Sunday, 13 May 2018

LARI DON BLOG TOUR | 'The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster' by Lari Don | Why I Love Scottish Traditional Tales

Hey guys, and happy Sunday! Today I am delighted to be participating in the blog tour to celebrate Lari Don's beautiful new children's book: The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster

Check out the blurb here...

Ishbel and Kenneth need to save their family from going hungry, so when they remember the old local tale about treasure under Urquhart Castle, they set off across Loch Ness in a rowing boat. But the loch may be hiding its own secrets. There's another ancient story about a giant monster living in the depths . . . 

Legends of the Loch Ness Monster abound, but this new tale from renowned Scottish children's author and storyteller Lari Don sidesteps the modern Nessie to create a new Loch Ness Monster myth inspired by local folklore. 

A perfect companion to bestselling picture book The Secret of the Kelpie, also by Lari Don, this timeless tale of Scotland's most famous creature, atmospherically brought to life by Natasa Ilincic's stunning illustrations, is destined to become the classic Loch Ness Monster story.

And to celebrate the publication of this wonderful book, I am thrilled to have Lari Don on my blog today, to talk all things Scottish traditional tales!

I love folktales, legends and myths from all over the world, but I keep returning to my first love: Scottish traditional tales. 

Why do I love Scottish folklore? Well, partly because I live here, partly because Scottish magical stories were - along with the fairy tales most western kids grow up with – the first magical stories I was aware of, partly because Scottish stories fit so well into the Scottish landscape, but mostly because Scottish traditional tales inspire almost every book I’ve written!

Like most traditional tales, Scottish folktales have similarities to their story cousins from the rest of these islands and the rest of the world, but they also – like most traditional tales closely linked to one particular culture or landscape - have their own unique flavour, their own recognisable tang. 

So, here’s what I think the bright thread of Scottish folklore adds to the world of stories:  


Most cultures have a few shapeshifters, but the Scottish landscape is filled with them. Selkies (who can be seals or human) and kelpies (who can be horse, monster or human and have a taste for eating children) are two of Scotland’s best-known magical beasts, with individual local stories set right round the coast and by many lochs and rivers. Many Scottish witch stories are about having the power to change shape into crows or hares or cats. The Borders ballad The Tale of Tam Linn is about a girl who saves a boy from the fairy queen even though he shifts into many terrifying animals in her arms. And the travellers’ tale The King of the Black Art is about a chase between two magic users, who constantly shift into different predators and prey. 

Strong women 

I am passionate about telling stories with strong girls and strong women, partly to redress the balance of all those stories with girls just waiting to be saved by blokes with swords or married off as a fairy-tale ‘happy ending’. And there are lots of strong women in Scottish folklore. For example, lots of places in Scotland have folktales about the ‘last wolf in Scotland’, and a significant number of those ‘last’ wolves were dispatched by women. Often with kitchen implements. 

Down to earth concerns 

We do have our share of kings and queens, of course, but if there is a Scottish variant of a universal story, it often has a more domestic narrative than its better-known cousin. For example, the story of a woman accepting help from a magical being then having to discover that magical being’s name in order to stop her child being taken as payment. In Rumpelstiltskin it’s a queen who needs help spinning straw into gold; in the Scottish tale Whuppity Stoorie, it’s a farmer who needs help saving her sick pig. Slightly more down to earth, but the mother’s desire to find the name and save the baby is just as compelling. 

The coolest fairies EVER 

Scottish fairies are not wee and twinkly. They are as tall as we are, and usually much better armed. The fairies of Scottish folklore steal children and musicians, they charm and trick and seduce young men and women, and they fight battles: the fairy flag at Dunvegan Castle is a promise to provide fairy warriors to fight for the Clan MacLeod. So, Scottish fairies are beautiful and dangerous, which makes them much more interesting in stories! 

And yes, I know all of these story elements are present in lots of other nations’ and cultures’ stories, because all stories are connected, somewhere far back in our shared past…

But there is one Scottish story beast that is totally unique: 


That big long green monster that either does or doesn’t exist in the dark depths of Loch Ness. She is the greatest example of a link between Scottish landscape and Scottish story: it’s impossible to discuss or describe the monster without referring to her home, and it’s almost impossible to talk about the loch without finding yourself in a discussion about whether you’ve seen the monster and whether or not you believe in her.  

The Loch Ness Monster is possibly the best known, most instantly recognisable and friendliest monster on the planet. But up until now, she’s been a mystery, a question, rather than a character in a story…

As a writer who draws most of my inspiration from Scottish traditional tales, I’ve already written about selkies and kelpies and part-time hares, I’ve retold The Tale of Tam Linn and written novels about fairy warriors, and there are strong girls and an absence of princesses in pretty much everything I write. And now… I’ve written about Nessie too! 

The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster is wonderfully illustrated by the fabulous Nataša Ilinčić and is based on a magical tale about the castle on the shores of Loch Ness.

I’m sure I will be inspired to play with more Scottish lore in future books, and I also hope you will be inspired to find some Scottish magic of your own… 

And speaking of which, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about a wonderful competition, that allows you to draw a picture of your own mythical monster, to win a bundle of books by Lari Don!

The Discover Kelpies team are looking for young monster spotters to enter their Map My Monster art competition. To enter the competition for a chance to win a bundle of signed books by Lari Don just draw a picture of your local mythical monster on their special Map My Monster sheet. Don’t worry if you don’t have a local monster – you can borrow one from another place, or create your own! 

For more details visit: 

Thank you so much, Lari, for appearing on my blog!

Keep an eye out soon for a review on my blog, and make sure you guys check out the rest of the books on the blog tour!

Buy The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster here:

Check out Lari Don here: 

Until next time :)

Friday, 11 May 2018

BLOG TOUR | 'Gravity Well' by Melanie Jootsen | 5 Minutes With... Melanie Jootsen

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am super excited to be part of another blog tour, this time celebrating the publication of Gravity Well by Melanie Jootsen. Today I am thrilled to have Melanie on my blog to talk all things family, female friendships, and astrology!

Before that, however, check out the blurb of Gravity Well here...

Lotte, an astronomer who spends her nights peering into deep space rather than looking too closely at herself. Returning to her hometown after years abroad, and reeling from a devastating diagnosis, she finds that much has changed. Lotte’s father has remarried, and she’s estranged from her former best friend, Eve. Initially, Lotte’s return causes disharmony, but then it is the catalyst for a much more devastating event — an event that will change Lotte and Eve’s lives forever.

So without further ado, here is Melanie!

What was the inspiration behind Gravity Well?

I wanted to write about families and particularly about what happens when the lynchpin of a family dies. I wanted to explore how a father and his adult daughter who have never been close might redefine what a family is in the absence of the wife/mother. 

Another inspiration was astronomy. I love the way science writers and astronomers describe the universe in really majestic and compelling language. In trying to make us understand how our tiny self-important planet fits into the scheme of things, they touch on interdependence and how each planetary body is affected by those around it - it seemed to me they are often writing about family.

There were more specific inspirations, but I don't want to give the plot away!

Tell us a bit more about the main character, Lotte. Do you have anything in common with her?

Some people tell me Lotte is not very likeable so I'd like to say I have nothing in common! But there's a lot of me in there. She's fairly direct and focused and she really struggles with the idea of putting her career on hold to have children. She's not selfish but she's aware of what she wants and what she needs to do to get it. She is also really passionate about her interests and expects other people to be as well. 

Curiously, there's also a lot of me in the other main character, Eve. She is quiet and somewhat introverted and often tries to please other people. She hates conflict and avoids it at all costs, even if it means further drama down the track.

Do you normally come up with plot or characters first?

A bit of both. This was a tricky book to write - it went through many drafts and I changed the structure a lot. I really wanted to create a sense of tension that pulls the reader in, but also explore the quieter moments in life. I came up with the character of Lotte first but wasn't sure what to do with her. However, I came up with Eve's plot first and had to write a character to explore that situation. 

What made you want to write a story that circulates around a complex female friendship? 

In early drafts of the novel the two characters Eve and Lotte didn't know one another, let alone form a friendship. I had been focusing on mainly the family relationships between Lotte and her parents but it felt a bit flat on the page. That's when I realised that really I was writing a story about female friendships. I think I resisted it for awhile because I didn't want to write a book that would be described as 'women's fiction'. But really, they're the books I love to read - ones about relationships and friendships and how we are all trying to get by.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Write the book you want to write - which is often the type of book you want to read. The minute you try to make it something it's not, the wheels will fall off!

Sum up Gravity Well in 3 words!

Families are complex!

Thank you so much, Melanie, for appearing on my blog!

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the spots on the blog tour <3 And keep an eye out for a review coming very soon...

Buy Gravity Well here:

Check out Melanie Jootsen here:

Until next time :)

Thursday, 10 May 2018

DELIGHTFUL KIDS BOOKS | BLOG TOUR | 'Mr Snuffles' Birthday' by David Greaves and Emily Wallis (****)

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am thrilled to be back with my children's book feature, to celebrate the publication of a great new kids book called Mr Snuffles' Birthday written by David Greaves, and illustrated by Emily Wallis. Mr Snuffles' Birthday is a wonderful book all about friendship and the lovely things friends do for each other. Mr Snuffles feels left out when all his friends are going to someone's suprise birthday tea, when it is his birthday! He is also investigating a mysterious truffle thief. Will Mr Snuffles figure out the truth behind this myserious suprise birthday, and the truffle thief? 

Intrigued? Read the blurb here...

'It was a wonderful day for snuffling for truffles,

'What a birthday treat!' thought Mr Snuffles…’

Adults and children of all ages will delight in following Mr Snuffles' frustrating woodland quest for his beloved truffles. But is Mr Snuffles on the right scent?

Beautifully illustrated by Emily Wallis, David Greaves' Mr Snuffles' Birthday is a glorious celebration of language, friendship and truffles: a tale to be treasured and to read aloud together time and time again.

I adored this book! I love children's books that are a joy to read aloud; and Mr Snuffles' Birthday is definitely one of these. The language is so rhythmic and poetic and it is the perfect book to keep children entertained, or for a lovely bedtime story.

I think young children will definitely enjoy the mystery surrounding the suprise birthday party and the truffle thief. Mr Snuffles is a lovable character who just wants his friends to appreciate him on his birthday! The colourful cast of pig characters are fantastic - I love animal characters in children's books!

The illustrations by Emily Wallis are beautiful and really evocative. The setting is gorgeously depicted (reminiscent of The Gruffalo, I think!) and I loved the illustrations of the birthday party at the end. All of those food pictures made me so hungry... I bet children would love pointing out all the food and guessing what everything was.

Overall, this is a brilliant book for young children, that works well for both entertaining bored and restless kids, or for a bedtime story. For me Mr Snuffles' Birthday is what makes children's books magic - lively language and gorgeous illustrations.

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the spots on the blog tour <3

Check out Emily Wallis here:

Until next time :)

Thursday, 26 April 2018

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'Girl Detached' by Manuela Salvi

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am excited to be sharing with you yet another book review (are you sick of them yet? I hope not!) and this is a review of a book I absolutely devoured at the start of the Easter holidays. I received this book for review ages ago (I'm talking years, I know, I'm ashamed) but in the midst of moving half my stuff to uni in Manchester and all the chaos in between, I completely forgot that I even owned this book!

When I was finding something to read at the beginning of the holiday that I could just binge, and I found Girl Detached. I knew just by reading the blurb that this was not only a novel I could completely lose myself in, but it was also unlike any that I had read before. I'm happy to say that on both of those counts I was not disappointed.

Girl Detached is a story about voicelessness, courage, and belonging. It is also a story that recounts one of the worst kinds of exploitation. But it is also a story of hope, and hope for a generation that is often prey to the situations explored in this novel. 

Intrigued? Check out the blurb...

Aleksandra has issues with her voice. Stress makes her stutter, and her life is one of stress. She can only speak clearly on stage, freed by the words of the character she plays. Then, when Aleksandra befriends her new neighbour Megan, and through her meets charming, handsome Ruben, it seems she has discovered a doorway into a different world, and a different Alek. But Ruben wants Aleksandra to play a particular role for him, and it is one that will come close to destroying her. 

This book was anything but an easy read but at the same time, that did not stop me from immensely enjoying this book. The way it was written was so raw and truthful that I couldn't stop myself from being sucked in. I was completely in the mind of Aleksandra; something that I think is very important for a book that explores such critical issues. Salvi gives her protagonist an independent mind, a capability of making mistakes but most importantly, a high degree of compassion. I thought this was a brilliantly successful and solicitous portrayal of the sexual trafficking of young people, and how hard it can be for the people on the outside to see the signs.

I connected to all of the characters and thought their relationships were all very interesting and well explored. I wish that there was a bit more of Aleksandra's home life; once she begins to hang out with Megan, we don't get any development of the relationship between her and her mother, her mother's partner, and her half-brother. I think that more of this would have added a really interesting perspective on Aleksandra's psyche and how it altered when her life changed completely.

Altogether, Girl Detached was all that I was hoping it would be, and much more. This is undeniably an example of another YA novel that has the courage to tackle a serious issue that impacts upon young people and does it in an unflinching and compassionate way. I am so glad this book was published in the UK after Manuela's voice was silenced in Italy. This is undoubtedly a story that needed to be told, and I'm privileged that I was able to read it.

Check out Manuela Salvi here:

Until next time :)

Monday, 23 April 2018

GUEST POST | 'Vicious Rumer' by Joshua Winning | CHARACTER Q&A

Hey guys, and happy Monday! Today I am really excited to be sharing with you a guest post by the author of a brand new thriller, Vicious Rumer - Joshua Winning. Vicious Rumer is an exhilarating new thriller following Rumer, an outcast who is under attack from what appears to be every side. Living by the legacy of her notoriously dangerous mother, Rumer soon becomes under threat herself, and figure out the truth behind herself and her own past.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Haunted. Hunted. Cursed. You’ve never met anybody like Rumer Cross.

Rumer Cross is cursed. Scraping by working for a dingy London detective agency, she lives in the shadow of her mother, a violent criminal dubbed the ‘Witch Assassin’ whose bloodthirsty rampage terrorised London for over a decade.

Raised by foster families who never understood her and terrified she could one day turn into her mother, Rumer has become detached and self-reliant. But when she’s targeted by a vicious mobster who believes she’s hiding an occult relic, she’s drawn into the very world she’s been fighting to avoid.

Hunted by assassins and haunted by her mother’s dark legacy, Rumer must also confront a terrible truth: that she’s cursed, because no matter what she does, everybody she’s ever grown close to has died screaming.

Set in an urban sprawl of bullet-riddled buildings, Vicious Rumer is a thriller for fans of Jessica Jones, Lisbeth Salander and films like The Craft.

And without further ado, here is Joshua Winning himself, with a character Q&A!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Why do you want to know? Who put you up to this? I'm not answering anything until I know this isn't going to come back to bite me in the arse.

When are you happiest? And when are you most despairing? 

You promise this isn't a trick? OK, I'm happiest listening to Stevie Nicks. I swear she's part witch; her music is too spellbinding for her not to be. I also can't get enough of The Dark Crystal. The Skeksis are wicked funny and I want Fizzgig for a pet. Despairing? Basically every second of every day.

Which living person do you most admire?

Anybody who makes it through to the end of the day, every day. The world's a bitch, man. It takes guts to keep going.

What do you consider to be your strongest virtue?

I don't judge anybody, unless they're morons.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My hair's a pain in the ass. It's thick as weeds and always gets in my face, no matter what I do. You know a good hairdresser? Or somewhere I can buy a decent pair of scissors?

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?

That's sort of personal. I guess my collection of modified Barbies is my great love. I love giving them nose-rings and painting their nails black. They look way prettier that way.

What is your most treasured possession?

The Preacher comic my friend gave me. He's not around anymore and it's all I have to remind me he was ever around. (Thank god he's dead; he'd give me a dead arm if he knew I said that.)

What has been the greatest gift you have ever received?

My ability to be completely invisible at all times. It's hilarious what people get up to when they think they're not being watched.

What do you value about your friends?

Uh, friends?

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? And similarly, your greatest regret?

My greatest achievement is answering all of your questions even though I'm pretty sure you're going use them against me. Hey, that's my greatest regret, too. Thanks for that.

Thank you so much, Joshua (and Rumer, obviously!) for answering all my questions!

Buy Vicious Rumer here:

Check out Joshua Winning here:

Until next time :)

Thursday, 19 April 2018

BLOG TOUR | 'Songs by Dead Girls' by Lesley Kelly | SPANISH FLU - LESSONS FOR TODAY

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am excited to be sharing with you a brilliant guest post, to celebrate the release of a striking new thriller by Lesley Kelly - Songs by Dead Girls. This story centres around a deadly Virus, a missing academic with a head full of state secrets, a prostitute on the run, and a drug baron who needs a favour.

Set against these are Mona, Bernard and their colleagues at the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team. The HET aren’t particularly popular. Their day job is to contain the deadly virus. Young people are the main victims (just as they were in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic). Normally they’d be handing out and partying – now they are forced to undergo health checks and can only travel or buy food with the right documentation.  Many are bristling at the increased state control, and Mona, Bernard and the HET have a job to keep up. So when Scotland’s leading Virologist goes missing all hell could break loose…

Sound intriguing? Check out the blurb here...

When Scotland's leading virologist goes missing, Mona and Paterson from the Health Enforcement Team are dispatched to London to find him. In a hot and unwelcoming city, Mona has to deal with a boss who isn't speaking to her, placate the Professor's over-bearing assistant, and outwit the people who will stop at nothing to make sure the academic stays lost. Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh, Bernard is searching for a missing prostitute, while Maitland is trying to keep the Chair of the Parliamentary Virus Committee from finding out quite how untidy the HET office is.

I cannot wait to dive straight into this (as soon as my dissertation is over!), but in the meantime, get your teeth into this wonderful guest post written by the author herself, all about the Spanish flu outbreak back in 1918, and how it influenced the writing of this brilliant book.

Exactly 100 years ago, in 1918, Great Britain and Ireland saw the deaths of nearly a quarter of a million people.  These fatalities were not, as you might assume from the date, related to the end of World War One.  Rather, these deaths resulted from one of the biggest outbreaks of illness of all time – Spanish flu.
Spanish flu is often referred to as the ‘forgotten pandemic.’  Coming hard on the heels of the War, there wasn’t the horrified response that you might have expected.  Instead, people ‘kept calm and carried on,’ and over the years the level of deaths has been largely overlooked.  

In my Health of Strangers series, I knew that I wanted to set the crimes in the novels against the background of a killer virus.  I wanted a situation where people would feel vulnerable, and would be at risk of exploitation by charlatans offering false hope of a cure or a preventative solution.  

I wondered if a pandemic on the scale of Spanish flu occurred today, how would people react?  And how would the government?  In my imaginary world, the Powers That Be react by insisting that the entire population is tested for the Virus on a monthly basis.  A new agency – the Health Enforcement Team – is established to track down people who miss their test. The HETs are a mixture of seconded staff from the Police and the Health Service, who each bring their own organisational culture and viewpoints with them.  
I wanted the virus in my books to be realistic, not one that laid waste to society in a Hollywood manner. The more I found out about Spanish flu, the more I realised it perfectly fitted the bill.  An estimated 10% to 20% of those who were infected with the Spanish flu strain of influenza – H1N1 – died.  Enough to make it a terrifying prospect, but by no means an automatic death sentence.

In addition, H1NI came in several waves.  The first wave was relatively mild, no worse than the average seasonal flu.  However, it gave survivors immunity to the virus.  When the second, much deadlier, wave of flu hit a few months later they were unaffected.  
All the HET staff have been recruited because they are immune, mostly having had the earlier, milder flu.  This sets them a little bit apart from mainstream society, and they react in different ways, some feeling ‘survivors’ guilt,’ and others feeling they have won some kind of life lottery.  And, of course, their friends and family are not all immune.  One of the younger members of the team, Maitland, struggles to accept his non-immune girlfriend’s sudden interest in religion.

With most outbreaks of influenza, the people most at risk of dying are the very young and the very old.  Pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are also usually at risk.  But what made Spanish flu so particularly scary, was that it also killed the young and healthy.

The virus caused a huge overreaction of the body's immune system, sometimes referred to as a ‘cytokine storm.’  The stronger immune systems of young adults were ravaged by the virus, making them more likely to die; how terrifying a thought for parents and teenagers alike.  And the HET staff are just as terrified – of the two parents on the team, Bernard has already lost a baby to the Virus, and Carole’s teenage son is hospitalised.

All in all, it’s a scary world I have created, all the more horrifying for being based on real life events.  My favourite bit of feedback on The Health of Strangers came from a colleague, who said that after reading the book she’d gone out and had her flu jab.

Consider getting yours.

Thank you so much, Lesley, for appearing on my blog!

Make sure you guys check out the spots on the rest of the tour <3

Buy Songs by Dead Girls here:

Check out Lesley Kelly here:

Until next time :)

Friday, 13 April 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'How to Hang a Witch' by Adriana Mather (****)

Hey guys, and happy Friday! It is very fitting that today is Friday 13th, as today I am going to be reviewing a spectacularly creepy book, filled with witches and mystery and ghosts...

That's right, today I am going to be reviewing How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather. How to Hang a Witch is a brilliantly chilling read, following Sam Mather as she moves from New York to the infamous Salem, home of the Witch Trials and the absolute havoc that defined and followed them. Sam has family links, so she knows a bit about what happened... but she also thinks that it is all in the past. But soon enough strange occurrences and unexplained happenings suggest otherwise, and Sam finds herself in a situation that, before moving to Salem, she never would have believed possible to happen.

I was kindly sent a copy of How to Hang a Witch by Walker Books in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

It's the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

As soon as I read the blurb for this book, I knew that it was something I had to read. I have read YA books about witches before, but none had dealt with the history behind witch allegations. I didn't know too much about Salem before reading this, but upon reading I was immediately transported to this dark and secretive town, still weighed down by the darkness of its past. There must have been a huge amount of research that went into this book, but the facts felt nothing like an info-dump. Mather is an incredibly atmospheric writer and managed to make the novel wonderfully contemporary, but with the charm and dark atmosphere of the past.

I liked Sam as a character, but at times I wished she'd be a little more sure of herself. At the beginning of the novel, she appeared heartbroken for her hospitalised father and horrified by the prospect of coming to a new town, a new school, with no friends. However, the love triangle that emerges halfway through the book kinda removes Sam's pluck and determination, and I thought this was a bit of a shame. In fact, I think the book would have worked just as well without the romance, to be honest. There was enough with the witch element and the mean-girl narrative to make the story interesting without token YA boy drama

As soon as I reached the last fifty pages I honestly couldn't stop reading. I absolutely loved the ending and the continuous plot twists. I was hooked and I thought the characterisation really came out in this last part. I think the fantasy/supernatural elements were done brilliantly and I was thoroughly creeped out by the end of the novel.

If you need a harrowing read this Friday 13th, make sure you check out How to Hang a Witch! But be careful with going out to the woods at night...

Check out Adriana Mather here:

Until next time :)