Review: Shadowghast

I have been eagerly waiting for the opportunity to return to an end-of-season Eerie-On-Sea after enjoying the brilliant Malamander and Gargantis. What a spookily thrilling return!   Mystery, darkness, danger and revelations are weaved in another of Eerie-on-Sea’s intriguing legends:  Shadowghast is perfect to cosy up with on a dark evening as a spine-tingling tale unfolds from within its pages … just make sure you keep a candle lit!

The Grand Nautilus Hotel has some rather intriguing new guests:  a theatre troupe who have been invited to stage the annual Ghastly Night Show, a shadow puppet show that promises to protect the inhabitants of Eerie-on-Sea from the Shadowghast:  a creature of legend, or a dark entity hunting the living?

Imagine the surprise felt by the Hotel’s resident Lost-and-Founder, Herbie Lemon, when one of the guests discloses a startling revelation, a revelation that, if proven, will change his life …

As if getting life-changing news wasn’t enough for Herbie to deal with, he finds out from his best friend, Violet Parma, that her guardian, the owner of the Eerie Book Dispensary, has disappeared …

Herbie and Violet find themselves on an action-packed, thrilling race against time to uncover the truth behind the legend of the Shadowghast, a truth that looks into the past, takes them into dangerous situations and leads to shocking revelations.  Will they be able to save the missing townsfolk before they are lost to darkness?  Can they discover where the threat to the town is coming from before it is too late? Luckily, they have help from the mysterious and really rather wonderful cat, Erwin, and from a brilliant little clockwork creature that I absolutely adore.

It is just wonderful to be back in Eerie-on-Sea catching up with familiar faces and places, and enjoying the brilliant humour that Herbie injects into the narrative which perfectly balances out the darker elements. Herbie and Violet are just as likeable as I remembered them and I love their interactions as the curious, impetuous Violet is determined to find adventure, and what an adventure she finds leading up to Ghastly Night.

This is a eerily-good mystery that will take the reader on an exhilarating, edge-of-the-seat adventure to discover the truth of a deliciously dark legend:   a fantastic addition to the legends of Eerie-on-Sea, and as always, I can’t wait for the next mystery to unfold.

Thank you to Toppsta for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

First Lines Friday

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

As darkness falls, a cloaked figure, hidden in the looming shadows of the gnarled, twisted trees, sweeps silently closer to the trickling stream that runs round the edge of Skeleton Woods.

Any ideas?

When I was sent information about this one, I couldn’t help requesting it sounds like such a fun read!

Waterstones synopsis

A fang-tastic story of unlikely friendship. Maggie Helsby isn’t afraid of spooky legends and she’s willing to prove it. But when she agrees to a dare to venture into the forest, she doesn’t expect to find…

1. A creepy castle enchanted against humans

2. A vegetarian vampire who wants to be her friend

3. An ancient book naming HER as the latest of the Helsby slayers!

Can Maggie persuade her family, her new (human) friends and the greedy Mayor Collyfleur that their nocturnal neighbours need protecting just as much as they do? Or will her neck be on the line… 

WWW Wednesday

I’m continuing to listen to the The Wizards of Once Never and Forever which is a really fun story read brilliantly by David Tennant. I also picked up Wolfstongue earlier this week as my evening read and am almost half way through it. It’s a fantastic, powerful story that I’m really enjoying. Silas is being bullied at school as he cannot find his voice, and doesn’t fit in. One day he helps a wolf who is being hunted by a group of foxes and he enters a new world of the Forest. Wolves have been enslaved by Foxes and have been forced to build an underground city. Only two adult wolves remain, and they need someone to speak for them against the clever talk of the fox leader, Reynard. I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens in the rest of the story.

I finished Fireborn this week which I absolutely loved. I took part in the Write Reads Blog Tour for this and posted by review yesterday. I am definitely looking forward to going back to Ember to find out what happens to Twelve next. I’ve also read Shadowghast which is the third book in the Eerie-on-Sea series which focuses on legends related to the town. This was a brilliantly spooky return and will be perfect for the lead-up to Halloween or Shadowghast Night. I will be posting my review shortly.

Reading Shadowghast has put me in the mood to read another spooky story, so I’m going to read The Bewitching of Aveline Jones next.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

Review: Hide and Seek

Written by Robin Scott-Elliot
Design and Illustration by Holly Ovenden
Published by Everything with Words
Published on 12th August

Hide and Seek is an utterly stunning, powerful historical adventure set in Nazi-Occupied France, a story of awe-inspiring courage, resilience and hope standing up to tyranny and the fear it engenders.

It’s 1942 and thirteen-year-old Amèlie is playing hide-and-seek with her mother and brother in their Paris apartment.  She has contentedly escaped to the coolness of the wardrobe to escape the stifling summer heat, blissfully unaware that her life is about to change.  Banging on the door and the sound of heavy footsteps is followed by a terrible silence as her Jewish family are taken by the Germans, leaving her alone, her life changed forever …

This incredible young girl makes a courageous choice.  Despite knowing the risk she is taking if she is caught by the Nazis, she decides she will not hide in fear.  She finds herself negotiating the streets of Occupied Paris, rejected by those concerned for their own safety by association with her, and fending for herself, until the day she is taken in by the Musee de l’Homme Resistance Group, and becomes their youngest member.

So begins an unforgettable, heartfelt story of survival, courage, defiance and strength as Amèlie fights back against the Nazi persecution, becoming a courier for the Musee Network.  She is in constant danger as she delivers messages, and risks her life to help those who need to escape.  Amèlie’s determination to fight, to resist and discover her family’s fate takes her away from Paris, across the sea and back to France again.  She grows up in the landscape of war, fighting to protect others at terrible risk to herself, having to put her trust in others, but not knowing when she might be betrayed. 

This is an emotive, action-packed and tense story with unexpected twists and the constant threat of danger and discovery, but is also one that shines a light on the courage, resilience and strength of those who are prepared to resist tyranny, to fight for others and to risk their lives.  Whilst Amèlie may be a fictional character, her story, and reading the author’s note, as well as the inclusion of real people in the story, made me want to find out more about these young Resistance Fighters, people whose stories should never be forgotten.

An exceptional, sensitively told and touching wartime adventure which I would highly recommend to anyone studying World War II in Upper Key Stage 2 and for those of 9+ who enjoy historical fiction.

Thank you to the Publisher, Everything with Words and Fritha Lindqvist for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Write Reads Ultimate Blog Tour: Fireborn by Aisling Fowler

It’s my turn on the Ultimate Blog Tour for this incredible fantasy adventure. Thank you to Dave at The Write Reads for inviting me to take part in this Blog Tour. I was sent a gorgeous proof by the Publisher in exchange for my honest opinion – thank you!

Written by Aisling Fowler
Cover Illustration by Sophie Medvedeva
Published by Harper Collins
Release date: 30th September

Now THIS is my type of fantasy!  A breath-taking epic quest that made my heart sing, ache and race as I was wholeheartedly engrossed from start to finish:  dazzling, rich world-building; an incredible cast of characters; and an action-packed, electrifying plot that pulsates with darkness, danger, light and hope.

Twelve has pledged herself to the Hunting Lodge, vowing to serve and protect the seven clans from dark creatures and tyranny, giving up her name and family for this new family of Hunters.  When the Lodge is attacked by goblins, and a young girl is taken, Twelve goes in search of her …

As she starts to track the missing girl and her captors, Twelve finds herself joined on her quest by the Lodge’s stone Guardian, Dog and two other huntlings, Five and Six.  So begins an exhilarating quest:  a quest that sees Twelve and her companions venture to the Frozen Forest where they encounter terrifying dark creatures; where they come to depend on each other for survival; and, where they must battle to overcome the darkness that threatens Ember. 

The plot is perfectly paced with a satisfying balance of fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat action and character building and interaction.  And oh, my goodness:  the suspense, the twists, the secrets, the revelations.  Just wow! 

The world-building blazes with richness and depth and really immersed me in Ember from the walled Hunting Lodge to the Frozen Forest where huntlings become fully-fledged Hunters.  The myriad of dark creatures were breath-taking, and scary, from the cliffcrawlers to the Ygrex to the deathspinner.  I also really enjoyed the glimpse into the history of Ember, and the fractious nature of clan relations, which feels like the world is being drawn back into an era of turmoil and unrest.  I’m really hoping this aspect will be explored more in any further books.

Whilst I wouldn’t want to meet many of the creatures encountered, there were a couple who did not frighten me at all – well, maybe one, just a little!  Widge is Twelve’s endearing, loyal squirrel who is ridiculously cute and offers her comfort when she most needs it.  Dog is the stone Guardian of the Hunting Lodge called forth to defend it after the goblin attack.  Instead, he finds himself on Twelve’s quest protecting the huntlings, and making good use of his acerbic wit to maintain some sort of order over their bickering.

For me, Twelve is an incredibly sympathetic protagonist. Is she perfect? Absolutely not! Can she be horrible? Definitely! But, my goodness, she is a fierce, fiery and courageous young girl whose past is haunting her, leaving her in turmoil. She feels overwhelming guilt and regret and is hell-bent on avenging her family. The glimpses into Twelve’s past are heart-breaking and emphasise her anger and pain and why she is punishing herself. I was so invested in her as a character and loved the tentative building of friendship, trust and her gradual empowerment and belief that she can take a different path.

Fireborn is a scorcher of an epic fantasy adventure that is perfect for upper middle-grade and beyond.  An absolute must-buy!

About the Author


Photo credit © Jennifer Blau

Aisling was born in 1985 and wishes that she had grown up in a magical, mountainous kingdom, but was actually raised in Surrey on a diet of books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her early ‘adventure’ stories involved surprisingly little action and her first novel (3 pages long) was politely declined by publishers at age 11. After earning a BSc in Biology and working as a support worker and then a nurse, the idea for her debut novel, Fireborn, came to her as she moved back and forth between London and the US. Now based in Hackney, when she is not reading or writing, Aisling loves cooking and plotting adventures (for herself as well as her fictional characters). Fireborn will be published by HarperCollins in 2021.

First Lines Fridays

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Do you remember your first Ghastly Night? The first time you saw Eerie-on-Sea’s special Halloween show? The first time you gathered on the pier with your friends and family, and huddled in the cold night air – and the glow of the manglewick candles – as you waited for the magic to begin?

Any ideas?

I absolutely loved Malamander and Gargantis and and am so excited that this will be my next read.

Goodreads synopsis:

In this third adventure, shipwrecked orphan Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, must square off with a creature of town lore as he confronts a shadow from his past. While other towns celebrate Halloween, in Eerie-on-Sea it’s Ghastly Night, and a grim spirit in a lantern awaits its moment. Legend has it that if people fail to light manglewick candles on Ghastly Night, and if no showman conjures shadow puppets on the pier as an offering, the insulted Shadowghast will seize and devour the shadows of the living. This year, a professional theatre troupe has been summoned, including a raven-haired magician named Caliastra with startling news of Herbie’s origins. No sooner have the players checked into the hotel than townspeople start vanishing into thin air, including the guardian of Herbie’s best friend, Violet Parma. It’s up to Herbie and Violet to separate truth from sleight of hand and solve the mystery of the Shadowghast lantern before darkness swallows them all.

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. This week I’ve decided to revamp the banner to include the book I’m celebrating.

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Karen McCombie
Cover design and illustration by Thy Bui
Published by Little Tiger

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

And far, far away – streaming through space – someone felt VERY guilty about what had just happened.

This book in three words:


How to be a Human is a heart-warming, humorous and joyous adventure that celebrates genuine friendships, finding the courage to be true to yourself and the wonder of the small things that are often taken for granted. 

Kiki has been ditched by the Popular Crew at Fairfield Academy and is feeling hurt and humiliated by their meanness.  Wes, who has been home-schooled, has moved to Fairfield during the summer and finds himself on his own, and a target for bullies.  The Star Boy has crash-landed during an unexpected storm outside their school, and is hiding out in the boiler room until he is rescued …

The Star Boy is curious and is amazed by the natural environment, but what he really wants to do is study humans, so when he sees a Human Girl, he makes a decision to observe more closely, and it is not long before he enters into the lives of Kiki and Wes who are beginning to form a tentative connection.  Can these three navigate the bonds of new friendships through shared and new experiences, trust and honesty?

This is a gorgeously touching and humorous story of navigating friendship, sprinkled with mayhem, hilarity and pertinent observations, that kept me utterly captivated throughout. 

I adored the Star Boy – a.k.a. Stan Boyd – who has a real innocent quality and a refreshing honesty, as he explores what it is to be a human, taking joy in his rather unusual wish list, like travelling on a bus and visiting the Discount Carpet Warehouse.  His obvious delight in his new experiences and friendships is infectious and brought a ready smile. Despite not being human, his perceptive observations on human relationships and his own understanding of what genuine friendship entails were spot on! I can’t wait to follow his next adventure!

Both Kiki and Wes are incredibly sympathetic characters, both having found the transition to secondary school difficult.  Wes finds himself the target of bullies and is finding it hard to make friends, trying to deal with the bullying on his own.  Kiki has turned her back on her old friends from primary school in order to be part of the popular group, but finds herself on the receiving end of their nastiness when she makes a mistake.  They are brought together through shared connections, through their need to help the Star Boy and their search for real friendship. 

This is a wonderfully heartfelt and laugh-out-loud adventure that is perfect for readers of 9+.

Thank you to Little Tiger for a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

WWW Wednesday

I’m just about to start Fireborn and definitely think it will be one I enjoy. I’ve just started listening to David Tennant reading The Wizards of Once: Never and Forever. This is a series which I’ve really enjoyed and I’m looking forward to finally finding out who the narrator is!

I’ve had lots of time to read since getting back from Ireland and have read four books. I’ve just finished How to be a Human which is a heart-warming, humorous adventure about friendship, being true to yourself and appreciating the small things in life. I will be posting a review of this one.

I’ve really enjoyed the Pages & Co series and, as I know the next one will be released in September, I decided to read the third one, Tilly and the Map of Stories which I adored. I just love the celebration of books, stories and imagination. Tilly and Oskar need to stop the Underwoods from binding source editions of books and denying bookwanderers the right to travel within these stories for their own nefarious ends. This sees them travelling to Washington’s Underlibrary, bookwandering into one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dreams and trying to find the fabled Archivists to get help to protect bookwandering. I love, love, love the characters they meet in their brilliant adventure. I think this is my favourite of the series so far as Tilly and Oskar battle to keep stories alive for all readers.

I also read The Ghost of Gosswater which is a beautifully evocative mystery that kept me engrossed throughout. Twelve-year-old Lady Agatha, who is banished from her home by her cruel and greedy cousin, the new Earl of Gosswater Hall is given some shocking news: her father is not the deceased Earl, but a local farmer who takes her to live in his cottage. Agatha is a wonderfully strong and resilient young girl who is determined to find out the truth of her parentage, and when a ghostly girl comes into her life, she finds herself caught up in a mystery to uncover the secrets of her past. I adored the portrayal of the tentative relationship that forms between Aggie and Thomas. And there’s a goose who is utterly brilliant!

Finally, I read A Clock of Stars: The Shadow Moth which was a magical read which I devoured in a day, despite it being one of the longest middle-grade books I’ve read in a while. I love portal magic stories and this one follows Imogen and her little sister Marie as they chase a moth through a door in a tree, and into the life of a royal prince, Miro, and into the most fantastical, dark but humorous adventure, with a wonderful cast of characters including monsters, an evil Queen-in-waiting and a dancing bear. I loved the children in this story who are far from perfect, but are there for each other when it really matters. I also really enjoyed the exploration of ‘monsters’ in this story. The illustrations by Chris Riddell are also wonderful. I will definitely be picking it the next book in the series, Beyond the Mountains, when it is released in October.

I absolutely loved Malamander and Gargantis and am really looking forward to returning to Eerie-On-Sea with Violet and Herbie in Shadowghast.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

Review: The House on the Edge

Written by Alex Cotter
Cover Illustration by Kathryn Honesta & Typography by David Dean
Published by Nosy Crow

The House on the Edge is a thrilling, poignant mystery that kept me utterly captivated throughout: a story of past and present; of loss and healing; and, of community, friendship and family. 

Faith lives in an old house, The Lookout, perched precariously on the edge of a cliff which is in danger of being lost to the sea as cracks form in the garden, but the house is not the only thing that is in danger of being lost …

Faith’s family is in danger of falling apart after the disappearance of her father which has left her mother’s mental health in a very fragile state.  Faith is trying hard to support her mother, her younger brother Noah and herself.  Noah is obsessed with the notion that there is a sea ghost living in their cellar, a ghost who is looking for lost treasure.  Meanwhile, her Uncle Art is determined to take ownership of her family home.  Will Faith be able to save her family home before it is taken by the sea, or her uncle?  When Noah goes missing, Faith finds herself on a mission to save not only her home, but her brother …

This is a wonderfully atmospheric read with oodles of intrigue that kept me on the edge-of-my seat as I was mesmerised by the tantalising twists and tragic truths hidden within family history and local legend.  I loved how the history of The Lookout was reflected in both the past and the present in tales of sea ghosts, sacrifice, greed, shipwrecks and lost treasure, a reflection of the past filtering through to, and impacting on, the present … 

Faith is an incredibly sympathetic young girl.  She is angry and trying to hide it; she withdraws from her friends; she protects herself through denial and lying:  such an authentic and heart-breaking portrayal of a young carer who is lost, scared and hurting, and who struggles to allow others to help her, trying to remain invisible in order to hide her family problems from others.  I felt that her emotional journey was very sensitively portrayed as she comes to accept and forgive, showing great courage and strength in doing so. 

This is a wonderfully heartfelt, gripping mystery that I would highly recommend to those of 9+. 

Thank you to the Publisher and NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.   I have now bought a copy for my class library.

This is my fifth book for my 20 (10) Books of Summer Reading Challenge which is hosted by Cathy Brown on her blog at

First Lines Fridays

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

The Ghost House sits upon the shore of the river, beneath a great hulking viaduct, next to a graveyard. It is built of dark, damp stone bricks that wink in the moonlight. Its windows are small, its ragged rooftops swoop down low, and lights flicker within.

Any ideas?

I love Amy Wilson’s books, and am so looking forward to reading this one which I found released slightly early in my local bookshop today and, of course, couldn’t resist getting it.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Valerie has been living at Lightning Falls nearly all her life. She’s perfectly happy helping Meg and the rest of the family to haunt the guests who come to stay there – it is the Ghost House after all. One night, she sees a strange boy, Joe, up on the viaduct . Here she discovers that beneath the river is a bridge – one that will take her to the world of Orbis, which Joe claims is her real home. A world that is under threat. Their magical anchors are being stolen causing the power to seep out of their world, and Joe has journeyed to Lightning falls to win them back. Plunged into a dangerous adventure as the link between the two worlds begins to crumble into star showers, Valerie is forced to confront the truth about herself.