Blog Tour: Rivet Boy by Barbara Henderson

Written by  Barbara Henderson
Interior Illustrations by Sandra McGowan
Published by Pokey Hat an imprint of Cranachan Publishing Limited

Thank you so much to Anne Glennie at Cranachan Publishing for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour for Rivet Boy, and for providing me with an early copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Rivet Boy is an absolutely riveting historical adventure set in late Victorian Scotland:  a story of family and friendship; of courage and of danger that held me enthralled throughout.

12-year-old John Nicol does not want to leave school, but he must in order to become the breadwinner for his family as his Dey can no longer work and the charitable money being forwarded to the family following the death of his father 12 years before is coming to an end as John can now legally support his family. 

John and his mother take a train to the bridge being built on the Forth River where she intends to ask Mr Arrol, who is in charge of the construction, for a job for her son.  She is left disappointed when she is told that he is busy and does not deal with hiring.  However, John is not prepared to accept a rejection and his mother’s disappointment and, after stating his case to Mr Arrol, he offers him a job working on the construction of the Forth Bridge.  Not only does John know this is dangerous work, he has a fear of heights which makes working on the bridge a frightening prospect, but he has no choice as he must earn money to support his family.

Whilst initially John is not expected to work up on the bridge, it is not long before he finds himself having to face his fear of heights as he joins Cain Murdoch’s Rivet Gang who are far from welcoming.  Will John be able to survive up on the bridge when faced with a threatening gang?  What danger awaits him as he climbs the bridge ladders to work as a rivet boy?

Wow!  This is a real page-turner of an adventure that kept me utterly gripped throughout as the dangers of working on the bridge became all too real and as the sense of threat and peril escalated for John and those working on the bridge, leading to a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat adventure that was unputdownable.

John is an incredibly sympathetic character who most definitely found his way into my heart.  He has to give up his school life, which he enjoyed, in order to support his family by taking on an incredibly dangerous job, a job which has seen others fall to their death.  He shows incredible courage, resilience and determination when facing his fears and standing up to, and for, others, forging his own path to a better future.

John gains great support and comfort from a wonderful group of friends.   He meets Cora on the construction site.  She is a strong-willed, outgoing girl who wants to become an engineer, and proves herself to be a supportive, much-needed friend for John.  John also has a rather unusual and adorable friend in Rusty, an injured squirrel who he rescues from the rail tracks and who visits him at work.  Whilst John can no longer go to school, he does visit the new Carnegie Library where he meets the librarian, Mr Peebles, who feeds his reading habit during his “book o’clock” evening reading time, and who encourages him in his love of autograph collecting, a new Victorian hobby that has come from America.

Whilst this compelling story immerses us in the life of John Nicol, it also gives a fascinating insight into late Victorian Scottish society’s social and engineering history.  I was given an understanding of the final stages of the construction of the iconic Forth Bridge with the scale of engineering prowess, but also an awareness of the terrible loss of life, and the fortitude shown by the briggers.  As a teacher, I found it heart-breaking that John was denied an education due to his family circumstances, but loved that he had Mr Peebles and the Carnegie Library!  The heart-warming ending is just perfect! 

I loved reading the Author’s Note where she shares her inspiration for the story based on real-life events and her association with the Forth Bridge.  She also shares a collection of wonderful photographs from the construction of the bridge to some of the famous Victorians mentioned in the story to the Carnegie Library – and even a picture of a young author visiting the bridge!

Rivet Boy reaches dizzying heights of brilliance:  an absolutely unmissable, inspirational historical adventure that will take its readers on a thrilling, moving and extraordinary adventure. 

Please do check out the other stops on the Blog Tour with the fantastic bloggers below:

Review: Blanksy The Street Cat

Written by  Gavin Puckett
Illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan
Published by Faber & Faber

Blanksy the Street Cat is a wonderfully playful, heart-warming and humorous story of friendship and the arts that completely charmed me.

Pete the busker travels around the country doing what he loves best: bringing a smile to people’s faces with his music. One day, he meets a stray cat and the two become friends. Blanksy has a talent for drawing and soon begins to brighten Pete’s guitar with his painting. After becoming frustrated with Pete’s musical talent not being recognised, Blanksy has an idea to get people to stop and listen, so he begins to paint murals where Pete is performing which quickly draws bigger and bigger crowds … and fame. But is fame really what Pete wants?

This is a gorgeous, fun-filled story that is perfect for younger readers. It has a dyslexia-friendly font and use of bold text and capitalisation which will encourage reading with expression. I loved the use of internal rhyme which makes it a joy to read aloud and is one younger children will want to read again and again. There will definitely be giggles at the warm humour and a real delight in the friendship between Pete and Blanksy.

The full and partial page black-and-white illustrations on every page are absolutely brilliant and complement the warmth and humour of the story perfectly.

Blanksy the Street Cat is an absolutely delightful story for younger readers, filled with warmth, friendship and humour and the most fantastic illustrations.

Thank you to Faber & Faber for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

March anticipated children’s book releases

What a fantastic month March promises to be for children’s book releases with the majority of these being released on 2nd March. There is a mixture of favourite authors with new books in a series I’ve loved, new-to-me and debut authors.

I have taken the synopsis for each of these from the Waterstones website.

Xanthe loves visiting her gran in her flat with its rooftop garden. But Nani is becoming forgetful – and Xanthe wishes she could help her, if only she knew how.  A mysterious cat shows her a way. It leads Xanthe to clues about Nani’s childhood, and how, long ago, she had to escape her old life in Africa for a new one in Britain … The fourth novel by bestselling, Costa Award-winning author Jasbinder Bilan follows archaeology-obsessed Xanthe as she uncovers her family’s secrets A tale of secrets, family, refugees, belonging and love Set in a tower block in Nottingham, bringing Jasbinder’s trademark magical realism to an urban, everyday setting.

Join Alex Neptune, the boy with the power of the ocean in his hands, on his second adventure – perfect for fans of Percy Jackson and Dragon Realm! Alex Neptune is struggling to get to grips with his new oceanic powers… so the last thing he needs is Haven Bay being attacked by pirates in a ship made of rubbish. The marauders are hunting for the missing egg of the elusive water dragon – and Alex is determined to reach it first to stop them stealing its power. Along with friends Zoey and Anil – plus a clumsy seal, a lock-picking hermit crab and some seriously menacing otters – Alex sets out on a treasure hunt to a secret shipwreck where they must face three monstrous challenges. Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Caribbean in this ultimate treasure-hunting, puzzle-solving ocean adventure!

13-year-old Gabriel is a brilliant pickpocket, a skill which he uses to keep his often empty belly not quite so empty. And then one day, he’s caught.But instead of being arrested, he is invited by the mysterious Caspian Crook to attend Crookhaven – a school for thieves. At Crookhaven, students are trained in lock-picking, forgery and ‘crim-nastics’, all with the intention of doing good out in the world, by conning the bad and giving back to the innocent. But … can you ever really trust a thief? With a school wide competition to be crowned Top Crook and many mysteries to uncover, Gabriel’s first year at Crookhaven will be one to remember.

Twelve has become a hunter and chosen a new name to reflect her elemental power: Phoenix. Three months after the destruction of the Hunting Lodge, a witch arrives from the frost palace of Icegaard, desperate for Phoenix’s help. Icegaard is in grave danger from an evil force called the Shadowseam, and if the witch-palace falls, all the clans of Ember will fall with it. Travelling north, Phoenix and her friends, Five, Six and Seven, must battle frightening new monsters and find a way to defeat the Shadowseam. But as Phoenix learns to control her new power, the faceless Croke begins to haunt her dreams… Phoenix will have to fight with everything she’s got to save Ember from mortal danger. But the price of survival may be more than she can pay.

As soon as Alfred arrives at his granny’s cottage, he feels like he’s being watched. There are steep cliffs and dark forests all around, teeming with unfamiliar life – even odd little faerie creatures only Alfred can see. When free-spirited Saga bursts into his life, he begins to appreciate the beauty of these places that have always scared him. But this special world is under threat: Alfred’s dad is working on a project to dig a giant tunnel through the landscape for a motorway. As he joins Saga in the community protests against the plan, Alfred draws ever closer to the strange world of the faerie creatures, following a thread that seems to be leading him deep into secrets from his family’s past.

Angelo and his friends know that together they can handle any pretty much anything – including giant mutant spiders or snake-like parasites that burrow into your brain. But when a terrifying new enemy attacks from above it seems they have met their ultimate match . . . how can they defeat giant vampire birds that are after blood?  With summer term in full force – and sports day and prom night on the horizon – the whole school is in danger. The gang need a plan to bring safety to the skies!

Dido is reconciled to leaving the racing track and staying at home to train horses with Scorpus and Parmenion. But a storm is brewing. It brings with it a fiery black stallion, uncannily like Dido’s beloved Porcellus. Word arrives from Rome that her cousin, Abibaal, a talented young charioteer, has been recruited to compete for the evil emperor, Caligula. To save Abibaal, Dido must return to the great Circus Maximus track where she once drove to glory herself, confront her enemy Caligula, and face the toughest, most dangerous race of her life. 

Maggie Blue is adjusting to a quieter life, back living with her aunt Esme and hanging out with friends Ida and Will as well as her beloved Hoagy the cat. She tries to forget about the events of the previous year – but she’s being watched, and one day a small white bird appears. Where has the white crow come from, and why won’t it leave Maggie alone? Little does she know that the Dark World is waiting for her to return… and when Cynthia her mum is kidnapped and taken there, Maggie only has no choice but to go back. With the help of Hoagy and some new friends by her side, Maggie must go back to the place that she never wished to see again, if she’s ever to see her mum – or gain control of her own life – again.

Can a timid rat ever become a hero? Tilbury is about to find out on the adventure of a lifetime, journeying across the sea to the realm of the dreaded White Death, to return a priceless diamond to its rightful owners. A marvellous adventure begins and a truly intrepid hero is born.

A mind-bending multiverse adventure about theft, family, and finding your home.  Twelve-year-old Elsbeth has an extraordinary power: she can travel to parallel worlds and bring objects back with her. But as freak weather events become more frequent and a strange boy, Idris, starts to turn up everywhere she travels, she has to ask herself: does her gift come with a price?

Having uncovered head teacher Dr Doyinbo’s hidden agenda behind the Academy of the Sun, Onyeka and her friends are on the run. But they’ve got bigger problems to worry about – they desperately need to find a way to restore Niyi’s Ike superpower and they need to locate Onyeka’s missing parents. When their last safe house is uncovered, Onyeka turns to the only potential allies they have left; the Rogues, a group of rebels that have been trying to expose Dr Doyinbo’s lies for years. Joining forces, will the two groups be able to defeat their shared nemesis, or is there a new danger on the horizon for the Solari?

When Tourmaline’s mother goes missing on a search for precious artefacts, Tourmaline sets off to find her with her best friend George, her new friend (former foe) Mai and her limitless determination. On their adventure, they encounter a band of female pirates, a maze of talking trees and a series of challenges that test the children and their friendship. But will it be enough to reunite Tourmaline with her mother?

When Felix makes a very special wish, he doesn’t expect to be offered a job as an apprentice to wishkeeper Rupus Beewinkle. Now Felix must save the town’s wishes from the wishsnatcher, who wants to destroy hopes and dreams everywhere.

Cassie has settled into life in Hedgely when, out of the blue, her troubled cousin, Sebastian, comes to stay for Hallowe’en. Sneering and scornful, Sebastian trails after Cassie and her friends, interfering with their coven projects and belittling the dangers of the faery world. But Cassie, Rue and Tabitha have bigger problems – as the nights grow longer, a dark shadow creeps out of the Hedge and villagers start behaving strangely, possessed with the desire to find a mysterious object. When the Hedgewitch is called away, the girls decide to investigate and discover that whoever is controlling the villagers is seeking a faery relic: an ancient and dangerous weapon, hidden somewhere in the village. Their magical training will be put to the test as they venture deeper into the Hedge and race to find the faery treasure before it falls into the hands of the Erl King.

Hush Quiet is a girl with an infinite baseball cap and certain views on love and kindness. Her sister, Matilda, carries around a shotgun full of bees, and doesn’t need much excuse to fire it. Hush and Matilda have been hiding out in a pocket world, ever since the war started. Ever since Dustbowl fell. Ever since what happened to Ma. But when a boy with no memory crosses into their reality, the sisters must confront their past, each other, and the intoxicating power that has torn their lives apart . . . the power known as worldweaving.

Dragons don’t exist. But they used to… Discovering the magic of dragons flows through your veins is frightening – and liberating! But with the powers of Dragonkind comes a desperate quest: siblings Finn and Tula must travel to a hidden island fortress to help save their father – and the world they know; and discover the truth about their incredible Fireblood heritage.

Yesterday Crumb is in London to watch The Wild Feast, a magical cooking competition. But when the teashop Yesterday and her friends call home is stolen by the Faerie Queen, she must join the competition to win it back.
Except the Faerie Queen is not going to make winning easy for her and blames Yesterday when members of the Faerie Court start disappearing. Yesterday must prove her innocence but, as she and her friends investigate, they discover that something much more sinister is at play…

It’s February 1974 and working class families have been hit hard by the three-day week. The reduced power usage means less hours for people to work, and less money to get by on. Thirteen-year-old Jason feels the struggle keenly. Ever since his parents died, it’s just been him and his older brother Richie.  Richie is doing his best, but since he can’t make ends meet he’s been doing favours for the wrong people. Every day they fear they won’t have enough and will have to be separated. One thing that helps distract Jason is the urban legend about a beast in the valleys. A wild cat that roams the forest, far up the river from their bridge. When Jason’s friends learn of a reward for proof of The Beast’s existence, they convince Jason this is the answer to his and Richie’s money problems.  Richie can get himself out of trouble before it’s too late and the brothers can stay together. And so a quest begins … Starting at the bridge of their village and following the river north, the four friends soon find themselves on a journey that will change each of them … forever.

Jamie Rambeau is a happy 11-year-old non-binary kid who likes nothing better than hanging out with their two best friends Daisy and Ash. But when the trio find out that in Year Seven they will be separated into one school for boys and another for girls, their friendship suddenly seems at risk. And when Jamie realises no one has thought about where they are going to go, they decide to take matters into their own hands, and sort it all out once and for all.

Twelve-year-olds Lizzie Sancho and Dido Belle are from different worlds – Lizzie lives in Westminster in her dad’s tea shop, while Belle is an heiress being brought up by her aunt and uncle at grand Kenwood House – but they both share a love of solving mysteries. And after saving Lizzie’s father from attempted murder surely there is no threat too dangerous for the detective duo?  It’s the summer of 1777, the night of the grand unveiling of the Sancho-Mansfields family portrait – a groundbreaking step towards representing friendship, family, and freedom. But soon enough things take a chaotic turn – the painting has been stolen! This theft is only the start, revealing a much bigger, more terrifying secret that haunts the cobbled streets of London. A conspiracy is underway, one that has links to the kidnapping of Lizzie’s friend Mercury, and leads all the way to a series of attempted poisonings, all at the hands of an ominous organisation pulling the strings from the shadows. These villains lurk everywhere, even in the very homes they call safe. And their desire for power is only growing.  When anyone could be involved in this Brotherhood of Masters, who can Lizzie and Belle trust? Once again it is up to the two girls to unveil the truth and put an end to the corruption that plagues the city.

Do any of these catch your interest? What are your most anticipated books for February? What have I missed that you would recommend?

Six for Sunday

Today’s prompt for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot, is for Pink/Red covers. I’ve had a look through my recent buys and those books which have been sitting on my shelves for a while, and have found six with red/mostly red covers.

Have you read any of these? Do you have any books with red covers on your bookshelves?

WWW Wednesday

I’m not sure when I went from reading one book at a time to three! I’ve just started The Stickleback Catchers which I’ve downloaded from NetGalley. I’m still reading Beyond the Frozen Horizon as my evening read. I’m really enjoying this, and definitely keen to find out what is going on with the mining company and who Rory might be seeing. I’m about two thirds of the way into listening to The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks which is absolutely wonderful. Alice is an incredibly likeable autistic girl who has been sent to a boarding school by the sea only to discover that she has the ability to talk to the animals (and more). They need her help to save them as their friends go missing. This really is a gorgeous mystery adventure.

I’ve read Blanksy The Street Cat which is a gorgeous, illustrated story for younger readers telling the story of a street cat who makes a friend in Peter the busker and, in order to help Pete get more attention, he begins to create some murals, but is fame really what they want? I’ve also read Rivet Boy which is a brilliant historical fiction based on real events telling the story of 12-year-old John Nicol who becomes a rivet boy working on the construction of the Forth Bridge after he becomes the family breadwinner. I will be posting my review during the upcoming Blog Tour.

I read a few pages of this and was completely hooked, so I’m going to pick it up next.

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

Blog Tour: The Time Tider

Written by  Sinéad O’Hart
Cover illustration by Abigail Dela Cruz
Published by Little Tiger

I’m so excited to be kicking off the Blog Tour for the absolutely gripping The Time Tider. Thank you so much to Dannie Price and Little Tiger for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour, and for providing me with an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Today, I’m sharing a wonderful, and truly inspirational, piece from Sinéad entitled ‘A Tale as Old as Time’ alongside my review.

A Tale as Old as Time by Sinéad O’Hart

Whenever an author has a book published, it’s a cause for celebration. Writing is hard, getting an agent can sometimes be hard, getting published (and staying published) is the hardest of the lot – so every book that makes it from idea, to first draft, to draft one zillion, to finally being printed, decked out with a beautiful cover, glued together with craft and skill (and possibly a little magic), and placed on a bookshop shelf is truly something to be proud of. With The Time Tider, my latest book (being published on February 2nd, 2023), I’m delighted for all these reasons – but also because the story in this book is one that has been inside my head for so long that it feels like part of me. This is a story that has tried to be told, over and over, and which took over twenty years to find its way out of my imagination and on to the page.

But before all that…

A long time ago, when the world was fresh and new and things like social media hadn’t even been invented yet, I was a young wannabe writer with lots of ideas. One of them was about a girl and a boy who travel to the north of the world to find out the truth about a mysterious Creature who lives there. (Later, it turned into my first book, The Eye of the North, but for now, while we’re imagining me as a youngster, let’s understand that, at this time, the idea of being published was akin to the idea of me walking on the moon.) I wrote whenever I could, trying to ignore the little voices in my head that told me to get a grip, and that being published wasn’t allowed for people like me. Life started happening – jobs, and paying rent, and all the rest of it – and for a long time, those little voices drowned out every spark of writerly ambition I had. I let them dampen my dreams, though I kept my ideas alive.

Then came the day when The Time Tider arrived in my head.

It had been years since an idea had made me fizz, from toenails to tip-top, with excitement. This was an idea that seemed to have potential, that really seemed original, that had come straight out of the depths of my brain, and I loved it. I kept it safe and guarded it close, but the self-doubt voices were still strong, and life was still busy, and rent still needed to be paid. So, it remained in my heart for another decade, quietly – or, not so quietly, at times – waiting its turn to be written into existence.

The first time I tried to write The Time Tider, it had been in my head for over ten years, and it had ideas about how it wanted to be told. The very first draft was over 150,000 words long! It featured a sixteen year old girl who finds out her father has strange abilities to slip through Time, for reasons of his own. The girl feels her father’s power is one he’s misusing, and she decides to try to stop him – with chaotic results. It’s lavish, it has all manner of complicated settings, and despite its own ambitions, it did not work. I tried, and tried again, and worked so hard on trying to edit down this beast of a book, before finally concluding: this was not the way the story needed to be told.

So, a few years later, I tried again. This time the story had a Victorian setting, with nefarious villains, shadowy corners, shiny gold artefacts, glowing vials filled with strange substances, and a locked chest full of secrets. There was a girl, her baby brother, and their mysterious father, and again the story failed. It was almost there – but not quite. Next came a setting in an ancient civilization, with marble palaces and great riches and a missing sister, and a cruel father with his time-slipping power, and this draft was one I didn’t even manage to finish. For a long time, I gave up on the idea – I couldn’t write it! I wasn’t good enough to write it! It was supposed to land in someone else’s head instead of mine! – but the story kept nagging me to try. I listened. This time, the setting was futuristic: doors that hissed open and closed, people who lived in high-rise towers, a girl with an older brother who makes a serious mistake. This draft, I finished. It was good!

But it still wasn’t right.

I wrote and published other books; life moved on. I began to look at The Time Tider with fondness, like ‘the one that got away’, the idea I was never quite able to handle. And then, one day, I got the flash of a scene in my head. A girl, living in the back of a van with her dad, and someone throws a brick through their window. It gave me the same sense of fizzing excitement I’d first had over two decades before, and I knew – here it was. The setting, the place, the voice, the characters, and finally things began to click into place, and my Tale as Old as Time finally took shape.

Sometimes, ideas take time. You’re not a failure if you give them that time, and if you allow them to come to you when they’re ready. And if there’s an idea that won’t leave you in peace, one your mind keeps coming back to, then take heart. One day, your spark will come – and the story will be all the better for having taken the long way round.


The Time Tider is a ferociously fast-paced, thrilling and intriguing contemporary fantasy that transported me into an enthralling adventure where the phrase ‘just one more chapter’ has never been so apt.    

Twelve-year-old Mara lives with her dad, Gabriel, in their worse-for-wear, old van.  They never settle anywhere, and travel from place to place, meaning that Mara has never attended school or had the opportunity to make friends.  Although she is curious about the work that takes so much of her father’s time, she does not know what his mysterious job entails beyond that he works with watches and keeps colourful liquid in jars.  When Mara sees her father selling some of this liquid to a stranger, she witnesses something that should be impossible. 

Determined to discover the truth behind the secrets her dad is keeping from her, she begins a search and finds The Time Tider’s Handbook, a collection of notes held by the Time Tider:  her father!  He is responsible for slipping through time to harvest lost Time from those who die before they are supposed to, and storing it safely and securely so that dangerous time warps, capable of ripping the fabric of Time and endangering human existence, can be eradicated.

After confronting her father, he promises to tell Mara the truth but, before he can do so, Gabriel is kidnapped by a dangerous group, and so begins a heart-pounding, action-packed adventure as Mara and her new friend Jan race to find the Time Tider before his abilities, and harvested time, are used for nefarious purposes.  Oh my goodness!  This is a story that kept me on the edge of my seat, desperately turning pages (those cliffhanger chapter endings!) as I was completely captivated by the intricate and fascinating plot; caught up in the danger, tension and chase; and left breathless by the unexpected twists and revelations.  Just wow!  

I’m used to stuff not being safe.  I’ve never been safe.  Not ever.

Mara is an incredibly sympathetic young girl and one who I have definitely taken into my heart.  Her mother died when she was two years old and she has spent her young life travelling from place to place with her father who is obsessed with his mysterious job and often doesn’t give her the time and attention she needs.  She is courageous, resilient and determined as she learns more about her father’s abilities, his motives and her family history whilst at the same time finding her own truths.   I adored the close friendship that forms between Jan and Mara as they face their fears, overcome dangerous situations and learn to trust each other.

I found the exploration of the role of a Time Tider absolutely fascinating and incredibly thought-provoking. I loved the extracts from The Time Tider’s Handbook which preceded each chapter, giving a tantalising insight for the chapter.  Themes of power, betrayal, temptation and loss were brilliantly intertwined into the story alongside those of family, trust and friendship.  I really enjoyed the ‘greyness’ of motives, choices and decisions which made this such an intriguing, exceptional read. 

The Time Tider is an exhilarating, irresistible page-turner:  a heart-warming, intricate story of family and friendship woven into the most brilliant time-twisty plot that is guaranteed to bring hours of reading delight! 

Don’t let any more time pass before picking this up.  You can purchase it at:



The Rocketship Bookshop.

Do check out the other stops on the Blog Tour from these wonderful bloggers:


Today’s prompt for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot, is for February reads. I’m going to include three from my Beat the Backlist challenge and three books that I bought in January.

The three that I bought in January that I’m hoping to read in February:

The three from my Beat the Backlist challenge that I’m hoping to read this month:

What books have you on your February TBR? Have you read any of these?

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!

I’d never been in the sky before. It feels unnatural. A subversion of all the laws of physics, and all the Climate Laws too. Humans don’t belong in the air. But I hadn’t reckoned on the excited twitch of my brain as the metal cylinder hurtled into the sky. Above the clouds, looking down on England as we left it behind for six whole weeks.

Any ideas?

This is my current Beat the Backlist challenge read which I’m absolutely loving.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The earth is thriving – with wilderness status protecting land and wildlife, and scientific organisations researching new ways to support human life sustainably. Rory’s mum is a geologist on one of these projects, and Rory is beyond excited to join her on a work trip to the Arctic. But the project isn’t all that it seems, and Rory soon learns what’s at stake for the people and animals that live there…

Review: The Song Walker

Written by Zillah Bethell
Cover and inside illustration by Saara Söderlund
Published by Usborne Publishing

The Song Walker is an absolutely stunning, transcendent, and deeply moving story:  a story of friendship, of courage and of hope set in the fierce beauty of the Australian Outback that held me spellbound throughout.  I have no doubt whatsoever that this will be one of my books of 2023!

A young girl walks aimlessly through the relentless heat of the Australian Outback having no memory of who she is, nor why or how she got there.  Wearing one black shoe, a silky black dress and carrying a locked metallic case, she is woefully ill-equipped to face the fiercely beautiful and dangerous landscape.  Waking from the coldness of the night to the merciless heat of the morning sun, she meets Tarni, a First Country Australian, and so begins the most incredible, awe-inspiring, and courageous journey …

And oh my goodness – what a deadly journey the girls have undertaken!  The tense anticipation, the glimpses into each girl’s secrets, the twists, revelations and danger:  at times, I had my heart in my mouth and, at others, tears streamed down my face. I wish I could say more, but I really don’t want to give away any spoilers.  Suffice to say that this is an unforgettable story that sang its way into my heart, and left an indelible impression. 

In their own ways, both girls are trapped and lost, and are undertaking a quest to find what is most important to them whilst at the same time struggling with what it means to lose your sense of self and to reclaim your identity.   The friendship between the girls is beautifully realised and so authentic as they begin to open up to each other, as they grapple with the ups and downs of forming bonds of sisterhood, dealing with thorny issues, falling outs, compromise and really getting to know and understand each other.  They find a lasting, empathetic friendship as they wander across the desert, gradually building trust and understanding more about each other’s lives and the people they want to become.  I was completely gripped by their plight, by their courage and resilience as they fight for survival, face heart-stopping dangerous situations and reveal each other’s secrets. 

Memory and music both play an important part in this story.  For one of the girl’s, her memories of her past life and who she is are trapped, only being triggered in dream flashbacks and sparked by the contents of the case she carries.  They show her regrets, fear, loneliness and confusion which she needs to piece together and build into a new song for her life. Tarni’s memories are related to her identity and cultural heritage as a First Country Australian, following the path of song maps left by her ancestors and respecting the land, the history and the mysticism that is her birth right.

The Song Walker is a story that beats to its own poignant and heartfelt pulse that encapsulates friendship, pain, identity and hope in the most remarkable, unmissable and unforgettable adventure. An absolute masterpiece!

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Usborne for a proof copy in exchange for my honest opinion.  I have now bought a gorgeous finished copy for my class library.

January Wrap-Up

And January’s over – it always seems like three months rolled into one! Maybe that explains why it’s been my best reading month for ages! It’s not all been books – I’ve also enjoyed some great TV: Only Murder in the Buildings, Happy Valley and The Last of Us.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read 16 books this month including 8 from my Beat the Backlist Challenge (48 left!):

  • The Vanishing of Aveline Jones
  • My Story: Princess Sophia Duleep Singh
  • The Tower at the End of Time
  • Tyger
  • The Secret of Haven Point
  • Twitch
  • A Girl Called Justice: The Spy at the Window
  • Furthermoor

The two that have really stuck with me are Twitch and Furthermoor for very different reasons. Twitch is just the most brilliant mystery adventure with wonderful twists and such a likeable character in Twitch. I really did love everything about this, and have been recommending it in school. Furthermoor is such a thought-provoking story with heart-breaking themes of bullying and grief and really explores the power of the imagination. This would make a brilliant read-aloud for a mature Year 6 class or a reading group.


I’ve got another badge from NetGalley – my approved badge as I have been auto-approved by four publishers which I’m very grateful for – and it gives me instant access to some wonderful upcoming books. My ratio is currently at 96% and I’ve added one new book to my shelf:

Books sent by publishers:

I am grateful to have been sent six books by Publishers this month.

Books bought:

I’m trying really hard not to buy too many books each month as I have so, so many to catch up on, but still managed seven – but I’ve read 2: The Song Walker and No Place for Monsters. I’m aiming to read some more of these over half term.

How has your reading month been? Have you read any of these? Have you any of them on your TBR?