The Ice Garden: a beautiful story of freedom and belonging


Jess is allergic to the sun. She lives in a world of shadows and hospitals, peeking at the other children in the playground from behind curtains. Her only friend is a boy in a coma, to whom she tells stories. One night she sneaks out to explore the empty playground she’s longed to visit, where she discovers a beautiful impossibility: a magical garden wrought of ice. But Jess isn’t alone in this fragile, in-between place…”

The Ice Garden tells the story of Jess who is allergic to the sun. She has no friends, everyone thinks she’s a bit weird as she has to protect herself from the sun – covering herself fully, wearing protective hats, staying indoors during the day. The only people she gets to talk to are the doctors at the hospital, her mum and her neighbours. Night time is her only solace, away from the burning sunshine.

Her story starts to unravel one night when she decides to go for a walk, unbeknownst to her mum, and she discovers a magical, wonder-filled Ice Garden. In this ice garden she can’t be harmed, there’s no sunlight, she’s safe (or at least she thinks she is). Whilst she’s in this new, harmless land she meets a young boy. She finally has a friend, someone to talk to, someone to play with in her newly discovered land, but as their friendship develops, things start to go awry. Jess is given a priceless gift, and must make a choice: one which could have disastrous consequences

I really enjoyed this story. Jess’ story was a really intriguing one. She is a girl constantly battling with belonging and solitude. She has this exceptionally tough choice to make. She needs to choose something for the good of others, or for herself. She’s a brave young girl, constantly looking out for others – she doesn’t want others to have to suffer the way she does. There’s a thread throughout the book of Jess, who writes stories to entertain herself through her loneliness, reading her stories to another young man who is poorly in the hospital. This ends up being an important part and I loved that. It showed Jess the power her stories have and the solace they provide for her, and others. 

I can’t wait to take this to school as I think the children will love this as much as I did. The writing is brilliant, there’s some gorgeous descriptions and plenty of things to think about throughout. Would you leave your house in the night time? Would you make the same decision Jess did? Are you the kind of person who would risk everything to better yourself? 

Thank you so much to the publishers, Chicken House, for sending me a copy! I’ll be passing it onto my kids! 

Would you like to visit an ice garden?
How would you feel if you met a boy made of ice?
How would you cope if you had Jess’ condition?

Talk to me on twitter. Comment on this post. Send me a postcard. Send me a pigeon. I’d love to talk! 

S x



BOOK BLOG: Alwyn Hamilton

Hero at the Fall: a fitting end to a trilogy I adored


“When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.”

Hello, my name is Steph and I ABSOLUTELY adore the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. If you are unware of this trilogy, it follows the incredible Amani (a gunslinging, sandcontroller) who ends up part of an excellent army of rebels trying to overthrow the cruel Sultan. Over book 1 and 2, Amani ends up part of the incredible band of merry men (she’s like a modern day female, brilliant Robin Hood) and they’re just MAGNIFICENT. I’d totally recomment you read this trilogy – there’s sand, magic, brilliant friendships and peril. SO MUCH PERIL. (See my reviews: Rebel of the Sands review and Traitor to the Throne review)

Image result for rebel of the sands trilogy

Anyway, I’m here to talk you through my sheer joy and UTTER SADNESS that this trilogy is over. That’s how I feel: it’s a bittersweet time of my life. I have ADORED this trilogy and reading Hero just proved to me why this series is special. The storytelling, the characters, to magic, the mythical elements, Jin (be still my heart), the progression of the characters, the closure. It’s just wonderful. Alwyn is an incredible author and I’m excited to see what’s coming next!

One of the things that hit the hardest about this book was the sense of family and belonging that Amani gets throughout. The gang get back together and you see her in her element with all the people around her she loves. The characters, both new and old, blew me away at times. Their actions speak volumes. The new characters add a whole new level of brilliance for me. These books wouldn’t be as massive a hit for me if it weren’t for such an excellent bunch of characters. They balance each other out. They complement each other. There’s moments throughout of reminding me why I fell in love with them all individually, but collectively too. They fight for each other; the fight WITH each other but they stick together and fight for the same brilliant cause. 

Another of the things that’s been prevalent throughout the whole series is the myths and fairytales beautifully woven into the plot. I am a MASSIVE fan of this. I think it adds intrigue and interest to books, it gives them a history that you couldn’t have without them. Hero features, among others, 2 massive new myths which both are incredible. There’s a remarkable parallel between what the characters are going through now and what the story tells of. Amani and Jin have their own moment of life imitating art which absolutely BROKE MY HEART and put it back together again. (More on Jin later).

As I read through, there was an absolute need to read more and know how things were going to end. I wanted to see where these characters were going to end up, how their stories ended… and I was SO satisfied with the ending. The arcs and progressions of these characters is something I adore. Amani herself goes on quite an important journey of accepting herself, accepting her varying position in the group, and her battle with some tricky decisions was a brilliant plot line to watch unfold. 

You get the chance to revisit locations from book 1 and 2 in Hero and it made my heart so happy. Revisiting Dustwalk and the location of the camp in particular gave me flashbacks, reminding me of books 1 and 2. It was gorgeous to have those nods to the past 2 books, whilst still bringing in brand new locations, characters and plot. There’s a satisfying amount of loose ends tied up by the end of Hero, which for me makes me happy. There’s nothing worse than knowing a trilogy is ending and having a whole load of unanswered questions. 

Jin. Oh Jin. *heart eyes* I love him. I think all of my reviews of this trilogy have had their own Jin paragraphs. I’d like my own Jin. He’s such a brilliant human. I adore him. I adore his and Amani’s relationship. They’re just lovely. They balance each other out so much. He’s smooth and mellow, a total opposite to Amani, who can be like a tight knot at times. I’m glad they got the ending they did. They deserve it. I am all for a happy ending (it’s not without its rollercoaster though).

I need to take a moment here to mention my sheer appreciation for the cover (and the covers of the trilogy). They are EXCEPTIONAL and look brilliant together. I am a sucker for some gold.

Where does Hero stand on the crying front? (I know you all know I’m a crier) I CRIED SO MUCH. I reckon I cried for the last 100 pages or so. SO MANY TEARS WERE SHED. It’s SO SO SO WORTH IT THOUGH. There’s scenes that deserve the tears; some were heartbroken tears; some were disbelief tears; some of the tears were sadness at saying goodbye. 

So if you hadn’t guessed from this review… I really quite LOVED Hero at the Fall and would ABSOLUTELY recommend the whole trilogy. Please go out and buy them, if you haven’t already. SO WORTH IT.

Have you read Hero at the Fall?
Do you think you’d be as badass as Amani?

Talk to me about this book, this trilogy, Jin, magic, WHATEVER. Just talk to me. This book, this trilogy, these characters are EXCELLENT and deserve all of the praise they get. Just read them!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Eye of the North


Welcome to my stop on The Eye of the North blog tour!


“When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, she is kidnapped by the villainous Doctor Siegfried Bauer, who is bound for the ice fields of Greenland. There he hopes to summon a mystical creature from the depths of the ancient glaciers, a creature said to be so powerful that whoever controls it can control the world. 

Unfortunately, Bauer isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The North Witch has laid claim to the mythical beast, too, and Emmeline along with a scrappy stowaway named Thing may be the only one with the power to save the world as we know it. Can Emmeline face one of the greatest legends of all time and live to tell the tale?”

The Eye of the North is an incredible adventure-filled tale of Emmeline and her friend Thing, who have to go and save Emmeline’s parents. There’s baddiesgoodies, boat rides, Paris, peril, capture, mysterious creatures, power hungry doctors and incredibly fun characters. This book is one of those that my kids love – the proof hasn’t stayed on the shelf in school for long! 

Today, the amazing humans at Stripes have given one lucky person the chance to win a copy! WOOHOO.  

For a chance to win, make sure you’re following me on twitter and RT the tweet this blog post is mentioned in! Go give @SJOHart and @StripesBooks a follow too – they’re brilliant! The giveaway closes on February 23rd, winner will be contacted on February 24th

Good luck!

Keep an eye out for my full review of Eye of the North coming in the next week or so! While you wait, go check out the rest of the amazing blogs on the blog tour! 

S xx

BLOG TOUR: The Belles

The Belles: beautiful, haunting and magical

Image result for the belles


In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful. Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far darker – than she ever imagined. When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.”

When I initially heard of the Belles, it was a bunch of my trusted Twitter folk who were RANTING and RAVING about this book, saying it was absolutely incredible. I was very lucky then to be invited to get a review copy from the publishers and then invited on the blog tour… so I knew I would be a fool to say no. And man, I absolutely loved it. 

There’s an incredible duality in this book in the beginning of beautythe rich, lavish life of the rich versus the impoverish, dull world of the poor. The initial few scenes really struck a chord with me. The Belles changing a poor person into a beautiful person to show off their talentsimagine seeing that unfold infront of you. Imagine having the power to do that. I don’t think I would cope. Not with the competition, not with the expectation, not with the burden. I’d love the magic, but not with the expectation and competition that comes with it. 

Throughout the book there’s old belief systems and traditions which run through, which imprint on you so you are part of the world – whether you agree with them or not is matterless. Then BAM, there is all of a sudden this explosion on the beliefs with a whole chunk of deception and lies. A web of well wound deception. Mix this with an incredible power battle and you have an incredible story which you will most definitely want to be part of and you’ll want to read on. I look forward to what comes next, a lot. 

There’s 2 main themes running through this book: beauty and belonging. What is beauty? What does it mean to be beauty? Does it matter? Should we be able to control or change it? Who should you trust? Do you truly trust the people you’re around? Do they trust you? 

The further you read into this book the more you will be gripped. This book has the makings of an incredible booksecrets, lies, power, love – these all make for a gripping and thrilling book. You won’t be disappointed

Thank you so much for reading my post! Check out the others on the blog tour, there’s some brilliant reviews up so far! Check out The Belles!

The Bells Blog Tour Banner

S x


Batman Nightwalker – a book which builds slowly, but packs a punch!

“Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.”

Batman: Nightwalker is part of the DC Icons collection: a collection of books published by Penguin Random House, using DC heroes reimagined and written by some incredible authors. There has already been Wonder Woman, written by the incredible Leigh Bardugo, and later this year Catwoman is being released, written by Sarah J. Maas. Batman: Nightwalker is the second of the series to be released. I loved Wonder Woman, so I had high hopes for Batman. Thank you so much to the publishers for sending me a copy to read!

Initially this book was quite slow to build, but once you’re in the action YOU’RE IN THE ACTION. On reflection, I really liked the build up. I’m glad I persevered with it because it made it worthwhile in the end. I’m not a massive Batman fan, I don’t know that much about Batman, but I felt like there were some great tidbits of information that Batman fans would love. 

As well as meeting Bruce (the man, the bat, himself) you are introduced to creepy Madeleine. A baddie by every other name. She’s part of a group of villains named the Nightwalkers, who are currently playing Robin Hood, but a murderous Robin Hood. They’re killing rich people, hacking into their bank accounts and then stealing their money, all in the name of “doing what’s right”. She’s EVIL. She’s creepy. She was an absolute gem of a character. I really liked her as a character (not a person, she’s a BAD person). She added a whole level of intrigue to this story. I want more about her!

I really liked the relationships between the characters in this story. Bruce and Alfred’s relationship: the father-son, boss-employee, friends dynamic. I really liked it. Team Alfred so much. Their warmth compared to the coldness of the Bruce-Madeliene relationship was interesting. Bruce-Madeleine was an interesting dynamic. He wanted to know more about her. She was an enigma to him. She uses him to get what she wants. (I wasn’t a fan of the old romance in this book… gotta admit!) 

My goodreads review:
“Action packed, creepy and intense baddies and just the perfect pace. Slow to build and then BAM. I really enjoyed this book, and for a casual Batman fan like me, it was pretty good – not too much I didn’t understand!”

Have you read Batman?
If you could have your favourite author write a book based on your favourite superhero/supervillain… what would the combination be?

Let me know your thoughts! I’m going to go contemplate my author/hero combination now. I’ll let you all know later!

S x


A while back, the amazing people over at Scholastic asked me if I wanted a proof copy of a book that I had heard nothing about. I happily said yes, and then I was asked if I wanted to be part of the blog tour. Again, I happily accepted!

Everyone, it is my pleasure to introduce you to ‘Shell’ by Paula Rawsthorne

Shell: thrilling, gripping and a little bit freaky!


“What if you thought you had died, only to wake up in someone else’s body? When Lucy, a teen diagnosed with terminal cancer wakes up cancer-free, it should be a dream come true. But faced with a life she didn’t choose and trapped in a new body, Lucy must face the biggest question of all . . . How far would you go to save the one you love?”

Imagine that, just for a minute, you thought you died, but lo and behold, no. You’re alive. The jubilation at being alive, but then realising you are in fact in someone else’s body, living in their body, with your memories and your thoughts. When I heard this… I was taken aback and reading this book I was thrilled, but I was also a little bit freaked out! 

Initially, besides being freaked out by the thought of being me in someone else’s body, I found Lucy a little bit hard to like (I think she’s difficult and hard to reach at times) BUT she completely comes through as a likeable character. She’s flawed, which makes her a lot more relatable, and I definitely grew to like her a lot more throughout the book. You realise some of the decisions she makes, some of the things she does could have justifiable reasons behind them. Knowing Lucy’s story definitely justifies some of her behaviour.

There’s some quite challenging themes in this book – life, death, memory, friendship, family, our willingness to do things for those we love – and I found that was one of the things that kept me coming back to this book. It challenged my own thoughts and feelings towards the characters, the story and also, made me think what would I do? (I would not like to be in Lucy’s place, or her parents’ place!) There’s a lot of struggle through this book – not from me, but from the characters. I definitely found myself pretty emotionally invested by the end, it was a lot. 

Building on the challenging themes, there are some interesting twists and turns… I’m RUBBISH at seeing twists and turns, so when they came along I was SMACKED in the face with them! I don’t do surprises well, but the brilliant story line, along with some great pace, plus characters I rooted for by the end, I was game for all of the twists and turns. They definitely kept me on my toes! It’s pretty grim and dark at times this book… but don’t let this put you off reading it. It’s gripping in its darkness. 

Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate that cover? HOW FREAKY IS THAT EYE MAN?

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and this book is an ode to that story! Definitely an interesting spin on the original idea. Now that I’ve read Shell, I am definitely interested in reading Frankenstein! Happy birthday! 

Have you read Shell?
How do you think you’d cope in someone else’s body?
Whose life would you like to live for a day?

Check out the rest of this blog tour! There are some amazing other reviews (worded much better than mine!) and some interesting posts! 

Shell Blog Banner

Paula Rawsthorne is the award-winning author of Blood Tracks and The Truth about Celia Frost. She first found success when she won the BBC National ‘Get Writing’ competition with her prize-winning story read on Radio 4. She has also been a winner of SCBWI’s ‘Undiscovered Voices. She is passionate about enthusing teenagers to get reading and is a writer in residence in a secondary school for the national literacy charity ‘First Story’. SHELL is her third novel for young adults.

S4S – 2017 recommendations

Hello there! 

Tis Sunday again! Tis I the #SixforSunday monster, taking over the blog again. Today’s blog comes to speak of recommendations. Now I’m only going to throw these names at you and then leave as I have a full round up type of post coming in a few weeks time, where I will talk about these and others! 

2017 books I would recommend

Lol, imagine if I actully recommended 2017 books. No, I mean books released in 2017 that I would recommend.

  1. The Scarecrow Queen – Melinda Salisbury (YA)
  2. Wing Jones – Katherine Webber (YA)
  3. A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard (YA)
  4. A Place Called Perfect – Helena Duggan (MG)
  5. Simply The Quest – Maz Evans (MG)
  6. How To Stop Time – Matt Haig 

There you go! There’s my 6 for #SixforSunday! I talk about these books ALL THE TIME so it’s only fair they get their places on this list!

What are your recommended books from this year?
How many of mine have you read?

Talk to me! Leave me your links in the comments or on twitter, I love seeing the #SixforSunday posts in the wild! Watch out for the prompts for next year coming soon!

S x

Down the TBR hole again…

So… here we go again. Clearing out my TBR shelf – if you want to know more about this, check out my first post here: Down the TBR hole….

Let’s get on with it, see which books I’m going to KEEP, and which I’m going to REMOVE.


The Death Instinct – Jed Rubenfeld
Now, I actually own this book, so that is a factor to it staying. I read the one before this and really loved it. I think for now I will KEEP this book, in the hopes I get round to it quickly!


The Girl with Glass Feet – Ali Shaw
TO say I remember adding this book would be a lie. I don’t think I have any recollection of this book. However, having read the synopsis, it sounds RIGHT up my street with magical beings, so I’ll hope I can get a copy and I shall KEEP it.


The Assassin’s Curse – Cassandra Rose Clarke
I’m not sure if this is the same Cassandra Clarke as the other one. Again, I have NO recollection of adding this to be honest. It’s got magic in it which makes me want to keep it, however I think I’ll REMOVE it as it just doesn’t grip me.


The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness
I know, I know. HOW HAVE I NOT READ THIS? Well, I didn’t own this til this year. Now that it is on my shelf I plan on getting round to reading it. PLUS the film is being shot/done shooting, so I will want to see that! This is a firm KEEP.


The Girl who Circumnavigated the Fairyland in a Shop of her Own Making – Catherynne Valente
Now I’m 90% sure I started this on my kindle and just couldn’t get in to it. I think for now I will REMOVE it, but it seems like that kind of book that will keep cropping up in my life!


The Call of the Weird – Louis Theroux
I love Louis Theroux, so there is NO QUESTION about the fact this book is a KEEP.


I am the Messenger – Markus Zusak
This is by the same author as The Book Thief, which is a book I adore, and having read the synopsis on Goodreads I think I might KEEP this and hope to get my hands on a copy, eventually. 


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz
Again, I have NO recollection of adding this, but a few of my friends have mentioned it recently and I’ve just read the blurb and it sounds brilliant. KEEP is the choice.


The Vast Fields of Ordinary – Nick Burd
I have absolutely no clue why I added this. I am going to REMOVE this from my list.


The Library of the Dead – Glenn Cooper
I clearly added this when I was reading other books of this type. This sounds like a great one if I’m ever in a crime mood, but I’m going to REMOVE it for now. 

So there we go! Down the TBR hole number 2 done, I removed 4 books and kept 6. I think I am going to have to start being more brutal. My IRL TBR is much more than the one on my Goodreads, but we’ll forget that!

Have you read any of the books on my list?
Which ones would you keep or remove?
Do you agree with my choices?

Talk to me on twitter, via email, or in the comments!

S x

12 Days of Clink Christmas

Today I am hosting the lovely C.J. Bentley on my blog. She is here today to talk about her brilliant book ‘The Shield’ and she’s very kindly written a guest post about her inspiration for writing ‘The Shield’.

So without further ado:

Inspiration for writing ‘The Shield’ 

It was when our grandchildren were staying with us during the summer holidays a few years ago in the evening.  We had exhausted our saved supply of favourite children’s books as well as our imaginations making up stories each night at bedtime.  Our grandson was eight years old.  His two older sisters wanted to watch a movie and he was tired so requested a bedtime story and to be taken to bed.  I had the idea we might find something to read online so Googled a site for stories for eight year old boys.  What came up I deemed unsuitable for bedtime reading for an eight year old, I couldn’t find anything that didn’t feature zombies, vampires, or farts.

As I returned to Dubai later that summer to pack and move our belongings to Qatar, (my husband’s job taking us there) and having retired from my work in an International School, my ‘me time’ was spent making notes for the long ago ‘germinated seed’ of an idea for a children’s story, (which then led to other germs) being planted in my brain and so ‘The Finder’ series was born.  I had made the decision not to work in Qatar and initially I had plenty to do with the unpacking and making a home in the lovely villa my husband and I had chosen to live in for our time in that country.  We enjoyed our beautiful walled garden and I started to grow vegetables, something I had not been able to do living in Dubai with only a balcony to our apartment.  I started to write, I had spare time on my hands for the first time in my life.  Being a wife, mother and then grandmother, working throughout my life with children my time was used up by everything I had to do with being all of these things. 

Now time was mine and apart from keeping the villa clean and growing the vegetables I decided to write the kind of stories I would like to read if I was aged nine to thirteen, adventure stories, meeting people in different times as time travel has always fascinated me.  Old objects fascinate me too, as I hold something old I find myself thinking about who owned and used it and so the ‘germ’ for these stories grew.  As I find myself writing one book in the series the next is forming in my imagination and so on as I travel down this new road as an author.   I am currently writing book four in the series ‘The Ring’ lost in 1330 by an Arabian Princess and which takes place in the Middle East.

The ‘germ’ for the first in the Finder Series came from a memory I had when I was ten years old fishing in the local stream with a friend.  We found a medieval shield in the silt under the water during the summer holidays.  It took us a long time to remove it from its resting place as the silt was deep and it was well covered.  It was dirty and heavy and we didn’t know what to do with it so we chose to put it back.  My story was taken from this memory about what could have happened if we had chosen to keep it and take it home.  As far as I know the shield we found is still under that stream.  This summer whilst in the UK and with the help of family and friends with a child’s metal detector we tried to find it but the topography around the stream had changed over the many years in between and we were unsuccessful.  We did visit the local museum mentioned in the book and a Curator informed us that yes around where I used to live as a child there had been a medieval settlement so the chances of a shield being discovered were high.  We may return at some stage to try again, this time with a higher class of metal detector, more men with spades and even greater research.

It was interesting for her to confirm that the time I had decided to set ‘The Shield’, 1340, was a time of great unrest in Northern England with the Scots invading down as far as York where most of the story takes place. The first three lots of King Edwards were each kept busy trying to stop the Scots from venturing further south.  I become totally immersed in the time I set the stories and I love the history.  I try to make each time come alive for my readers and this is the main reason why I love to write now.  I love the creativity of sitting down at the laptop, I never fully know which way my imagination is going to take me, I don’t plan in great detail as I write, I have the idea, do a lot of research for the time chosen and then sit at the computer and write.  It is only when reading back to myself, (always out loud) that I wonder at the process, I find it all very exciting.   As I continue to write book four the ideas for the next book are forming in my imagination so my notebook is continually being added to.  I feel at least another two in the series before the last book which will complete the adventures full circle.

The Shield Cover

The Shield

People lose their belongings. That is a fact of life. It can happen by accident, but sometimes it can happen when you put them in a very safe place and forget where that safe place is. Not many people are good at finding them again. A young, gutsy girl with a kind heart, who’s searching for her own identity growing up in the 1960s, just happens to be very good at finding things. Can she be the one to help return whatever is lost – anywhere and at any time – to its original owner? With the help of a beautiful yet mysterious wise woman and a chivalrous knight she does just that. She finds and returns his shield, lost in battle, which unbeknown to her holds a secret that is important to his King, the safety of the Kingdom and the life of the daughter of his best friend.

The Shield is the first story in The Finder Series, taking our heroine on extraordinary journeys back in time. Her first adventure takes place in Medieval England in 1340 where she meets King Edward III, his wife Philippa and their son, who will later become the Black Prince.

Purchase from Amazon UK – Amazon link

About the author: Originally heralding from the North of England, C.J Bentley has travelled extensively and enjoyed living in a variety of countries across the world from Dubai to Doha, Qatar and now the countryside in the South of France. A background in teaching and childcare she has always enjoyed creating adventure short stories. However, it was when she became a grandma and with her grandchildren growing up  that she discovered that books seemed to contain only stories of vampires, zombies and farts that she decided seriously to take matters into her own hands and put pen to paper which today she calls The Finder Series.




BOOKBLOG: Ross Montgomery

Christmas Dinner of Souls: devilish, daring and delicious

img_0718-1(Thanks Waterstones Newcastle for once again providing an incredible background to a picture… I love this table!!)

“It’s a dark and lonely Christmas Eve in the dining room of ancient Soul’s College. The kitchen boy, 11-year-old Lewis, has helped prepare a highly unusual meal, made with unrecognisable ingredients, cooked by a mysterious chef. And then the guests arrive … and carnage ensues. They are ex-students of Soul’s College, and they are all completely demented. They demand bottle after bottle of wine, flinging their cutlery and howling like banshees until … silence. The Dean of Soul’s College has arrived, and the evening’s ceremonies must begin.

For this is the annual meeting of a secret club for those who despise children, warmth, happiness, and above all Christmas. Each member must try to outdo the others by telling the most terrible, disgusting story they know.

A spooky, shocking, bloodthirsty alternative to festive cheer that will appeal to, fascinate and delight young readers.”

The lovely Ross had hinted to me a while ago that he was writing a book of short stories so when I heard there was more coming from him, I was excited. For those who have been living under a rock over the past year, Ross is one of my favourite authors – I absolutely adore his books. If you want a good starting point, check out Perijee and Me. I truly believe Perijee was the reason some of my Y4s last year fell in love with reading. We used to read it at the end of every day I was teaching. Those kids ADORED that book and still talk about it now! But anyway… we’re here to talk Christmas Dinner of Souls.

Image result for perijee and me

Christmas Dinner of Souls is BRILLIANT. It’s the perfect balance of scary, sometimes teering on the edge of pretty scary, and fun. I loved the premise. I loved the way in which it was written – there are scary short stories interspersed into the overarching story. For me, who isn’t a massive short story lover, it worked perfectly. It was like having a whole host of fright within one pretty scary book.

I must also take a second here to appreciate the illustrations. The incredible David Litchfield (of The Bear and the Piano, and so many others, fame) did the illustrations for this book and he captures the characters so perfectly. (Montgomery and Litchfield is my absolute dream team!)

The main character, Lewis, has been thrust into this situation as he did something wrong, so the Dean of the College is punishing him by making him help at the dinner. I really liked Lewis and I think a lot of kids will like him too. He’s relatable. He wants to get out of there (I mean who wouldn’t?! I sure would!) and tries coming up with plans, but each time his plan is foiled

There’s this bunch of bonkers characters who get together for Christmas and try to outscare each other – they take turns telling scary stories to the others, accompanying these stories with foods. I properly loved this idea. Some of the foods are GRUESOME, I most certainly wouldn’t like to have to eat them! These characters come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re really likeable. Despite the fact they’re telling these stories (I’ll get on to the stories in a minute!), they’re hilarious and fun. There’s a pretty epic twist which I totally did not see coming at all. Well done Ross, I LOVED it.

Two of the short stories that stand out most to me are The Beast and The Kensington System. When making notes about these two stories the words horrifying and pretty scary were written down. The Kensington System, I think, might be my favourite, most scary short story. It’s pretty dark, but revenge filled: perfect

This book is on my Perfect MG Books to buy and I think it totally deserves its spot there. It’s so spot on for kids. It would also make a pretty incredible read aloud for class novel time. These short stories could also form the basis for some studies into writing scary stories. 

On top of all of this, Ross has created resources to accompany this book. You’ll find them here: clicky click. There’s a whole host of things to look at on Ross’ website, so I recommend going to check it out. While I’m at it, you should probably follow him on twitter too @mossmontmomery.

Have you read Christmas Dinner of Souls?
Have you got a favourite scary kids book?

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S x