Design a site like this with
Get started

The Haunted Hills by Berlie Doherty – Publishing UCLan

Desolate countryside, a lonely cottage and the ghost of a boy and his dog endlessley wandering the moors…

I can’t resist a spooky tale and had been coveting this book ever since I first saw it shared on Twitter. So with the nights drawing in and the first of the blustery autumnal weather arriving, I couldn’t have chosen a better time to read The Haunted Hills. And let me tell you, it is genuinely unsettling! With my children in bed and my husband at work on his night shift, I found myself looking over my shoulder and listening out for every little noise inside and outside the house. I nearly had to stop reading a couple of times which is not like me just because it is so eerily atmospheric.

Nothing has been the same since March 13th. Carl is staying in the Peak District with his parents to try and recover from the fallout of a horrific accident. Consumed by grief, Carl has lost all sense of purpose and with no TV or internet at the remote cottage, he begins to wander the countryside aimlessly. Until one day he wanders too far…

Carl realises he’s lost on the moors, dusk is falling and the threat of inclement weather is imminent. Every which way he turns the landscape looks identical. Soon it will be completely dark and he’ll be stuck out there alone – no phone, no food or shelter. But out of nowhere, Carl spots a figure – a boy he thinks – and a dog. ‘Take him home’ says the boy and the dog begins to trot in front of Carl, urging him to follow.

Miraculously after following the dog for what feels like forever, Carl spots the cottage lights twinkling in the distance and he’s greeted by his very worried but equally relieved mum and dad The dog however is nowhere to be seen – as if he’s vanished into thin air…

The next day, Carl wanders to the neighboring farm. Al the farmer has rented the cottage out to his parents and they’ve agreed that helping out with the animals and labouring jobs that need doing might occupy his mind. Curious as to the identity of the boy and his dog who steered him to safety the night before, Carl begins quizzing Al as to who the mysterious pair could be. It’s then that Al relays the tale of The Lost Lad, a lonely figure who, along with his dog, haunts the hills around the farm and cottage where Carl is staying.

Unnerved by Al’s story, Carl’s mind starts to play tricks on him; a face reflected in the windows, a figure hiding in the trees, a presence in the cottage. Past and present collide, Carl must learn to come to terms with the loss of his best friend, Jack and find a way to move on. As his mental health deteriorates, the line that separates the real world and the spirit world becomes blurred. Are the hills actually haunted or is Carl being chased by his own demons…?

The portrayal of grief, depression and regret in the story was so honest and raw and in this sense, it had all the feels of The Hunt for The Nightingale or Furthermoor. We are reminded of the fragility of the human mind and how emotional trauma such as grief can completely consume a person as Carl’s confusion and disconnection from the world around him reaches crisis point. Toxic teenage friendships and peer pressure are also explored as Carl recounts the events leading up to March 13th and those he has tortured himself with ever since. For these reasons, this is the perfect book for Year 7 and 8 upwards.

I think I found this tale so eerie because it could be true! In Berlie’s author notes she reveals that The Lost Lad story, is based on something that is said to have really happened in the Peak District many years ago. I’m familiar with Ladybower Reservoir and the crash site of the WW2 Bomber at Higher Shelf Stones – both of which feature in the book – so images of these bleak locations flooded my mind as I read and sent shivers down my spine.

After reading The Haunted Hills I’ve added two of Berlie’s other novels to my Want to Read List; The Company of Ghosts, which is about a girl abandoned on a haunted island and  The Snake-Stone, about a boy who searches a valley in Derbyshire in the hopes of meeting his birth mother – more ghosts and the unsettling wild landscape, these sound perfect for Autumn.

The Haunted Hills will be published on 6th October by UCLan. With thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for approving me to read an advance copy of this superb book.

Murder at Snowfall by Fleur Hitchcock – published by Nosy Crow

You can’t beat a thriller to get pulses racing and my Saturday afternoon was well spent, racing through the snow and furiously turning the pages of the latest trademark Hitchcock Whodunit – Fleur really is the Queen of Middle Grade Murder Mystery.

Bodies, baddies, bitterly cold weather and a tangled web of lies and deception to unravel – once I started reading, this was absolutely impossible to put down.

When Lucas and Ruby find an abandoned trunk in a layby covered in snow, Lucas says there’s bound to be a body inside. Ruby laughs but what if he’s right? Nervously she starts to open it, and immediately wishes she hadn’t…

The step-siblings uncover the identity of the deceased and a small object Ruby recovered from the layby – initially dismissed by the police – reveals its significance. As the teens get closer to solving the mystery, the murderer is skating on thin ice. Determined to silence them, a perilous chain of events occur, all under the cover of heavy snowfall – but can it smother the truth…?

Out on the 3rd November, this is the perfect read to cosy up with when temperatures plummet. In her signature style, Fleur throws us more than a red herring or two that will keep you guessing right until the final chapter – it’s so thrilling!

With thanks to Nosy Crow and Netgalley for approving me to read an advance electronic copy of this brilliant book.

If you can’t until November, I highly recommend reading Waiting for Murder before memories of the searing heatwaves we’ve experienced this summer fade. I guarantee you will quickly become hooked on Hitchcock!

It’s a long, hot summer. As the water drains away from the reservoir, a car emerges. And there seems to be a body in it, a body that then disappears…

Daniel and Florence start to investigate and uncover a long-ago robbery, missing gold and murder. When the drought breaks, everything is swept downstream and the truth is revealed…

Wranglestone by Darren Charlton – Stripes Publishing

Wow! Just wow! I could not put this down at all! Wranglestone has got to be one of my reads of the year so far and possibly my favourite Young Adult book ever! If you read one book this summer let it be this!

Thrilling zombie apocalypse meets a truly gorgeous gay love story; it’s perfect for fans of Walking Dead and Steven King’s The Stand. My heart pounded throughout, not only at the chilling zombie action but for Pete and Cooper’s genuinely tender romance and their overwhelming love for each other.

Winter was the only season every Lake-Lander feared…

In a post-apocalyptic America, people have fled the cities and set up communities in the mountains and national parks of Yosemite and Yellowstone. Lake Wranglestone is one such community; surrounded by water its inhabitants live on small islands, the water keeping the Dead or ‘Restless Ones’ at bay. But when winter comes and the lake freezes over, there’s nothing to stop them from dragging themselves across the ice searching for flesh.

Peter lives with his father, his mother a casualty of the Dead. He’s very much a homebody, darning socks, making quilts and keeping the tree house the two of them share neat and tidy. He’s a gentle trusting soul who always sees the good in people but one day, this is his undoing; he puts the camp in danger by naively allowing a stranger to come ashore with catastrophic consequences…

An emergency meeting is called on the Sky Deck of the lake’s Watchtower and the community of Wranglestone decide he must make up for his carelessness. He will act as bait, going into the forests and leading the Dead away from the lake.

Cooper, the boy he’s always admired from afar, is the polar opposite of Peter. Rugged, handy with an axe, machette, shotgun and accomplished on horseback, Cooper is no stranger to staring death in the face. He wrangles the Dead, herding them from their shores and out onto the plains before the lake freezes over. They say opposites attract and this couldn’t be truer; Cooper and Peter are made for each other and after a narrow escape from a frenzied attack of the Dead, Cooper confesses he’s also had feelings for Peter for some time. The pair share a the most beautiful night together in the boathouse – a safe haven between the lake and land – and from that moment, they belong to one another.

Every minute Pete is away from Cooper is agony and their love blossoms as Cooper takes Pete out riding across the plains. I was completely in love with them falling in love – Darren Charlton has written their story to perfection – and their story is for everyone. It’s for everyone that has loved another person so much that it hurts. But danger and the Dead are never far away and in a chain of events that will shock you to the core, their relationship faces truly devastating complications…

I’m bursting to say so much more but this is a book where there are so many special little moments (and utterly horrific and shocking ones!) that every reader deserves to discover for themselves. I wish I could read Wranglestone again for the very first time – there’s so many parts I keep going back to and re-reading that give me goosebumps and so many sections I assure you that you will read through your fingers or with your heart in your mouth.

A absolutely cannot wait to read the sequel Timberdark which publishes on 1st September.

Do not read the synopsis to this at all until you’ve read Wranglestone!!

About the author

Born by the sea in Hastings, I studied B.A (hons) English Literature and Theatre at De Montford University. I’ve always been creative, and found life a struggle whenever I wasn’t being, but it wasn’t until my thirties following a trip hiking and camping in the National Parks of America, that I landed upon writing. The landscapes and sky are so big out there, you can actually feel the planet. And it struck that me that other than being with loved-ones, exploring the world was the only thing that really mattered in life. This created a restlessness in me and this restlessness eventually took the form of writing and finally, these two books. I’m lucky I got a chance to exorcise my feelings by making them, but ultimately they’re for all LGBTQ+ young people looking not for another issue based coming-out drama, but the promise in life, of love and adventure.

Visit Darren’s website here to read more about his inspiration for Wranglestone and see photos of his amazing trips to America’s National Parks.

Alice Éclair Spy Extraordinaire: A Recipe for Trouble, by Sarah Todd Taylor – published by Nosy Crow

There’s such a buzz about this book at the moment! My fellow bloggers have been raving about this scrumptious new spy series and now I know why – Alice Éclair really is a legend in the baking!

I wanted some pure escapism to officially start the school holidays and with my appetite well and truly whetted by so many superb reviews I couldn’t wait to dig in. Alice Éclair was just the ticket with a cherry on top; I was completely whisked away by France’s newest spy on her first mission and devoured this delectable detective drama in one sitting.

Packed with pastry-fuelled peril and more than a pinch of Parisian glamour, A Recipe for Trouble launches what promises to be a superb new spy series from Sarah Todd Taylor, the author of Max the Detective Cat. Climb aboard the Sapphire Express for an action-packed adventure – Agatha Christie eat your heart out! Secret ciphers, jewel thieves and an enemy agent – there’s non stop thrills and spills, red herrings and pulse-pounding action atop the majestic steam train to rival a 007 movie.

Baker by day, spy by night – Alice Éclair leads an exciting double life. She whips up a storm as genius pastry chef in the kitchen of the family bakery Vivre Comme Éclair, but in the blink of an eye swaps her Mille-Feuille for Morse Code working undercover as a spy.

For months, Alice has been receiving notes outlining secret missions she must complete. The mysterious source of these is unknown but one thing is clear; Alice is being trained to track down master spy La Renarde. Alice must go undercover and sneak aboard France’s most glamorous train, the Sapphire Express in order to intercept the illusive villain.

Disguised as a pastry chef, Alice blags her way aboard as Sapphire Express staff. The kitchen is a prime place for spying as she is able to observe the passengers in the dining car and bar and innocently eaves-drop on conversations whilst serving her exquisite creations.

As the train steams through the French countryside, Alice must work hard to discover which passenger is the duplicitous enemy agent. She befriends Penelope, a young lady on her way to finishing school who is keen to do some detective work of her own, but as Alice digs deeper everyone on the train seems to be hiding something…

Alice can trust no-one and armed with her wits, her whisk and her will to succeed, the pressure is on to crack the case. When the enemy realises the net is closing in on them, it spells a whole new level of danger for Alice and there’s some hair-raising moments dangling over the edge of the high speed train, the rails thundering beneath…

This is one of those books you become thoroughly immersed in and I was completely unaware of the passage of time whilst reading. Apart from a few growls from my stomach, triggered by the many mouth-watering pastries mentioned throughout the story, nothing could take my attention away from this treat of a tale – perfect for children in Year 4 upwards.

A Recipe for Trouble publishes on 4th August.

The greatest of thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me a beautiful review copy of this absolutely brilliant book.

Once Upon a Fever by Angharad Walker, published by Chicken House Books.

‘Disease begins with a feeling Miss Darke. It has been that way ever since the Turn – when people’s feelings started making them ill…’

After being completely captivated by Angharad Walker’s critically acclaimed first novel The Ash House last summer, I was very excited to be offered the opportunity to review Once Upon A Fever.

An alternative dystopian London with stag-drawn carriages is the setting for this enthralling and at times unsettling medically-inspired story. Imagine footsteps of robed nurses echoing down dark hospital corridors, whilst disused underground brick tunnels network beneath the operating theatres…

Since the world fell sick with fantastical illnesses, sisters Payton and Ani have grown up in the hospital of King Jude’s…

Payton wants to be a methic like her father, working on a cure for her mother’s water fever. Ani, however, thinks the remedy for all illness might be found in the green wilderness beyond the hospital walls.

When Ani stumbles upon an imprisoned boy who turns everything he touches to gold, her world is turned upside-down. The girls find themselves outside the hospital for the first time, a dark mystery unravelling …

‘We do not know why some feelings turn into illness Miss Darke. That is the mystery of the Turn. Medicine is only a small light shining in the darkness.’

Since the Turn, the wards of the foreboding gothic hospital of St Jude’s are lined with beds, treating patients afflicted by their own feelings. The Inertia Ward for example is one of the hospital’s oldest wings: the Sanatorium for Hysteria, Despair and Melancholy. A guild of Doctors or ‘Methics’ as they are ironically known throughout the story are working on ground-breaking treatment to ‘cure’ patients of their feelings and ‘blood reading’ is one such procedure being pioneered.

St Jude’s has all the feels of a Victorian Asylum, both in it’s physical appearance and in the courses of treatment the patients receive. As with The Ash House, Walker makes us think and question throughout – the ethics of the methics and their obsession with neutralising strong feelings vs the holistic, natural approach of a group of Wilders Ani meets outside the hospital.

Ani and Payton are such courageous, strong-minded individuals. Unafraid to disagree with one another and determined to hold onto their own beliefs, they carve out completely separate pathways to one another and the narrative skilfully switches between both sisters – I was willing them to find their way back to each other!

Once again, Angharad Walker had me gripped with another highly original story unlike anything I had read before.

Read the first Chapter of Once Upon a Fever here:

With thanks to Chicken House and Laura Smythe PR for my review copy of this fantastic book and inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Once Upon A Fever is published by Chicken House Books and is available now.

Click on the image to read my review of The Ash house

Read the first Chapter of The Ash House here:

Festergrimm by Thomas Taylor – An Eerie on Sea Mystery. Published by Walker Books

It’s nearly the summer holidays and I was ridiculously excited to be granted an early mini-break in the legendary seaside town of Eerie on Sea. And my goodness… there was never a dull moment! Creepy wax works, a conniving villain a colossal clockwork robot reminscent of Ted Hughes’ Iron Man…adventure drips from every sea-soaked page. Oh, and watch out for the seagulls…you have been warned!

Our favourite ship-wrecked orphan Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, once again finds himself at the centre of an Eerie Mystery of epic proportions along with trusty side-kick Violet Parmer.

It’s late November and Herbie and Vi have been sent to greet a VIP guest of The Grand Nautilus at the railway station by morngy hotel manager Mr Mollusc. But nothing could’ve prepared the duo for who is about to step out from the swirling mist. A shocking blast from the past is back to wreak havoc on the town, plotting and scheming to their own gains and of course it’s down to the duo to save the town from disaster.

I feel the beauty of this series is that in each instalment, Thomas Taylor allows us to discover and explore different elements of the seemingly dilapidated town, steeped in myth and legend. As well as dropping into familiar locations such as Seagoll’s diner, Mrs Fossil’s Flotsamporium and paying the Mermonkey a visit at the Eerie Book Emporium, much of this adventure takes place in Fargarzi Round and the boarded up and very creepy Festergrimm’s Wax Works.

Formerly a hit with the tourists, the wax works has long stood derelict and abandoned, but it seems that amongst the dust and cobwebs is something of real value and key to unlocking the Great Legend of Eerie on Sea. And one cunning and conniving character is desperate to get their calloused hands on it.

The children break into Festergrimm’s and bravely explore (at night of course) you wouldn’t get me in there! It really is scary amongst the exhibits with their unblinking eyes and the ghost train that would whirr into action to transport tourists around the gallery. Bumps in the night lead our explorers to the cellar, where they discover their treacherous nemesis tearing apart the wax mannequins limb from limb, feverishly searching for something – it’s like a scene from Frankenstein!

After all the chilling thrills and spills, it’s time for cake and hot chocolate at Mrs Fossil’s and she sheds some more light on the legend. Turns out she has a personal connection to the wax works and is harbouring a shocking family secret. The answer lies in Festergrimm’s legendary robot and a missing part of the clockwork giant. It’s a race against time and Herbie and Vi must solve the mystery and set the cogs in action before their arch enemy gets there first…

This is my absolute favourite Middle Grade series. For me it has everything; gripping mysteries, just the right level of threat and such a well developed location and characters that each visit feels like returning to old friends at a much-loved childhood holiday destination.

Erwin the talking bookshop cat stole the show for me in this adventure. Always on hand to deliver purrrrrrls of wisdom in his trademark deadpan way, he dutifully directs the duo away from danger and hints at clues that they’ve missed. I imagine his voice to be that of Ian McKellen or Stephen Fry and I’d love to discover more of his back story – there is definitely a human trapped inside that feline body!

This is a series I don’t want to end, yet I am absolutely desperate to find out once and for all how Herbie came to be washed up in a crate of lemons in Erie on Sea and what happened to Violet’s parents. At the end of Festergrimm there is the usual teaser for the next adventure and I can’t wait to see how Thomas Taylor ties it all together in MERMEDUSA.

Festergrimm publishes on the 1st September.

A huge thanks to Walker Books and Netgalley for offering me the chance to read this fantastic story in advance of publication.

Click on the cover to read my review of the previous instalment Shadowghast

The Boy Who Rescued a Rainbow by Corrina Campbell, Published by Little Door Books

The Girl Who Stole the Stars became an instant hit in my Reception classroom so I was thrilled to learn that Corrina Campbell had penned a perfect companion; The Boy Who Rescued a Rainbow.

What does it mean to be strong, brave and fearless?

When a little boy finds a broken rainbow lying on the ground he decides to take it home and look after it. The little boy loves the rainbow but when it eventually disappears, he finds out what it really means to be strong, brave and fearless. What follows is a magical adventure exploring one boy’s journey through love and loss.

Corrina’s signature style is instantly recognisable in her bold illustrations; wax crayon combined with the most strikingly beautiful colour washes make each page irresistible to the eye.

I always find it fascinating to discover the story behind a story and how an author arrives at the book we hold in our hands. Listening to Corrina talk gave me a greater understanding of the how different stages of grief are portrayed in this gentle story. We see the little boy experience denial, anger, sadness, depression and finally reach acceptance when he realises he will always have happy memories of the time he and his rainbow spent together. Click the link below to hear more about the inspiration behind the story.

The little boy’s beloved dog is on the journey with him every step of the way and offers reassurance and advice such as ‘it’s ok to cry’ and ‘we all feel sad sometimes’ teaching children that we don’t have to suppress our emotions or hide our feelings. It’s so important that we validate the feelings that children are experiencing.

As well as being a talented author and illustrator, Corinna is a also a teacher and this shines through in how perfectly pitched her books are for teaching emotional literacy to young children. This is such a hopeful little book that delivers important messages in the gentlest, most age appropriate of ways.

So finally, who better to hear the story from than Corinna herself. Listen to The Boy Who rescued a Rainbow below and have a peek at the gorgeous illustrations.

With thanks to Little Door Books for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Click on the cover to read my review of The Girl Who Stole the Stars

Her Dark Wings by Melinda Salisbury, published by David Fickling Books.

Heddy, intoxicating, intense and totally unputdownable, this is Young Adult fiction at it’s very best!

Melinda Salisbury has reimagined the Persephone Myth and infused it with contemporary romance in the most thrilling and compulsive of ways. Heartbreak, hatred, jealousy and obsession combine with Ancient Greek lore, resulting in a deliciously dark, highly addictive read. Greek Gods, forbidden fruit, love, lust and malevolent mythical creatures draw us deep into the Underworld and stir the darkness within.

Seventeen year old Corey lives on a small unamed island. It could be in the middle of the Aegean Sea or one of the Shetland Isles but the islanders practise Ancient Greek customs.

Corey and Bree have been best friends for forever and Corey thinks their friendship is unbreakable. But when her boyfriend Ali breaks up with her and then Bree won’t return any of her calls, it becomes clear that Bree has betrayed her in the worst possible way.

On the night of the Island’s annual Thesmophoria festival, Corey knows she is bound to run into her exes. As she stands awkwardly on the edges wondering whether to stay or go, a beautiful boy wearing a hammered copper mask and golden lips takes her hand and pulls her into the crowd. The pair share a passionate kiss and when Corey looks up into the boy’s eyes it’s as if he knows exactly what she is thinking…

Just as the kiss is over, Corey spots them; cosying-up together, flaunting their relationship in her face. In that moment the hatred she feels for Bree consumes her and she wishes her dead. For a moment she’d forgotten about her and Ali and been happy, but the second she saw them all the anger hurt and humiliation came rushing back. And so she sends a cursed dart from her mind straight to Bree’s chest and wishes she’ll be dragged to the Underworld and left there to rot. The boy says something Corey doesn’t quite catch, too preoccupied with her hate, then the music ends and he disappears into the crowd, giving a funny little bow like a character from a play. Not long after, Bree is found dead – face down in the lake.

Corey cannot reconcile her grief and emptiness with the feelings of bitterness and pure hatred she still harbours for her dead not-friend. But on her Grecian island, the boundaries between the mortal and immortal realms are blurred. Corey is called to the Underworld by an arrogant and unyeilding God who traps her there. She is forced to witness the desolate space that exists between life and death where there is no day, no night, no flowers or trees. She observes the poor souls trapped in purgatory, forced to pay for their crimes by the terrifying winged creatures called ‘Furies’ so that justice may finally be served on them in the afterlife. It’s horrific and heart-wrenching but secretly Corey is hoping there is one soul she will get see to serve retribution.

The longer Corey spends there, the more she learns about herself and her own power stirs. Can she resist the darkness within her or will love blossom and life bloom in the most unlikliest of places…?

I cannot stop thinking about this novel! Hermes, Hades, the Furies and the intense teen relationships completely got under my skin and l’ve re-read the final chapter several times already as the ending is so utterly perfect. Salisbury has researched Ancient Greek Mythology and customs meticulously and I enjoyed reawakening my own knowledge of Greek Gods and Goddesses.

I relish interspersing my mainly Middle Grade reading with the occasional compulsive Young Adult novel. My regular followers looking for recommendations for Primary School pupils need to know that Her Dark Wings is definitely aimed at older teens due to the language and adult content. I highly recommend it anyone aged 16 upwards – unmissable summer reading!

Her Dark Wings is out on the 7th July, published by David Fickling Books.

With thanks to Liz Scot PR for the review copy.

Zo and the Forest of Secrets by Alake Pilgrim, Published by Knights Of.

‘A Story don’t start where we tell it you know…’

Perfect for fans of Fireborn, The Crooked Oak Mysteries and Dreadwood, Alake Pilgrim weaves an intricate web of mutant creatures, fantastical gifts, folklore, friendship and adventure. This felt like Christopher Edge meets the Caribbean and as with Escape Room, there was many a moment in The Forest of Secrets when my mind was well and truly blown! It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s imagined and there are some absolutely nail-biting pursuits and escapes too!

Allow yourself to be swept away to rural Trinidad for sun, sea and sci-fi futuristic fantasy! This is the trek of a lifetime through forests and hills, over rocky outcrops and along rushing rivers. I could almost feel the unbearable heat of the sun beat down on me as I journeyed through sticky mangrove swamps and the cool sea breeze of the bay. But where there is beauty there is also danger. What is hiding in the forest…lurking in caves below ground…what lies beneath the murky waters…? Zo must unravel the secrets of the forest before she is lost in them forever…

Zo’s parents have separated and she has been forced to move to the island with her mother, stepdad Jake and baby Tayo, AKA ‘The Terror’. Zo resents having to leave her home, her dad and most of all, she resents the attention Tayo and Jake command from her mother. So Zo hatches a plan, a plan to run away.

She’s got it all worked out, she’ll not go far, only staying away for a few days, long enough for the alarm to be raised and a search party sent out to look for her – long enough for her dad to fly in and join the rescue team. Taught well by her beloved Da in survival skills, Zo has gathered supplies and seizes her opportunity to evade old Ms Kofi, her keeper whilst on the island.

But it’s not long into her expedition when things take an unexpected turn. As she journeys through the once-familiar forest, terrifying creatures and warped visions begin to emerge. Dazed and dehydrated with a beast on her heels, Zo strays far from the beaten track. With only her knowledge of physical geography to guide her, she follows the flow of a small stream, hoping it will be a tributary to a larger river that will lead her to the coast. When she eventually meets the gushing waters she spots a boy, flailing and and struggling against the current.

Zo fights against the powerful waters and manages to drag him, surely drowned to the shore. But when her skin touches that of the unconscious boy, she is plunged into a vision of his memories so real, it is like she is actually there. When Adri, as she now knows him to be called comes round, the pair must embark on the wildest and most deadly trip of their lives. Things are not as they seem – be ready for some futuristic twists. Could a mysterious abandoned research facility hold answers…?

There absolutely HAS to be a sequel to this as there are clearly many more secrets yet to be revealed. We absolutely need more books for Middle Grade readers set in Africa and the Caribbean on our shelves. I thoroughly enjoyed the island setting with its diverse cultural backgrounds and the camaraderie that develops between it’s characters, Zo Joseph a black girl and Adri Khan a South Asian boy. The atmosphere in the forest was palpable – a feast for the senses! This is an incredible debut and I can’t wait see what pulse-pounding adventure Alake Pilgrim pens next – definitely one to watch!

Zo and the Forest of Secrets was published on the 2nd June by Knights Of.

Thank you to Knights Of and Anabelle at edpr for sending me a gorgeous proof copy of this wonderful book.

Slug Love by Cath Jones, illustrated by Craig Shuttlewood. Published by Maverick Books

Slug would LOVE to be the gardener’s best friend, but how can he win her love? Will chomping heart-shaped holes in her favourite plants send the right message, or will he end up in the Bucket of Doom? A tale of an optimistic slug in pursuit of an unlikely friendship.

Today I welcome author Cath Jones to the blog to chat about some of the green-fingered inspiration behind her adorable new picture book Slug Love.

Welcome Cath! I’ve heard you’re a keen gardener; what inspired you to get into gardening? How do you think we can encourage children to become gardeners, especially when so many children don’t have access to one?

My love of gardening grew from a Halloween pumpkin. More than twenty years ago, I carved my first pumpkin and saved the seeds. The following spring, I sowed the seeds and from that moment I was hooked on growing anything you could eat. I went on to run school gardening clubs and manage a small community allotment as well. 

There are lots of opportunities for children to get involved in growing: many community gardens run family sessions and most schools will have a school garden and a gardening group. You don’t need a garden to grow things. I grow lettuce in polystyrene boxes and herbs in old tins. You’d be amazed what will grow in a pot on a windowsill.

There are lots of wonderful, gardening themed picture books. Sharing these with children is a fun way of inspiring an interest in growing. My first picture book, Bonkers About Beetroot, includes everything you need to know about growing things from seeds.

As spider says in the story, ‘gardeners hate slugs!’ Is ‘the bucket of doom’ based on real life events? 

Yes, the bucket of doom really did exist! Back when I first got into growing vegetables I was trying to grow things in a garden that had not been touched for many years. It was a complete wilderness with its own huge community of slugs and snails eager to chomp my seedlings. Each night, I went out with a torch and collected them up into a bucket. I didn’t want to kill them so I cycled down to the local common with the bucket and relocated all the slugs and snails.

You’ve teamed up with fantastic illustrator Craig Shuttlewood to bring Slug and his garden friends to life. What is your favourite spread from the book and why? 

The very first page of Slug Love is an absolute delight. It includes orange pumpkins and a cosy gardener’s shed. It’s the first time the reader meets all the characters and Slug is looking adoringly at the gardener. There is so much going on, plenty of little details to hunt for: a couple of cats and clues that show gardeners don’t like slugs. But Slug totally fails to notice all the anti-slug clues. Hilarious!

Tell us about the gardener in the story. Did you have someone in mind when you created her character and briefed your illustrator? 

The fact that the gardener is a wheelchair user was inspired by someone I know who has become a wheelchair user in the last few years. She said she would like to see more wheelchair users depicted in stories with their wheelchair use NOT the focus of the story.

Do you have any more green-fingered adventures planned for young readers? 

I’m always busy creating stories for children and yes, growing vegetables does feature quite often. I’ve just written a story for a school reading scheme, called The Biggest Carrot in the World, though I don’t know yet whether it will be published or not.

A big thanks to Cath for stopping by to chat and share Slug’s adventures with us – it’s always a pleasure discovering the story behind a story.

Slug Love will be published by Maverick Books on the 28th June.

Keep following Slug’s sparkly trail as he visits these fantastic blogs on the tour.

With thanks to Maverick Books for inviting me to be part of the tour.