Category Archives: Book review

BLOG TOUR: Elsetime by Eve McDonnell – review and guest post

I’m very excited to be participating in the blog tour today for Elsetime by debut Irish author Eve McDonnell, published by Everything With Words, a wonderful historical time-slip novel with a delightful cast of characters. Today I’m sharing my review and a guest post from the author.

It’s January 6th 1928, the day before the Great Flood. There’s a snowstorm and the river is about to burst its banks – fourteen lives will be lost. Can Glory, an orphan with only one hand, her time-travelling friend Needle and their pet crow change the future? Is there anyone among all those people entombed in that snow-shrouded town who will listen? Warning: Time travel isn’t something you should try unless you are prepared to face the consequences.

I’m a huge fan of time travel historical adventures and Elsetime lives up to expectations! It’s exciting, engaging, thrilling and has a fantastic twist at the end which I loved. Add to this characters you care about; the feisty and determined Glory and kind and courageous Needle, not forgetting Magpie the pet crow (!), it’s a recipe for success. Historical detail creates a believable world which I was happy to dive into as the plot thickened. Inspired by true events, Elsetime is a fantastic story of adventure and bravery with goodness at its heart – a great read.

I’m really pleased to welcome author Eve McDonnell to the blog today to share the inspiration behind the story!

ElsetimeThe Great Flood of London 1928

“One of my favourite past-times is treasure hunting – searching the pebbles and mud alongside a river or the sea for something sparkling: an old button once part of a queen’s gown, perhaps, or a key to a mythical treasure chest, or a war medal from a hero who saved countless lives. It’s no wonder a hobby so rich in possible stories was the inspiration for Elsetime with its tale of a young mudlark called Needle, searching the foreshore for treasures he could sell. Glory, an impetuous jeweller’s apprentice sprung to mind too, and I imagined her taking those muddy finds and transforming them into treasures to behold under the eyes of her strict mistress, Mrs Quick. They had to be from the 1920s, my imagination assured, but I wasn’t, at that stage, quite sure what was going to happen to my new-found friends.

Then, I found a newspaper clipping. It told of a real-life tragic event: The Great Flood of London in 1928. At its epicentre was Needle’s haunt – the stretch of foreshore alongside the Tate Gallery (now known as the Tate Britain). I needed to know more, and my research began.

Nearly ninety-three years ago, at the source of the Thames, families enjoyed a snowy Christmas akin to picture-perfect postcards. But, quick as a wink, the snow thawed, sending torrents of water along streams and brooks that fed the Thames. A deluge of rain in the days that followed raised the level of the great river higher and higher as it twisted and turned its way towards the bustling centre of London and out towards the sea.

Photo Credit: Daily Mirror 1928

As Londoners partied away the Twelfth Day of Christmas, or snuggled their loved ones into bed in old basement flats, the raging river met its match: a powerful storm in the North Sea. At the turn of the tide, waves swelled so high at the mouth of the Thames, beyond anything they had ever seen. Seawater tunnelled its way up the river, clashing with the deluge of snowmelt and rainwater. X marked the spot where the river narrowed and its depth deepened following foolish dredging to allow passage to larger ships. Not long after midnight, the embankment walls near the Tate Gallery gave way.

Freezing cold water raced down stone steps and into the homes of poor basement dwellers, trapping them before they even knew their fate. Muddy water inundated the basement galleries of the Tate Gallery, destroying many fine pieces of art, including several priceless Turner paintings and drawings. Big Ben was surrounded, the Underground submerged. The moat at the Tower of London filled for the first time in nearly a century. Fourteen souls lost their lives that night and, as my research deepened, so too did my shock and sadness when I read the names listed on that Daily Mirror 1928 newspaper clipping. One name stood out: Mrs Quick – a name I had already chosen for the owner of The Frippery & Fandangle Jewellery Emporium where Glory worked. As I stared down at her name, it felt like a message from the past. Though Elsetime and its characters are merely figments of my imagination, I knew one thing for sure: the Great Flood would star in this story of mudlarks, mysterious crows and jeweller’s apprentices – it was a story I had to tell.”

Find out more at www.everythingwithwords.com.

With thanks to Everything With Words for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour:

New review: Wilde by Eloise Williams

Moving to live with her aunt, Wilde is afraid that strange things are happening around her. She just wants to fit in at her new school, but in rehearsals for a school play telling the legend of a witch called Winter, ‘The Witch’ starts leaving pupils frightening letters cursing them. Can Wilde find out what’s happening before everyone blames her? Or will she always be the outsider?

Wilde by Eloise Williams is a wonderful contemporary tale with magic at its heart. Drawing a picture of a feisty but fearful girl, Wilde is a unique character but like many young girls, struggling to be herself and desperate to fit in. Witch Point is where her mother grew-up and the mystery throughout is tangible as strange occurrences bring Wilde closer to the truth, with the legend surrounding the town seeming to come eerily to life. Alongside this, the narrative brilliantly captures school life, the perils of friendship and the importance of courage and kindness. Drama is not just reserved for the school play and as events come to head, the plot thickens page by page! Wilde is a lesson for us all in acceptance and embracing who we really are – a great contemporary adventure.

Eloise Williams has written other great middle-grade books including Gaslight and Seaglass. Find out more https://fireflypress.co.uk/books/wilde/

With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me this book to review.

New review: Talking to the Moon by S.E.Durrant

Iris’s grandmother, Mimi, is all at sea. She’s started wearing her clothes inside out, serving jam on scrambled eggs and talking to the moon.  As Mimi’s life becomes more muddled up and a mystery from the past surfaces. Iris and her friend Mason must search for answers: Who was Coral? What happened to her?

Talking to the Moon by S.E.Durrant is a gorgeous story of family and friendship. With a delightful cast of eccentric characters, this warm-hearted tale handles the difficult subject of dementia and the everyday chaos of family life with a perfect balance of humour and great care. Two year old siblings, a stressed out Mum and a hard working Dad are enough for anyone to deal with! Staying with Mimi provides the ideal escape for Iris and the quirky lifestyle painted contrasts brilliantly with her family home. Iris is immediately likeable, her love for Mimi admirable and her desire to protect Mimi with lists to remind her of all manner of daily tasks utterly moving. The engaging thread of mystery running throughout keeps you guessing and whilst the reality Iris is facing is clear, there is always hope and always love.  A really lovely read.

S.E Durrant has written other great middle-grade reads including the brilliant Little Bits of Sky; you can read my review here. Find out more at www.nosycrow.com.

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to review.

New review: The Accidental Wizard by Kimberly Pauley illustrated by Jason Cockcroft

Twig is the last surviving apprentice of the great wizard Ripplemintz, which, as a job, is just as terrifying as it sounds. Oh Ripplemintz always means well, but for a wizard of such high regard he really does make an awful lot of mistakes. And who’s always left to clear them up? That’s right – Twig. So when Ripplemitz’s most powerful spell is let loose on the world, off Twig goes to catch it. And catch it he does, except… not quite in the way that he intended. Because, instead of catching it in an enchanted jar, Twig sort of… well… catches it in… HIMSELF.

The Accidental Wizard by Kimberly Pauley introduces the reluctant Wizard Twig, along with a menagerie of hilarious characters that captivate throughout. With more magical mayhem than you can shake a stick at, middle-grade readers will be quickly drawn into a world of riotous adventure, competing wizards, greedy citizens who all want their moment of magic and at it’s heart, an unlikely friendship between a wizard, a hag and a gnome (who has the best name – Glimfinkle!). I also particularly liked the chapter titles (for example ‘In Which Something Doesn’t Blow-Up’) and the proof copy I read had wonderful illustrations giving a taste of artwork to come by Jason Cockcroft. Reminiscent of classic magical adventures and bags of fun, The Accidental Wizard carves a well-deserved space for itself in this genre and I’m sure children will want to visit The Kingdoms again and again – ably guided by the lovely map at the beginning!

Find out more about the author http://www.kimberlypauley.com/the-accidental-wizard/ and at www.scholastic.co.uk.

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review.

New review: Hope Against Hope by Sheena Wilkinson

It is 1921. Ireland has been at war for two years. Communities are torn apart by bitter hatred – and now a border splits the island.  Polly runs away to Helen’s Hope hostel in Belfast, a feminist space where young women live and work together – a haven of tolerance and diversity in a fractured city.  But some people hate Helen’s Hope and its progressive values. How can a few girls stand up to hatred – when some of it comes from within their own walls? And the hostel is violently attacked, how can Polly keep hope alive?

Hope Against Hope by Sheena Wilkinson is a gritty and heartfelt story set against the backdrop of the history behind the Irish border. Timely and very relevant for today with the many prejudices that sadly still exist in our society and political debate ongoing around Brexit, Hope Against Hope paints a very real picture of life for Polly and her contemporaries. The well-paced narrative engages you from the start as do the characters, all of whom have their own worries – some more serious than others – to deal with and flaws to face up to. Helen’s Hope provides the space and opportunity for Polly to re-examine her life, in the context of much wider social and political issues, perhaps giving her a perspective she might not otherwise have seen. You can’t help but feel this is something we can all learn from. A great coming of age story for teens.

This is the third historical novel by Sheena Wilkinson focusing on young women growing up during times of social and political change. Find out more at http://littleisland.ie/books/hope-against-hope/.

With thanks to Little Island for sending me this book to review.