books

Recently Launched – Reading Well by the Reading Agency

I’m a big fan of the amazing charity The Reading Agency, who do so much to promote and encourage Reading. They now run World Book Night, an event I’ve been shouting about since it first started and now they’ve developed a new amazing concept – Reading Well.

So what is Reading Well?

Reading Well has been developed by national charity The Reading Agency in partnership with Libraries Connected and the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) Cymru, and is delivered with public libraries.

There are 5 Reading Well booklists which support people to understand and manage their health and wellbeing using helpful reading. Over 3 million Reading Well books have been borrowed from libraries since 2013. Find out about other Reading Well booklists at your local library or visit reading-well.org.uk

Reading Well for teens supports the mental health and wellbeing of teenagers, providing helpful information, advice and support to help them better understand their feelings, handle difficult experiences and boost confidence. The list has been developed as an update to the 2016 Reading Well for Young People (“Shelf Help”) list and is focused on supporting teens’ mental health and wellbeing in a post-pandemic context.

The booklist is targeted at teenagers (13-18) and includes a range of reading levels and formats to support less confident readers and encourage engagement. Some of the recommended books suggest useful self-help techniques; there are also personal stories, graphic formats, and fiction. Alongside the books are a selection of quality assured age-appropriate digital resources. The books have been chosen by young people, leading health professionals and library staff. Our book selection panel included colleagues from Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Nursing, British Psychological Society, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, NHS England, Mind, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and the School Library Association.

I was kindly sent two fantastic books from the Reading Well for Teens reading lists: The Year I Didn’t Eat by Samuel Pollen and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I had read A Monster Calls before, ages ago and definitely needed a re-read and I hadn’t read The Year I Didn’t Eat so that was new to me. The reading lists themselves are very accessible and have a huge range of books on lots of different topics that might affect their readers. All of them can be found online, in book shops and most importantly, in your local library and hopefully in a school or college library too.

Fourteen-year-old Max Howarth is living with anorexia. With the help of his therapist and his supportive, but flawed, family, he’s trying his best to maintain his health. But things spiral out of control, and his eating disorder threatens to isolate him from everyone he loves. Beautifully crafted and honestly written, this debut YA novel tells the story of one boy’s year-long journey toward recovery.

In most ways, Max is like any other teenager. He’s dealing with family drama, crushes, and high school-all while trying to have fun, play video games, and explore his hobbies. But Max is also living with anorexia and finds it impossible to be honest with his loved ones-they just don’t understand what he’s going through.

Starting at Christmas, a series of triggering events disrupt Max’s progress toward recovery, sending him down a year-long spiral of self-doubt and dangerous setbacks. With no one to turn to, Max journals his innermost thoughts and feelings, writing to “Ana,” the name he’s given his anorexia. While that helps for a while, Ana’s negative voice grows, amplifying his fears.

When Max gets an unusual present from his older brother, a geocache, it becomes a welcome distraction from his problems. He hides it in the forest near their house and soon gets a message from the mysterious “E.” Although Max is unsure of the secret writer’s identity, they build a bond, and it’s comforting to finally have someone to confide in.As Max’s eating disorder pulls him further away from his family and friends, this connection keeps him going, leading him back to the people who love and support him.

Writing from his own experiences with anorexia, Samuel Pollen’s The Year I Didn’t Eat is a powerful and uplifting story about recovery and the connections that heal us.

My thoughts: while I didn’t have anorexia, I did struggle with a different eating disorder in my late teens and early twenties so Max’s story resonated with me. Based on the author’s own illness, this was powerful and moving and I can totally see why this made the Reading Well booklist.

Eating disorders are increasingly common in young men and teenage boys, as well as still being something many young women struggle with. They’re both a physical and mental illness, and require a holistic approach to treat. They can be really scary and as long as society continues to generate certain body types, they’ll persist.

But The Year I Didn’t Eat offers that most important thing – hope. You can recover, recovery is real and you will be able to be ok again. When you’re in the midst of an eating disorder, or any illness that also impacts you psychologically, it can seem impossible to believe you’ll be well again.

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

My thoughts: I have been extremely lucky in that I never had to deal with the pain of losing a parent at a young age (both of mine are still here) but I cannot imagine how awful that would be. Having seen some close friends lose theirs even in my twenties, it feels horrific. This incredibly, tremendously moving, powerful and iconic book deserves its place on the Reading Well list for its ability to understand that terrible pain and fear and interpret it for the teen audience. I imagine it to be a wonderfully comforting read if you are dealing with the potential loss of a parent, knowing you’re not alone, that someone does understand, must provide at least a little comfort.

I have to admit I read both books with tissues at my side because they brought back, for me, some of the turmoil of being a teenager and young adult. They made me feel less alone, definitely, despite being published after my teens, and long after I left the expected audience. I really hope lots of people access the Reading Well Reading lists and find something that speaks to them there.

A massive thank you to The Reading Agency and their partner Four Communications for sending me the books and providing the images and some of the text above.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Dreadful Beauty – L.M. Rapp

A girl undergoing a terrifying transformation goes on an epic quest to find a refuge from her ruthless father.

Nymphosis, a disease that turns Humans into Chimeras, is ravaging the land of Gashom. The More-Than-Pure, determined to protect themselves, have seized power and enacted segregationist laws. 

The daughter of a high dignitary, young Neria learns she is afflicted by the very disease her father is determined to eradicate. Forced to surrender her privileges, she must flee her home in the capital and traverse the strange wilds to seek refuge with her fellow kind. 

Will she have the courage to fight oppression to emancipate the Chimeras from the yoke of the More-Than-Pure?

Amazon Goodreads


Interview with the author

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

The research took place mostly on the internet. A word I stumble upon while writing can instantly turn into several hours of reading. 

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

None of the characters were easy to write about, but certainly the most difficult was the tyrannical father. I read three different books about serial killers before I began to understand the reasoning of a psychopath. 

In your book, you describe the gargoyles’ people. What made you use elements of Gothic architecture for creating these characters?

During a visit to Notre Dame de Paris, I was able to admire the sculptures of gargoyles that adorn its facade. Their mere presence evoked a fabulous universe and served as great inspiration in my novel. 

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

The ideas seem to me to be floating around, in books, events, and encounters, and that it is enough to sit for long hours in front of a computer screen and concentrate on arranging them in a new way.

There are many books out there about chimeras. What makes yours different?

The story follows a family and a people through a tone that is both intimate and epic, which is rather unusual in this kind of literature. The plot captures the struggles of humanity through a fantasy lens, making it both digestible and thought-provoking.

What advice would you give budding writers?

Don’t give up! Remember that this journey takes time and you won’t find all the answers from the start. Find yourself a smart, professional, and gentle literary advisor who can guide you in the process.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?

I think I would like to be Matar, the Pedler. I envy his freedom and independence, despite the difficulties he faces in his life. 

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I have had other professions in the past, but writing has become my main focus at the moment. I still practice and teach aikido, which actually turns out to be really useful when I write combat scenes. 

How long have you been writing?

I’ve only been writing for five years, but I’ve been reading every day for as long as I can remember, which certainly helped me a lot.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

Never. I think the writer’s block happens when you force yourself. I take the first topic that comes to my mind and I write only about what strikes me as exciting. I make no judgment during the first phase of writing. I let the ideas flow. 

What is your next project?

I will soon publish a thriller about a woman who decides, after a divorce, to take over her parents’ farm: a return to nature that does not go as planned. I also just started writing a science fiction book.

What genre do you write and why?

I choose the story first. The genre follows. I don’t force myself to create series. I think that having fun while writing increases the chances that the reader will have fun too.

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Lately, I’ve read Philip Roth’s Human Stain. I found the beginning of this book stunning and the scenes taking place around the main protagonist and the university’s life incredibly well done. 

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

My favorite compliment is that once started, it’s difficult to put the book down.

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

It’s a difficult question. I’m too close to her to tell. The similarity would be that she doesn’t give up easily. That being said, I find her more stubborn than I am.

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

Odeya Rush for Neria, the heroine.

Lior Raz, for the Pedler

Lior Ashkenazi, for Valterone, the ruthless father.

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?

It was incredible to see a world coming into life out of my mind. The greatest challenge was to make it right—to find the right balance between all the elements.

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

It’s a difficult, but worthwhile road.

Which authors inspired you to write?

Tolkien, Barbara Pym, Kazuo Ishiguro, Camus, Albert Cohen, Proust, Baudelaire and many others.

What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?

I regret nothing because I hope to use these discarded parts for a sequel.

On rituals:

Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?

I don’t usually snack because it distracts me. But I drink green tea to stay alert.

Where do you write?

I write mostly in my studio, but I also like to write on the go, in coffee shops, hotel rooms or in my car.

Do you write every day?

Six days a week.

What is your writing schedule?

I’m a morning person, so I usually start writing as soon as my youngest daughter leaves for school. I write at least two hours a day, sometimes more, and Iusually keep the afternoons for other activities, like publishing and marketing.

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

I just sit down and look at my computer screen, my hands ready on the keyboard and my mind traveling.

In today’s tech-savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

No. I’ve just drawn a diagram for the protagonists’ relationship and a map.

If you’re a mom writer, how do you balance your time?

I’m a mom, but my daughters are quite grown up now. So it’s less of an issue, although I have the best focus time in the mornings when everybody is still sleeping or busy.

Fun stuff:

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

I would like to be able to move in time according to my research. For example, take a leap into antiquity to observe the hotels of that era. It would be amazing if we could see everything in person instead of relying on archaeological digs or writing found on the internet.

Favorite travel spot?

New York

Favorite dessert?

I try to cut off sugar, so no dessert for me please.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which three books would you want with you?

I’d take Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Barbara Pym’s Some Tame Gazelle, and Proust’s In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you? The scariest? The strangest? 

I was kidnapped by aliens who looked like Buster Keaton. Just kidding… I live a quiet life, like many writers I suppose. Most of my adventures take place in my head.

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

I hesitate between leaving France, my birth country, or having three children.

Any hobbies? Or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

The main ones right now are Aikido and basketry. I like making sculptures or baskets with branches I find in the garden.

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

I’d prefer they’ll remember my books. That’s where I store the most important things I have to say.

What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?

I love silence and quiet, but the pandemic was too much, even for me.

What TV series are you currently binge-watching?

Severance

What is your favorite thing to do in summer?

Swimming and eating mango.

What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?

“Eem rak taskimi” by The Idan Raichel Project

What is your go-to breakfast item?

No breakfast. I started intermittent fasting a few years ago and I found it keeps my mind clear until the first meal of the day.

What is the oldest item of clothing you own?

A fox fur collar that belonged to my great-grandmother. My mother passed it down to me. Even though I oppose the use of animal fur for clothing, I can’t get rid of it.

Tell us about your longest friendship.

My friend Sylvie lives in France. I met her in high school and even though our paths parted, every time we speak on the phone or meet (rarely), it’s like we’re immediately back in the old days. 

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

When they were first released, Star Wars and Indiana Jones were some sort of revelation. And Harrison Ford was the handsome cool hero in both of them.

L.M. Rapp has lived in different countries and practiced several professions: dentist, web developer, artist, aikido teacher, farmer. Eager to learn and discover, she uses her experiences to enrich her stories. She has also written a thriller, Of Flesh and Tears.

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Excerpt

One moment, she had been enjoying the security and comfort of her family home. The next, she was left helpless in a deserted square. An oil lamp rested in Neria’s hand. A clay container, filled with a greenish-yellow liquid. A wick, coiled within its heart, snaked up to the groove that guided it into the open air. A flame danced on its tip, a paltry defense against the darkness of that night, one of those gentle nights that often follow the heat of the day. The moon watched her with a wry smile.

Neria suddenly felt she was going to collapse, crumpling like a sheet that had fallen to the ground. Without the warmth of the hand curled inside hers, she would have indeed done so. She remembered the last time she had seen Arhel’s hand, crimson and reaching out of the covers. Who knew what the disease would do to her? But before she succumbed to it, she would save Anaëlle.

She breathed in, then out, and took a step forward. Her aching limbs strained at first, but after a few minutes, she was walking briskly, her head bowed like a servant, the child in tow. First, she had to find the secret passage her mother had told her about and cross the wall of the High District without going through the ever-guarded gates.

She came to a dead-end and saw the dried-up well and a withered pistachio tree lined with shrubs of rosemary leaning against the perimeter wall. It concealed a narrow, low opening. She went in first, crawled into a tunnel bereft of cobwebs and emerged behind an olive tree, also surrounded by shrubbery. Crouching down, she peeked between the branches. No one was there. She called to Anaëlle in a hushed voice, the child joining her. They emerged from their cover and arrived on the street. Before long, they had made their way to an impoverished part of town they had never been to before. The hovels were huddled together, separated here and there by narrow, randomly arranged passageways. The first on the left… The second on the right…

“Hey there, little lady! Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

Three guards had concealed themselves in a nook to drink to their hearts’ content.

“Lady Yarine’s sent me on an urgent errand.”

She hoped they would be too drunk to do anything and turned away. She tried to maintain her composure, a technique that had worked for her that morning. Yet heavy footsteps came ever closer behind her before her arm was seized by a coarse grip.

“You’ve got more than enough time to come give us a little cuddle.”

One of the guards looked at her, a yellow smile spread across his brown beard. He reeked of alcohol and nauseating filth. She tried to pull away from him, but his grip tightened.

“Stay still or we’ll give you a good hiding. It’ll go better for you if you don’t put up a fight, believe me. Leave the kid here and come on.”

The two others approached.

The lamp fell and shattered. Neria took out her knife and stuck it in the arm restraining her. The guard howled in pain and let go of her.

“You’re going to regret that you whore.”

The guards now surrounded her. She threatened them with her bloodied weapon. She couldn’t believe she’d been so stupid not to have stabbed him in the stomach. Her assailant barely seemed bothered. She spun around, Anaëlle clinging to her clothes. The girl was sobbing.

One of the men drew his sword, “Drop the knife or I kill the kid.”

Neria’s hand trembled. The knife fell on the dusty ground with a dull thud.

“Run, Anaëlle, get out of here!” 

The wounded guard threw himself on her, seized her elbow, slipped behind her, and choked her with his good arm.

The child, small and spirited, ran away. Just as Neria thought she was going to make it, the man with the sword grabbed her mid-flight.

Neria struggled, hitting the arm that choked her. His hold tightened. Her mouth gasped but the air would not come, and her movements weakened. Suddenly, the guard holding her let out a yowl of pain and released her. She collapsed, heavily panting gulps of air on all fours. Her assailant lay there with his throat slit. The coarse, black-nailed hand that moments before had clamped down on her arm now clawed at the earth. The corpse’s glassy eyes stared up into the starry sky. His red tongue in his gaping mouth, his fleshy lips, his fat cheeks swallowed by his beard… like a giant sea urchin washed up from the sea, his insides hanging open. A shrill cry rang out and she covered her ears.

A monster, half-man, half-beast, had ripped open another guard and had now set its sights on the third. The remaining guard was still holding Anaëlle hostage and keeping the beast at bay with his sword.

While the tiger and guard danced their macabre dance, Neria, still on all fours, fumbled for her knife. She grasped its hilt, ran towards the soldier, raising her weapon, a wild howling in her throat. The monster took advantage of the diversion to pounce on its adversary. Neria sheathed her knife, picked up the child who had fallen to the ground, and fled, pursued by screams of agony.


The construction of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris started in the 12th century. At the beginning, water flowed from the roofs onto the streets, splashing the walls of the building. Gargoyles in the shape of fantastic winged animals appeared in the early 13th century. They served as gutters and became decorative elements inspired by the medieval bestiary.

Portrait of a man – 1957 “I have a great interest in madness, and I am convinced art has much to do with madness,” Jean Dubuffet

On a trip, about ten years ago, I admired these motionless and threatening gargoyles without the faintest idea of the journey they would later take me. Premier and medieval art seem to possess an evocative power that the more modern arts, bogged down in their technicality and theories, have lost. I’m not sure that, as the painter Dubuffet wrote, “Art has much to do with madness,” but clearly art, like fairy tales, often finds its inspiration in our fears and anxieties.

Bored Gargoyle of Notre Dame de Paris

According to art historian Michael Camille, “To protect himself from the demons he is charged with sculpting, the medieval artist mocks them.” No doubt that the attentive observer will be able to perceive, barely masked by ferocity, a sense of saving humor. For isn’t it through humor that we tame our fears?

I myself have developed an obsession for these magical creatures. They have crossed time and borders. From superstition and religious beliefs, they have invaded popular culture and can be found on the Internet, in archaeological or modern art museums, fantasy books, Marvel movies, Disney cartoons, Japanese manga, video games, and elsewhere.

In ancient Greece, the word Chimaera referred to a hybrid creature capable of breathing fire, a lion with a goat’s head and a serpent’s tail. Such a mosaic of animals leaves one dreaming. Dracula seems so conformist in comparison.

Manticore of a medieval bestiary

The manticore, a legendary monster of Persian origin and imported in Europe by a Greek doctor, has the body of a red-furred lion, a man’s face, and a tail with poisonous spines that it projects on its prey – preferably human. It devours them, bones included, thanks to its three rows of teeth, going from one ear to the other. It symbolizes evil. Over the years, it seems to have evolved into the Sphinx. Of all these characteristics, the mouth is the most frightening to me. Human-like at first sight, until it opens wider and wider to reveal too many sharp teeth… 

Ancient Nue versus modern one

The Japanese have their Nue with the head of a monkey, the limbs of a tiger, the body of a tanuki and the tail of a snake. Now it stars in a Baruto anime. 

Forg, cover detail of the French version. Don’t be fooled by appearances.

I decided to paint these hybrid creatures, to invent some of my own, and to tell their stories. In the 19th century, Violet-le-Duc added chimeras to the roofs of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral. They received a lot of praise at the time and inspired me to create a gargoyle people, fierce, mischievous, and tender. 

I’ve only brushed this vast and complex subject, and I’m sure that you too have your favorite chimera. Which one do you prefer? Which one scares you the most? 


My thoughts: this was an interesting book featuring gargoyles and chimera, hybrid beasts often found in ancient mythology. Neria is a bit of a spoilt brat to begin with but she has to find her inner strength when her mother sneaks her and her niece out of the house to protect them from her father’s cruelty as Neria starts to become the very thing she has been taught to fear – a chimera. Her niece can see the future – mainly the actions of her own parents, but that too puts her in danger.

Change can be literal but also metaphorical – Neria might be shifting into a different form but she also has to change her world view and become strong enough to fight back against her father and his cruel, murderous policies that would see her killed.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Whisperling – Hayley Hoskins

When you’re dead, you’re dead. When you’re gone, you’re gone. Unless, of course, you’re not. And that’s where I come in.

The year is 1897, and Peggy Devona can speak with ghosts.

She hides her gift from those afraid of a girl with such powers, terrified of the secrets the dead could reveal through her. But when her best friend is accused of murdering her rich mistress, Peggy knows only she – a  hisperling – can save her.

Peggy escapes to her uncle’s psychic emporium in the city, seeking out new ghosts to help her solve Sally’s case.

Yet time is running out, and each step towards uncovering the truth also brings Sally one step closer to the gallows. . .

Long listed for the Bath Children’s Novel award, Hayley Hoskins writes in the space between family and work, with much support from her writing group.

Mum to a teenage boy, she spends a disproportionate amount of time hoping that her son’s life is far less complicated than those of the characters in her books, and trying to ensure he becomes a ‘good egg’.

 Originally from the Forest of Dean, Hayley lives with her family and hairy breezeblock of a dog in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Twitter

My thoughts: inspired by the real life executions of teenage girls in the past and the Victorian fascination for séances and the afterlife, this is a clever, fun story of a young woman with an extraordinary gift and how she uses it to get justice for the living and the dead.

Peggy Devona has inherited the family gift for talking to the dead – she’s a Whisperling – and while it isn’t as bad as being a 17th century witch, there are still those who see it as evil. Like the local vicar, Tate, who has a real issue with Peggy. And a few other people.

Sent to live with her uncle at his psychic emporium (he has two clairvoyants living and working there – Oti and Cecily, who are a joy fyi) for her own safety, she is determined to save her best friend Sally from the noose after she is accused of murdering her employer.

But in order to solve the crime, she must give in to the power of the Devonas and allow the dead to speak. Assisted by her friends and family, can she stop Sally’s terrible fate and right a wrong?

Really enjoyable, lots of fun and Peggy is a great protagonist. Her gift frightens her, not unsurprisingly, and in embracing it she realises she can do good and help people. She also discovers she is surrounded by people who love her – living and dead.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Dogs of the Deadlands – Anthony McGowan

Chernobyl, 1986. The world is coming to an end. Dragged from her bed in the middle of the night and forced to leave her beloved puppy behind, Natasha has no idea if she’ll ever return home. Growing up in the shadow of the ruined nuclear power plant, pups Misha and Bratan need to learn how to live wild – and fast. Creatures with sharp teeth, scythe-like claws and yellow eyes lurk in the overgrown woods. And they’re watching the brothers… But will the dogs survive without humans? And can humans live without them?

Anthony McGowan is one of the most widely acclaimed young adult and children’s authors in the UK. His books have won numerous major awards. In 2020, he was awarded the CILIP Carnegie Medal for Lark. He was also shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal with Rook and won the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the Catalyst Award for Henry Tumour. His YA novel The Knife that Killed Me was made into a critically-lauded film in 2014. Anthony lives in London, with his wife, two children and dog.

My thoughts: this had so many White Fang and Call of the Wild (both by Jack London) vibes. I loved it. We all know I’m a sucker for any story with an animal in it and in this the animals were the stars. The Chrrnobyl disaster and I are the same age (a few months apart) so I don’t remember it, but my parents do and I watched that incredible drama about it during lockdown.

It was really interesting to read a story set in the evacuated area, where only animals and a few tricky people (like Katerina in this book) remained behind. It must have been a real shock to the domesticated animals when their people left. I liked the idea of some of them bonding with their wild cousins, as Zoya does, and joining wolf packs or like Shepherd, staying and guarding their homes. I imagine cats going completely feral. I grew up reading Colin Dann’s City Cats and Animals of Farthing Wood (sob), Watership Down, K.M. Peyton’s horse books, Dick King-Smith (The Sheep Pig among others) and Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. This certainly would sit nicely alongside all of those. Bits are sad and bits are frightening – “nature, red in tooth and claw” in action but the ending is lovely. I liked the Natasha sections less – the wolf-dogs were more interesting but I did enjoy the way the two stories wove together. Definitely one for any young (or not so young) animal lovers.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: With Fire in Their Blood – Kat Delacorte

Packed to the brim with bisexual and queer representation, With Fire in Their Blood is a simmering supernatural romance set in the crumbling Italian city of Castello, where mafia clans make the rules, dark magic pulses the streets and the sins of the past threaten to consume the present. . . 

When sixteen-year-old Lilly arrives in Castello, she isn’t impressed.
A secluded town in the Italian mountains is not where she saw her last years of high school playing out. 

Divided for generations by a brutal clan-family war, the two halves of Castello are kept from destroying each other by the mysterious General, a leader determined to maintain order and ‘purity’. . . whatever the cost. 

Lilly falls in with the rebellious Liza, brooding Nico and sensitive Christian, and sparks begin to fly. But in a city where love can lead to ruin, Lilly isn’t sure she can trust anyone — not even herself. 

And then she accidentally breaks Castello’s most important rule: when the General’s men come to test your blood, you’d better not be anything more than human… 

Perfect for lovers of Chloe Gong, Renée Ahdieh and V.E. Schwab, With Fire in Their Blood is quality YA storytelling at its best by an exciting new voice in YA fantasy. 

Amazon  Goodreads

Kat Delacorte was eleven years old when her family moved from the United States to a small town in central Italy. She soon began writing stories about her new friends developing superpowers, and she hasn’t looked back since. She graduated with a BA in History from Columbia University, and lives in Venice, Italy. 

My thoughts: Lilly’s whole life, what there was of it anyway, is uprooted when her dad gets a job in a small Italian town thats proudly stuck in a sort of timeloop – no WiFi, no technology at all really. There’s a reason for that, as Lilly discovers. This town burns witches, or those it suspects of being Saints, as they’re known. And the mysterious General keeps a tight grip on everything in the town.

As Lilly investigates the town’s past and finds links to her own dead mother, she discovers she has some unusual gifts herself.

A clever and imaginative take on the witch trials of the past and the problems of living under a censorious regime. No information gets in or out.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: River of Ashes – Alexandra Weis & Lucas Astor

ALONG THE BANKS OF THE BOGUE FALAYA RIVER, sits the abandoned St. Francis Seminary. Beneath a canopy of oaks, blocked from prying eyes, the teens of St. Benedict High gather here on Fridays. The rest of the week belongs to school and family—but weekends belong to the river.

And the river belongs to Beau Devereaux.

The only child of a powerful family, Beau can do no wrong. Star quarterback. Handsome. Charming. The “prince” of St. Benedict is the ultimate catch.

He is also a psychopath.

A dirty family secret buried for years, Beau’s evil grows unchecked. In the shadows of the haunted abbey, he commits unspeakable acts on his victims and ensures their silence with threats and intimidation. Senior year, Beau sets his sights on his girlfriend’s headstrong twin sister, Leslie, who hates him. Everything he wants but cannot have, she will be his ultimate prize.

As the victim toll mounts, it becomes clear that someone must stop Beau Devereaux.

And that someone will pay with their life.

My thoughts: Beau is a cruel and violent young man, he sees nothing wrong in what he does to young women or even in how he treats his mother and friends.

But the terrible things he does are catching up with him as his victims start to talk to one another and even his girlfriend, blind to his monstrous nature, turns against him. He plans to torture and rape her twin sister, but the avenging women have their own plans for him.

Dark and sometimes hard to read, discomforting and rage inducing. I couldn’t believe no one had tried to stop him before. Only once Beau started to lose the tightly controlled persona he let others see, did changes start to happen. His comeuppance came at a terrible price but at least he was finally stopped.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Blitz Bullion Busters – Daryl Joyce

During the Blitz in World War II, £5 million pounds in gold bullion was loaded onto a secret, secure train in London.

When the train arrived at its destination the gold had vanished.

Eighty years later, three teenagers stumble across the mystery and set out to find the truth. What starts as an enjoyable search soon turns into a mysterious, dangerous and thrilling hunt under and through the streets of London, and a fight for their lives.

Daryl Joyce was born in Andover, Hampshire and brought up in Farnborough, also in Hampshire. He worked in IT for over twenty years, mostly in London, before deciding to do something more worthwhile than switching it off and on, and so become a primary school teacher.

Somewhere before being in school at 7am and after the end of a long day teaching hordes of young people, Blitz Bullion Busters was written. Daryl has long had a fascination with the London Underground and the myriad of stories surrounding it. Working with children has also given him valuable experience of what makes a story exciting and worthwhile.

When he is not writing, Daryl spends most of his time reading about hidden places underground and watching Star Trek. He now lives in Surrey, not far from Gatwick Airport with his wife and two pampered cats. This is his first book.

My thoughts: along with his best friend Jack and older stepsister Fazia, Wade is on the hunt for missing gold. Meant to be shipped to a secret location, it vanished in the tunnel somewhere between Bank and London Bridge during the Blitz. Can three smart teenagers manage to do what no one else has done and find the gold or will the sinister forces chasing them stop the search?

A short book but one that packs a lot in, this was a fun adventure story set in London’s Square Mile around Bank underground station. I knew all of the locations from when I worked just round the corner and that was fun, a different perspective on places thousands of people pass every day.

The characters are clever and work well together, resourceful and able to dodge the many people seemingly after them. Thank goodness for Ms Corner of the secret service though, helping them out so they don’t get grounded for their adventures.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Book Blitz: Year Zero – David Dean Lugo

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Check out this thrilling new YA Dystopian novel, Year Zero! This is the first book in a new trilogy called Revolution’s Children and I have an exclusive excerpt for you all today!

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Year Zero (Revolution’s Children Book 1)

Publication Date: May 24th, 2022

Genre: YA Dystopian

A thrilling new YA dystopian novel has dark parallels to a conceivable future America.

It’s been two years since the establishment of the brutal dictatorship The Incorporated Precincts of America and its governing Board and CEO, as well as the death of the old America. Sixteen-year-old Joey Cryer has two missions: to keep their six-year-old sister, Julia, safe, and to not die.

America first. America last. America always. This is the vow that the CEO leader of the IPA—The Incorporated Precincts of America—pledges to his suffering citizens. With violent protests breaking out in every city, attacks against immigrants, and the national crisis of the Capitol Event, young Joey must keep their vigilance in staying clear of the IPA’s ever-watching Sons of Liberty—its ruthless police force—to avoid becoming “disappeared” with his little sister. This means not maligning the governing body, The Corporation, with any thought, word, or action, or else suffer the consequence. One such sanction for disobeying citizens is being forced on to the required viewing television show “Manhunt,” where they fight for their lives against the Sons, upholding The Corporation’s domination over society.

Two years earlier, before the Second Revolution ended and before the election, Joey’s biggest concern was sitting at the right cafeteria table at his high school or if the girl they liked liked them back. Avoiding the school bully, Harlan Grundy, was always a plus, and so was not getting pummeled. So, it was no big surprise that Harlan became a Son, loyal to The Corporation and carrying out their dirty deeds to keep citizens in check and in fear. The only correct response to a Son? Everything is goodly.

Having lost everything in the revolution’s aftermath, Joey takes an unfathomable risk by helping the near-dead leader of the rebellion, John Doe. Having anything to do with Doe will skip you right past penalties and sanctions all the way to the death penalty, not only for you, but for anyone you love. And yet Joey’s sole mission is keep Julia safe until they can secretly escape to freedom. To do so, they finds they have an unlikely partner in a recently betrayed Harlan. Trusting their former enemy may be the only way to ensure their future—but is it worth the risk for Joey, Julia, and his community?

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Chapter One

No law respecting the established religion, prohibiting its free and compulsory practice, may be passed. All citizens free or otherwise are responsible for their speech, as is the press. The Board may sanction the people or the press should they choose to malign The Corporation or its representatives in print, thought, word, or action.

—First Amendment, Constitution Incorporated Precincts of America

A hand grabs my shoulder, and I know I’m screwed. The flickering light from the Jumbotron across the street dispels the concealing darkness. What was I thinking trying to sneak my way across town square after dark? I pull my hat lower, hoping that he won’t recognize me.

Especially if curfew has started.

Dan and Katie are starting the Manhunt preshow on the Jumbotron, which isn’t a good sign. Manhunt rarely starts before seven.

My mouth is dry, and my heart’s hammering fills my ears. It’s the fight-or-flight response kicking in big time. Except in my case, it’s the flight-and-still-get-pommeled response.

Even knowing how it will end, I still think about running.

Just for a second.

Old habits die hard.

I move my eyes to the hand, hoping it’s not covered by a white glove. Crap. It is. So, the he attached to the hand isn’t a regular cop. A cop will just shake me down and let me go. But not this guy.

He’s a Son of Liberty.

I’m surprised he hasn’t shot me yet. They usually do. I mean, it’s kinda their go-to move. I glance from his glove to his face.

I silence a scream. This guy isn’t any old Son. He’s Harlan Grundy. That name alone makes most kids cry. Always has.

Harlan’s been bullying kids since the old days, back when we still lived in a place called the USA. By the time The Corporation ran things and changed the name to The Incorporated Precincts of America, or IPA, Harlan had transformed bullying into an art form. I mean, watching him terrorize a kid is like watching Michelangelo turn a hunk of stone into a statue. Pure artistry.

Unless you’re the rock.

All the Sons are big, but Harlan’s bigger. Not like Schwarzenegger big. It’s more natural. Like a gorilla. Most let his stocky form, with its squashed nose, thick fingers, and stubby legs, fool them. But he possessed a speed unheard of, even among Olympic athletes.

And I, underneath this big ass coat, am just a scrawny sixteen-year-old. Exercise and me are not the best of friends. I mean, we wave when we pass by in the halls. Unless running from Harlan counts. Because if it does, I’m a gold medalist.

Okay, maybe a bronze because he always catches me.

“Hold it, citizen,” he says loud enough for me to hear over the Jumbotron’s droning voices. That is quite a feat since they always have it turned up to like a million.

Wait. Citizen?

He doesn’t recognize me.

He says something, but Dan speaks over him from the Jumbotron. “We’ll be back after this message.”

A second later, tolling bells replace his smug voice, sounding out the half hour. I glance at the screen, hoping it says six thirty. Instead, a robotic voice says, “The time is now seven thirty. Curfew is in effect.”

I’m doubly screwed.

After curfew, you get arrested or worse, unless you’re on official IPA business. It won’t take anyone more than one look to know I’m not. And Harlan’s fists and I have known each other since I was eight, and he was eleven. It’s only a matter of time until his dim brain dusts off the cobwebs and the first faint itch of recognition dawns on him.

If he doesn’t shoot me, which I doubt, I have two simple choices left. But I won’t get to choose. Instead, an Inquisitor will decide between sending me to a Liberty Camp or inducting me into the army.

The second is most likely. They’re drafting more people every day. Younger and younger too. I mean, except for like Ward Commanders, Inquisitors, and Auditors, the whole Corporation is getting younger. I guess they figure the young don’t have as much attachment to the way things were.

The CEO says we’re winning the war, and the extra troops are for the last push into Ottawa. But I’ve heard the rumors. Who hasn’t?

Some say Mexico, Canada’s ally, has won ground in the Southwest. Others say the early winter weather has paralyzed our troops in Ontario and Alaska. What’s happening in Europe is anyone’s guess.

So, whatever the Inquisitor decides, it’s better if Harlan shoots me.

Usually, I’m home before curfew, but I had forgotten it’s earlier now. That’s thanks to the Does—John and Jane Doe—and their rebels blowing up stuff. Last Tuesday, the day most Sons get their rations, they blew up the rationing center. Now, the rest of us are still living off our last pitiful portion.

Movies make rebellion seem exciting and heroic. I guess it is, fighting oppression or whatever. But from where I sit, trying to get by and staying off The Corporation’s radar, it’s terrifying. It doesn’t help people like me. Maybe it will someday, but I’m not holding my breath.

I burrow deeper into my father’s coat, trying to avoid eye contact. The coat must be the only reason Harlan hasn’t recognized me. There’s no point in trying to hide the bag of contraband I’m holding.

I mean, it’s right there.

Besides, it’s just dumb cans of stupid beef stew I bought at the black market. E-rations don’t hardly give anyone enough food. So, most people, leastways those who can afford it, turn to the black market. Even Block Watch Commanders like Harlan.

It’s not totally the Does fault, though. Food, at least the unpowdered kind, was scarce even before they blew up the rationing center. The troops passing through on their way north to the wall, took most of what we had. They didn’t bother leaving much for us citizens.

I’m not sweating the stew, though. I expect he’ll “impound” it. I’m more worried that what’s stuffed into my belt will spill out. If it does, he’ll definitely shoot me.

He’s eyeing the bag though. His mouth might even be watering. We both stand there, playing our weird freeze tag while waiting for the stupid bell to stop tolling.

As soon as it does, Harlan says, “You’re behind curfew, citizen. Slice me the stew, and I won’t donate a one.”

Ugh. Slanguage.

It takes me a moment to translate his words to regular English. If I give him the stew, he won’t give me a class one penalty. I can’t speak because he’ll recognize my voice, so I nod. Kneeling, I set the bag down and take off.

I don’t look back.

You never look back.

If you do, they might see your face, connect it to a list of subversives, rebels, or whatever list you didn’t know you were on.

I’m two blocks away before a grin spreads across my face. Dumbass Harlan was so preoccupied by the bag that he didn’t notice the cans crammed in my pockets.

I decide to go home through the woods. It’s longer and a thousand percent spookier, but it has more cover. Plus, The Corporation hasn’t put cameras in the forest. At least not yet anyway. That might change if they suspect the squirrels of treason.

Plus, Harlan lives two houses away from me. If he’s heading home, it’s worth the extra twenty-minute walk to avoid him.

I trudge along. I can’t see a thing in the inky blackness. Everything is a muddied silhouette, and I don’t want to trip on something and break my neck. I used to find the sounds of leaves crunching under my feet satisfying. But I don’t anymore.

They just tell the Sons or the rebel squirrels where you are.

My breath comes quick now. Heart racing. It’s my anxiety getting the better of me. I don’t bother fighting it because I’m too busy cursing myself. If Harlan is out on patrol, he’s nowhere near his house. Then again, it might be dumb luck that we ran into each other.

Either way, I don’t really care right now because I’m sure Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers has spotted my dumbass alone in the woods. I stop for a second, but the sound of crunching leaves doesn’t.

A twig snaps.

I turn.

A half-naked figure lunges from the darkness, falling to the ground.

I almost scream.

A man lies motionless. I get a little closer and notice he’s covered in blood. Against my better judgment, I turn him over. A few holes leak his blood.

Someone shot him.

The only people with guns these days are Sons or rebels. Which means they’re probably out searching for him. That thought alone makes me nope my sorry ass out of the woods as fast as I can.

I emerge, unharassed by either rebel squirrels or a fictional slasher, near the non-Harlan end of my block. My breath comes in short, panicked gasps. I’m more than a little embarrassed by how fast I’m moving down the block.

I turn the corner. My house blazes bright in the frigid night. It’s almost enough to chase away the harsh twilight glow from the screens on the telephone poles.

Julia, my little sister hates being alone, but she isn’t right now. Unless Winnie’s wandered off again. She has turned on every light, which means he probably did. The Sons don’t pay him much mind, so he’ll be okay. Hopefully, she hasn’t used up our electricity ration for the month.

I linger in the driveway, eyes darting. I need to make sure I wasn’t followed.

An angry orange flower of fire blooms over the nearby hills. Must be the rebels blowing something up or being blown up themselves. Either way, a bunch of people are dead. A tenth of a second later, a dull roar reaches my ears, and everything shakes.

Every porch light in the neighborhood blinks on, and people spill out from their houses, scurrying around like angry ants. A few have wide eyes, their O-shaped mouths gulping the chilly night air. Which reminds me of the fish that Dad and I used to catch. Others just sigh, wringing their hands. A few look furious.

I’ve lived here for like forever and recognize everyone.

That is everyone except the young man with the neat dark hair walking along the walkway in front of the house next door. His hands are in his pockets, posture crisp but relaxed.

I do a double take because I didn’t expect to see anyone coming from there. It and the house across the street have stood vacant since the Perrys and the Youngs disappeared a year ago. He might be a zig though.

Zig is short for zigzag. They’re the people who refuse to go along with The Corporation but won’t join the resistance either. So, they zigzag between the two opposing forces that shape the IPA. They usually come in small groups, no more than four. There’s not a lot of them. At least as far as anyone can tell. Anyway, neither side likes them much, and both will see them wiped out just as soon. Which is why, if he is a zig, he certainly wouldn’t be so careless and let everyone know where he lives.

He might be a rebel. They sometimes hunker down in vacant buildings. That thought both excites and frightens me.

As he draws closer, there’s no mistaking this man for a zig or a rebel. He wears a suit, but the distant flames give everything a crimson tone, so I can’t tell what color it is. Something on his jacket flickers. He reaches the end of the walkway, and I notice that the light glints off a bunch of Corporation commendation pins on his lapel.

At first, he acknowledges no one as he crosses his arms and stares straight ahead. He appears calm, but his breath comes in peculiar fits like he’s out of breath but doesn’t want anyone to know. Maybe he’s asthmatic? I don’t know. His eyes don’t watch the distant flames like everyone else; they’re watching the streetlights.

Something glistens on his forehead like sweat, but the night is cold, so that’s impossible. He appears to sense me gawking and gives me a nod.

By reflex, I wave.

Another fireball blossoms, this one almost bright enough to read by. The windows rattle from the blast. The neighborhood lights blink a few times before going out. Someone screams as we’re plunged into a weird twilight of flickering screens since those never stop.

I swear Pinman smirks.

A second later, old Doc Salazar asks, “Do you think it’s the Canadians?”

That isn’t as silly as it sounds, since if you’re lucky enough to own a car, it’s like three hours to the border.

“Nah. I bet it’s the Does and the rebels,” Mr. Taylor replies.

Everyone stares at him for a moment. Calling the Does rebels is against the law.

“You mean terrorists,” a throaty unfamiliar voice—my new neighbor—says.

“Yes, y-yes,” Mr. Taylor stammers. He probably noticed every commendation on Pinman’s jacket. He chuckles nervously, running a hand across the back of his neck.

I don’t want to call attention to myself, but Taylor was my dad’s fishing buddy. I can’t count the number of times that the Taylors shared a meal with us after a good day on the lake.

A familiar voice breaks the uncomfortable silence. “Mr. Taylor is scaredly is all. He’s not trying to be outside the box.”

I look around, trying to find who spoke. For some reason, everyone’s staring at me like I punched a nun or something.

Well, everyone except Taylor. He’s got a grateful smile pasted on his stupid round face. The looks confirm my growing suspicion. The voice was familiar because it’s mine.

Pinman doesn’t reply, just cocks his head.

“Well, um, good night, sir,” Mr. Taylor croaks as he scurries back inside his house.

A second later, the loudspeakers atop every telephone pole on the block crackle to life. On the screens, a severe looking yet appealing middle-aged woman appears with her hair wrapped tight around her head. Everything can go dark but not PR Polly, the voice of The Corporation.

There’s a whine of feedback, and Polly stares with a Mona Lisa smile on her lips, waiting for it to pass. It fades to a crackling static and clears.

Her familiar, faintly British voice sounds out. “Return to your homes. All is goodly. We have the situation under control.” As always, she adds the Corporate slogan. “America first. America last. America always.”

Another squeal of feedback sounds out. Dan and Katie return to the screens, laughing about the ratings bonanza it’ll be when the real Does are caught and put on Manhunt. But since Manhunt is required viewing, ratings are a bonanza every day anyway. I’m also not sure how we’d know if they’re the real Does. I mean, every time they think they’ve got them, it turns out they’re regular rebels.

No one even knows what the Does look like.

A weird sensation tingles my leg. It’s my phone vibrating in my pocket. I put aside my stray thoughts for now as I fish it out.

“What did you think of this Realnews brief” flashes on the screen. Underneath, like always, are two emoji:

a smiley one,

and a frowning one.

I tap the smiley face to show that I loved it. No one clicks the other one anymore. Well, no one without a death wish.

Soft clicking echoes around me as my neighbors do the same. By the time I’m done, they’re scurrying back into their homes. I guess they’ve all realized it’s after curfew, so we are all technically criminals right now.

Pinman still stands there with his arms crossed, staring at me. I try not to meet his gaze and mumble something about how my little sister is waiting for dinner inside.

In the distance, sirens blare. A lot of them. All isn’t goodly. I sense the stranger watching me as I walk into my house.

I don’t look back.

You never look back.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

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Author David Dean Lugo often gets ideas for his stories by wondering what if? In his new young adult dystopian novel, Year Zero, he probed this when writing about a future fascist America run by a governing body called The Corporation and its CEO. Lugo believes that today’s trend of people judging one another too harshly—whether based on their political party, gender identity, or something else—is causing people to drift too far away from one another. His story explores potential extreme ramifications of this.

Lugo believes a great book is one that has believable characters that readers can identify with and relate to. He hopes his stories evoke emotion and thinking from his readers long after the book is closed.

When he isn’t writing thought-provoking YA novels, Lugo enjoys playing guitar, watching movies, playing video/board games, and hanging out with his amazing family. He lives in southwest New Hampshire with his wife Meredith, son Jacob, and their rascally Labrador/Collie mix named Astrid. Year Zero is the first volume in his The Revolution’s Children trilogy.

David Dean Lugo | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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On Bookstagram Today: The Reluctant Vampire Queen – Jo Simmons

Head over to Instagram today to see my thoughts on new book The Reluctant Vampire Queen – info on the book and author below.

Meet Mo Merrydrew – independent young woman, Mini Battenberg fan, president of the debating society – and reluctant vampire queen …

Fifteen-year-old Mo Merrydrew isn’t exactly expecting to be asked to be Vampire Queen of Great Britain when she’s cycling home from school one wet Tuesday evening. Apparently, she is ‘the Chosen One’. Aside from being uncomfortable with the idea of unelected power (not very democratic), there’s the blood drinking to consider (Mo is a vegetarian), and frankly it’s just not really the sort of role Mo’s looking for (she wants to aim for a real job in politics). But – if you’re Vampire Queen, you probably don’t have to do PE any more, and when the dreamy Luca, a vampire familiar, turns up, it all suddenly starts to look a bit more appealing …

Jo Simmons is an author of funny fiction. I Swapped My Brother on the Internet was shortlisted for the Lollies Book Awards 2020 and was translated into several languages. Jo began her working life as a sub editor on magazines in London and later became a freelance journalist. She started writing for children when her two boys were young and hungry for daft and silly stories to make bedtime more fun. She lives in Brighton with her family and a small, scruffy dog who leaves hair absolutely everywhere. THE RELUCTANT VAMPIRE QUEEN is her first novel for teenagers. Twitter

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Blog Tour: Son of Shadow – John Lenahan

A world of faeries, leprechauns and dragons – and magic fuelled by the blood of trees. A mystery portal to the Real World.

And a pair of curious young adventurers who know they shouldn’t step through it…

Meet Fergal the Second, nicknamed ‘two’. Or ‘Doe’, in his own language. He can do magic. But, for the moment, he’s forgotten where he’s from. Or what’s happened to his blind friend Ruby.

He’s actually from Tir na Nog, the enchanted world of Shadowmagic, where a new generation of the royal House of Duir are cheeking their parents, preparing for adulthood and itching to see the Real World for themselves – whatever the peril.

JOHN LENAHAN, whose Shadowmagic trilogy sold more than 100,000 copies, takes us back to his enchanted parallel world where Irish folk myth combines with lively 21st-century banter.

The first in the new trilogy, Son of Shadow, takes up the story in the next generation. It opens in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where teenage princeling Doe – son of the hero of the original trilogy – is arrested for making a gold coin disappear at a magicians’ convention. He has lost his memory while following his abducted friend Ruby into the Real World.

Born in Philadelphia but long settled in the UK, Lenahan is an acclaimed magician and TV performer. He fronted his own BBC2 magic series Stuff the White Rabbit, played the voice of the toaster in Red Dwarf and has appeared on a wide range of entertainment shows including TFI Friday, Comedy Café and Celebrity Squares.

He is a member of the exclusive Magic Circle.

My thoughts: incorporating characters and beings from Irish mythology, this is a fun, YA, adventure story about family, friendship and magic. Doe can’t remember who he is or where he’s from but he knows he’s supposed to do something. Incarcerated in the mental hospital, he meets Sarah, who can see the future. Together they travel across America in search of answers.

Moving back and forth in time and between worlds, the story is gradually revealed. Doe is in fact a faerie prince from Tir na Nog, and on a mission to rescue his kidnapped friend Ruby. He just didn’t tell his parents all the details. Luckily they’re more worried about saving Ruby and the new Big Bad – a human sorceress and her ally, who they all thought was dead, than grounding Doe.

This was a fun romp across America, with Sarah trying to explain the Real World to Doe, who has never even eaten pizza before, let alone dealt with money, trans-continental buses or well, anything. He meets some helpful, and some very unhelpful, people along the way, searching for legendary Irish hero Cu Chulainn, who he hopes can help him rescue Ruby.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.