Review of Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans by Justin Carroll @CazVinBooks @WriterJustinC #YA #Christmas #Adventure #Mystery #BlogTour #Review #Crossover

Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans
by Justin Carroll
Rated: ****

I was pleased when Caroline Vincent approached me to be part of the blog tour for what turned out to be not only a delightful Christmas read, but also an adventurous detective story all rolled into one that will make a great bookish Christmas present for any 10 and YA reader. Today is my turn to review this book.

Hemlock Jones Blog Tour Poster (1)

About the Author

Hemlock Jones Justin Carroll Author ImageJustin Carroll is an author who balances his love of comic books and games with a passion for martial arts and musicals.

Ever since he stopped wanting to be a dinosaur, Justin wanted to be a writer. He graduated with a degree in English Literature and Language from King’s College, London in 2004 and now, when not writing, he fritters away his time on all manner of geeky things.

Shortlisted for several international short story competitions, Justin was a finalist in the 2010 British Fantasy Awards with “Careful What You Wish For” (Wyvern Publishing) and placed in the top twenty of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge twice.

December 2012 saw the birth of Justin Carroll’s first novel: Everything’s Cool – a dark, psychological thriller.

His second novel, Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death, is a Young Adult novel and the first in a series featuring Hemlock Jones, the fiery 12-year-old demystifier whose brain easily equals and surpasses that of the famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes. “Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death” won a Silver Medal in the 2017 Wishing Shelf Awards.

Now, Justin has published the second book in the Hemlock Jones Chronicles: Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans, perfect for all fans of 10 years and above of adventurous detective mysteries!

Blurb

When orphans vanish from their beds across Victorian London, twelve-year-old demystifier Hemlock Jones and her companion, Edward, take the case!

This time, the trail will lead them from their Baker Street home, along lost rivers and into the heart of the city, to face exotic enemies and a charming man with dark plans…

 Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans is the second of the Hemlock Jones Chronicles, the award-winning series of detective adventures for children and adults.

Hemlock Jones The Underground Orphans book cover

Review

A children/YA story that is perfect for Christmas, It certainly isn’t fluffy. This is a quick paced mystery that will keep readers involved, but it is very much set around and during Christmas.

The cover is eye-catching and immediately spells out trepidation, action and adventure. I already started to have expectations of a good thrilling detective story. It takes place in the north of London, where readers will be transported back in time to workhouses and an orphanage, where readers meet Mr and Mrs Thicke who work there and have reported the disappearance of orphans. It already has a very Victorian air about the story.

Hemlock Jones, has a flat – 211B Baker Street – all very Sherlock Holmes, not a criticism, just got me thinking a lot about Sherlock Holmes, just slightly different number of address.

The story is intriguing and keeps a decent pace and the style of writing is what draws the imagination and desire to read further into the mysterious Victorian London, Justin has created, blending fact and fiction so well.
There’s adventure to be had and a mystery to solve, that takes Hemlock down a sewer. The atmosphere and the descriptions, such as beady eyes looking on are well done and in a way that sets the tone.

There may be pirates afoot and there’s mild trepidation as the orphan’s lives may be in danger. There’s some swashbuckling that bravely goes on. The pace by this time, I decided was terrific. The story just keeps moving on and the time (or pages), between the orphans going missing to readers actually “meeting them” is good, but not too fast that anything is missed. There is the journey above to under London to find them.

There is some welcome humour within the book as Hemlock Jones and her associate try to decide just who the pirates are and if indeed they are and there is quite a mystery surrounding this.

Whether above or below ground within the story, the geography for setting each scene is great and well-written, but still keeping up the pace of the mystery.

The elements of the story that don’t involve the mystery, such as Christmas Day is just as well-written. Christmas Day sounds delightful. The story keeps moving onwards with a mysterious interruption to proceedings and a concern that it could be due to N – their nemeses.

All in all, it is a good story, fairly reminiscent of Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan-Doyle’s stories, which I hope one day the readers will venture into as well, but it sits pretty well in the detective genre and it feels right for the era it is set in. Hemlock Jones sits somewhere nicely in-between those 2 famous authors works and sits well for the aged 10 plus YA age groups and is a good series for readers to get stuck into and explore London and follow the main characters to see if they can solve the mystery and find out who the pirates are and what happens to the orphans.

The conclusion is great and keep reading onto the epilogue because there is more to this mystery than meets the eye as it isn’t just about the missing orphans. There’s more to be solved and to discover that, there is another book too, just waiting to be read.

I recommend this book. It will sit well within the reading for pleasure trend and will make a lovely Christmas present for all genders.

Author website:         www.justin-carroll.com/

Twitter:                       https://twitter.com/WriterJustinC

Facebook:                   https://www.facebook.com/JustinCarrollAuthor/

Amazon:                      https://author.to/JustinCarroll

GoodReads:                https://www.goodreads.com/JustinCarroll

Let Them Lead The Way – Morecambe And Vice Panel @Anne_Coates1 @nicki_thornton @sharnajackson #kidslit #crime #mystery #education #libraries

Let Them Lead The Way
Featuring Children’s and YA Books.

Anne Coates was moderating/interviewing Sharna Jackson, Sarah Todd Taylor and Nicki Thornton.

Anne Coates writes for both children and adults. I had heard of her adult books and she certainly gets good reviews, so it was interesting to hear she writes books about children. Anne Coates skillfully opened up conversations to cover many subjects surrounding children’s books, from about the books themselves to age banding to tips.

 

Children's Authors            Anne Coates      Sharna Jackson   Nicki Thornton        Sarah Todd Taylor

About the Books

Sarah’s passion for cats and theatres really came across so well and she has clearly studied cats a lot to come up with ideas for her books, that sounded so intriguing. She’s even come to learn that cats have different purrs for different occasions. The detective in her stories is indeed a cat called Max. Her book – Max the Detective Cat – The Disappearing Diva is set in a theatre. She talked about wanting to reflect the reality of how things and people aren’t always how they seem. I reckon it sounded like it could certainly feed children’s curiosity. Theatres can of course be interesting places with all manner of nooks and crannies and all sorts of people and especially actors taking on the guise of someone different for a couple of hours or so.

Nicki also has a cat as her detective, called Nightshade, who speaks English. The book is based in a hotel and she mixes criminal activity with magic and in her book, but managing not to go too far into fantasy. The mix of crime and fantasy sounds fun. It sounded like there was some humour to be found in it too. 

Sharna is a director at Site Gallery. She has also written her debut novel – The High Rise Mystery, set on an estate in skinny towers, based on brutalist design. It was interesting to hear that she actually talked to an architect about this and how she didn’t want to stereotype her characters.

There was an interesting discussion about the interactivity that can be gained within stories, somewhat a different angle, which really got my attention. I myself like this too. It doesn’t seem to matter what you’re reading to someone, there’s always ways to interact, whether it is through some repetition or discussion or other involvement. It was mentioned how reluctant readers have got into the authors books and how there is something very universal about crime books. It was useful to hear how crime books for children can actually empower them as they try to find the clues to solve the mystery, alongside the protagonist to see how far they can go in being a detective too as they read.

There was much discussion about crime for children’s books and this was really interesting, since any criminal activity is obviously quite dark, but the discussion resulted in that there can be motives and it can be written in a way children can understand.

Age Groups

It was great to hear authors talking about age indicators when it comes to crime, such as books now being Middle Grade, YA etc. The discussion brought many interesting elements such as parents wanting guidance, but authors do reckon that children are well equipped to deal with death. This went further into stating that it’s the way things are written and the fact there are resolutions at the end can bring comfort to children, even when characters have been through a lot. It was mentioned that these stories can bring some elements of learning for children. It was decided that sometimes some subjects are more suitable for YA than for younger children.

There was a nice mention of librarians in that the authors mentioned that librarians can work out which books are the best “fit” for individual children, which I must say is a skill.

The authors talked about what they have heard children say. They talked about how author events help children to discover books. They said children have said how involved they become in stories and want to inhabit the story’s world using their imaginations.

Tips when writing a children’s story

  • Read a lot and learn from other writers.
  • Don’t feel the need to dumb down.
  • Remember there really are hundreds of good story books for children, despite there being a thought by some that there may not be enough good books.
  • Got to make sure children can follow your book, so there are perhaps red herrings, but the plot needs to be clearer for children. There is a fine line between clues and understanding and comfort in resolutions in the end, even though characters can be put through a lot.What the Authors Liked to Read

    The books these authors have enjoyed are – Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie’s books and Choose Your Own Adventure. I myself have read these books and to choose your own adventure means you can go on many adventures and also have different endings each time.Latest Books and Books Being Discussed

    High Rise Mystery    Max the Detective Cat: The Catnap Caper  The Bad Luck Lighthouse (Seth Seppi Mystery 2)
    Sharna Jackson               Sarah Todd Taylor                      Nicki Thornton

    Max the Detective Cat: The Disappearing Diva    The Last Chance Hotel (Seth Seppi Mystery 1)
    Sarah Todd Taylor                 Nicki Thornton

    Anne Coates was holding one of her adult crime books

    Songs of Innocence (Hannah Weybridge series, book 3)Perdition’s Child

     

    With thanks to the authors for allowing me to take their picture. It was nice to meet the authors and I would recommend checking them out.

Celebrating The Enduring Love of Roald Dahl for Children and Adults #RoaldDahl #RoaldDahlDay2019 @QuentinBlake #ChapterBooks #TalesoftheUnexpected #Kidslit #Fiction #Humour #Fantasy #Family #Friendship

Celebrating the Enduring Love of Roald Dahl

This is a short article on the enduring love of Roald Dahl. Today is the anniversary of his birthday and what we call Roald Dahl Day.

Roald Dahl Pic

In the Beginning

Roald Dahl was born in 1916 in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales. He wrote from his shed using HB pencils. He wrote for children and adults. His books live on in both book and film form. Sometimes the films are done well and sometimes they are not, that’s always the nature of films however, no matter who the original creator is. Some stories have also been adapted for TV and Radio.

Roald Dahl Day

Roald Dahl Day

Schools and libraries across the country tend to celebrate Roald Dahl every 13th September – his birthday. This year’s theme for Roald Dahl Day is Matilda. She is courageous and has a love of reading, even though it means going against her parents and isn’t seen as being trendy. The book is fun and has magic within it, but it is also sweet and gentle with Miss Honey, but then there is a marked contrast between her and Miss Trunchbull, which makes for great characterisation and story-telling.

The Books and Films

RD books

The books feed into children’s desires and imaginations. Take chocolate for example. There is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and what child wouldn’t want to join Charlie Bucket and the eccentric Willy Wonka in a factory that experiments and creates chocolate and sweets, even in this more health conscious society. The follow-up – Charlie and the Great Glass elevator has some adventure and also takes children a little into the political world and what the USA was like at the time Roald Dahl was writing about.
There is magic in The Witches, The Magic Finger and Matilda and family and school life as themes, that also have mild trepidation and villains and heroes. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was made into live action films – two of them.

James and the Giant Peach also has magic and heroes and villains. There is also friendship and adventure and a need for escape as James wants to escape his two gruesome aunts.

There is fun with The Enormous Crocodile that takes children through the jungle meeting different animals and with just enough scariness that children really enjoy when the crocodile wants to eat children.

Fantastic Mr Fox is also about nature and animals, but this time about the need to understand and look after them. It also has a political element, but on a child level about the landscape and fox hunting. This was also made into a CGI film and there was a song I remember learning when I was in primary school for the baby foxes. We acted it out and I was a baby fox.

There is also Daniel, Champion of the World about a boy and his plans. This was made into a live action film

There’s mischief to be had in the Twits and George’s Marvellous medicine. There’s also elements of inventiveness. George’s Marvellous Medicine was used for a Jackanory story on tv.

The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me shows teamwork, friendship and entrepreneurship as they set up their own window cleaning company and there is also some trepidation with a burglary in a grand house.

The BFG with his good dream catching skills befriends Sophie and the two become lovely friends.

Esio-Trot was the last book to be published in Roald Dahl’s lifetime. For those who haven’t worked it out, it is Tortoise spelt backwards.  Esio-Trot tackles loneliness and is about Mr Hopper trying to make a connection with Mrs Silver, who he has loved from afar. This was made into a film for tv.

Boy and Going Solo are both Non-Fiction and tell of Roald Dahl’s life. It may sit generally in the children’s non-fiction area, but really both children and adults will gain fascinating knowledge from them. There was a documentary style programme about them on tv.

Revolting Rhymes is exactly that and has twisted takes on fairy tales. There used to be a tv series also inspired by this with chef Gary Rhodes showing how to make revolting recipes inspired by the book with his assistant – actor, Pam Ferris.

There are books that are not only for children too, although the main emphasis seems to be on children. He also wrote really dark stories for young adults and adults alike that are twisted tales such as Skins and Tales of the Unexpected, which were on TV. Tales of plants that could talk; tattoos that someone wanted and could have straight from another person; tales of sinister bedsits etc.

There are also other books too that have been and are being produced.

Further Facts

Roald Dahl wrote everyday from 10 am to 12 noon and then from 4 pm to 6pm. His first book wasn’t what people imagined it to be – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it was The Gremlins, those furry, cute characters that change when wet and well, aren’t so cute after that.

This was not the end of his talent. He worked with illustrator Quentin Blake (more about him later) and with James Bond creator Ian Fleming and created Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang and worked on the book for the film of this and of James Bond: You Only Live Twice. He and Ian Fleming worked together prior to this during the second world war, providing information for MI6. Roald had also been in battles during the war too. He was with the Royal Air Force (RAF) until 1946.

Roald Dahl had 5 children and married twice. He has a granddaughter still living – Sophie Dahl. 

Roald Dahl died on 23rd November 1990. He was 74 and was suffering with myeldysplastic syndrome (a type of blood disease). He is buried in the cemetery of St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. He was buried with some of his favourite things, including: a power saw, HB pencils, chocolate, red wine and his snooker cues.

Inspiration and Importance

Roald Dahl’s stories and screenplays endure as does the love for them. He had a talent for knowing what people like and to be able to us universally broad themes to create magical worlds and fun and adventure. He had a talent to bring about some really dark stories and yet aiming them just right for his target audience. It now also helps that schools and libraries celebrate his life. He is still an important author within this age of computer technology as children and adults read less. Mention Roald Dahl and everyone knows his books, which is a good place to start. Curiosity about authors will hopefully come too as so many have led or do lead such fascinating lives. Roald Dahl is everywhere, in his own work and has inspired other authors and it is seen in their work, such as now there are people like David Walliams and other writers who are similar to him, whom it is evident must have been inspired by Roald Dahl.

Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake Books

Now it wouldn’t be right not to mention Quentin Blake too. He illustrated many of Roald’s books and has many fabulous books of his own creations too that are so full of fun and excellent illustrations. His books are now of many, his most well-known perhaps being Mister Magnolia and Mrs Armitage.

Children’s Laureate and other Awards

The Children’s Laureate seems to have been around forever, or so it is sometimes assumed, but it wasn’t until 1999 this post was created. Today in 2019, as I write, it is Cressida Cowell. In 1999, the very first Children’s Laureate was Quentin Blake.

He has also received so many awards for his books, including the Whitbred award. He has also been personally recognised and has certainly been living an illustrious life. He was made CBE in 2005, is an RDI and has numerous honorary degrees from universities throughout the UK. He received a knighthood for ‘services to illustration’ in the New Year’s Honours for 2013, and became an Honorary Freeman of the City of London in 2015. It is an impressive career and impressive to be recognised so much for all his work that endures and I am sure will also endure, not just through his collaboration with Roald Dahl, but also the work he has produced himself too, which is quite some body of work indeed as he has always worked in illustration and even illustrated for Punch magazine.

An Additional Career

Quentin also has another career. He works as a curator for exhibitions in well-known famous places – the National Gallery, the British Library and the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris. In the last few years he has begun to make larger-scale work for hospitals and healthcare settings in the UK and France where his work can be seen in wards and public spaces.

In Conclusion

So, two great men who inspire and whose work will, I am sure will continue to for generations to come with libraries and schools and parents and children all playing their part. There books I am sure will always be somewhere in bookshops, on library shelves and hopefully also in the hands of readers. I am also sure that they will be inspiring other current and future authors for years to come.

Roald-Dahl

Blog Tour Review of Toletis by Rafa Ruiz – For Ages Seven to 107 #Toletis @rafaruizmad #RafaRuiz @Neemtreepress #RandomThingsTour @AnneCater #AlenaHomiga #BenDawlatly #Spain #UK #Environment #Climate #Adventure #Fiction #Kidslit #YA #Education

Toletis
By Rafa Ruiz
Rated: 4 Stars ****

It is with great pleasure that I present to you my review of Toletis by Rafa Ruiz. The book for people ages 7 to 107 because it has important themes of friendship, the environment and there’s plenty of adventure and some humour, complete with illustrations. This is a book that adults and children can read alone or enjoy together and gain something from it. It is a book to inspire everyone at every milestone in their lives.

Today is happily my turn on the Random Things Blog Tour I was invited on.

FINAL Toletis BT Poster

About the Author

Rafa Ruiz Author PicRafa Ruiz is a journalist and author who has a staunch commitment to culture, art and the environment. He spent 25 years at Spanish newspaper El País and is a partner-founder of the Press Association for Environmental Information (APIA). He has written numerous children’s books, and he codirects the Mad is Mad art gallery in Madrid which gives space to up-and-coming artists. He is one of the partner-founders of the Press Association for Environmental Information (APIA).

 

Toletis Elena Hormiga PictureElena Hormiga is an illustrator with a sense of humour. She studied and worked as an engineer and later turned to illustration

 

 

Ben Dawlatly PictureBen Dawlatly took an MA in Hispanic Studies and Translation Theory at UCL. He translates both technical and literary texts. However, his real calling is in fiction and poetry.

 

Blurb

Trees are disappearing and adults don’t care. Toletis, his dog Amenophis and friends Claudia and Tutan are on a mission to turn their little valley town, set deep in the mountains, luscious green again. The odds are stacked against them. Can they succeed… with some very unusual help?

Toletis is a positive role model for boys

Toletis is a quiet, sensitive and caring boy who isn’t afraid to show his emotions. His character is a perfect antidote to the expectations of a “typical” boy: loud, boisterous and destructive. This is definitely a book for parents who reject the saying “boys will be boys”.

The ‘big’ real life stuff

One of the things I love most about Toletis is that it touches on big real life events such as the death of a family member in a wholesome and loving way. Sad events in the book are neither taboo nor overly sad; they are expertly touched upon in a way that is both matter-of-fact and empathetic.

Toletis encourages a love of nature

It’s easy to be drawn in by the immersive storytelling and beautiful illustrations. Toletis spends much of the book exploring the hills and valleys around his home, foraging, planting trees and doing all of the things every child should. The book gives just enough detail – the smells, the sounds of the hills are so clear you’re almost there yourself.

Toletis has a good sense of justice

Toletis has a good sense of justice. When trees are cut down to put a wide road through the town, he hatches a plan to stop it. He knows what is wrong in the world and isn’t afraid to step up and change it. 

Toletis Cover

Review

Travel along with the playful mist and meet Toletis who has a love of trees and to get to know them all as well as grow one, especially an apple tree. The book goes into the fascination of this in a lovely amount of detail and enough to feed the curiosity of young minds. Toletis’s friend Tutan also has a deep interest in wildlife and tries to imitate birds such as hen harriers, swifts, tawny owls and more and also animals such as pigs, horses, dogs and more.

In Spring time, also meet the Treenie-weenies, who are all the souls of the trees that had been felled, who then inhabit other trees. There’s an issue though – the town isn’t planting more trees and the Treenie-weenies are bored. Read on to find out what they do in the end. It certainly wasn’t what I expected, it was even better.

In the book you can join Toletis at his school and learn the Wobbegong language, which his teacher doesn’t understand and is reminded to write in English, but he speaks it with Aunty Josifina as they play with words and language and just have fun with it.

It is soon Summer time and there’s more people to meet and things to do.

Meet Alexander Atherton Aitken who comes to see Toletis, Tutan and Claudia on a farm. There visitor just isn’t used to farm animals. There’s fun and tall tales to be had and later in the chapter Lian – AAA as Alexander was shortened to has tales of his own to tell about Julian and whether he went to war or not and whether he was the Lian or not. Read on to find out what happens next and about the mysterious house.

Autumn arrives and Toletis promises hazlenuts for his mum and goes “nutting” a tree. There’s some natural child thoughts about how Toletis imagines his mum not being around anymore. It seems dark, but lots of children, including me, has thought and imagined this in childhood. In this case it sweetly makes Toletis appreciate his mum even more. There’s also a parts of growing up as he looks at his dad’s legs and compares them with his own, just to see if they’re the same. Children will relate to this as they try to make sense of things as they grow. There’s comfort to be gained by this part in the stories.

Behold the rickety mansion that belongs to Claudia’s Granny Ursula with her animal-like eyes. It is atmospheric and a feast for the eyes with its antique furniture and cakes, lots of cakes and then a further surprise of something else edible on the third floor. Read further to find out what…

Enter the Wide Road where people move too fast through their surroundings, never really paying attention to it as they speed along the road, that is also being widened by workmen. Toletis is different. He properly observes the surroundings. It highlights what plant species grow on road verges and their importance. There’s a stark contrast between the hard asphalt and the beauty of the green verges and the destruction of them and the speed on the roads and what harm can be done.

Winter brings a coldness that can almost be felt, as can the comfort of wintry foods. It also gives time for old photographs to come to the fore, which bring intrigue, beauty and fun that is so illustravely written.

Throughout the book there are adventures to have, friendships and a real care for the immediate environment, which is beautifully written. This may not be a book that immediately comes to people’s minds so quickly and yet there are important messages within it and it is a lovely story for children to explore this lovely vivid book alone or with and adult.

There are interesting illustrations throughout the book to assist in telling the story, which will appeal to many children of the ages 7 plus as they are now so used to reading books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Tom Gates, Storey Treehouse series that all have illustrations through them too.

The book will appeal to boys and girls alike and has Toletis, the main character having the qualities of being a positive role model to both. It shows a sensitivity as well as still having humour and adventure throughout it.

10 Things To Do Before You Leave School by Bernard O’Keefe @Bernard O’Keefe #AcornIndependentPress #RandomThingsTours #YA #Fiction #School #Education

10 Things To Do Before You Leave School

By Bernard O’Keefe

Rated: *****

I am pleased to be part of the Random Things blog tour today for the book –  10 Things to do Before You Leave School.

Blog tour poster

About the Author

Bernard OKeefe author picAfter graduating from Oxford, Bernard O’Keeffe worked in advertising before training as a teacher. He taught for many years, first in a North London comprehensive, then at Radley College, where he was Head of English, and most recently at St Paul’s School in London, where he was Head of Sixth Form. 

He has reviewed fiction for Literary Review and The Oxford Times and, as an editor of The English Review, has written over a hundred articles for A Level students on subjects ranging from Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle to Jane Austen and Shakespeare. In 2013 he published his first novel, ‘No Regrets’.

Blurb

10 things book picRuby has had a difficult year to say the least, Just before she started sixth form her father died from a heart attack. In the months that followed, Ruby became so depressed that she attempted suicide. She now missed a lot of school, but now she’s about to go back and she’s worried. Is she well enough to get through her final year? Will the depression return? Should she apply for university?

The night  before term begins, Ruby finds something that makes the prospect even more daunting: an envelope addressed to her in her father’s handwriting, 10 Things I Hope You Do Before You Leave School: it makes no sense. She can’t understand why he’d want her to do these things, let alone whether she’ll be able to do them.

As Ruby navigates her way through UCAS, parties, boyfriends and A-levels, she decides to give the list her best shot, but her efforts lead her into strange situations and to surprising discoveries.

Will Ruby survive her last year at school? Cand she do the ten things on The List? Will doing them make any difference?

Review

This is an excellent book of our times. It’s a must for Young Adults. It is relatable for what so many young adults face today. There’s the technology, the exams, the university forms and all that angst. Oh and then there’s the Talks. You know, those familiar parent to young adult talk of the sex, the alcohol. I love how they are listed within this book and in such a tone that so many young adult will be familiar with. Ruby however has more than this to deal with, she has to deal with the fact that her dad has recently died.

The book is wonderfully presented. The parts of the book and within the body of the book becomes the list. I love this ingenious idea of it saying to young adults to have a list, but perhaps that’s because when I was that age I began writing a bucket list and yes I gradually tick things off and sometimes add to it and later tick it off.

This book is fun and touching and relevant with believable characters to care about and live with throughout this book.

The author has thought carefully and knows how to handle the tougher times that Ruby doesn’t want to return to in her life, sensitively, but then this is also when the really ingenious part comes into play, he has thought of other literary characters and authors who have had bleak parts within their lives, especially Virginia Woolf. Here he has added more self-discovery and analysis as Ruby looks at what she copied one time from Virginia Woolf’s letter before she drowned herself, and compares this with where she, herself is now and ponders of if she really is that same person, or is she moving on in life? It’s not dealt with lightly. There’s a lot of good thought that’s clearly gone into how the main character is feeling and thinking.

There’s of course the boys and the parties too, again written well. All this book is written well and is written in a way that is recognisable to how a young adult would talk and relate to the world around them and their peers.

Does Ruby finish school and get into university? Well, that would be telling…
Go on and read it to find out for yourselves. It’s worth the time.

The things within the list is what any young adult can achieve and with little to no money. Most are life affirming and will teach young adult’s something valuable in life. This book is full of life and emotion. There’s also humour and enough to make it absorbing and uplifting. It’s meaningful and well-considered and written.

I absolutely recommend this book to every young adult about to leave school or got one more year to go. It’s a book for today and it will still remain relevant for many years to come I am sure.

____________________________________________________

Title: 10 Things To Do Before You Leave School
Author: Bernard O’Keefe
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Acorn Independent Press (5 Mar. 2019)
ISBN-10: 1913036707
ISBN-13: 978-1913036706

Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian – All is Not as it Seems in this Unique Book @Jsmithauthor @matadorbooks #fantasy #mentalhealth #kidslit #fiction #crossover @twylie68 @litlemonbooks @EmmabBooks @SueWeedon #Review

Review of Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian
Author – J.M. Smith

Rating – 4 Stars ****


About the Author

J.M. Smith is a retired psychotherapist who worked within the NHS mental health department for many years.

 

Tony Plumb book


Blurb

If Your Mind Housed a Spy, What Secrets Would it Spill?

Harbouring troubled memories of time in care, Tony Plumb struggles to keep his mind on track.

Prone to episodes in ‘Madsville’ and bombarded by thought chariots carrying unwanted baggage from the past, he’s smuggled to Ellodian by the rule dodging social worker, Ms Bendy Legget.

At this spooky, underground facility, Tony’s history intertwines with the present and the task of answering three crucial life-changing questions cannot be avoided.

With help from good friends and therapy, Tony challenges authority, rights and wrongs and makes enemies, until he finally comes to understand the nature of his conundrums, the meaning of the word family and the darkest secret of all:
What really happened at the waterfall

Tony Plumb card

Review

Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian is a fictional book that is perfect for Christmas, but it is also one that can be read all year round. It does mention Christmas, but that’s not the main crux of the story.

There are strong themes of mental health, family relationships, separation, loss, being from the care system, dealing with issues, self discovery, throughout this book. They are all written in a sensitive, tangible and realistic way. There is however some humour to be found within this book too, which really lifts it and adds to the life of the tale.
The story is complex, but not overly so, since it is well plotted. It would hit its target audience of 9-12 year olds who are good readers very well. It is age appropriate for this age group in the way the themes and language used are handled.

This book is firmly in the crossover market because it would suit any child from 9, teenager/YA and adult. It would easily suit people who enjoy either fantasy and/or tales that take you on a journey through life and of mental health.  I would recommend for its target “crossover” audience.

We immediately meet Tony Plumb who is not just thirteen, but thirteen and a half years old to be precise. He is at Evensham Social Services to see Ms Bendy Legget (whose name I just love for its humour). We get to know that he was in a children’s care home in Daisy Bank. I like that there is no hanging around to meet the main protagonist and to get to begin to know and understand him. The story has instantly begun and starts at a good pace, which remains constant throughout the book.

Before long, Tony has entered the mysterious place of Ellodian. The story goes between this world and the world of the therapy he receives.

The thought processes of Tony and the moles are in a different font and style. This is an ingenious idea because it doesn’t detract from the narrative of the story and flows very smoothly. It also looks effective and fun on the pages, making the story easy to read and follow. We actually get to know that Tony has what he calls “thought chariots”. I love this description, already it depicts what is going on and gives a real insight into the state of his mind. It gave a sense of true feeling about what he was going through.

Enter the unique world of Ellodian

The mysterious, dark place of Ellodian is where Tony is sent to, with his parrot – McGurney. It’s an adventure like no other! As a reader I found myself being immersed into this world very easily. We meet new characters, more authoritative adults for Tony to contend with – Miss Frankly and Mrs Sherbet and Prospect . Again, I just love the humour of the names.

The entire world of Ellodian that readers are thrust into is well described and mysterious, with odd uniforms which makes you question: Who or What are The Moles?
As you read on, I am sure you too will find yourself totally immersed because you want to know more and you will discover the significance of the moles. This is a world that I found myself not being able to help myself wanting to know what more curiosities it had to offer.

Tony finds himself on a mission to discover the answers of 3 questions. These aren’t any ordinary questions. They are exploratory questions about himself. Let’s just say, not the types of questions you would normally be asked in everyday conversation. I think this just adds to the mystery of the main character of Tony Plumb and who he truly is as a person. The questions are effectively set out, easy to understand and moves the story onwards very well and is created in such a way that feeds into the curiosity of the imagination. It becomes even more thought-provoking. By this time, I had already invested in the main protagonist, so I needed to know if all the questions were answered, how and what the actual answers are and the truth of Tony Plumb. I also wanted to know by this stage, what Ellodian actually was.

I enjoyed meeting Mrs Heapy – a psychotherapist by profession. In amongst the talk about mole friends, there is a real emotion that comes through from Tony. It is sensitively and realistically written, when we learn a bit more about the relationship between him and his parents. Quickly, I was captured and I think even our younger readers will be too. Tony also at this point, becomes even more likeable than what he ever was to begin with. We begin to get much more of a sense of his life. This isn’t just an adventure/fantasy book with some character or other leading you through many paths. It’s more than that. The main protagonist is 3 dimensional with real issues, real emotions and is a character to invest fully into.

Perfax is an intriguing character with major issues, which we see quickly and get the understanding of his temperament. He is a character that, although comes very much later in the book, is so well written.

Evensham Social Worker Department is returned to in the book. It gives it some grounding and shows the depth of Tony. The story, as it goes between Evensham and the world of Ellodian is written in a way that any reader will be able to follow.

The book concludes very well, it left me satisfied and I am sure it will leave anyone else reading this well written, well paced book, feeling the same. All in all it is a thought-provoking story and the balance between the issues and the fantasy elements are well-balanced. There are also the most unexpected twists and turns that are written in an inspired way of creating more drama. This also develops the story further and adds to the intrigue into how the story can possibly end. I would say –  take a chance on this debut child/YA/adult cross-over novelist and discover what is real and what is not in Tony Plumb’s life. Discover the world of Ellodian and allow yourself to be taken on a journey. You won’t be disappointed!

With thanks for J.M. Smith for writing to me with extra information about herself, for sending me a message/request to review her book and for sending me a copy of her book and an accompanying card/bookplate.

*Please Note – This is an impartial review.

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Title: Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian

Author: J.M. Smith

Publisher: Toubador/Matador – Juvenile/YA Fiction

Pages: 273

Main Purchase Points:  Amazon, WH Smith, The Telegraph Bookshop

ISBN 978 – 1 – 78901 – 503 – 4