine, and I was surprised that by the end Graham had really grown on me too, and the character development was subtle but very apparent. The toys were a sheer delight, particularly Dr. Carrot, and their journey was so fun to be part of. The humour in this, particularly at the beginning, also hugely appealed to me, and I found myself chuckling more than once. If you`re looking for a world like nothing you`ve read before, and want to have a surreal experience with a great group of characters, Wed Wabbit is the book for you. 4.5/5
The Nowhere Emporium by Ross Mackenzie
I read this when it first came out, but had forgotten about it. After this reread, I can`t see that happening again. I was drawn into orphan Daniel`s world straight away, and became more intrigued still when he stumbles into a rather unique world on the run from his bullies, and soon a delightful magical adventure ensues. Daniel`s new mentor Mr Silver is very mysterious, so I adored the flashback sections that allow the reader to piece together his past before Daniel, and his new friend Ellie do. The story revolves around the Nowhere Emporium, which is essentially a collection of incredible magic rooms, which Daniel is now assisting Mr Silver in running, as things start to go suddenly wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the plot was perfectly paced and kept me utterly hooked (to the point where I read it in one glorious gulp over a Sunday afternoon) and the worldbuilding was quite honestly exceptional. All in all, I loved this a whole lot and I can`t wait to get my hands on the upcoming sequel the Elsewhere Emporium soon! 5/5
Thank you so much for reading! What did you think of these books, if you`ve read them? Have you got any on your TBR? Let me know down in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl
Today, I’m taking part in the blog tour for the Eye of the North, a fabulous new middle grade which is released this Thursday (you can read my review here) by interviewing it’s lovely author Sinéad. Onto the questions!
1. Can you please describe the Eye of the North in 5 words?
Exciting, friendship, secrets, scary creatures!
2. What inspired the book?
I got the ‘seed’ idea for The Eye of the North when I was about 21 (a.k.a a very long time ago), and I was working in an office job I really did not enjoy. I came up with a story about a girl named Emma Marvell working in an office job she really did not enjoy – that bit didn’t take much imagining – but her job involved the recording and cataloguing of artefacts relating to mysterious, mythical creatures which were sent in from all over the world by a team of roving explorers. (My job wasn’t half so interesting.) In the proto-story, when an explorer sends in a sample with a dodgy covering letter, Emma gets curious as to what he’s hiding and goes on the hunt to find out the truth. The published version is very different, but the core elements – mythical creatures, the North, a plucky girl and a stowaway boy – were there from the beginning. I have always loved mythical creatures and I’ve been fascinated with the polar regions all my life, so this story has been a long time brewing.
3. I saw lots of similarities between Emmeline and I. Which book characters would you say you`re most like?
I think I see bits of me in Arianwyn Gribble from James Nicol’s Apprentice Witch series, mostly in her serious and slightly worried/responsible approach to things, and in Hermione Granger (I am a bit of a swot), though the Potter character I’m most like, I think, is Ron – food-focused, loyal and a bit afraid of most things. I’m clumsy like Mildred Hubble, stubborn like Lyra Silvertongue, and I’m a hobbit all the way down to my toes (though luckily, they’re not as hairy!)
4. I also adored her sidekicks Thing and Meadowmane. Do you have any favourite literary sidekicks?
Siddy from Abi Elphinstone’s Dreamsnatcher trilogy always made me grin. I love all the kids in Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer, though I don’t think any can really be classed as a sidekick! Of course, the brilliant Malkin in Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart books is a sidekick we all need. The best hero/sidekick team in literature , though, is Pidge and Brigit from The Hounds of The Morrigan. I wish I had a Brigit to this day.
5. The adventure in the book is incredible. If you could choose any adventure, real or fictional, to take part in, what would it be?
Because I trained as a medievalist in another life, I feel I must say I wish I could have been a pilgrim on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I think I would have enjoyed an ale or two with the raucous, brilliant Wife of Bath! I would have loved to take part in a polar expedition, too – perhaps Scott’s, except without the tragedy. And of course I would have loved to see the battle between Iorek Byrnison and Ragnar Sturlusson alongside Lyra and Pan.
6. The book also reads like it would make a fabulous film. If it was ever optioned, do you have a dream cast?
What a brilliant question! I think Ruth Negga would make a fab Sasha, and Oscar Isaac would be my choice for Edgar. I would love Dominic Monaghan for Mr Widget and Sophie Okonedo for Mrs Widget. As for the children – I think finding some new, undiscovered talent would be great!
7. This is your debut novel. What has been the standout moment of your journey to publication, and what are you most excited about after the book comes out?
The standout moment, for sure, was the day my agent phoned to tell me she had sold the book to my UK publisher, Stripes. We had been waiting so long for a UK/Irish deal that I had given up hope of ever getting one, and so that was a true joy. It has been a very long path, and there have been many highlights, but that’s my favourite one. As for what I’m most excited by – I can’t wait to meet readers, interact with people who have read the book, and talk about it with children. It’s such a privilege to write for young readers; they are the best readers. I’m hugely looking forward to learning from them and finding out how I can keep improving as a writer.
8. Finally, before our quickfire questions, can you divulge any secrets about what your second book might be?
The second book I have sold is the story of Tess, who has grown up with no knowledge of her parentage until the day a stranger comes to claim her from the loving home she has always known. She has to uncover who this man is, what he knows about her and her past, and how to get out of his clutches, all before he can use her unique abilities to bring destruction to her world, and many others… (Also, she has a pet tarantula called Violet, who is the real star of the show.)
1. Hogwarts house? Ravenpuff? I am mostly Ravenclaw, a bit Hufflepuff!
2. Favourite chocolate bar? Plain and simple, Cadbury Dairy Milk
3. Favourite colour? Purple.
4. Top 3 books of 2017? The Huntress: Sky; The Explorer; A Skinful Of Shadows.
5. 3 random facts about you? I can read Middle English (and Old English, with a bit of practise); I used to work as a trainee butcher and could pick up a pound of mince, almost to the ounce, simply by eye; I have a fear of balloons
Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the interview down in the comments or or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!