Mystery and Mayhem pt 1

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m reviewing the first half of the wonderful Mystery and Mayhem anthology, written by a collection of UK authors and published by Egmont. I reviewed the second part of this collection on Book Murmuration  a few weeks ago and Louise reviewed this half here last week.

Onto the reviews!

God’s Eye by Frances Hardinge

While I found this quite different in tone, and much darker, than the other stories within the anthology, I still enjoyed it. It tells the story of Ben; who is assistant to one of two pernickety painters tasked with painting the ‘God’s Eye’ view of London, and what happens when one of them is fatally poisoned. I liked Ben as a character and his unselfish motive for solving for solving the mystery, as well as how the mystery itself unfolds.


The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot by Helen Moss

This is a sublime story set in the Georgian era, which shows that Helen Moss can write an expertly researched page turner regardless of length or the historical era it’s set in. It focues on a seemingly-rich family who are hosting a dinner to impress their elder daughter’s suitor, until he’s poisoned by their prize pineapple! Their servant Quality Fruit and younger daughter Catherine set about investigating. I absolutely adored them as a detective duo, and I thought the mystery was really intriguing. The historical setting was one I’d never seen before, but it felt realistic and the world was well built. The writing style is easy to read and hugely enjoyable; the last line especially made laugh. Finally, I loved the reveal of the culprit as I definetly didn’t expect the story to go in that direction.

The Murder of Monsieur Pierre by Harriet Whitehorn 

The last story in the Poison Plots section tells the tale of shop girl turned detective Angelica as she becomes embroiled in solving the murder of her former boss: hairdresser Monsieur Pierre. Angelica is a gloriously clever heroine, and I also liked that we got told she becomes a famous detective later in life. This is super fun to read as it’s such a melodramatic, madcap mystery (I guessed culprit, but I still had a lot of fun following along till the end). I’m not sure why, but it reminded me of watching Death in Paradise, excpet with child detectives! This has made me want to pick up the Violet books at some point in the future.

SafeKeeping by Sally Nicholls 

As a huge fan of most of Sally Nicholls’s books, I found it interesting to see her turn her hand to the mystery genre. This is a Boys’ Own style story which feautures three office boys trying to solve the mystery of a necklace which has disappeared from the office safe. The narrator is great and has a very distinctive voice. The dialogue and tone appeared realistic for the time, and I also enjoyed the friendship between the three boys. I found the solution of the msytery quite obvious, but I did like the way the detectives came to the comclusion.

The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls by Katherine Woodfine

In this offshoot from the Sinclair’s Mysteries, we see one member of the gang solve a mystery in a theatre. I love a good theatre mystery (especially the Mystery of the Pantomime Cat by Enid Blyton!) and this one was no exception. Woodfine’s prose is as flawless as ever, and I enjoyed seeing things from Lil’s perspective as we tend to follow Sophie during the main series. Finally, I didn’t guess who stole the pearls, and this has really whet my appetite for the 4th and final Sinclair’s book, which came out last week.

The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens 

In Stevens’s first foray into a contemporary setting, she proves that she’s just as excellent at creating a modern tone and setting as she is historical. She also manages to retain the Agatha Christie/Enid Blyton vibes that are so prominent in her Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries. This story is about Jamie, whose family own a hotel, as he tries to work out where the woman who checked in while he was manning reception alone, has disappeared to without a trace and why. Jamie was super endearing (I also adored his dog) and I thought he was a fabulous detective. Finally, I love how clever and complex the solution to this pacy, exciting mystery is, and I’d actually love to see more stories, or even books, in this setting.

Thank you so much for reading! What’s your favourite of these stories? Do you like any of these authors’ standalones? Are you a fan of mysteries in general?

See you soon with a new post, 

Amy xxx

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TWO WAY AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sita Brahmachari Interview 

​Hi everyone!

Today, I’m very pleased to welcome Sita Brahmachari for a two-way interview themed around her latest release Worry Angels , where we ask each other some questions. To try and make things as clear and non-comfusing as possible, I’ve put my questions in bold, Sita’s in italics, and both of our answers in plain text. Huge thanks to Kirstin at Barrington Stoke for asking me to host this 😊😊

Hi Sita. Welcome to Golden Books Girl!

1. What were the inspirations behind Worry Angels? Have you wanted to write something like this for a while, or is it a newer idea?

In the dedication I write that ‘Worry Angels’ is inspired by three wonderful people. One of them was a teacher at my children’s school. Her name was Margaret and she used to make papier Mache angels for the children. She is a truly creative and kind teacher who has touched the lives of generations of people and I wanted to write a story in homage to her. 

The second person who inspired me was a Sand Play Therapist called Maggie. Playing in the sand isn’t only good for children and young people. I experience Sand Play Therapy while doing some research on a play, and I found it to be the most wonderful way to free up the stories, worries and anxieties that all people, young and old must learn to cope with as part of life. That’s why I set the story at ‘ The Sandcastle Support Centre.’

The third inspiration is actually called Grace, like my character. She is a young artist who I met a few years ago when I worked on my novel ‘Kite Spirit,’ which also focuses on the pressures that young people face in our society. Real life Grace has made the beautiful animation for ‘ Worry Angels’ and although she is just setting out on her career I imagine her to be much like my character Grace might have been when she was young.

Two of these inspirations I met over sixteen years ago and Grace I met five years ago. Stories very often have long fuses, they can burn for a long time in the imagination of the author. ‘Worry Angels’ has always been alight in me, waiting for its moment to be told as there is a growing awareness of anxiety in younger children.  

1B – Have you had inspirational ‘ Angels’ in your life that you think will sustain you in the future? Can you see any qualities in my characters that your Angels share with mine!

I would have to say my mum, who’s got me through so many dark days, especially with my illness. I think our angels share the quality of kindness.

2. This book is for Barrington Stoke, who specialise in novels for reluctant readers and making reading easier. Did your writing process change at all as you were writing a novella, instead of a novel? What sort of things did you have to adapt?

Writing a novella is what I focus on when I set out to write a Barrington Stoke Book.  Obviously you are aware from the start that the story is shorter and therefore that you have less space and time to create your character’s world. This means that every brush stroke must count and that when a character is introduced you must ensure that they live in full 3D technicolour in the reader’s imagination without burdening them with lengthy description. It’s an excellent skill for a writer to hone. It makes you really dig deep and explore what is vital and what can be stripped away. So much of writing is about giving just enough to create the imaginative space for readers to inhabit. This is the challenge I love in writing Barrington Stoke Stories and short stories in general.   

I write these stories just as I would write any shorter stories. There is no difference in my approach.

2b) I believe that Barrington Stoke stories can be read by readers of all abilities. They’re just great stories.  Recently I met a young student who said ‘ I’m a really good reader so my parents say I should only read classics, and even though I would like to read those books my parents would think that they are too easy for me’ . What would you say to persuade her that reading a BS book would be a good idea?

First of all, I absolutely agree with your sentiments. A book is a book is a book, if you ask me, and what age range/reading ability it’s intended for has no bearing whatsoever on it’s quality, and I like to think I’ll be reading MG and YA till I’m old and grey. If you aren’t reading Barrington Stoke books, you’re missing out on some absolutely incredible characters and stories.

3. Are the characters based on you/people you know? How did you come up with them all? I loved Amy May and Grace especially.

I have spoken about the two Margaret’s who inspired me to write Grace but in many ways I have also been inspired by teachers from my own school years. When I wrote my first novel ‘ Artichoke Hearts’ I was at a school event and an elderly lady came up to me to ask if I would sign. She was a teacher who had known me when I was ten years old she asked if I remembered her…. I did and in many ways she has stayed  with me  over the years – one of my Grace angels, encouraging me, giving me confidence. Just as Amy May’s father never forgets Grace…. I haven’t forgotten the teachers who helped me find the confidence  to be a writer either.

Amy May grew straight out of my imagination and an awareness of how many children need to make the adjustments to changes in their families that they don’t have any power over. In Amy May I wanted to create a character who has experienced a relatable story that many children do experience, or know people who have experienced. Rima’s family experience of having to leave her country and wider family in Syria is so extreme and different to Amy May’s but their friendship also allows the two girls to explore how what they have in common is a search for security.   

A beautiful Jane Ray illustration from Worry Angels

3b. What did you love about Amy May and Grace? What do you think the characters learn from each other in the story? 

They just seemed very real, and I empathised hugely with Amy-May and Rima. I loved watching them learn about one another and become friends. Grace is someone I’d love to know. She was so reassuring and calming.

4. A big part of Worry Angels are the crafts Amy May and Rima do with Grace. Do you enjoy arts and crafts? What have some of your favourite projects been, if yes?

I am a very crafty author!  I create words and stories and then I make things… or work with people who make things. My collaboration with the artist Grace who made the animation for ‘Worry Angels’ and also ‘Red Leaves’ as well as a walk in installation for ‘ Kite Spirit’ is all about exploring the stories through visual projects. I even have a patchwork storytelling quilt that I take around schools with me to explore the place in all of us where creative writing comes from. Like Grace I am a collector of small objects that I place in my quilt and use to help me talk about my stories.
I love graphic novels and illustrated novels and I am so honoured that the wonderful Jane Ray’s drawings grace the pages of ‘Worry Angels.’ We work together at Islinton Centre for Refugees and Migrants… and I think Jane has created the art room that she dreams of working in too. If I could step into her art room right now I would.

4b. How about you Amy? Do you like crafts and art? If so what do you get out of them? Would you like to visit Grace’s art room? If so what, of the activities Grace offers would be your preferred activity? Baking/ sandplay/ papier mache/ gardening/ art?

I’m afraid I’m the least artistic person in the world! (Seriously, even my stick men are deformed). I do enjoy it though when I’m not under any pressure to produce something good, so I’d love to do some art and crafts and baking with Grace. I’d love to plant pretty flowers in the garden too.

5. Amy`s mum seems to struggle with the idea of Grace`s school, which teaches mainly through art and holistic methods. What are your thoughts on schools like this?

Sometimes one dreams up the worlds that we would like to exist. The truth is that there are more and more children suffering from school anxiety and anxiety in general.  I think it’s an area that needs proper attention and funding as if young people’s anxieties are not cared for they can become much more serious as they grow into teenagers and young adults. I wish that there could be a Grace and an Iman and a sandcastle support centre attached to every school in the country….and even though that is unlikely to happen in the current funding climate perhaps something of the quality of Grace’s centre might filter through into schools. 

The magic of writing is that you can wave your pen-wand and make something true in a story…. I’ll keep waving! 

5b) What do you think of these kind of holistic schools? In my story The Sandcastle Support Centre is for children with anxiety? What aspect of the centre do you think would be good to integrate into schools in general? How would this benefit young people? 

I think these schools are fabulous, and I’d love to see them imtroduced into every school, so that children struggling for some reason could 

Cheeky bonus question- Would you ever revisit these characters? I really want to know what`ll happen next!

Well strangely enough. I have been invited by Scoop Magazine to write a little off shoot story of ‘Worry Angels’ and I chose to write a story about Grace’s retirement day when everyone at the centre sets out on a day trip to….

I haven’t thought about a ‘Worry Angels’ story beyond that… but you never know… one of the characters may tap me on the shoulder at some point in the future and ask me to write their story forward from ‘Worry Angels!’

6b At what age would you like to see these characters again? 

I’m not sure what age, but I’d love to see Amy-May and Rima help another child the way Grace and Iman help them in Worry Angels.

You find Sita on Twitter @sitabrahmachari and on her website here.

Thank you so much for reading? What did you think of Worry Angels? Are you a fan of Barrington Stoke? What activity would you choose in Grace’s art room?

See you soon with a new post 

Amy xxx

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ruth Lauren 

Hello everyone!

Today, I’m hugely excited to have Ruth Lauren, who wrote one of my favourite reads of this year, here for an interview.

Let’s get started!

Hi Ruth! Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview; welcome to Golden Books Girl

It’s my pleasure, thanks so much for having me!

1. Can you please describe Prisoner of Ice and Snow in 5 words for anyone who hasn`t read it?

Prison Break meets Frozen

2. What inspired you to write the book? Had you always envisaged it as a series, or did you originally plan for just one book?

The idea began when I was watching Prison Break with my son. I wondered what that kind of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead (and then if it were set in a fantasy land where I could add all sorts of interesting challenges and twists). 

I actually only planned a standalone, but every publishing house interested in the story wanted a sequel, and once I started thinking about what might happen to Valor and Sasha next, I knew they were right. 

3. The world of Demidova is so vivid and layered. How did you go about your worldbuilding? Were there any high points or challenges during this process?
You’re so kind, thank you!

I wanted a very cold, snowy, frozen world where the elements themselves could cause problems for the characters and bleed through into every part of the planning Valor has to do to try to break her sister out of prison. 

Once the setting was fixed in my mind, the details had to reflect the landscape—the animals that inhabit it, the clothes the people need to wear, the food they might be able to access. My editor was brilliant at helping me think about other aspects that add to making the world feel real—like special celebration days in the city, the history of the prison and the geography involved with surrounding lands and how they might impact on the story.  

I drew on elements of the Russian landscape and traditional clothing but I also wanted to create a matriarchal world where only women can rule and where they often have positions of power. I wanted the sisters to inhabit a world where they don’t have to struggle or overcome (at least not in this aspect) and it would never occur to them that those positions weren’t open or available to them. They see women in every role in the book—from ruler to doctor to prison guard to hunter. That was a really important part of the world to me. 

The whole experience was actually one big high point (or at least it feels like it in retrospect). Prisoner is very different from anything I’d written before and it was a lot of fun to write. 

4. Your heroine Valor, is so brave and I really sympathised with her throughout the book, even if I didn`t agree with her decisions. Who would you say your top three heroines are?

Ok, I’m cheating a little bit here. 

TV: Buffy, Jessica Jones, Lisa Simpson

Books: Katsa (Graceling), Feo (The Wolf Wilder) and Katniss Everdeen

5. Alongside Valor is a variety of other prisoners who form a fabulous ensemble cast. Which character of these is your favourite?
I have a soft spot for little Feliks, but Katia is my girl.  

6. What`s your writing process like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
I really don’t! Just outlining, trying to write 1k a day when I’m drafting, and wondering how people who listen to music when they write can possibly concentrate.

7. If you could have written any book by another author, what would it be and why?

I would love to steal The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern for my own. Or anything by Laini Taylor or Kristin Cashore or Katherine Rundell. Their imaginations feel so much bigger than my own and I know I could never write anything on the scale that the first three do or with the inimitable style that Katherine Rundell does.  

8. Finally, before our quickfire round, can you let anything slip about the sequel to Prisoner of Ice and Snow, Seeker to the Crown?

Seeker picks up right where Prisoner left off and with Princess Anastasia now missing, Valor is plunged straight into another exciting mission. More crossbow, more icy danger, and I don’t want to say too much, but a certain monarch may vanish leaving Demidova in chaos . . . 

QUICKFIRE

Hogwarts house- I have no idea!

Favourite flavour of ice cream– Salted Caramel 

Animal you`d most want to turn into?- Cheetah

City/country you most want to go on holiday to that you haven`t yet? Florence, Italy
Favourite season of the year?- Spring
Thank you so much to Ruth for answering my questions, and Emily at Bloomsbury for setting the interview up!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post everyone! I’d love to hear what you thought if this book if you’ve read it!

 Amy xxx

Author Interview: Robin Stevens

Hello everyone!

Today Im thrilled to welcome Robin Stevens, bestselling author of the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, to the blog for an interview. I hope you all enjoy reading it!

Hi Robin! Welcome to Golden Books Girl, it`s so lovely to have you! 

Thank you for having me, Amy!

1. Can you describe the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries in 5 words for anyone who hasn`t read them yet?

Mysterious, exciting, funny, murderous, friendship.


Continue reading “Author Interview: Robin Stevens”

Author Interview: Jess Butterworth 

Hello everyone!

Today, I’m incredibly excited to welcome another author for a Q&A; the incredible Jess Butterworth, whose stunning debut Running on the Roof of the World I absolutely adored (you can read my review in this post). Onto the questions!

Hi Jess. Welcome to Golden Books Girl, and thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me!

My pleasure! I’m delighted to be here.

1. To start off, can you sum up Running on the Roof the World for anyone who hasn`t read it yet in 5 words?

Contemporary Himalayan adventure, featuring yaks!

2. I absolutely loved the setting of Tibet in the book. What inspired you to set the book there? Is anything in the book based on your own experience of living in the Himalayas?

Absolutely. My father was a trek leader and we lived on a remote foothill above Dharamshala, where the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan community in exile is settled. My mother’s family lived in London, where I was born. Growing up, I would always write about the Himalayas when I was in the UK and missing the mountains or my dad and grandparents who still lived there.

I wanted to introduce readers to events I care about deeply, but really it wasn’t as planned out as that. Tash’s voice appeared in my head one day and wouldn’t leave.

The vulture tree is based on a tree I saw about ten years ago, with many vultures perched on its branches. It’s something I’ve never seen again on my visits since, and an image that has stayed with me.

Another real life moment I drew from was when my sister and I once walked down the mountain at dusk and saw a bear up a tree. Needless to say, we backed away slowly and luckily left the bear undisturbed. My sister is a singer and from that moment onwards she would always sing at the top of her lungs as we walked over the foothills. We were taught never to sneak up on the leopards and bears; you’re safer if they can hear you coming and will choose to get out of the way.

The glacier scene came from a time I was trekking with my Dad and we camped by a glacier. Later, we used our sleeping mats to slide down the glacier. It was fun, but bumpy!

During my research trip, when I was close to the India/Tibet border, after acclimatising, I went up to 18380 feet, and very much felt the effects of being at such a high altitude. So that made it into the book too!

3. The difficult political issues in Tibet are very prominent throughout Running on the Roof of the World, as Tash`s parents are arrested by the Chinese soldiers for being rebels. Was it a challenge to explore such a brutal situation and still aim the book at middle grade readers?

I definitely spent time making sure that the book was truthful to its setting whilst still appealing to middle-grade readers. I wanted to write a story that was relevant to today and it was important to me to include those moments as they’re grounded in real events. Writing in first person helped and allowed the reader to see the events through Tash’s eyes, whilst still giving a sense of the bigger political picture. I included moments of lightness and laughter, and an overall theme of hope, and I focused on the universal aspects to make it relatable to younger readers.

4. What was your favourite scene to write in the book?
So many! I loved everything about writing about the mountains! Sliding down glaciers was one of my favourite, hiding with Eve, and the ending.

5. Speaking of writing, do you have any unusual writing habits? What are your writing routines like?

In the past few years, I’ve had many different jobs at the same time as being a writer, from working as a bid-coordinator, assisting in a vintage furniture shop, to nannying. In between them I was often travelling to and from India which means that my writing habits changed regularly. They mainly consisted of writing wherever and whenever I could! I do know that I work best in the mornings, when I can wake up and write straight away. I like to start a new idea in a notebook before transferring it to my computer.

Right now, for the first time ever, I have an office and office assistants, Luna and Bo Bo, the Maine Coon kittens, which is exciting.

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6.  Do you have any tips or advice for writers reading this interview?

Read as much as you can. If you’re stuck for inspiration, think back to the things you loved doing at the age at your protagonist or the things you feel passionately about. So much of writing is re-writing; Running on the Roof of the World ent through at least ten full drafts. Practice patience; everything takes a long time! Most importantly, don’t give up! Everyone has rejections.

7. What other activities do you enjoy apart from writing?

Trekking, dancing, reading, camping and being outside, being with friends, yoga, watching live music, travelling.

8. What has been your  exciting moment of being an author so far?
The book launch for sure! I got to see it in a Waterstones window display and gave my first public reading.

9.  If you could have written any book by another author, what would it be and why?
Matilda by Roald Dahl because it has remained one of my favourite books.

10. Finally, before we go on to the quickfire questions, are you able to say anything about your next book? I can`t wait to read it after your amazing debut!

Aw, thank you! It’s called When the Mountains Roared and is inspired by my Grandma who smuggled a kangaroo joey out of Australia. It’s an adventure set in the mountains of India, about a girl who is determined to protect the wild leopards of the mountain from poachers.

QUICKFIRE

Can you give us three random facts about you?-

In the Australian outback, I got bitten by a brown snake and airlifted to hospital.

I have three younger sisters.

I edited Running on the Roof of the World while I was in India, during monsoon. I was often enclosed in a cloud. If I opened a window, the cloud would drift inside. My pillow went mouldy.

Favourite animal?-

Yaks and leopards (couldn’t choose!)

Favourite chocolate bar?-

Yesterday someone gave me pomegranate dark chocolate and it is my new favourite thing!

What`s your Hogwarts house?-

Gryffindor

Best book you`ve read this year?

The Huntress: Sea by Sarah Driver

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I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this interview as much as I enjoyed writing the questions and organising the post with Jess, who has been an utter delight (and was kind enough to send me the gorgeous photos throughout the post to use)

See you soon with a new post 

Amy xxx

Blog Tour: Confetti and Cake by Laurel Remington

Hello everybody!

Today I’m really excited to share a guest post from Laurel Remington, author of The Secret Cooking Club and Confetti and Cake. Thank you so much to Jazz at Chicken House for allowing me to be part of the blog tour for the book. If you’d like to chdck out the other posts, here’s where to find them 😊

Over to Laurel!

I’m delighted that my second book with Chicken House, The Secret Cooking Club: Confetti & Cake, was published last week. The book is a sequel to The Secret Cooking Club, my debut children’s novel, and winner of the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2015.

Confetti & Cake is a standalone book, but for those who read the first book, it follows the further adventures of Scarlett, her mum, and her friends who are members of The Secret Cooking Club. In this book, Scarlett now has her own blog and runs The Secret Cooking Club Online, and her mum’s ‘tell-all’ blog that used to embarrass Scarlett has been turned into an inspirational blog for parents.

It was interesting to explore how Scarlett’s life has been transformed on the outside – to the world, she is a confident young girl with a vibrant personality and a bold online presence – whereas in reality, she is still a little shy and has a lot of self doubts. In other words, no matter what her social media presence says about her, in real life she is a normal girl.

In a way, I lived a little bit of what Scarlett experienced over the last year since The Secret Cooking Club was published. I had the privilege of getting to meet a lot of young readers during school visits. They made me feel very welcome, and almost like a celebrity sometimes! But giving a talk in front of so many young people was a bit daunting, especially at first. I suppose it’s because children are generally a lot more honest than adults, and haven’t had all the years of experience learning to hide their feelings. That’s what makes it so exciting to write for young readers. They definitely keep you on your toes!

I hope that Scarlett’s situation may help other young people to see that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, not what someone may broadcast to the world on social media. It’s easy to look on Facebook and Twitter and imagine that everyone else is living the perfect life – and maybe feel a little bit bad about ourselves as a result. Scarlett has a bit of the opposite dilemma – after building herself up as The Little Cook and inspiring others, she secretly wants them to know that she still has problems too, and is just like them. In today’s world, sometimes we can feel like we have a split personality – online and real life. Scarlett learns that at the end of the day, it’s a luxury to be able to tell the truth and be herself.

Laurel Remingtons new book, Confetti & Cake, is out now. Laurels first childrens book, The Secret Cooking Club, was the winner of the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2015, and has inspired many young readers to try their hand at cooking and baking. She lives in Surrey, UK with her partner and three daughters.

Thank you all so much for reading everyone! I’d love to hear what you think of Laurel’s books if you’ve read them, and also just for fun, your favourite cake/biscuits! Personally I don’t like cake, but I’m partial to a choc chip cookie or a Bourbon 😊. Let me know yours in the comments below or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl 

Amy xxx

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Maz Evans

Hello everyone!

Today I`m thrilled to welcome Maz Evans ( the delightful author of Who Let the Gods Out, which has been one of my favourite books this year) . I’m also very excited about reading the sequel, which comes out today, soon​ .Let`s get started with the interview!

Continue reading “AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Maz Evans”