Friday, 22 May 2015

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show Offs by Sarah Forbes

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-Offs - Elspeth Hart 1 (Paperback)

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs is the first adventure featuring the fabulous Elspeth Hart, a modern heroine with doodles on her trainers and unstoppable determination. Can you imagine never being allowed to play outside, dear reader? How about sleeping in a wardrobe every night? That's what life is like for Elspeth Hart. Ever since her parents were tragically washed away in a flood, poor Elspeth has been forced to live with her disgusting aunt, Miss Crabb, in the attic of the Pandora Pants School for Show-offs. Elspeth spends her days sweeping up mouse droppings, washing filthy pots and dodging Tatiana Firensky, the most horrible show-off of all. But what Elspeth doesn't know is that things are about to change...A fast-paced and funny story from a fresh new voice in children's fiction, Elspeth Hart's quirky adventures will delight fans of David Walliams, Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl.

Publisher: Little Tiger Press Group
ISBN: 9781847155955

What happens if you take Hogwarts from Harry Potter, add in the cast from Holly and Kelly Willoughby's School for Stars and the mischief of Dirty Bertie and you are left with this book!! A modern day Malory Towers style boarding school where the pupils work hard, but they also play hard. There is an air of Roald Dahl's humour throughout the story which I am sure will make it very popular and appeal to both boys and girls.

I loved this book - as I have said already there is a fantastic setting of a boarding school full of wannabee stars of stage and screen who think they are above Elspeth Hart the niece of the school's cook, Miss Crab, who set Elspeth to work each day with the worst jobs possible. As with all schools there are troublemakers who make Elspeth's day even worse but she also has her firm friends who make life manageable.

The story has lots of funny bits which will have children laughing out loud and will keep their attention to the very last page - and wanting the next book in the series! 

I even love the cover of this book - it has cut out windows which, when the cover is opened, reveals another picture behind of the school girls 'posing' while Elspeth cleans. The fantastic illustrations continue throughout the book, and the illustrator, James Brown, has captured the aloofness of the school pupils and the performance art teachers in every pencil stroke.

I am really looking forward to the next installment of school life at Pandora Pants School for Show Offs (Yes that really is the name of the school) and can't wait to see what happens to Elspeth Hart, who I think life may be very different for, in the future.

Thank you to Stripes for sending me this book to review and to the author, Sarah Forbes, for joining me at my blog, for a stop on her blog tour.

Blog Tour - Elspeth Hart and the School For Show Offs by Sarah Forbes

Today I am pleased to welcome Sarah Forbes to my blog. Sarah has, in the past, worked on magazines, interviewing pop stars, and is also an editor. She can now add author to this list, as her debut children's novel, Elspeth Hart and the school for show offs, hits the shelves this month.

Sarah joins me today to tell me about her writing influences.

My writing influences 

I find it hard to pick out my exact writing influences, but it’s something I like thinking about, because it lets me daydream my way back into the books I loved as a child. My first book, Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs, is set in a very odd boarding school. Inspiration for that setting must have come from the piles of school stories I devoured as a kid: Mallory Towers, Chalet School, St Clare’s, Trebizon, Dimsie Goes to School…most of these were in my local library and I can still remember how their yellow pages felt between my fingers. The world of Mallory Towers is a long way from Aberdeenshire in the 1980s, but like so many kids I found myself immersed in a world of lacrosse and tuck-boxes and prep. I was fascinated by it all.

Other writers I adored: Anne Fine, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl (of course). The atmospheric mystery of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. But also the dark, intriguing, Rats of Nimh books, Stig of the Dump, and the Choose Your Own Adventure stories I used to swap with friends.

We studied some great books at school as well; The Monster Garden by Vivian Alcock sticks in my mind, as does Carrie’s War and Joan Lingard’s Across the Barricades. So that’s quite a mash-up of different styles I was reading as a child!

I suspect anyone who writes is influenced by so many things: TV, movies, music, art, overheard conversations… you name it! I sometimes laugh quite hard at childish slapstick humour (people falling over or slipping on things, for example) and so a fair bit of that creeps into the books. I’m also constantly peckish, so it’s no surprise that Elspeth’s story features a top-secret-sticky-toffee-sauce recipe.

Ultimately I think the best inspiration is time, having space to think, but this is in short supply for most of us. One good thing about having started my career as a journalist is that I got used to coming up with a constant stream of ideas under pressure… so maybe my days writing quizzes about Girls Aloud were all good practice for writing books!

Thanks very much for featuring me, Sarah 

Thank you Sarah for visiting today and tells myself and my readers about your writing influences. I too enjoyed Malory Towers, Trebizon and St Clares when I was younger and I must confess that I have read Malory Towers recently and now I want to re-read St Clares too. Unfortunately my daughter does not share my love of these books but I still have copies on my bookshelves just for me!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Blog Tour - Delete by Jeff Povey

Delete: Shift #2 (Paperback)
'Tense and witty drama' Sunday Times 'High-concept sci-fi series with shade of Michael Grant a strong shot of black humour' The Bookseller Just when you thought the apocalyptic detention was over...Having fought their way back to what they believe to be their home world, Rev, GG and The Ape discover that they're now stuck in the nightmarish world of doppelgangers, surrounded by a town of super-powered killing machines. Johnson, Billie and the Moth are still trapped in the empty world. Alive, but with no way home. Can Rev get the misfits back together? And even if she can will she be able to do it before the world ends. Time is running out...And believe it or not that's the least of their problems.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
ISBN: 9781471118708

Last year I was asked to be a part of Jeff Povey's debut children's novel, ShiftI was very lucky to share the first chapter with you, my blog readers, of his novel which was described as an apocalyptically funny and thrilling read for young adult readers.  Now, twelve months on, Jeff is back with his second book, Delete, which is the sequel to Shift, and is again visiting my blog, this time with a conversation between Ape and Non-Ape



- A Polemical Discourse OnProblems Within The Education System-


After we arrived in London and found the rubble that was once a five star hotel Non-Ape ate solidly for three straight hours.  He grew larger and stronger by the minute and the Ape started wondering just how strong and big Non-Ape could get.

‘Could you lift a tree?’


‘A car.’


‘How about a bus.’

Non-Ape chewed on that one for a moment.  ‘Does it have people in it?’

Oh my God, that means he must have lifted a bus with passengers inside.  I started to realise just how powerful – and dangerous – he must be. An Ape with that sort of power must need very careful management.

‘Say it’s packed.’

‘What’s packed?’ Hanging onto a train of thought has never come easy to Non-Ape.

‘The bus.’

‘Oh yeah.  Easy.’  Non-Ape smiles and I’m pretty sure he has definitely lifted a commuter packed bus at some stage in his oafish life.

The Ape would never be one to worship or idolise but his eyes had widened in a subtle wonder.  But then again he was talking to himself in many ways so it was probably more that he was thinking of trying the same when he got home.

They high fived and I could see the Ape racking his brains now.  Thinking of all things heavy.

‘A JCB digger.’


‘A big cow.’


‘Those big metal rooms in banks.’

‘What are they?’

‘Where they hide money.’

The Ape was thinking of a bank vault but I’ve only ever seen them in films.  Do they really exist?  Non-Ape’s grin spread all the way across his lips as a lightbulb lit up in his huge head.  ‘Yowza.’

I could see it now, Non-Ape marching into a bank and dragging the vault home with him.

‘Could you lift a tank?’

Non-Ape shrugged.  ‘Already did.’

The Ape looked impressed.  ‘Yowza.’

‘Threw it in a field.’

‘Yow----za!A whole tank.’

‘Yeah.’  Non-Ape wasn’t even boasting, it was as if he threw tanks into fields every day of his life.  Maybe he did.

Non-Ape stopped shoveling pasta down his throat.  ‘They shouldn’t have got me mad.’

The Ape couldn’t help but grab pasta for himself as Non-Ape continued.  ‘They said I got bad marks at school.  And I said no way.  I got four U’s.’

‘Fouris genius.’

‘That’s what I said.  Who else got that many?  I’ll tell you.  No one.  But they said I had to leave school.’

‘With four U’s?’  Non-Ape shook his head, as if he was totally bewildered.  ‘They should leave school.’

‘What I said.’

‘U stands for University.’  The Ape suddenly declared.  ‘You could go to four of them.’

U stands for Ungraded.  It usually means you were either absent during the exam or you got a low score that meant you failed to get a grade.  Zero counts as a low score and I wondered how many zeroes Non-Ape got.  I’m thinking four.

Non-Ape stopped eating for a moment.  He was definitely getting bigger and the chair he was sitting on was starting to buckle under his weight.  ‘Four U’s and they were yelling at me.  Yelling ain’t teaching.’

‘It’s just yelling.’  The Ape agreed and it started to feel like that there was a great meeting of minds taking place.  No two people could have been so similar in their outlook.‘Should’ve got a gold star.’  The Ape slurped more pasta.

‘I asked for one.’

‘They didn’t give it?’

Non-Ape shook his head again and looked quite hurt.  ‘Not even a green one.’  Do they really give out stars to seventeen year olds?  Sometimes the Apes were almost too heartbreakingly naïve.  I could see them in their classroom’s, probably never listening and thinking up ways to make people laugh or get their attention.  They only grasped a quarter of what was being said and didn’t ever really get that school and learning was something important.

‘Four U’s, that’s got to be a record.’  The Ape could feel Non-Ape’s pain.

‘So the teacher’s yelling and I’m thinking, is he shouting at me?  Or is it someone behind me?’  Non-Ape clearly felt his four U’s were worthy of amuch better response.

‘Was there someone behind you?’  The Ape asked.

‘Was just a wall.  I sit at the back.’

‘Me too.Every class.’  The Ape and Non-Ape stopped to bump fists, excited that they were so alike.

‘So he’s yelling and he’s been eating onions which makes the air smell bad.’

‘Onions.’  The Ape executed an exaggerated retching reflex.

Non-Ape retched in return.  ‘And I wave the smell away.  Only he’s too close and next thing I’ve hit him in the face and he’s gone out the window.’

The Ape sits forward, he’s getting into the story now.  ‘You knocked him out the window?’

‘It was open.’  Non-Ape stopped to dredge through his memory.  ‘Well. It was definitely open afterwards.’

‘Should’ve cleaned his teeth.’

Non-Ape started laughing.  ‘He landed in the car park and the alarms started going off.’

The Ape joined in with a big hearty laugh and they spent a good two minutes just laughing and making car alarm noises. Non-Ape shifted in his chair and the pained creak filled the hotel kitchen.

‘Then the Head came into the classroom.’

‘Did he have onion breath?’

‘Probably.’  Non-Ape slurped more pasta and was still growing bigger.  ‘He said I had to leave school.’


Non-Ape nodded.  ‘I got four U’s!’

‘Four Universities, got to be a world record.’

‘Got to be.’  Non-Ape stopped to let out a low belch.  The Ape immediately responded with one of his own.  ‘But I just sat there.  Said I’m not leaving.  So he phoned for a tank.”

The Ape was still impressed.  ‘Was it loaded?’

‘They said it was.’

‘Probably was then.’

‘Probably.’  Non-Ape’s chair wasn’t going to hold.  I gave it another three minutes at best.  ‘They told me to come out of the classroom.’


‘So harsh.’  Non Ape wiped his mouth with the back of a hand the size of a frying pan.  ‘The whole school was outside.’

‘Like for a fire alarm?’

‘Yeah.  And the Head was yelling stuff.’

‘What stuff?’

‘Dunno, wasn’t listening.’  Non-Ape shrugged.  ‘But I got up and went outside.  Wanted to see the tank.

‘Never seen a live one.’

‘Me neither.’  Non-Ape sucked up more pasta.  ‘Everyone was yelling stuff now.  So I picked up the tank and threw it away.’

‘Good.  Because yelling ain’t teaching.’  The Ape repeated knowledgeably.

‘Tell you something.’  Non-Ape said after finishing the last of the pasta.

‘What’s that?’

“I’m not going to bother next year.  Learning and that.  If that’s how they treat you when you get four U’s.’
Thank you again to  Simon and Schuster  Children's Books and Jeff Povey for inviting me to again take part in their blog tour and apologies for the late publication of this blog post.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Blog Tour - What She Left by T R RIchmond

Today I am joined by T R RIchmond, one of Amazon's Rising Stars of 2015,  to celebrate the publication on their new novel, What She Left.

This haunting, beautifully written and beautifully crafted literary crime novel tells the story of Alice Salmon and what she leaves behind. Using a very original and contemporary structure of facebook posts, texts, tweets, diary entries, letters and exchanges with friends T.R. Richmond presents a ‘whodunnit’ with a twist, a coming-of-age tale of a complex young woman, brought back to life through a series of glimpses.

Part 21st century epistolary novel and part digital scrapbook, What She Left explores the nature of news, truth, our social footprint and online identity, as well as such timeless issues as love, loss, revenge and redemption.

 I asked the author about their favourite books that are written in the form of letters. 

If you look on Wikipedia, an epistolary novel is defined as one “written as a series of documents”.
Years ago, this typically meant a tale told through letters and diaries. More recently, as communication forms have become more diverse, so the scope of this type of novel has mushroomed.
With What She Left, I set out to write a novel drawing on those traditional forms, but also using contemporary ones such as blog posts and tweets.
Epistolary books have a long, proud tradition – here are five that have made a particularly strong impact on readers.

Carrie by Stephen King
Thank heavens the author didn’t bin the early draft of this, as he was tempted. His wife fished it out of the bin so we’ve got her to thank for the succession of bestsellers the American author has produced since then. He reckons the book, which became his first published novel when it hit the shelves in 1974, only took about two weeks to draft. As it celebrates its 40 anniversary, the story of Carrie White and her telekinetic powers retains its ability to shock – such themes as bullying and revenge weaved into cuttings from newspapers, magazine pieces and book extracts.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend
A poignant and hilarious portrayal of the angst and awe of the male teenage years. Sue Townsend’s eponymous hero first appeared in 1982, with a slew of subsequent books following the hapless character through his troubled life. The first installment, with its deliciously evocative title, remains Townsend’s towering achievement, offering an insight into the adolescent Adrian Albert Mole and his love interest Pandora Braithwaite.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Letters, diary entries, telegrams, ship's logs, and snippets from papers all appear in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel about the evil vampire Count Dracula. The various perspectives and narrative style, partly engendered by the Irish author’s time as a newspaper writer, contribute to the story's believability – it feels like it’s recounting actual events via “found footage”. For many, Count Dracula will always be associated with Christopher Lee who played the part a series of films, but the book remains a classic and a must-read for horror fans.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, published in 1982, introduces us to Celie, a southern American black woman whose tale is told mainly through letters – some addressed to God. It’s a disturbing read, taking us back to an impoverished 1930s Georgia, with its endemic sexism and racism. It was turned into a Steven Spielberg-directed film in 1985 and also became a Broadway musical. Walker has become an iconic figure and her most famous book remains as important as ever.

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
What began as a fictional diary column in a national newspaper in 1995 soon became a book, which spawned two sequels and a couple of films starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. Consumed by her quest for love (and preoccupied by her alcohol intake and smoking habit), Bridget was originally intended to resonate with young, professional urban women but soon picked up a much wider fan base. The author has described her as a “banana skin girl”, but her observations about “singletons” and “smug marrieds” struck a chord with a whole generation.

Thank you to T R Richmond for visiting my blog today, I too loved The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 and also Bridget Jones's Diary, but I think I would have to add 64 Charring Cross Road by Helene Hanff to my list, which is a series of letters between Helene, who lives in New York,  and an antiquarian bookshop specialising in rare and antique books in Charring Cross Road, London.

What She Left by T R Richmond is released on Thursday 23 April by Michael Joseph

Friday, 3 April 2015

Vets on Call by Cathy Woodman

Vets on Call - Talyton St George (Paperback)

It's all change at Otter House as a new vet moves in. Perfect for fans of Katie Fforde and Catherine Alliott, this is the ninth book in the hugely popular Talyton St George series. Each book in the Talyton St George series can be read as a standalone novel, but when Cathy first had the idea of writing about a vet practice, she intended it to be a trilogy about two vets - Maz and Alex. Their names are in brackets to show which books feature their story. All the other books have new characters, although Maz and Alex always crop up now and again. Talyton St George, the story so far: Trust Me, I'm a Vet (Maz and Alex), Must Be Love (Maz and Alex), The Sweetest Thing It's a Vet's Life (Maz and Alex), The Village Vet, Vets in Love, Country Loving, The Three of Us (Digital short story, companion to Follow Me Home), and, Follow Me Home.

Spring is in full bloom, the clocks have gone forward, the sun is beginning to make more of an appearance and that means one thing ........ it is time to take my annual trip to Talyton St George and visit old friends.

This is the ninth book in the fantastic series, based in the the fictional country village of Talyton St George. The series began as a series set around the  village vets but as the series has progressed, we, the readers, have been introduced to more and more characters. One of the things I love about this series is that although books may be set around specific characters e.g. The Sweetest Thing was set around Jenny who set up a cake making business, Woodman always ensures the villagers met in previous books make appearances in them too. 

Following Will, the temporary vet's disastrous time at Talyton where he managed to amputate a dog's healthy leg by mistake, a new, leather clad biker, vet arrives and it is not only the patient's heart that Ross sets a flutter. He also makes an impression on veterinary nurse Shannon too. 

This is another great book, where there is a great story-line throughout. There are plenty of the usual veterinary cases, alongside the will they, won't they story-line between Ross and Shannon. What happens next is an freak incident that will affect them both for years to come. It was great to see the story-line included in the book as it has hit the headlines in recent years but after the reporting of it, the aftermath is not discussed. Woodman has created a credible story-line which could be an uplifting hope for fellow sufferers.

Woodman is a qualified vet and I really enjoyed the 'technical' scenes and jargon within the story. I really enjoyed the scenes in the book which included diagnosis, or procedures taking place. The jargon did not make the scenes graphic or complicated but allowed the reader to feel they were there in the room. Many authors add these scenes but gloss over dialogue or procedure but Woodman added depth to these sections.

I really enjoyed this book and am already waiting for my next visit to Talyton. I look forward to seeing who will be the next receptionist at the vets - Frances is going to be a hard act to follow and I don't think she will go quietly, she will continue to pop into the surgery to keep an eye on them all.

Although this book is part of a series, each novel is a standalone read and I would recommend this book to all fans of books that you can loose yourself in village life and want to meet a whole community of villagers.

Thank you to the publishers, Arrow, for sending me the book to review.

Blog Tour - Vets on Call by Cathy Woodman

The What, How, Where, When and Why of Writing…

Today, I’d like to tell you a little about the way that I write. Even though I’ve been writing for a long time and have over a million words in print, I still find it hard to believe that I’m an author, and I’ve been trying to think why.

I have come to the conclusion that one of the reasons is that the process of writing doesn’t always appear to look like work. This was reinforced by a comment by the decorator who came to paint a room in the house recently. As he came into the living room to tell me he’d finished, he said, ‘Oh, I see you have your feet up.’ My initial reaction was one of mild annoyance. I was working. Couldn’t he see that? I was typing away on the laptop with my notebook at my side. However, it was true. I did have my feet up at the same time! And that is one of the great things about writing. You can write anywhere you like and escape to your favourite places with your characters whenever you want to.

So what do I write?

Vets on Call is the ninth book in the Talyton St George series set in Devon. It is vet nurse Shannon’s story and a return to the Otter House veterinary practice. When I’m not writing novels, I write short stories.

How do I write?

I like to write longhand to begin with – I use a biro with the four different colours of ink and A4 paper, narrow feint with margins. I can write with other pens and types of paper, but it never feels quite right! I like to plan chapters and scenes on post-it notes so I can move them about until I settle on the final order, and I type on my trusty laptop which I chose because it is purple. Other accessories that aren't exactly essential for writing, but can be helpful, include copious amounts of coffee and a supply of crème eggs.  

Where do I write?

I can write anywhere, but I prefer to sit on the sofa in the living room, with the 
dogs and the cat. I’ll often have music on – it helps me focus – but I have to force myself to leave the television off because I find that too distracting. One of my favourite places to write is on the train if I’m travelling to see my agent or publisher in London.   

When do I write?

It takes a while for the writing muscle to warm up in the morning, and I usually find that the words flow best from late morning to late afternoon. If I’m working to a tight deadline, I have been known to work all day and overnight. 

Why do I write?

I write because I can’t not write. It’s a compulsion that I thoroughly enjoy, and, being an avid reader myself, I’m always delighted to hear from people who have appreciated my books.

Happy reading!

Cathy x

Thank you Cathy for joining me on my blog today. My review of Vets on Call follows this post and I absolutely loved it. I hope my readers' also love the book as much as me and there are many more visitors going to Talyton St George very soon.  

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Give a Little Love by Cathy Woodman

From Cathy Woodman, the bestselling author of Trust Me I'm a Vet, an exclusive short story featuring some of Talyton St George's best-loved characters

Three years after an accident left her in a wheelchair, artist Penny Diamond has made a new life for herself in a little cottage on the edge of Talyton St George.

Penny makes a living through her art, and with the aid of her assistance dog Sally and a carer who comes in during the day, she's managing to live an independent, if very quiet,life.

Until one day she gets a new carer. Declan is young - a lot younger than her - and he brings a breath of fresh air into her life. It doesn't hurt that he's also thoughtful, kind and good looking.

But what could a young man like Declan ever see in a woman like Penny? 

This is an exclusive story by Cathy Woodman, released before the ninth book in the series, Vets  on Call, is released 2 April 2015.

In this story we are introduced to Penny, who has been mentioned in previous books, and learn more about her. She is left in a wheelchair following an accident which killed her husband. She lived alone, relying upon a carer who came in to help her with everyday life. That was until Declan arrived one day - and has now moved in to become her lover and carer. She also has Trevor who, after the death of Sally, is her assistance dog, but he has a lot to learn.

This is a great read for anyone who, like me, is waiting for their next visit to Talyton St George. It is great to learn more about Penny, and Trevor, who also feature in Vets on Call.

Give me a Little Love is exclusively avaliable as an e-book.