Category Archives: Uncategorized

International Literature Festival Dublin


Because I’m a bit of an eejit, this post originally went out with an error in the name of the Festival. Apologies to all! I’ve corrected it now, but my sentiments, gratitude, and exhortations to attend some events if you can, remain!

I was privileged and delighted this past weekend to be asked to appear at the International Literature Festival, Dublin! It was a fantastic experience. I haven’t taken part in a festival, as a guest, for several years now, and it was the best possible reintroduction to the fun and excitement that comes with sitting on a festival stage.

I spoke on a panel (where two or more authors are interviewed together, each of them tackling the same questions and often getting into interesting conversations with one another) with author Janelle McCurdy (whose brilliant debut, Mia and the Lightcasters, came out last year), and our moderator was the awesome Shane Hegarty, author of the Darkmouth series, the Boot series, and the Shop of Impossible Ice-Creams series (all top-notch). We talked about how we get ideas, how Janelle and I wrote our books, what the challenges (and triumphs) were in the writing process, which books we loved as kids and how they helped to make us into writers, what advice we had for budding authors, and – in a question from our brilliant audience – what jobs we’d like to do if we couldn’t be authors. We then had the joy of meeting the children who’d come to hear us and spend some time signing books (always a highlight of the job!)

I also had the joy of hanging out with other authors, and meeting people who I’ve been chatting to online for years, but who I’d never had the chance to meet in person. I was delighted to meet Lindsay Galvin, Hannah Gold, and Efua Traoré, for the first time, and to reconnect with my writer friends Eve McDonnell and Olivia Hope. Children’s writers really are the best of the bunch! (We’ve had the joy of interviewing Efua, Eve, and Olivia on Storyshaped Podcast – click their first names for links to their episodes.)

Huge thanks to the crew at ILFDublin, especially the Children’s and Young Adult Programmer, Janet Smyth, for asking me to take part this year; my most heartfelt gratitude to Janelle and Shane for making the event so much fun, and my biggest THANK YOU of all to the kids and their families who came to listen, who asked such brilliant questions, and who handed me their well-read copy of The Time Tider telling me ‘I really liked your book’ as I signed it for them. Those moments truly are the reason I do what I do.

And if you’re in Dublin or environs, and you’re not up to anything much, check out and see what’s going on in the Festival tent! The Festival runs until this Sunday, 28th May, and there’s plenty more fun to be had.

Until next time, Storyfinders!

Launching The Time Tider

Last weekend, my fourth book (FOURTH! Can you believe it, because I can’t) was launched in the beautiful surrounds of Halfway Up the Stairs bookshop in Greystones, Co Wicklow. It’s one of my absolute favourite spaces – bookshops are the best, anyway, and children’s bookshops are the tip-top, and Halfway Up the Stairs is Ireland’s only dedicated children’s and YA bookshop (as far as I know…) So, there really wasn’t any better place to throw The Time Tider at the world.

It was a truly wonderful day, and I’m grateful to so many people – my publishers, Little Tiger Books, for sponsoring lemonade and cookies (which were YUM) and for sending over the fantastic George Hanratty, a colleague I’d never had the privilege to meet in person before; my agent, Polly Nolan, who (as I said in my speech) is the person whose fault it is that any of my books are in print in the first place (thanks, Polly!); my family and friends and everyone who was able to come and join us on the day.

My absolute favourite face was this one:

Here I am with the radiant Susan Cahill, my Storyshaped Podcast co-host (and friend of over twenty years). Susan and I have been in regular contact over those years, and we’ve been working closely together since last summer, but we hadn’t actually physically seen one another since about 2006… so it was an emotional moment for me to see her gorgeous face again. I’m so grateful to her for coming all the way over from London and all the way out to Greystones, just for me.

There were speeches (first George from Little Tiger, saying lots of impossibly lovely things about me), and then I got a chance to thank some dear folk, including some that couldn’t be there – like my brother, and my parents-in-law.

Then, my friend and fellow author Eve McDonnell put me through my paces with a quick-fire Q&A, where I got to talk about how I became an author, what advice I’d give to my 8 or 9 or 10 year old self (short version? Believe in yourself – daydream as much as you can – wonder about the world – Always Be Curious – and never leave home without a pencil and paper) and what’s coming next from me. (I couldn’t possibly say…)

Books were signed (none were singed, which was a relief); I got to greet and chat with lots of brilliant young readers, including the absolutely fantastic Méabh from Bookmonster (whose channel you should DEFINITELY check out – she and her brother are the best video book reviewers in town!) and the amazing BotsBookShelf, whose book review blog is packed full of brilliant reviews and interviews. Kids of today – they’re incredible!

It was a fantastic day, made perfect by the wonderful people I got to surround myself with, and topped off with a sprinkling of story-magic which made everything that little bit better. Thank you so much to Trish and her team at Halfway Up the Stairs, to everyone at Little Tiger Books, to everyone who was there on the day or who sent me good wishes from afar (you were all remembered), and most especially of all, to the young readers I met and had the joy of chatting to. It truly is all about you. It’s a privilege to create stories for young readers – the most astute, the most tuned-in, the most demanding of, and deserving of, the very best writing that we can give them – and it’s a privilege I don’t take lightly.

So – without any further ado or embarrassing gloopy emotional crescendos, it only remains to say: THE TIME TIDER IS OUT IN THE WORLD! GET YOUR COPIES NOW!

(All photos: George Hanratty)

The Time Tider Blog Tour

The Time Tider is published this week! Huzzah!

Thursday, February 2nd, sees the official release of my fourth book, The Time Tider. I’m delighted to see it out in the world, being as it is the first idea I ever tried to query with agents (and the one which first caught my now-agent’s attention, even though it took me a few more tries to actually snag her), and it’s a book which has been part of my imagination for over twenty years, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

The cover was designed by Sophie Bransby at Little Tiger Books, and the art was done by the wonderful Abigail L Dela Cruz, and the words are mostly me (with a lot of very in-depth editorial help from Ella Whiddett and Melissa Gitari, for which I’m extremely grateful).

The book is available from (among other places):

Halfway Up the Stairs Bookshop, Wicklow, Ireland

The Campus Bookshop, Dublin, Ireland

The Gutter Bookshop, Dublin, Ireland

Dubray Books, nationwide, Ireland

Easons, nationwide, Ireland

Wonderland Bookshop, Retford, UK

The Rocketship Bookshop, Salisbury, UK

If your favourite bookshop isn’t on this list: never fear! The book is available to order through any bookshop, and I’d be delighted if you’d ask for it wherever you get your books – and that includes, of course, your local library. Libraries are AMAZING and authors love it when readers ask for their books to be added to library stock, so if you’d like to read my books FOR FREE, look no further than your local library.

And to celebrate the book’s arrival into the world, me and Little Tiger and several wonderful book bloggers have teamed up to put together a Blog Tour! Here are the deets:

We’ve put together some great blog posts giving insight into the book, how I wrote it, where it came from, and lots more – and you can access all these posts, from February 6th to 17th. There’ll also be a Q&A with me where the questions were so thoughtful and interesting – you don’t want to miss that.

Keep an eye on the blog over the next few days for more celebratory posts – The Time Tider is nearly here, and I’m a happy author!

Books of the Year

It’s that time of year again, when things are drawing to a close and we’re thinking about all the things we’ve done (or not done), and all the goals we hit (and those we missed). I’ve been thinking about my year of reading, and how on earth to sum it up in a few short paragraphs.

So – as will surprise precisely nobody – I read a lot. Probably not as much as some people, but certainly more than average. I’m a fast reader; I get sent a lot of proofs (advance reading copies) from colleagues in the publishing world, and I like to be able to read them and get back to the person who sent them to me as quickly as I can, but sometimes being a fast reader can have its drawbacks – particularly at times like this, when you want to draw up your top ten books of the year, and you find you’ve got fourteen, and then you’ve taken the photo before you realise you missed a pile over here too, and oh! what about this one? And how could I have forgotten this one, etc.

So, basically, what I’m trying to say is: here’s a photo of my top ten fourteen books of the year, but they aren’t the only brilliant books I read in 2022. I’ll try to remember to mention them all.

So! Here we have, from the bottom up:


A prequel to the world-bendingly brilliant Old Kingdom books, bringing us back to the days of Sabriel’s parents. A must-read for Old Kingdom fans.

DAY OF THE WHALE by Rachel Delahaye

A thrilling eco-themed story about Cam and his friends, who live on Cetacea, an island where whales are worshipped like gods – but is the whale whisperer, Byron Voss, telling the full truth? A brilliant, unforgettable book.

FURTHERMOOR by Darren Simpson

Bren has lost his sister, and the only place he can find comfort and refuge is in Furthermoor, an otherworld where his sister is still alive – and where everything runs on clockwork. But when a threat arrives both in Furthermoor and Bren’s ‘real’ world, how can he survive?


Maggie sees her arch-enemy being taken into another world – and when she follows, Maggie realises she’s stumbled onto a plot to steal something precious from everyone on earth… unless she can stop it.


My favourite book this year, Katy Willacott follows our titular heroine on the voyage of a lifetime to the Amazon rainforest and beyond – and what she uncovers is truly life-changing. A must-read.

DEAD GOOD DETECTIVES by Jenny McLachlan (Chloe Dominique, illustrations)

Laugh out loud and zany, with a deep emotional heart, this brilliant new book from the ever-excellent Jenny McLachlan is a perfect 8+ read. Ghost pirates, a hapless (but courageous) heroine, and a race against the clock make this unputdownable.


With Traoré’s signature mix of modern-day life and folkloric myth, this Nigerian-set story is unique and gripping. It features genuinely spooky spirits, family dynamics, and a heart-pounding mystery to be solved.

FIRESONG by Vashti Hardy (George Ermos, illustrations)

The epic conclusion to Hardy’s Brightstorm trilogy sees her twins, Arthur and Maudie, off on an adventure to the volcanic North where they face the villainous Eudora Vane in a final showdown.


The perfect ending to Lapinski’s masterful Strangeworlds trilogy sees Flick and Jonathan unravelling the secrets of the Travel Agency – but can they do it in time to save the universe from collapse?


Zo is lost in the forest at night – and what was a familiar space now becomes a place of darkness and danger. She meets a boy, lost in mysterious circumstances, and together they must try to make sense of the terrifying truths they’re discovering.


A book that feels like a warm hug, this story has danger, adventure, intrigue, magic, and an abundance of tea and cakes. Perfect comforting holiday fare!


The second of Spel and Egg’s adventures, where they must delve into the depths of their magical potential to save the world – an absolute feast of imagination and storytelling skill.


A warm-hearted fairytale about a family of tailors with the power to stitch magic into the garments they make – but when a long-forbidden spell is uncovered, can Hen get to the bottom of the mystery, as well as save his family business?

THE CHESTNUT ROASTER by Eve McDonnell (Ewa Beniak-Haremska, illustrations)

Piaf is a girl who can’t forget – and when everyone else in Paris appears to have forgotten an entire year, it’s up to her, and her twin brother Luc, to unravel the reason why.

And absent from the photo – due to nothing more than my own innate bungling – are books such as:

LEGENDARIUM by Jennifer Bell


OUR SISTER, AGAIN by Sophie Cameron




BIG BAD ME by Aislinn O’Loughlin

THE BURNING SWIFT by Joseph Elliott



WAR OF THE WIND by Victoria Williamson



And, to be honest, so many more. This year (as is increasingly the case) was a brilliant year for books, stories, and reading (though not so much for bank accounts and shelf space). I’m always of the firm opinion that books are the best presents to get everyone during the festive season, if gift-giving is part of your traditional celebration (I mean, there’s a reason why books are so easy to wrap, right?), so I strongly urge you to go down to your local bookshop armed with this list of recommendations, and if you have anyone in your life who enjoys a brilliantly-written story, you can’t go wrong.

Happy Holidays – and, from me, a hearty Merry Christmas. I hope you’re taking some time off to relax over the next few weeks, and do make sure to find a quiet corner in which to curl up with a book.

I’ll be back in 2023!

The Time Tider Cover Reveal!

Hello hello hello!

Today, I am so excited to share the cover for my new book, The Time Tider, which is coming from Little Tiger Press (and me, obvs) in February, 2023. The absolutely incredible Vashti Hardy, an author whose work (and whose general existence) I absolutely love, was kind enough to do the official reveal this morning over on Twitter…

…and here it is!

I’ve got to thank so many people, principally the entire Little Tiger team responsible for bringing this gorgeous cover to life. Designer Sophie Bransby has brought her creative magic to all my UK/Ireland covers, and this one is (I think) her best yet. Illustrator Abigail Dela Cruz (I still can’t quite believe someone so talented has done the artwork for something I wrote) has brought Mara Denbor, my protagonist, so perfectly to life that I’m blown away every time I see her. Everything about this cover is exactly what I hoped it would be, and I’m helpless with gratitude over here.

The Time Tider has been in my head for a long time. Astute and long-time readers of this very blog might remember, or know, that its actual title is ‘Clockwatching…’, and I gave it that name back in 2012 because, at that time, I was working on a story which I was calling Tider, about a girl named Maraika Denbor and her father, who lived a very unusual life for very unusual reasons, and that there were characters in the story known as Clockwatchers – about whom I’ll say no more, for now. But I hope that anecdote shows how long I’ve been dreaming of this story, planning it and trying to write it. The Time Tider was one of the first ideas I ever had, over twenty years ago; it was the idea that sparked my brain into proper ‘I can be an author’ gear, and the idea that really filled me with the desire, and the need, to write. I’ve been trying to write it ever since, and I’m so glad to say I’ve finally succeeded.

And to whet your appetite, here’s the blurb:

Mara and her dad have lived in their van for as long as she can remember. Whatever her father does to scrape a living has kept them constantly moving and Mara has never questioned it. That is until she uncovers a collection of notes addressed to ‘The Tider’, an individual responsible for harvesting lost time from people whose lives were cut short.

But before Mara can question her father, he is taken by a dangerous group who want to use his power for evil. With the very fabric of time and space at stake, it’s down to Mara and her new friend Jan to find him before it’s too late…

The Time Tider hits shelves on February 2nd, 2023, and if you like the cut of its jib, please do consider pre-ordering it through your favourite bookshop, or through some of these handy links:



UK Bookshops:


Halfway Up the Stairs: Click Here

Thank you for all the support you’ve shown to my previous books – and I hope you’ll enjoy The Time Tider!

A Letter To A Young Reader

Almost a year ago, a young reader wrote to me looking for advice on how to become a writer, of SF and fantasy in particular, and what to do if you don’t think you can come up with any new ideas.

Recently, in looking through some old emails, I came across my reply. I thought it was filled with the sort of timeless advice I give everyone who asks me questions like these, and then I thought: why not put this advice on the blog, for everyone to see?

So, here you go. I’ve obviously redacted all identifying information relating to the sender of the original query, but the majority of this post is exactly reproduced from my letter, sent last October. I hope, if you’re full of questions, that it will help you too.

The Eye of the North meets some of its older cousins. (Photo: SJ O’Hart)

How Do I Become A Writer?

I’m delighted to hear you’re interested in writing. I get asked all the time where my ideas come from, and to be honest the answer is ‘from everywhere’. What I mean is, I’m a person who pays attention to the world around me, and I’m insatiably curious. I’m forever asking questions, wondering about things, needing to find things out, and I try to learn all the time. As a kid I loved to read dictionaries and encyclopedias and books of facts (I just loved  to read in general, really) and all the interesting bits would sort of stick to the inside of my brain, where they’d eventually grow into story-seeds. The Kraken from The Eye of the North, for instance, was something I first came across in a book of myths and legends I read as a seven-year-old, and it stuck with me for decades before finding its way out in a story. So, my tips would be:

-Read as much as you can, and as widely as you can. No reading is ever wasted.

-Think about things, daydream, wonder, ask yourself questions and find out the answers, cherish the things you’re interested in and dive into them as deeply as possible. All those nuggets will go into your memory bank and could eventually turn into a story.

-Keep a notebook handy. When you’re out and about, take notes and/or doodle the things you see, hear, and smell. Listen to how people talk. Eavesdrop as politely as possible! Get a feel for the rhythms of language by listening as carefully as you can. 

-Cultivate your curiosity. Notice things. Don’t walk through the world with your head down – look up and see the cat sitting on the window-ledge, or the rainbow peeking through the clouds, or the old couple holding hands in the park, or the runaway dog with one ear turned inside out… look for all the beautiful detail in the world and soak it all in. Ideas are everywhere. Writers are just the people who notice them. (An addendum to this: make sure to use all the senses that are available to you, and don’t neglect your senses of smell, touch, and taste!)

-Whenever you get a little story-seed – so, a character name, or a good sentence, or an interesting image, or a setting, or even a line or two of dialogue – write it down. But if you only get a little ‘flash’, don’t worry, and don’t push it. Put it aside. Lay it down in the warm darkness of your imagination, and let it grow. You’ll find, eventually, that it’ll start bugging you so much that you’ll be itching to write the story!

-Don’t worry too much about originality. There are no new things under the sun! That old saying has a lot of truth in it. Nobody comes up with ideas that are completely unique – I didn’t invent the idea of a girl going after her kidnapped parents, or an Arctic setting, and I certainly didn’t invent the Kraken! But perhaps the way I put them together, and the fact that the story was written in my ‘voice’, made it mine. Anything you write will have your stamp on it, and if you infuse it with the things that are special to you, the things you love and are passionate about, it will always have a fresh feeling to it. 

-Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Write for the joy of it, and know that any story you create is a huge accomplishment. Be proud of it. Don’t throw anything away, even stories that don’t work, because there’ll be something useful in everything you write. And don’t expect things to work first time, all the time. If it’s frustrating you, put it aside and come back to it in a week or a month; don’t give up. Writing can be hard work. It often is. Every story and every published book will have a hundred thousand ‘wrong’ words behind it. I did so many drafts of all my published books, and they were edited in depth by multiple people! They didn’t pop out of my head as they appear on the page. 

– As for tips for writing fantasy/sci-fi/humour – my best tip is to read those sort of books and watch those sort of movies. Every story you take in will teach you something – how stories work, what makes a funny line so funny, and what ideas have been a bit overdone. I really recommend Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Ursula le Guin, Diana Wynne Jones, Catherine Fisher, Justina Ireland, Karuna Riazi, Hannah Alkaf, Sarwat Chadda and so many more, but those authors are a great place to start. I get a lot of my humour in my dialogue, and the only tip I have for that is to listen to people, enjoy accents, and take pleasure in funny, new words and in language overall.

I hope this helps!

Keep reading, keep wondering, and keep dreaming. The stories will come.

Warmly yours,

Skyborn Is Published!

Today is June 10th, 2021. For many, that won’t mean much. But for me?

Today’s the day my third – third! – novel publishes with Little Tiger Press. *shocked and amazed emoji face*

Skyborn is released into the world today. It’s available wherever you get your books (ideally, a bookshop… a real one, in a proper building, with tax-paying staff and proper toilet breaks and all that stuff… but no judgement if you choose otherwise) and I very much hope this book reaches an audience, that it’s read and enjoyed and that it brings a sparkle of magic and wonder to the world.

Skyborn cover, designed by Sophie Bransby and drawn by Sara Mulvanny, published by Little Tiger Press, 2021

Skyborn is a prequel to my first book, The Eye of the North, and tells the story of Thing (who you might remember from The Eye of the North) during his earlier life, before we get a chance to meet him in Eye. If you’ve read Eye you’ll know that, in that book, we follow Thing – a mysterious character with no proper name, and fragmented recollections of his family – as he travels to Greenland in the company of the brave Emmeline in order to try to save the world. Skyborn takes the reader back to those fragmented recollections, fleshing them out into the full-bodied story of Thing’s childhood in a circus and his discovery of a deeply-buried secret from his mother’s past which threatens his own future, and that of everyone he loves…

As Skyborn is a prequel to The Eye of the North, please don’t feel you have to have read the earlier book in order to read Skyborn. In fact, they work better the other way around! It’s great to finish one book and have the sequel ready to go.

All my books have been fun to write, and I’ve loved the creation of all of them in different ways, but Skyborn has been such a wonderful journey. It’s a book I never thought I’d write, a story that I discovered as I put it together, one that draws on the deep loves of my childhood in the same way as everything else I’ve ever written but which had the added benefit of being about a character I’d already created, and one that I already loved. Its circus setting comes straight from the circuses I found so magical as a child; the walled city with its long-held secrets is excavated from the stories and movies I adored growing up; the characters – particularly Crake, who I love so dearly – have threads of my own beloved people in them. All these shining flecks of the story were taken from my own strange story-cauldron where I keep all the ideas I get in the hope they’ll germinate into something wondrous. I think, in Skyborn, they truly have.

This is a book I’m proud of. Thank you, so much, for all the support you’ve given me since I began this writing dream almost a full decade ago. I’m (incredibly) on my fourth book – my third full-length novel – and I have no intention of stopping just yet. I hope you’ll stick with me as I figure out where to go next.

Now. Roll Up, Roll Up – you’ve got a front-row seat! The performance is about to begin, and The Skyborn Boy is ready to fly… Alley-oop!

Five Cool Facts About SKYBORN

My new book, Skyborn, is coming from Little Tiger Press in just over three weeks – on June 10th, to be precise! So, I decided to make a short video: Five Cool Facts About Skyborn, to introduce you to the book and its story world, and to give you a flavour of what it’s about. I hope you enjoy!

And don’t forget: if you pre-order your copy of SKYBORN from Halfway Up the Stairs Bookshop in Wicklow or from the Rocketship Bookshop in the UK, you’ll receive a signed and personalised bookplate to stick into the book, thereby transforming it (ta-daaaah!) into a signed copy. But, of course, you can pre-order SKYBORN just the same as you can pre-order or order any book: by calling into, or phoning, or emailing, or using carrier pigeons, or in any other way contacting your favourite bookshop or bookstore and asking them to organise getting a copy of the book to you. Booksellers are magicians, people. They can find literally anything. Try it!

Anyway. Without further ado, here are FIVE COOL FACTS ABOUT SKYBORN!


In case you hadn’t heard…

There’s a brand-new Festival in town!

Well. Technically, it’s in every town, everywhere, because – yes! – it’s Ireland’s First Digital Children’s Literature Festival. It’s called WonderFest. It’s happening very soon – like, next week, November 20th to November 22nd! It’s a celebration of Irish children’s literature, particularly of all the amazing books that have been published in 2020 so far. And it’s full of brilliant things like Go Animal Crackers – Animal Tales and Draw Along with Alan Nolan, Margaret Ann Suggs and Jennifer Farley! There’s also Eggcorns and Bumbumbees: Word and Art Play with Chris Judge! There’s Lunchtime Tales of Wonder with PJ Lynch, Kieran Fanning, Marianne McShane and Lindsay Sedgwick! There’s a Live Q&A with DEREK LANDY! There’s a Dead Zoo Draw-Along with Peter Donnelly! There’s another Lunchtime Tales of Wonder with Celine Kiernan, Eve McDonnell and Catherine Doyle!

I mean… I need to sit down after all that excitement. While I’m recovering, here’s a photo of the fab Alan Nolan, on the hunt for stories (as is his wont).

(Photo Credit: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

Loads of the events have already sold out, but never fear. There’s so much more still to explore. If you (or your grown-ups) have access to Zoom, then you’re all invited to take part in WonderFest. It’s going to be WonderFul, and so much fun. Get your tickets through the website, tune in at the right time, and a world of Wonder awaits…

Some Recent Reads

I’m lucky enough to be on the radars of several Very Important Publicists (and fellow authors), so occasionally I’m contacted and asked to read proofs, and/or early copies, of forthcoming books. I can’t always say ‘yes’ to these generous offers, but I do my best to accommodate requests as often as I can. It’s a huge privilege, for which I’m very grateful.

The cover of the proof of GLASSHEART, by Katharine Orton, art by Sandra Dieckmann, to be published by Walker Books UK in November 2020


One of the brilliant books I’ve read in the past few weeks was Glassheart, by Katharine Orton, which is coming from Walker Books UK in November this year. I loved Katharine’s debut, Nevertell, and her second novel is even better – a heartfelt, poignant and powerful story about grief, and war, and the power of sadness to both build up and to destroy. It tells the story of Nona, niece to a master glazier, who helps him work to try to repair the damaged windows in buildings torn by war. On a new job in Dartmoor, they encounter strange and inexplicable magic, which seems to have taken over Nona’s uncle. It’s up to Nona to get to the bottom of the mystery of the wild power, and to unravel its connection to the windows her uncle is labouring to complete. This book is a solid 5/5 for me – I loved it, and I can’t wait until it’s out for everyone to enjoy.

Return to Roar

Anyone who (like me) loved Jenny McLachlan’s The Land of Roar last year will absolutely devour the sequel, Return to Roar. Crowky, one of the best and scariest villains around, makes a welcome – or unwelcome – return, and the story is stuffed with the same spills, thrills, and wildly imaginative adventures as the first book. Arthur and Rose are on a week’s holidays in Grandad’s house, and so what better way to fill their days than to make a return visit to the land of imagination they cooked up as younger children, and which somehow exists for real through the special portal in Grandad’s attic. They think Crowky is gone, but then they realise he may not be – and that the key to him finding his way back through the portal and into the Real might be dangerously close… Another 5-star read for me, Return to Roar is currently available.

The Hungry Ghost

H.S. Norup’s The Hungry Ghost is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time – certainly, it’s one of my favourites from this year. Telling the tale of Danish girl Freja, who arrives in Singapore during Hungry Ghost month, it’s an incredibly well-crafted story of family, loss, grief, and love – as well as having a healthy dollop of adventure, mystery, and intrigue, too. Freja meets an enigmatic, mysterious, and not a little spooky girl in a white dress during her time in Singapore, and alongside her new friend discovers hidden secrets in this new city, as well as an entirely forgotten chapter to her family history. You may need tissues by the end… The Hungry Ghost is genuinely stunning, with evocatively-written settings and extraordinary character building. An absolute 5-star read.

The House at the Edge of Magic

Amy Sparkes’ The House at the Edge of Magic is a delight. Coming next January from Walker Books UK, it’s a genuinely funny story, but not one lacking in stakes, excitement, or pathos. We follow Nine, a pickpocket who lives in the Nest, a run-down ‘shelter’ for pickpockets like her, where their bed and board must be paid for with trinkets and treasures. Nine only has one treasure, which she’s had since she was a baby, and she hasn’t been lucky, lately, with the pockets she’s tried to pick. Then, she sees a young lady in the streets and tries to steal from her, only to discover a tiny house in her pocket – which very rapidly grows into a huge house, home to Flabberghast the magician and his motley crew of raggle-taggle beasties. This story had me glued to the pages, with a grin on my face throughout. If you’re a fan of Diana Wynne Jones, particularly Howl’s Moving Castle, this book should definitely appeal.


Eve McDonnell’s debut novel Elsetime is nearly among us! In fact, I think my pre-ordered copy is already on its way to me… *excited face* I was lucky enough to be asked to read the proof of Eve’s book several months ago, and it has stayed with me ever since. Her characters – particularly her gorgeous-hearted, brave, stalwart Needle, and feisty apprentice jewellery-maker Glory Bobbin – are wonderfully crafted, and this twisty, fast-paced story will keep you guessing right to the end. A time-slip adventure, utilising a very clever mechanism for travelling from one era to the other, Elsetime is the tale of Needle, a mudlark, who discovers a very unusual treasure in the muck one day – a treasure that brings him somewhere he could never have imagined, tasked with saving people from a flood only he knows is going to happen. Based on real events around the Great Flood of London in 1928, this is a unique and memorable book – which should be available very soon!

These are only a flavour of the excellent books I’ve been treated to over the past few months, but I hope they’ll give you some inspiration to go out (or stay home) and support your local independent bookshops; they need the help, and your brain needs these stories. Happy reading!