Jack of Spades by Sophie Masson reviewed by Jill Smith©May17

jack-of-spades-final-front-cover-pubLinda is not your normal sixteen-year-old. She is feisty and adventurous in a genteel age when girls are expected to be polite, chaperoned and groomed to marry.

It is May 1910 and her father is in Paris on a research trip. Linda is worried about him. Even more so when she receives a Jack of Spades playing card in the mail. The envelope was not in her father’s hand, or was there anything with it to give her a clue, but, she knows it’s a sign from him, a code they both know. The Jack of Spades is a sign of danger.

Without alerting anyone Linda decides to leave for Paris immediately. She has been there with her father and has friends she hopes to stay with while she searches for her father. She knows his favourite places and where he usually works. Feeling confident in her own competence she leaves Britain.sophie masson bio pic

On arriving in Paris, she is accosted but the thief is thwarted when she is assisted by a gallant young man, who offers to help her.

The illustrations throughout the book are delightful. The Victorian railway station illustration with Linda gathering up her belongings and meeting her new friend is a clue to where the story leads.

What she finds in Paris is intrigue and mystery filled with danger. What was her father really doing? Where is he now? Who can she trust? Her friends are not at home and she has nowhere to stay. A single unchaperoned girl alone in a city. Her new friend offers to refer her to acceptable accommodation and there she meets interesting characters and a scoundrel.

While searching for her father Linda finds a trail of murders and shady characters. Her investigations put herself and her new friends in peril.

This book is a delight with mystery, a budding romance, and a tenacious and inquisitive teenage girl as the lead character. I loved it!

Cover reveal…

Dual Visions new (3)I’ve been working on putting my re-edited edition of Dual Visions with it’s follow up book Vashla’s World together for impending release. Having fun and super excited with the results. Thanks immensely for Kate Russell for the cover compilation and assist from Luka! Doing a happy dance!VW Cover

 

 

 

 

I think the revised Dual Visions cover is great and the Vashla’s World cover is amazing!

What do you think?

Once I’ve pressed the button to say go on these I can get back to editing the great stories for The Ten Penners adventure anthology ‘Mystery, Mayhem & Magic’ which is shaping up to be a brilliant group of stories.

It’s all happening folks!

Books I bought at Somerset 2017…

Here are the reviews I did of a couple of books I bought at Somerset Literary Festival this year. I’ll post a couple more tomorrow. Yes, they are Young Adults books.

Book Review by Jill Smith©Mar17

Starlight Stables – Pony detectives by Soraya Nicholas

Soraya NicholasThis is the first book I bought at Somerset Celebration of Literature 2017! My granddaughters are mad on horses. Not having had anything to do with horses myself, I have to say it appears to me that horses are a lot of work, and each one has a different personality just as their riders do.

I loved this story about Poppy the twelve-year-old who was visiting her Aunt Sophie and Uncle Mark, who run Starlight Stables. Having had a very difficult year with her mum and brother having to move away with the tragedy of losing her father, her trip is to help her be a kid and just go riding.Starlight Stables Pony Detectives Soraya N

Poppy gets the best present she could wish for, her own horse Crystal a Welsh/Arab. The surprises don’t stop there, they introduce her to two new girls who will be working and riding with her helping clean the stables. Millie and Katie quickly become best friends and like Poppy, they have been given the opportunity to have their own horses at the stables to trail ride whenever they want to, in exchange for work and help around the stables. Milly gets to ride Joe who is three-quarters Arab with a mischievous nature, which Poppy discovers suits his rider. Then Katie gets Cody a palomino. The riding lessons commence immediately and the girls learn a lot from dressage riding champion Sophie.

When the girls hear about horses being stolen in the area they decide to find them. That’s when the trouble begins. If they go to investigate they may lose all their privileges and be sent back home. They may even have their horses taken away. The three headstrong girls set out to find the missing horses.

I enjoyed the easy flowing style of Soraya’s writing showing the details of riding, sitting in the saddle and different types of events to train for while pushing the story forward.

Book Review By Jill Smith©April17

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

ophelia-and-the-marvellous-boy coverI love the cover of this book, that’s why I bought it.

The story is as surprising as The Marvelous Boy and the heroine Ophelia. She is small for her age, constantly asking questions and looking at everything from a scientific viewpoint. That hardly works when she makes friends with the boy sent by Wizards to save the world. Everything he tells her about the Snow Queen and magic is unbelievable. She confronts her fears and collects the keys while searching for the boy’s magical sword.

I particularly loved that she didn’t believe in ghosts and is still grieving the loss of her mother when her mother is there, at her shoulder and in her ear, helping her along the way. In a modern world of machines and facts, this is a delightful step into a possible other-world, all very cold and miserable that could be overcome by The Snow Queen. The museum her father works in has very strange exhibits, many who were in fact, the Snow Queens army.

The ending is fitting and a true love conquers all scenario!

I hadn’t been to see Karen Foxlee during sessions at Somerset, however, I did get her to sign the book. (That’s another perk of going to see talented writers at a writing festival.) 

Petal and the Easter Bunny … part two

PetalFor those who read the first half of Jill Ford’s PETAL AND THE EASTER BUNNY STORY, that appeared in The Ten Penners book ‘Fan-tas-tic-al Tales’,  here is the second half.

continued…

‘I’m trying to,’ snapped Petal. ‘But you are making it very difficult Hannah Elizabeth. Now, where was I?’

‘You had just eaten all the eggs.’

‘So I had. Well, I had to do something and fast, before Mrs Bunny found out. I was a very sorry little dragon let me tell you, and I had a nasty tummy ache.’

‘It was all those Easter eggs,’ said Hannah.

‘I suppose. What I did then, was a bit naughty, but I was very young and I was terrified of Mrs Bunny. She gets so hopping mad over the littlest things. I collected up all the egg wrappers and flattened them out, nice and smooth again. Then I went down to the river. There are always a lot of nice round stones along the riverbank. We have stone skipping competitions there. It’s lots of fun. If you are very nice to me, Hannah Elizabeth, I might take you one day.’

‘Get on with the story, Petal. I want to know what happened!’

‘When I got to the river, Prince Velvet was skipping stones. Only back then, he was just a grubby little boy who hadn’t learnt to blow his nose properly. He hadn’t been taught how to be a Prince. He only wore a toy wooden sword around his waist. We were best friends until we were put into the book.’

‘I suppose it was hard to stay friends, once you had to start fighting,’ said Hannah sympathetically.

‘We are still friends, but it isn’t easy. And it isn’t fair that I get to be killed at the end of the story all the time. I don’t see why we can’t take turns.’

Hannah giggled and leant over and patted Petal’s knee. ‘You die so beautifully Petal,’ she said, ‘I’m sure Prince Velvet could never die as well.’

‘It takes talent,’ Petal boasted. ‘Anyway, I told Snotty, that’s what I call Prince Velvet, what I had done and he agreed to help me. He’d been spanked by Mrs Bunny a few times himself and he was frightened of her too.’

Snotty. Oh gross.’ Hannah wrinkled up her nose in disgust.

‘I told you, Prince Velvet didn’t know how to wipe his nose properly and you promised to be quiet, remember? Mrs Bunny had made herself responsible for bringing up all us kids in Storybook Land properly.’

‘She didn’t do a very good job with you, did she?’ Hannah said. Petal threw an egg at her. He snorted and flames shot out of his nostrils. Hannah’s teddy bear burst into flames. Hannah smothered the flames with her pillow. She knew there was not any real danger because Petal’s flames did not burn. ‘I think I’ll be a firefighter when I grow up. I’m getting a lot of practice putting out fires,’ she said.

Petal ignored her. ‘Snotty and I collected a lot of pebbles and wrapped them up and put them back in the basket.’easter bunny and eggs

‘That was very naughty.’

‘I know, but you would understand if you knew Mrs Bunny. Snotty and I made such a good job of wrapping the pebbles, that no one noticed the difference. The next morning Carrots and I started out to deliver the Easter Eggs. We left earlier than usual because poor old Carrots was on crutches. Mrs Bunny waved us goodbye. She had packed us a huge picnic basket full of yummy things to eat. We put the hamper in Carrots’ hand-wagon, with the basket of eggs. By then, I was feeling really bad about what I’d done, but I didn’t know what to do about it.’

‘Petal, what you did was really mean,’ said Hannah.

‘I know, I know. I knew dear old Carrots would get the blame and he would probably lose his job as the Easter Bunny. I wanted to confess, but if I did Mrs Bunny would have spanked me. I got a headache in my tummy.’

‘That was your conscience getting to you,’ said Hannah wisely.

‘Don’t I know it? It’s always there waiting to spoil a dragon’s fun. Carrots noticed something was wrong. Then, like the big baby, I really was, I broke down and confessed. I cried all over him.’

‘Goodness Petal, you could have drowned him,’ Hannah joked.

Petal ignored that.

‘Carrots never said a word, he just looked at me sadly. I would have felt better if he smacked me hard. “Are you truly sorry Petal?” he asked me.

‘Oh yes,’ I cried. ‘I never meant to be so naughty.’

“That’s all right then,” he said smiling at me. “Do you see that Green Easter Egg, sitting on the top of the pile? That’s yours. Why don’t you eat it now Petal?”

Oh no! He wanted you to swallow a stone,’ Hannah gasped.

‘That’s what I thought. “Open your egg Petal,” he insisted. So I did, and do you know something, Hannah? It was chocolate. Thick creamy milk chocolate.

Hannah clapped her hands and cheered.

‘Carrots knew what I had done almost right away.’

basket of easter eggs“I’m glad you confessed Petal,” he said to me. “If you hadn’t, Easter magic wouldn’t have been able to work and there would have been a lot of disappointed girls and boys, unwrapping river pebbles.”

‘It pays to own up when you do something naughty,’ said Hannah.

‘Anyway, we delivered all the eggs. It was amazing. Every time we got down to the last egg in the basket, abracadabra, the basket would fill itself up again, and that’s how I saved Easter.’

‘But Petal, if you hadn’t been a piggy, Easter wouldn’t have had to be saved.’

Petal glared at her. ‘That’s the very last time I’ll tell you a story, Hannah Elizabeth.’

‘I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. Do you want this last egg?’

‘Let’s have half each,’ said Petal licking his lips.

Happy Easter from The Ten Penners

Happy Easter to all our readers, followers and friends. Travel safe and enjoy your holiday.

I’m putting in an excerpt from Fan-tas-tic-al Tales, it’s one of Jill Ford’s contributions to the book. Petal and the Easter Bunny.

easter bunny and eggsPETAL AND THE EASTER BUNNY

BY JILL FORD

From Fan-tas-tic-al Tales

Hannah Elizabeth and Petal were eating Easter Eggs. The little girl sat cross-legged on her bed and Petal sat on the floor. He took up all the space in Hannah’s bedroom.

‘Where’s my egg wrapped in the pink paper with the silver stars?’ asked Hannah.

‘Oh, was that your egg? So sorry,’ Petal said with his mouth full of chocolate.

‘You are a piggy. I was saving that egg for tomorrow.’

Petal shifted himself to a more comfortable position. The whole room shook and a large piece of plaster fell from the ceiling. Petal brushed the bits that had fallen over him onto the floor.

‘I just love the Easter Bunny,’ said Hannah, popping another piece of chocolate into her mouth.

‘I helped the Easter Bunny deliver eggs once,’ said Petal yawning.

‘You didn’t!’ said Hannah amazed.

‘You don’t believe me, do you? Just because I’m not cute, soft or cuddly. You’ve really hurt my feelings, Hannah Elizabeth.’

‘I’m sorry, but are you sure you are not fibbing?’ said Hannah, licking her fingers.

Petal glared at her.

‘All right Petal. Why don’t you tell me all about it?’

‘It was a very long time ago. I was very young, a baby really. I was still green.’

‘Green?’ Hannah looked at her Dragon. He was dark grey with a pink chest.

‘I picked my own colours when I was two years old. Wizard Knowsthelot gave me tins of coloured polish and I rubbed the polish over my scales until I was the shade I wanted. Now, do you want to hear about the Easter Bunny or not, Hannah Elizabeth? Don’t you know it’s very rude to interrupt someone when they are trying to tell you something?’

‘Sorry. Well, go on. Tell me what happened, Petal.’

‘I’m trying to. Now let’s see. Where was I?’

‘You were green,’ said Hannah.

‘That’s right. I was still green. I was lying on the grass having a snooze when Carrots, that’s the Easter Bunny, hopped on top of me. I guess he didn’t see me. He’s very short sighted and…’

‘You were green at the time,’ Hannah interrupted.Petal

‘Well, I rolled over and squashed Carrots.’

‘You killed the Easter Bunny!’ Hannah cried out, shocked.

‘No, I just broke his leg and crushed a couple of his ribs. It was the week before Easter. He was in a terrible fix, so of course, I had to offer to help.’

‘Come on Petal. You never could help the Easter Bunny. You’d eat all the eggs,’ Hannah said laughing.

‘You are not going to be quiet, are you, Hannah Elizabeth?’ Petal said with a pout.

Hannah pretended to zipper her mouth shut. ‘I really would like to know what happened,’ she said. ‘I’m truly sorry Petal.’

‘All right then. I’ll give you one more chance,’ said Petal, who was bursting to tell Hannah his story.

‘Anyway, as it happened you are right. I only meant to sample one egg, but I ate the lot!’

‘I knew it,’ Hannah exclaimed shaking her head. ‘Oops,’ she clamped her hand over her mouth guiltily.

‘One more word and you’ll never know what happened. Not ever. So there, Hannah Elizabeth.’

‘I’m really very sorry Petal.’

‘So you should be. Well, I was very frightened. Carrots’ mother has a nasty temper. She would have spanked me if she found out what I’d done. She was already cross with me for injuring Carrots.’

‘How can a bunny spank a dragon? It doesn’t seem possible.’

‘Carrots’ mother would have found a way. Remember, I was only a baby back then.’

‘You still are,’ said Hannah sniggering.

‘That does it. I’m not telling you any more of the story.’

‘Please Petal. You know you’re bursting to tell me what happened. There’s still a serving of chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer. Mum said it’s mine. It’s yours Petal if you tell me what happened.’

‘I’m trying to,’ snapped Petal. ‘But you are making it very difficult Hannah Elizabeth. Now, where was I?’

FOR THOSE  WHO HAVEN’T GOT THE BOOK, I’LL CONTINUE THE STORY TOMORROW … STAY TUNNED!

 

The Fix It Man book launch

the fix it man book launch

On Saturday 25th March after another inspirational meeting with my writing buddies in The Ten Penners, I went to see Dimity Powell launch her truly heartfelt book The FIX IT Man. To say it was a beautiful presentation is an understatement.

The time and effort Dimity and her supporters put into launching this book, matched by Nicky Johnstone’s superb illustrations. I did have a tear in my eye when I heard the story for the first time The Fix it Man book launch DPon the day. Who knew that facing grief and moving forward with life could so be put so succinctly in a children’s picture book? I love it. The FIX IT Man cover

The fact as Dimity explained briefly, that she and Nicky took eighteen months to complete this work only goes to show that beautiful books can be masterpieces in their own right. Well done ladies! You are a true inspiration to aspiring picture book authors and illustrators. And of course to groups like The Ten Penners who are striving to create entertaining and thought-provoking topical stories for children aged eight to twelve-year-olds.

Somerset 2017 – Wonderful Wednesday summary …

Yes, it rained and the ground was squelchy! Yes, it was hot in the marquees! Did I mind? Not a bit. It was a great day. I only wish I had been able to go to more sessions.

Robet Newton Somerset 2017I started the day with Robert Newton, a firefighter and writer who said he could see himself retiring from firefighting but never from writing.

He never wanted to be a writer growing up but when his brother moved overseas he wanted to keep in touch so he started writing letters. Life was a bit boring so he’d send stories of embellished childhood memories. His brother said, ‘these are good, you should do something with them.’ That was the only encouragement he’d ever had for anything other than sport. It was the start of his obsession with writing and creating characters first. His books published to date are: RunnerWhen We Were TwoThe Black Dog GangSaturday Morning, Mozart and Burnt ToastMr Romanov’s Garden in the SkyThe Khaki KidMy Name Is Will Thompson, for children all developed to tackle difficult subjects in a way kids can relate to. He was a very engaging speaker. The picture above is of him signing the book I purchased from his works.

Nadia Sunde Sorting Hat Somerst 2017Next session was in the Great Hall and I was able to enjoy the oh’s and ah’s of a large audience of rapt students as Nadia Sunde wove a magical spell in her session playing the role of Professor Francesa Falconette Exploring the Magical World of Harry Potter.

Needless to say, it was a spellbinding session.

Nadia Sunde Somerset 2017The rain departed for enough time for me to leave the Great Hall and walk down on the sodden oval to Marquee Three to go to my next session with Kim Kane.

 

Kim, having being trained as a lawyer, had all her notes on hand. A few images and videos to share Kim Kane Somerset 2017snippets of where her inspiration for stories came from, along with a very old shoe. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about ‘time slip’ novels and how she researched her books. I fear some of the students may not have been so engrossed, but for me, Kim delving into research and where different information led her and affected her writing was fascinating.

As was the case in all the sessions, and has been my experience of Somerset Celebration of Literature that I’ve experienced over the years, the children as the best questions.

Rachael Craw goodreads bio picThe next session was after a lunch break and back in Marquee Three this time to see Rachel Craw. She did delve into the writing process itself. She loves strong female characters and found her first book huge and unwieldy, only being reshaped when she was encouraged by manuscript assessors, who later became editors and then her agent. The result is a series starting with Spark (Spark, #1)Stray (Spark, #2)Shield (Spark, #3)Kill Switch (Spark, #1.1)The Book That Made Me as one of the anthology contributors, Black Room (Spark, #2.1)Scar Tissue (Spark, #3.1). She has trouble letting go of a story and tends to keep editing until the book is forcibly taken from her by her agent. Her stories are coming of age tales with strong drama. I hope to read the whole series in the future.

From then I hurried onto Marquee One to see Soraya Nicholas who writeSoraya Nicholass stories for
younger children about horses in her ‘Starlight Stables’ series. I was particularly interested to hear what she had to say as my granddaughters are mad about horses. I was as surprised as she was when her grade three little people audience were led in to hear her talk. Soraya had pictures of her horses and explained how her covers were photos of three girls and three horses depicting her characters. She loves writing and to keep the image of the characters and personalities of her horses in mind she has a wall of pictures beside her when she writes.

Her books are Pony DetectivesBush Bolts,  Starlight Stables: Bush Bolts (Book 3) Starlight Stables: Saving Starlight (Book 4)Gymkana Hijinks, and Saving Starlight

I bought five books on the day and I’m nearly finished reading ‘Starlight Stables’ Pony Detectives.  I will give this to my granddaughter shortly after I’ve written a review.

That was all the sessions I attended on the day, however, I met and spoke to other authors when in the book tent, or just at the coffee shop. I bought one book because I liked the cover – Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee. I took the opportunity to get the author of that book to sign it too, that was another treat.

The Sending -The Obernewtyn Chronicles – Book Six by Isobelle Carmody, Book Review by Jill Smith

 

isobelle carmody profile picAs with all of The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody, this book is difficult to describe briefly. It is simply another episode in the journey Elspeth Gordie is making in the Quest she has been set upon since the first book. Interwoven with her many talents including self-healing, she continues her journey.

This book is divided into three sections. The first is heartwarming in that at Obernewtyn as Guildmistress, her true love Rushton, Guildmaster to Obernewtyn finally returns. They consummate their love and forge a link between them.

The second part of the book is her journey away from her home and life at Obernewtyn and all those she loves. It is a heartbreaking journey she takes with her old and fey cat Maruman, and Gahltha the stallion, both who travel on the dream trails with her as her guardians. This journey takes them to meet up with a pack of wolves who also form a part of Elspeth’s Quest to stop the before time computer machines Sentinel being woken and permanently destroying the world already blighted by the taint of the Great White.

The third part of the book sees Elspeth reunited with those she loves and gives her courage to continue her journey. Her band of friends all learn more about the Quest during a journey across the black lands led by the wolves, facing illness due to the taint and frightening encounters with carnivorous, bat-like creatures along the way. Tthe sending coverhey learn more about themselves, and the journey each of them made to reach this point and to be at Elspeth’s side on this perilous journey.

As a writer, who has been to courses and had been told many fundamentals about writing, one being ‘to limit the number of characters in a story’ as it’s confusing to readers; this book and whole series, does not adhere to that theory, with over five pages of characters listed. All the characters form layers over layers pushing the story further with Elspeth Gordie as the main character.

I found the ending frustrating as the hook leaves the reader gasping to read the next book. After 750 pages this is no small tome.  I eagerly await the final chapter in The Red Queen.

Happy Australia Day 2017

cooyar-coverWe’ve had a sleep in and now getting ready for an Australia Dayimg_1543 party at friend Sandra Rogers who is launching her book Cooyar. I’ve read and reviewed this already, check out 2nd January post.

The car and house are decorated, flags abound. We’re ready for sausages on the BBQ, lamingtons, Anzac biscuits and everything Australian.

Have a great day everyone!  Stay safe! Enjoy the celebrations!