The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

The House of Silk

It’s over a decade since I wrote teacher resources for Hodder Education about Anthony Horowitz’s children’s book Raven’s Gate and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read him again. Today I’m delighted to be putting that right by reviewing The House of Silk, Anthony Horowitz’s Sherlock Holmes story, chosen for this month’s read at my U3A Book Group.

Published by Orion in September 2014, The House of Silk is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

The House of Silk

The House of Silk

THE GAME’S AFOOT . . .

It is November 1890 and London is gripped by a merciless winter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221b Baker Street. He begs Holmes for help, telling the unnerving story of a scar-faced man with piercing eyes who has stalked him in recent weeks.

Intrigued, Holmes and Watson find themselves swiftly drawn into a series of puzzling and sinister events, stretching from the gas-lit streets of London to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston and the mysterious ‘House of Silk’ . . .

My Review of The House of Silk

Dr Watson has one more Sherlock Holmes story to tell.

The House of Silk is as accomplished and skilful a narrative as might be expected from Anthony Horowitz. The style is a marvellous blend of authentic Holmes and modern freshness so that I thoroughly enjoyed every word. There’s a tautness to the writing that means not a word is wasted but that character and setting are adroitly conveyed. I could hear Watson’s narrative voice distinctly and convincingly. Holmes too, is clear and perfectly described, especially through his speech.

I loved the way Anthony Horowitz makes allusion to the original stories and includes familiar figures like Mrs Hudson in the background so that there are familiar hooks to draw in the reader, but at the same time, these references do not over dominate and any reader not familiar with them can enjoy The House of Silk as a cracking period thriller in its own right. Indeed, the settings are atmospheric and visual so that I could picture where the action was taking place perfectly.

I thought the plot of The House of Silk was incredibly well constructed. The themes of modern society, which I can’t fully explain as they would spoil the read for others, are presented in a manner I actually found quite shocking, but completely in tune with Holmes’ era too. Each element of the story, however disparate it might at first appear, is resolved so dexterously that I finished the read with an enormous sense of satisfaction.

I’ve always enjoyed the original Sherlock Holmes stories, but The House of Silk has given them a new depth and insight for me as a reader. I genuinely believe The House of Silk is a perfect addition to the Holmes canon and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Anthony Horowitz

Anthony horowitz

Anthony Horowitz is one of the UK’s most prolific and successful writers. His novels The House of Silk and Moriarty were Sunday Times Top 10 bestsellers and sold in more than thirty-five countries around the world. His bestselling Alex Rider series for children has sold more than nineteen million copies worldwide. He is also the author of a James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis. As a TV screenwriter he created both Midsomer Murders and the BAFTA-winning Foyle’s War; other TV work includes Poirot, the widely-acclaimed mini-series Collision and Injustice and most recently, New Blood for the BBC. Anthony sits on the board of the Old Vic and regularly contributes to a wide variety of national newspapers and magazines. In January 2014 he was awarded an OBE for services to literature. Anthony Horowitz lives in London.

You can find out more about Anthony Horowitz on his website and by following him on Twitter @AnthonyHorowitz. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

Poetic Justice by @RCBridgestock

Poetic Justice bc

I can’t believe it’s almost three years since husband and wife writing duo R.C. Bridgestock last featured on Linda’s Book Bag and I would like to thank the authors and The Dome Press for inviting me to be part of #TeamDylan and to take part in this blog tour for Poetic Justice.

You can find my review of another #TeamDylan book, When the Killing Starts, here.

Today I’m thrilled that, alongside my review of Poetic Justice I have an extract to share with you too.

Poetic Justice is the prequel to the Jack Dylan Series and was published by The Dome Press on 28th February. It is available for purchase here.

Poetic Justice

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When Detective Jack Dylan heads home after a residential course, he has no idea that an extraordinary succession of events is about to turn his life upside down. A vicious, unprovoked attack is just the start. Soon his wife is dead and his step-daughter – dangerously depressed – is being expelled from university for drug use. And at work, two teenagers have gone missing.

An ordinary man might break under the strain, but Dylan is no ordinary man. He knows that his survival depends on him carrying on regardless, burying himself in his work.

He is determined to pursue the criminal elements behind the events – both personal and professional – whether his superiors like it or not. And, as his family disintegrates around him, a newcomer to the admin department, Jennifer Jones, seems to offer some sort of salvation.

Life may have changed, but nothing will stand in the way of Dylan’s quest for justice.

An Extract from Poetic Justice

‘And, when the car left the road? You think that was intentional too?’

Frank pulled a face. ‘I don’t know. After the car had hit the third post it didn’t recover as easily, it hit the crash barrier, then rocked from side to side before heading towards the opposite side of the road towards the ravine. I knew there was an almighty drop over the edge. I admit to closing my eyes. Only when I opened them did I see the brake lights come on. You wouldn’t bother braking if you intended to do it, would you?’ Frank spoke quickly, anticipating her question. ‘God, it gave me one hell of a shock to see it flip over and spin out of control down the ravine. There’s no way I could get down there with my bad hip, but I know this road well enough to know there’s a telephone box near the next lay-by, so I got to it as quick as I could, praying it hadn’t been vandalised.’

PC Clare gave him a quick nod of agreement. ‘And, rang three nines.’

‘I feel bad that I couldn’t do any more.’ He nodded down towards the hillside. ‘I hope they will be alright.’

Frank paled suddenly and his shaking became uncontrollable. It was clear to the seasoned police officer that the old man was in shock. Mentally noting what he had told her, she caught the attention of one of the medics and called them over.

‘Can you make sure he’s okay when you get the chance?’ she said in a whisper. She saw Frank’s eyes narrow, his deliberate intake of a deep breath. She reassured him that he had done the best that anyone could have done in the circumstances. The medic arrived with a blanket to wrap around his shoulders, but his eyes could not be drawn from the activity down the ravine.

‘It looks very overgrown and pretty inaccessible to me. Can you imagine if you’d attempted to get to them and injured yourself?’ PC Clare nodded slowly. ‘No, you did the right think, Mr Bland.’

He turned to her. ‘Frank, please,’ he said, running a bony hand through his white, wire-brush hair. Suddenly he yawned, and she offered him a seat in the police car. He declined.

A burst of frenzied voices told them that the rescue teams had reached the upturned vehicle. There was a rush of people at the road surface then quick, fleeting glimpses of equipment being lowered down to those rescuing it. The shouting, although controlled, held great urgency.

‘Is he alive?’ A strong, incisive voice asked.

A shrill reply came. ‘I have a pulse.’

The pause wasn’t long enough to prepare Frank for the disembodied whisper that followed this news. It was quieter and seemed slower to reach the onlookers, as if it had been suppressed along the way. ‘She’s not breathing…’

The Saab had a personalised number plate: JDYN 1. The vehicle was now a mangled, contorted heap of metal, and even though some paintwork still showed signs of the cosmic-blue colour in places, collectively it looked like it belonged in a scrapper’s yard. There was the gut-wrenching smell of blood; but the underlying smell of petrol was more of a worry to the rescuers.

(And I have to say that this piece is brilliantly representative of the whole of Poetic Justice!)

My Review of Poetic Justice

When an elderly man witnesses a car accident, this is just the start of a terrible chain of events.

Poetic Justice is a real tour de force. Fast paced, complex and multi-faceted there is something for every crime thriller or police procedural lover between its pages.

Although it isn’t over dominant, I loved the sense of place created by the authors so that Yorkshire becomes an integral part of the story. This effect is created with a lightness of touch with descriptions that are natural and which support the action perfectly. I think it’s obvious that the authors are used to working with television dramas as they fully understand the most effective way to engage the reader with a location, especially through sight and scent.

Also hugely successful is the way in which the multiple strands of the story and the complexities of Jack Dylan’s life illustrate the realities of police work in a large county. I felt there was a pleasing authenticity to the narrative because there is no let up in pace – much as I imagine working in this environment to be. Indeed, Poetic Justice races along at a breath taking speed, making for an exciting and engaging read.

As this is a prequel to other Jack Dylan stories, I found the creation of character, particularly of Jack Dylan, fascinating. He really does come across to the reader as a real man, as well as a dedicated police officer, so that I cared about what happened to him. Occasionally I found I was having to concentrate on the number of participants in Poetic Justice to remember their place in the story properly and again this felt like a genuine representation of what it must be like to have several investigations on the go at once. Having been a police lay visitor in the past, I felt each of the people I met between the pages of Poetic Justice I’d also seen in the custody suite of my city’s police stations because they were so authentic.

However, the real success of Poetic Justice for me is the way in which the entire gamut of life is held within its pages. Society’s concerns and issues of mental health, crime, corruption, different forms of abuse from sexual to drug and alcohol, relationships and identity all form part of the rich tapestry that underpins plot and character. This may be a fairly short novel but it is packed with action and issues that give plenty for the reader to think about. I really enjoyed it.

About R.C. Bridgestock

RC Bridgestock Author Photo

R.C. Bridgestock is the name that husband and wife co-authors Robert (Bob) and Carol Bridgestock write under. Between them they have nearly 50 years of police experience, offering an authentic edge to their stories. The writing duo created the character DI Jack Dylan, a down-to-earth detective, written with warmth and humour. The ninth book in the series will be published by The Dome Press in 2019, along with their backlist. A further crime series is presently being scripted by the pair, which has a strong Yorkshire female character – Charley Mann – at the helm.

Bob was a highly commended career detective of 30 years, retiring at the rank of Detective Superintendent. During his last three years, he took charge of 26 murders, 23 major incidents, over 50 suspicious deaths and numerous sexual assaults. He was also a trained hostage negotiator with suicide interventions, kidnap, terrorism and extortion.

As a Detective Inspector he spent three years at the internationally acclaimed West Yorkshire Police Force Training School where he taught Detectives from all over the world in the whole spectrum of investigative skills and the law. On promotion to Detective Superintendent, Bob was seconded to a protracted enquiry investigating alleged police corruption in another force. He worked on the Yorkshire Ripper and Sarah Harper murder, and received praise from Crown Court Judges and Chief Constables alike for outstanding work at all ranks, including winning the much-coveted Dennis Hoban Trophy.

As a police civilian supervisor, Carol also received a Chief Constable’s commendation for outstanding work.

The couple are the storyline consultants / police procedural on BAFTA-winning BBC1 police drama Happy Valley and series 3 of ITV’s Scott and Bailey, and are presently working with Scott Free Production scriptwriters on two commissioned TV drama series.

Carol started and chaired the Wight Fair Writers’ Circle in 2008, along with Bob, where she created an annual charitable community writing competition to inspire others of all ages. This event has raised over £10,000 for Island charities.

The couple pride themselves on being up-to-date on past and present day UK police procedures, and as a result, Bob is regularly sought by UK television, radio and national and local newspapers for comment on developing major crime incidents etc. They have also taken part in BBC Radio 4 (Steve) PUNT P.I.

Together they can regularly be seen as speakers at a variety of events in the literary world and work with colleges in schools in providing writing seminars and workshops, and they also work with International TV / Film make-up artist Pamela Clare, to help inspire her students at the White Rose Colleges.

Eight annual R.C. Bridgestock trophies are annually awarded to students.

Carol and Bob are also patrons and ambassadors for several charities.

Find out more about Bob and Carol on their website, on Facebook and by following them on Twitter @RCBridgestock

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Poetic Justice Blog Tour Poster (2)

An Extract from Arthur Dux Bellorum by Tim Walker

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I can’t believe it’s almost exactly a year since Tim Walker was last on Linda’s Book Bag. On that occasion, Tim was introducing his book Uther’s Destiny in a post you can see here. Tim had previously written a fabulous guest post about fiction and fear when the second book in his A Light in the Dark Ages series, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, was published and you can read that post here.

I’m delighted that today Tim has allowed me to bring you the opening extract from his latest book Arthur Dux Bellorum.

Arthur Dux Bellorum was published on 1st March  2019 and is available for purchase here.

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Arthur Dux Bellorum

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From the ruins of post-Roman Britain, a warrior arises to unite a troubled land…

Britain in the late Fifth Century is a troubled place – riven with tribal infighting and beset by invaders in search of plunder and settlement. King Uther is dead, and his daughter, Morgana, seizes the crown for her infant son, Mordred. Merlyn’s attempt to present Arthur as the true son and heir of Uther is scorned, and the bewildered teenager finds himself in prison. Here our story begins…

Arthur finds friends in unexpected quarters and together they flee. Travelling through a fractured landscape of tribal conflict and suspicion, they attempt to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, whilst keeping a wary eye on Saxon invadersmenacing the shoreline. Arthur’s reputation as a fearsome warrior grows as he learns the harsh lessons needed to survive and acquire the skills of a dux bellorum, a lord of war.

Tim Walker’s Arthur Dux Bellorum is a fresh look at the Arthurian legend, combining myth, history and gripping battle scenes. Although in a series, it can be read as a standalone novel.

Fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Mathew Harffy will enjoy Walker’s A Light in the Dark Ages series and its newest addition – Arthur Dux Bellorum.

An Extract from Arthur Dux Bellorum

A COCKEREL CROWING its defiance to rivals always marked the start of his day. Shifting uncomfortably on a straw-stuffed sack, he turned away from the damp wall to see how far the first fingers of daylight had stretched across worn paving slabs. But the cockerel’s call was distant, muted and distorted – filtered through a narrow opening high up in his cell, making his first waking thought a cruel reminder that he was no longer in the sanctuary of his parents’ farm. Absent were the homely sounds of dogs barking, birds fighting, workers busying themselves, and the fountain splashing an invigorating melody.

Artorius sat, scratching at his woollen garment, then pushed aside the filthy blanket and ruffled his long, tangled hair, freeing some strands of straw. The rattle of keys interrupted his woeful reflection, signalling the entry of his jailor, Ahern, with a bowl of weak gruel and a pewter mug of water. He was a sullen, wordless giant who expressed himself with grunts and kicks.

“You are a happy man, Ahern, for you have found your true calling in life,” Artorius muttered, receiving a snarl in reply.Three months in his narrow cell had afforded him plenty of time to reflect on the words of Merlyn that had led to his arrest. Merlyn had exposed him to a cheering crowd as the true heir to his father, Uther Pendragon, and had showed him how to pull the sword of Ambrosius smoothly from the cleft in a rock, made possible by the removal of pressure due to Merlyn and Varden’s subtle easing back. A trick to fool an expectant crowd. No sooner had he entered the royal hall than the doors were barred behind him, and Caradoc, the army commander, had him arrested. Merlyn too, and Gawain the knight who had supported his claim. But not Varden, the ex-soldier and Merlyn’s bodyguard. He was at large and represented his only hope of rescue.

“But my destiny as the son and heir to Uther, if indeed I am, has proven to be a false calling,” he moaned to the closing cell door. He had received no visitors or news from the outside, but the fear of execution had receded as the weeks had passed. They had locked him away and would no doubt parade him or dispose of him once the reign of the new king was bedded in – the boy-king Mordred, whose mother had tried and failed to free the sword on his behalf. He gloated over the memory of Morgana’s desperate and unsuccessful struggle.

Left alone with his thoughts, he shouted his anger and frustration at the impassive stone walls. “It was a conjuror’s trick that landed me here! It was YOUR ambition, Merlyn, not mine!” He had practised it over and over. This is what he would say to the mysterious healer should they ever meet again.

(Now doesn’t that just make you want to dive right in? Thanks for sharing it with us Tim.)

About Tim Walker

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Tim Walker is an independent author based in Windsor, UK. His background is in marketing, journalism, editing and publications management. He began writing an historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages (set in Fifth Century Britain), in 2015, starting with Abandoned, set at the time the Romans left Britain. This was extensively revised and re-launched as a second edition in 2018.

Book two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, was published in 2017 and the third installment, Uther’s Destiny, was published in March 2018 (winner of One Stop Fiction book of the month award, April 2018). The adventure continues from March 2019 in the fourth book, Arthur, Dux Bellorum.

His creative writing journey began in July 2015 with the publication of a book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales. In September 2017 he published a second collection of short stories – Postcards from London. These stories combine his love of history with his experiences of living in London and various Thames Valley towns.

In 2016 he published his first novel, a dystopian political thriller, Devil Gate Dawnfollowing exposure through the Amazon Scout programme. In 2017 he published his first children’s book, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, co-written with his 12-year-old daughter, Cathy, followed in 2018 by a second adventure, Charly & The Superheroes.

To find out more you can visit Tim’s website where you can also sign up to his newsletter. You’ll find him on Amazon and Facebook and you can also follow Tim on Twitter @timwalker1666.

New Children’s Books From @maverickbooks @LouTreleaven, @katiedaleuk and @jenjinks

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As they have such smashing books for children, Maverick Books are becoming a regular feature here on Linda’s Book Bag.

Previous Maverick publications from the blog include:

Colin Mulhern’s brilliant Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom reviewed here.

The Pop Puffin by Jill Atkins, illustrated by Kelly Breemer and King Carl and the Wish by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Marina Pessarrodona, both reviewed here.

Froggy Day by Heather Pindar and illustrated by Barbara Bakos reviewed here.

Not Yet A Yeti by Lou Treleaven and illustrated by Tony Neal reviewed here!

Today I’m delighted to be reviewing three more books from Maverick’s Early Reader range; The Oojamaflip by Lou Treleaven and illustrated by Julia Patton available here, Scary Scott by Katie Dale, illustrated by Irene Montano available here and Nanny Ninja by Jenny Jinks, illustrated by Sean Longcroft available here.

The Oojamaflip

The Oojamaflip

Professor McQuark is has a huge brain.

Her favourite thing to do is to invent.

But with the Science Fair coming up, will her new invention, the Oojamaflip, wow the judges?

My Review of The Oojamaflip

The Ojamaflip is another super children’s book from Lou Treleaven.

Professor McQuark’s name suits her obsession with inventing and science perfectly. I love the positive role model that a female inventor gives to children, alongside Professor McQuark’s immediate ability to bang, clang, saw and sand in her shed to create the oojamaflip. I also think the sense of fair play that she is awarded a prize, even though her invention won’t fit into the exhibition hall, shows children that risks and creativity can lead to success.

Julia Patton’s illustrations match the text perfectly giving plenty of interest to young readers and opportunity for discussion. However, it is in the text where The Oojamaflip is so important. Lou Treleaven has the ability to use rhyme, repetition and word play in such a natural manner that children can learn new vocabulary and experiment with their own language almost without realising they are doing so. The questions at the end of the text help reinforce meaning and understanding too.

The Oojamaflip is another winner from Lou Treleaven.

Scary Scott

Scary Scott

All Scott wants is a friend but being a ghost makes that a whole lot harder.

When Halloween comes around, will Scott finally find some spooky friends?

My Review of Scary Scott

What a lovely story from Katie Dale. Scott is so lonely and in need of friends that I’m certain there will be children reading this story who can relate to his predicament and who will gain courage and self-worth from knowing others experience the same emotions. The message that bullies are also scared when others stand up to them is important too. The themes in Scary Scott could be used as a stimulus for so much discussion with children and their parents and teachers.

I thought the division of Scary Scott into five chapters was perfect for emergent readers because they can have a sense of achievement in reading a complete chapter without being confronted by a whole book. There’s an excellent balance of text to picture and more sophisticated linguistic devices, such as parentheses, exclamation marks and ellipsis, model well the kind of choices children can make in their own writing. There’s also a good balance of vocabulary so that children can consolidate their reading.

I thought the illustrations were fabulous because the children in the story are depicted as mixed gender and race, giving equal status to all. I also loved the room Scott enters being a library as this helps remind children about reading even when they are just looking at the illustrations.

Scary Scott is a book filled with educational potential as well as being the kind of story children love, filled with vampires, ghosts and Halloween mayhem. I really recommend it.

Nanny Ninja

Nanny ninja

When a strange noise wakes Ant in the night, he hopes to catch a glimpse of the mysterious Ninja, a local crime-fighting hero.

What he doesn’t expect to see his Nanny climbing out the window… dressed as the Ninja!

My Review of Nanny Ninja

Before my review proper I’m just going to get a word of caution out of the way. There are some dangerous activities in Nanny Ninja and adults need to ensure children understand that they mustn’t emulate And and Nanny.

Having said that, Nanny Ninja is a cracking story for children. It’s hugely exciting and packed with action that will appeal to all readers, even the most reluctant. Divided into well defined chapters with smashing cliff hangers there’s a real sense of drama and excitement. As well as encouraging reading, this illustrates for children good writing skills too

Ant thinks his Nanny is boring because she’s always asleep but when he realises why, he views her completely differently. The relationship between the two is a positive example of how we shouldn’t judge others before we know all the facts about them. I liked the concept that there is no mention of a Dad in the story too as so many families no longer have the conventional make up and many children will find this reassuring. I also thought the concept that effort and attempts lead to success was well depicted in a manner that children can apply in their own lives.

The language and style in Nanny Ninja is perfectly attuned to the intended audience. There’s a great balance of direct speech and narrative which is a concept some young writers struggle to achieve, so that they have an excellent model here. There’s a fabulous structure to the chapters and judicial use of adjectives and I think Nanny Ninja exemplifies perfectly the kind of writing we’d like children to achieve even as it entertains them brilliantly.

I liked the illustrations that support the text in Nanny Ninja because they are of a more mature style for this White Band book, again befitting the target readers.

I really enjoyed Nanny Ninja and actually think it would make a really great television series for children too!

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All the above mentioned books are available for purchase through the Maverick website.

Get in Character with @CLIC_Sargent

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I’m not really taking on new blog material at the moment but when Martha got in touch from the children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent wondering if I could help them spread the word about a special eBay book auction they are running from today, Monday 4 March to Sunday 10 March, called Get in Character I couldn’t have been more delighted to get involved.

As many of you know, my husband has only just gone to 6 monthly checks for his cancer, my lovely dad had cancer, and my sister-in-law is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer so this is a topic very close to my heart. Add in books to the mix and this couldn’t be a better fit for Linda’s Book Blog.

In the Get In Character auction people can bid to have their name as a character in their favourite author’s book, as well as get signed books and illustrations, all in a fantastic cause. 

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Having been a character in a book (No Safe Home by lovely Tara Lyons, my review of which you can read here) I know just how exciting it can be to see your name in print.

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Over 50 authors are taking part this year, with character names up for grabs with writers including Holly Martin, Katie Fforde, Christie Barlow and Elly Griffiths.

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Now, as Elly Griffiths will be appearing at my local literary festival in May (tickets available here) I think I know what I’ll be bidding for!

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You can find more information about the auction on the CLIC Sargent website.  The auction is live from today on the CLIC Sergent eBay site until Sunday 10th March 2019.

I do hope you’ll get involved and support a wonderful cause.

For more information about the work of CLIC Sargent, visit their website, find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @CLIC_Sargent.

Carrie’s Flight by Lois Wickstrom @LoisWickstrom

Carries flight

I so enjoy reading books for younger readers so I would like to extend my grateful thanks to Lois Wickstrom for sending me a copy of the children’s book Carrie’s Flight in return for an honest review.

Released on 15th March 2019, Carrie’s Flight is available for pre-order here.

Carrie’s Flight

Carries flight

Magic runs in the women of Carrie’s family. Her grandmother, her father’s mother, was the last magical member of the family.

Now, because of her love for Grandma, Carrie is developing her magic and learning to use the wondrous treasures that have been passed down through her family.

In this book, she learns to fly with the starlings in order to visit her grandma at her new home.

This series has three other books, each exploring one of the gifts. The wandas are female wands. The fascinator is a magical hat. The dowsing rods truly search out value.

Most of all Carrie has family as her top priority. The magic works to strengthen her connection to her grandmother.

My Review of Carrie’s Flight

Carrie misses her Grandma but they can still have adventures.

I must begin this review by saying how wonderful Francie Mion’s illustrations are in Carrie’s Flight. They enhance the story beautifully and are true works of art in their own right.

Carrie’s Flight is a lovely modern take on the traditional Icarus story (but without the disaster that befell Icarus!) and I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t wondered what it might be like to be able to fly at some point so that this story appeals to readers of all ages, not just children.

I thought the relationship between Carrie and her Grandma worked very well. As Grandma has had to move into other accommodation, it prepares children for the concept of being separated from those they love through a non-threatening example, especially as Carrie and Grandma are still able to speak via Carrie’s computer. I liked too the way in which Grandma guides Carrie.

The language of Carrie’s Flight is extremely clever because not only does Lois Wickstrom select vocabulary that will enhance the language skills of children, she presents new words very visually so that their meaning is enhanced and easier to grasp. For example, ‘swooped’ is presented on the page in a downward swooping manner. The onomatopoeia of the starlings’ calls, the clear dialogue between Carrie and Grandma and the use of ellipsis add to the pace and excitement in the story too.

I thought the balance between ordinary life such as trawling through old boxes and the magical events of being able to fly and communicate with the starlings was perfectly attuned.

At the end of the story is a fascinating explanation about starlings and their introduction into north America that I found really interesting and informative.

Carrie’s Flight is a charming children’s book that I think can be enjoyed on many levels.

About Lois Wickstrom

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As well as writing, Lois Wickstrom enjoys walk her dogs with her husband when they pick up trash around the neighborhood. She lives many miles away from her children and grand children, so  doesn’t see them very often.

Lois has an organic garden, and a make-shift greenhouse in the basement for starting seeds. She lives in the inner city, so there’s no place to park a car. She rides her bike everywhere that’s practical and belongs to a car co-op.

Lois takes art classes at the local community college, and yoga classes to reduce the pains of an aging body.

You can follow Lois on Twitter @LoisWickstrom, and visit her website.

A Vintage Year by Rosie Howard

A Vintage Year

My enormous thanks to Lesley Crooks at Allison and Busby for allowing me to return to Havenbury by sending me a copy of A Vintage Year by Rosie Howard in return for an honest review. I loved my visit to Havenbury in Rosie’s first book in the series, The Homecoming, and you can read my review of that book here.

Published on 21st February by Allison and Busby, A Vintage Year is available for purchase here. I happen to know there’s a special price drop to less than £1 for the A Vintage Year ebook from today until 7th March so what are you waiting for?

A Vintage Year

A Vintage Year

It started with ‘happily ever after’, yet just three years after Bella’s fairy-tale wedding to irrepressible Charlie Wellbeloved, her best friend, Maddy, is expecting a baby, while Bella’s own weight gain is purely from comfort eating. Only her little Labrador, Dolly, can boost her spirits as she gloomily surveys her failing marriage and fledgling interior design business.

Dovecot Farm is just a rainstorm away from ruin, but Charlie is hoping against hope his family vineyard will produce a vintage year, saving his business, his childhood home and – most of all – his marriage…

When handsome Rufus appears in the tight-knit Havenbury community, he quickly charms Bella and makes himself indispensable to Charlie. But is he really too good to be true…

My Review of A Vintage Year

Charlie’s vineyard is on the brink of collapse and desperate times call for desperate measures.

What a delight to return to Havenbury in A Vintage Year. Although the focus is on another set of characters, there are familiar faces like Flora and Ben so that reading A Vintage Year feels like returning to friends the reader knows and loves but with the added delight of new people to discover.

I adore the quality of Rosie Howard’s writing. There’s a mature warmth and humanity that shows her characters with all their flaws, and that makes the reader care about them so that the events matter as much to the reader as to participants like Bella and Charlie. Indeed, I was so caught up in the people that in the earlier stages of the novel I had the desperate urge to climb into A Vintage Year and practise my right hook on Rufus. I think it illustrates Rosie Howard’s engaging and clever style that I did moderate my feelings towards him as I read on.

There’s a super plot in A Vintage Year. I was appalled at a decision made by Bella early on and I don’t think I would have done the same thing, but I understood her actions entirely. Subsequent events are captivating and although there are references to The Homecoming, the reader doesn’t need to know that book to love A Vintage Year. As in The Homecoming, Rosie Howard doesn’t just weave a spellbinding tale, but she illustrates how we never really know the lives others have to lead and she gives the reader so many aspects to consider, including identity, control and loyalty. There’s a satisfying depth to Rosie Howard’s writing.

A Vintage Year is one of those books that is difficult to review without spoiling the plot. I guessed many of the outcomes but that only enhanced my pleasure in reading it because they were exactly as they should be. You’ll have to read it for yourself to see what I mean!

A Vintage Year represents the best kind of women’s fiction for me. It has a believable, engaging and interesting plot. It has a wonderful setting in Havenbury. It has characters who are vivid and real whom the reader cares about. Best of all, it transported me to a different world as I read and convinced me that I have found a new favourite author in Rosie Howard.

About Rosie Howard

rosie howard

With a father in the forces and the diplomatic corps, Rosie Howard spent much of her childhood in UK boarding schools, joining her parents in exotic destinations during holidays. After obtaining a degree in music she pursued a career in public relations, campaigning, political lobbying and freelance journalism but realized her preference for making things up and switched to writing novels instead. She lives in a West Sussex village with her husband and two children in a cottage with roses around the door.

Follow her on Twitter: @RosieHowardBook and visit her website. You’ll also find Rosie Howard on Facebook.