Libraries Matter in the 21st Century #Article #LibraryMatters @CressidaCowell @PhilipArdagh #libraries #education

Libraries Matter in the 21st Century

Why, you should ask, when there are Kindles and other online platforms, do libraries matter now in the 21st Century. I have heard people saying that they may be becoming a thing of the past and don’t really matter. There are also people who don’t realise, even after the existence of libraries for many years, that they are free. That is one of the beauty’s of libraries – they are free. Whatsmore books can be borrowed and new books can be obtained for free. Librarians can also introduce you to a whole new author based on what you like. If you don’t know what you like, they can find out by different means through a nice chat.

Libraries have the latest books and follow the latest trends. Pick up a book and escape into different realms, away from reality for a bit, whatever age you are. Some adults think libraries are only for children, they are for every age. Reading for Pleasure isn’t just a trend however, it is for all ages and all it requires is time to be made to relax and unwind with a book. Books are proven to help de-stress after a hard day at school or further education or work.

Books, whether they are fiction or non-fiction all have something that can expand people’s knowledge, language, imagination, exploration of the world, expand tolerance, understanding and well-being.

Libraries have computers and apps with the latest technologies as well as WI-FI. There are also often great study areas within them for all ages.

Libraries offer more. They offer sanctuary through tough times and a source of joy when times are good. They also offer times to socialise and meet you friends. They offer places to unwind. A library is many things.

Libraries offer more even still:

They offer Bookbug Sessions in Scotland and equvelent of sessions such as Rhyme Times south of the border.

Libraries look at STEM and Lego Clubs and Builders Days are popping up across the country.

Libraries give people exciting opportunities to meet an author, get a book signed, hear a talk. In Scotland it is Bookweek Scotland coming up week beginning Monday 18th November. Check your local library to see how they are celebrating it and keep a look out to see how your child’s school is celebrating. Events happen nationally within schools and public library and some community libraries throughout the year, check with your library to see what is planned and how to attend (usually with consumate ease and most are free).

Think Netflix is the greatest thing? The next greatest thing to follow at libraries is Bookflix, cropping up in libraries and school library/book corners.

Books are lovely to share, whether they are children, young adults or adults and there are many benefits from doing this, including forming new friendships.

Libraries and their books and events really are for the youngest of babies to the oldest of adults.

School libraries have been disappearing, but Cressida Cowell and Phillip Aardagh seem to be on the case to work on getting them re-instated because they matter. School visits to local libraries also matter and count. Experiences matter as does making them as positive as possible.

Libraries in both the public and school domains matter. They need people to support them by using them. There seems to be a swath of people who still think libraries are lifeless and are all about stern librarians telling them what to do or not do etc. Libraries changed quite a number of years ago and are ever evolving. Yes, they suffer from lack of funding too, but passionate librarians work many hours to deliver a great service and are always striving to do their best for the public. Support them and enjoy them! They are not a luxury, but a necessity after all and not something to be taken for granted.
So, instead of walking by a library, whether at school or in an area that has a library open to all, why not pop in and see what is going on and what is on offer, you may be pleasantly surprised.

What I worry about the future of libraries is that one day in some places, people may wake up to their being no library in any form. Once something is lost it can be forever. Let’s try and keep libraries for the present and the future. Enjoy them by using them, having a chat with your librarian and seeing what is on offer.

Your library may have closed down already. My local library has and now sits within the third sector. I used to work for the local authority libraries. Jobs go though don’t they. I ironically only worked a couple of times in the library where I actually live. I now work there a lot, bringing it up to scratch and using every inch of experience to lead it and to bring it as close to the local authority run libraries as possible. I and other in other community libraries that try to compliment a council run library ensure we have a great selection of books, in every genre and that they are new, have school class visits, have (in Scotland) Bookbug sessions (I was trained under the council run libraries when I worked with them and the Bookbug co-ordinator for the area allows me to continue). Authors also kindly visit too.

Am I still passionate about libraries, even though I do not get paid anymore? Yes, although it is rather a worrying trend because always, I, anyway am wanting to deliver the absolute best possible library to people because libraries really do matter and can make a difference to people’s lives in many forms. Community libraries can be less recognised where and when it matters and I hope that changes soon, or people may find community libraries also ever more challenging to run, if they want to do it to compliment a local authority library. I feel that’s a whole other subject for another time.
Enjoy libraries and support them and reap the benefits from them before there is nothing left to pass on to present people and future generations.

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!


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


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:





Til Death Do Us Part – 2 authors – both married. How will they ever survive? @icloudmandy @nicolaupsonbook @grahamsmith1972 #crimefiction @MorecambeVice #writingcommunity

Til Death Do Us Part

Being interviewed were Nicola, Mandy moderator is Graham Smith.

Graham runs a hotel and wedding venue and writes crime. He writes the DI Harry Evans series and the Jake Boulder novels.
Mandy Morton worked for BBC and writes crime. She writes the Feline Detective series.
Nicola Upson worked in the Arts and writes crime and likes the 1930’s period.
Discover their books below.
Nicola and Mandy are 2 authors who are  married and live together, which was what the premise of this panel was essentially about.  It explored what it is like to both be working as authors and living together in the matrimonial home.
marital authors
This panel certainly took a different turn where working styles were concerned as it took listeners right to the heart of where it all happened – the home where they both live in. There working styles certainly differed. Nicola works to music and Mandy doesn’t but also like different styles of music, but like same bands on stage. Mandy as it turned out was a musician. Nicola does likes the more brooding, dark music compared to Mandy.
Mandy doesn’t do drafts, and doesn’t plan. It turned out Nicola  enjoys the research and editing parts more and sounds glad when the book is actually written.
There was also much talk about PD James, which gave a little bit of insight into her personality. I personally enjoy her books a lot, so this was pleasurable to hear good things about her.
I think it is really nice that they have such regard for each other’s work and praise each other and support each other and give each other advice.
I thought they may have been more competitiveness than what they actually were. That’s sort of what I was expecting when the Graham started to explore this with Nicola and Mandy. It turns out that they are competitive about many things but not so much when it comes to each other’s writing and can be pleased for eachother’s successes as they reckon there’s enough competition out there without them competing against eachother too.
It was nice that they were asked about how they celebrate. They do this privately with a meal, a gift to do with the book, a bottle of fizz and later do a book launch.
There was also a fun game with each of them saying facts about how the other got into writing, to guage how much they knew of this period of time in their other-half’s life.
The authors books are below:
Fear in the Lakes: A gripping crime thriller with a breathtaking twist by [Smith, Graham]

Review of Morecambe and Vice Panel – Discussing Dyslexia @fleurhitchcock @jjelson83 @jenniefinch1 @NosyCrowBooks @MorecambeVice #Kidslit #CrimeFiction #Adventure #Lancaster

Discussing Dyslexia

Ashley Dyer was the moderator who navigated the panel round interesting questions and kept it all flowing so well. She specialises in Dyslexia and writes novels. She was moderating a panel consisting of Fleur Hitchcock and Jane Elson and Jennie Finch, who all have dyslexia and write novels.

Around 10 percent of people have dyslexia to some degree.
There can also be associated conditions.

This was a very different sort of panel as it was discussing, not only books and writing but a condition, but not one that has stopped these women from writing some great books.

Fleur Hitchcock has written 14 children’s mystery books to date and is a bestselling author. Some are dark for the older child, but she is also writing for younger children. She is also writing modern adventure books.

Jane Elson writes for 8-13 year olds. She deals with issues such as autism and cancer.
Her book is about Nell Hobbs and how most children want adventures, but Nell just wants to be normal.
Jane said “A Room Full of Chocolate” was semi-autobiographical. It was sad, but somewhat unsurprising when she said she was put down a lot by people, including by a former teacher, which affected her self-esteem. She has been nominated for awards.

Jennie Finch’s detective is Alex Hastings, whom she describes as intelligent with 2 degrees and sets about trying to solve a murder. He also seems to still have faith in humanity and thinks people are nice.

Ashley’s detectives are Ruth Lake and Greg Carver for her police procedurals, featuring in: Splinter in the Blood and The Cutting Room.

Fleur Hitchcock Jane Elson Jennie Finch Ashley Dyer
It was so interesting and inspiring to hear a little about their lives and they seem to show an inner strength of character.

Ashley was a teacher in the 1980s. She realised that dyslexia was a syndrome and seemed different from other difficulties other children had. She was never diagnosed at school and also has pragmatic language syndrome – takes everything as being literal.
At 42 she was diagnosed and found it liberating. She also talked of a person who sounds inspirational and how this person was suicidal at one point, but lived on to then acheive a first in languages.

Fleur didn’t go to school for a long time as her family moved a lot. Interestingly she looked at pictures in DC comics. Her whole household is dyslexic.
When she did go to school, she wrote with both hands, later, she could touch type. When she did attend school, things didn’t sound like they were great until a teacher said this didn’t matter, but how she thought did. She also wasn’t tested for dyslexia until later in life.

Fleur had a manuscript after doing a creative writing course. It later came to be The Boy Who Flew, but it was close to never seeing the light of day again. She got an agent and went to many publishers who rejected her work. She was nearly dropped by one until she wrote a different book, which sold. It wasn’t until recently she tried it again and it is published, selling and getting very good reviews.

It was interesting to hear that some authors on the panel had mentors and others did not and how a couple are or have acted as mentors in a school and college.

They said that if you want to write, you must read. It was fascinating to hear about their reading of books – reading the same books more than once and by using pictures as plots were sometimes forgotten. Feeling the mood of books seemed to be important. There seemed to be much to be learned and hopefully other people who have dyslexia are inspired by them, and even if they don’t all end up writing a book, to see that it isn’t impossible to enjoy a story.

There was much interest in what life can be like as authors, from the chaotic to the very structured and when writing how sometimes visualisation was good, although there was an author who could not do that but talks word for word for what is going to be on the page, at least initially.

With thanks to Ashley, Fleur, Jane and Jennie for allowing me to take their photo. Thanks to Fleur for signing books and thanks to Jennie for gifting me a notebook.

Below are a small selection of their books:

Clifftoppers-The-Fire-Bay-Adventure-512493-1.jpg     The-Boy-Who-Flew-479572-1.jpg    Murder at Twilight

Smoke and Adders (Alex Hastings Series) by [Finch, Jennie]            The Drowners (Alex Hastings Series)


A Room Full of Chocolate by [Elson, Jane]          Will You Catch Me?


Splinter in the BloodThe Cutting Room - USA book cover


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.

Review of Morecambe and Vice -What’s the Worst That Could Happen? @MorecambeVice @lkauthor @cerilowepetrask #CrimeFiction #dystopian #Review

Review of Morecambe and Vice
What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

First thing in the morning of the first day of the festival, the question – “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” was posed. That very question is totally fascinating in itself, but first thing on a Saturday morning in the Midland Hotel, what was the worst thing that could happen? It turned out a lot. This was actually the title of a fascinating panel of authors who had mixed crime and the dystopian world in a believable way and some of it… well… we aren’t too far off.

The panel was created of Lesley Kelly, Ceri Lowe and Matt Brolly. All of whom were excellent speakers and all seemed so comfortable and natural together. The panel was brilliantly  moderated by Tom Fisher, who seemed enthusiastic and got the authors to talk about interesting topics to do with their books and their writing experiences.

Lesley Kelly is the author of the series – The Health of Strangers, which includes killer flu, food, medicine shortages and unscrupulous politicians. This series also has some humour within it. I have written a full review of the latest book in the series that you can check out on my blog.

Ceri Lowe writes a dystopian The Paradigm Trilogy for YA. Her main two characters are 15 and 11 years old. With one of the main themes being climate change, it is about a huge storm occurs in the UK and the scars that are left. It takes the promise of a small group being rescued and stored by “The Industry Group”. The author posed the hanging question of “Are they corrupt or are they saving the planet?” Read to find out…

Matt Brolly writes the DCI Lambert Novels. He spoke of the setting being in the near future in a city that has zero tolerance of crime, so has the death penalty that is automatic if the perpetrator is caught and yet a detective who is a kleptomaniac.

   Matt Brolly, Ceri Lowe, Lesley Kelly

The discussion that ensued was very interesting. Tom had clearly done his homework and given a lot of thought. The questions were coherent and quite a large range from talking directly about apocalyptic worlds to actual world building, but also beyond the writing of the books to coping with rejection. It was a great way to start off the festival. There was something in it for wanna-be writers, the experienced writers and also readers.

I like to sometimes read dystopian novels, even though it is disturbing how close to the truth they become, but that makes them relevant and thought-provoking.

Dystopian Worlds

Matt talked about being fascinated in exploring the extremes he does of a zero tolerance of crime society. He moved away from world building in some ways and writes more about the characters and how they relate to the deterrent, so the world is essentially built through the characters he creates and is kept as close to the present as possible. The fact his book seemed so close to now made me think of the tv series Years and Years and I should think that in Matt’s books there will be much for the population to ponder and also see where things may be heading if something doesn’t change soon. I find people who can write like that can be quite brilliant in getting certain important messages across and they certainly made people pay attention.

Ceri is different in the fact she loves world building and then culls back on the self-indulgent parts. She reckons she could create a whole family tree as well as a companion book to show all the different relationships etc of her many characters. When she started writing, climate change was there, but there wasn’t the news coverage there is now, when her first book was published. The timing of her books now however, make them more relevant than ever, although, even the first book, in my opinion, would still have been important at that time. When she spoke of how she would like to have a family tree type of companion book of character family trees, well, family trees are always intriguing and help link up people or in this case characters and can add some understanding when there are lots of characters.

The Fascination of Dystopia

Lesley, interestingly works in the voluntary sector and plans for lots of things like the flu and talked about Spanish Flu too and what a pandemic that was, with it killing the least expected of the population. It was thought-provoking when she talked about for her books, she considered, from this being an inspirational starting point, how parents and criminals would react and how “cures would be sold”, as well as the government giving “pointless” health-checks. So, her world is more a controlled world that she has created within her books. It again seems so close to now. Awhile back I had the privilege of reviewing this book and it is very good and has some humour in it too, which works really well within her dystopian world.

Matt thinks there’s something fascinating about the fall of routine, confronting fears and starting again.

Author Tips

The authors had great tips and words of encouragement for other writers and those interested in the process. I always find it fascinating to hear how different authors began writing and what their routines are because each is different.

Matt Brolly basically just never gave in. He was agented after 3 years, but it was 20 years until his first book was published. He says to keep writing and submitting. He was also candid in his answer about getting rejections and initially thought it was all to do with his writing. He said it isn’t you personally, but just may not be their choice of book at a particular time. He also gave advice not to wait for 1 person to get back to you and to instead query as many people as possible.

Ceri wrote some short stories for some competitions and won some. She got an idea for a novel.

Lesley said she wanted to be a stand-up comedian but had children and the hours weren’t conducive for her family life. She highly recommends a professional editor. She got longlisted and got feedback and got published by Sandstone.

Sage advice came from both Lesley and Matt about not comparing yourself to others at it is unhelpful. This I was thinking is something that can be applied to everyone’s lives, whether they are an author or not.

Lesley’s next book is Murder at the Music Factory

Matt Brolly’s next book is The Crossing 

Ceri Lowe also has another book coming soon too.

It was interesting to hear what books the authors read too.

Lesley likes Stephen King.     Matt Brolly also likes The Stand by Stephen King and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.      Ceri likes Margaret Atwood

If you ever get the opportunity to see Lesley Kelly, Matt Brolly or Ceri Lowe, I highly recommend that you do. Thanks to them also for interesting and warm chat after their event.
Below are images of their latest books.

book cover of Dead Water           book cover of Death at the Plague Museum          book cover of The Storm Girl\'s Secret