Top 10 Tuesday: Popular Books That Lived Up to the Hype


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This week’s Top 10 Tuesday looks at popular books that lived up to the hype. I could name quite a few books that didn’t live up to their hype, but here are the ones that I think did. We’ll have to leave the ones that didn’t for another day.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.


1) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This book had been out a little while before I picked it up and there seemed to be so much buzz around it. I found out why when I read it. Not everyone loves this series, and I get that, but I devoured this book.

2) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The second book in the trilogy is my favourite and I really was glued to this one. I loved it so much I read Mockingjay straight after, which is something I very rarely do.

3) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I couldn’t help but mention each of the books in The Hunger Games series separately because they each deserve their own spot on this list.


4) Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

I generally try to avoid mentioning Harry Potter because it could be included on so many lists, but this is one it really belongs on and can’t be missed off.

5) A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Now, there was so much hype for this I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it, but I’d had it on my shelf for years and decided to give it a go earlier this year. Despite being a chunky fantasy, it was somehow a page-turner for me. Maybe it was all the characters, or the writing style, I’m not sure, but this one really lived up to its hype.


6) Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

There’s always a good word for Clare’s Infernal Devices series so I hoped the first book would live up to that hype. Fortunately, it did, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

7) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Although I found the final book in the trilogy a little disappointing, the first book was totally absorbing. I loved the world Bardugo had created.

8) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I read this book long before the television show came out, and really would urge people to read it. The show is very different from the book and expands on it greatly. The novel is shorter and more focused on Clay and Hannah.

Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

9) If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I think I cried a lot of the way through reading this book. Somehow, it just brought out so many emotions. It received a rare 5 stars from me.

10) Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I nearly didn’t put this on here, because I didn’t enjoy the second book, Pretties, as much, but I had to look back and remember how much I loved Uglies at the time I read it.

What books have you read that lived up to their hype?



Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again


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Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again    

Release date: 20th July 2018

Director: Ol Parker    

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgĺrd, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Christine Baranski, Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner, Jeremy Irvine, Alexa Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Andy Garcia, Meryl Streep and Cher    

Runtime: 114 minutes

Genre: Musical, Romance  

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

The much anticipated sequel to Mamma Mia!, ten years on from the original film, carries the same spark and barmy hilarity as the first. Five years later, Sophie is getting ready to open the hotel on the island that her mother dreamed of, while the story of Donna’s three love affairs many years earlier is told in flashbacks.

If you loved Mamma Mia!, you’ll probably love the sequel. If you didn’t like the first, this probably isn’t the film for you. The plot is a little flimsy, but really that’s not the point. This is a feel-good film and it definitely ticks that box.

Lily James was brilliant as the young Donna and it was great to see all the younger versions of the original cast. Now we know what happened on the island all those years ago! I wondered if it were really necessary to see the prequel side to the story, but I actually loved watching the story of young Donna. The returning cast also did a great job at reprising their roles in the sequel side to the plot.

The return of songs Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen were very welcome, as they are two of my favourites. Those who were disappointed Waterloo didn’t make the main movie first time round will be pleased to see it included as a main musical number in the sequel. Being too young to have grown up with ABBA, it was nice to have some of their less well-known songs included in this film, as I was introduced to some new ones I hadn’t really heard before.

As with the first film, there are some slightly odd and barmy sequences but that’s the charm of these films. So much of it is silly and cheesy but I couldn’t help smiling most of the way through. There are some very funny moments that made the whole theatre laugh aloud. On the flip side to that there were some sad and touching moments (I will admit I may have shed a tear or two).

At the end I was left smiling and wanting to sing ABBA songs and dance through the streets – except this is the UK we’re talking about and I’d probably have got some funny looks. If you want a feel-good film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and will leave a smile plastered on your face for the rest of the day, this is the movie to see.

Book Review: Plague by Michael Grant


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81apkuk0bplPlague by Michael Grant  

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2015 by Egmont Books (first published 2011)

Pages: 560

Star Rating: 4/5


Back Cover Summary:

It’s been eight months since all the adults disappeared. Gone.

They’ve survived hunger. They’ve survived lies. But the stakes keep rising, and the dystopian horror keeps building. Yet despite the simmering unrest left behind by so many battles, power struggles, and angry divides, there is a momentary calm in Perdido Beach.

But enemies in the FAYZ don’t just fade away, and in the quiet, deadly things are stirring, mutating, and finding their way free. The Darkness has found its way into the mind of its Nemesis at last and is controlling it through a haze of delirium and confusion. A highly contagious, fatal illness spreads at an alarming rate. Sinister, predatory insects terrorize Perdido Beach. And Sam, Astrid, Diana, and Caine are plagued by a growing doubt that they’ll escape or even survive life in the FAYZ. With so much turmoil surrounding them, what desperate choices will they make when it comes to saving themselves and those they love?

I have mixed feelings about Plague, the fourth book in Michael Grant’s Gone series. If you’re squeamish, there are some scenes in this novel that will really make you want to close the book. Warning: do not eat while reading this. I really shouldn’t have been surprised since the title of the book is ‘Plague’. There are people coughing their insides out or having evil bugs hatching out of them and eating them alive – gross. Let’s not linger on that.

Grossness aside, this is a great book. While the previous books in the series felt quite disjointed to me, this one fit together much better. Each of the individual threads were tied together so nothing felt random or out of place like some of the scenes or story lines in the previous books did. All of the plot elements were heading in one direction, which made this novel gel better.

The power relations and struggles are really interesting in this book and the series as a whole. Dynamics between all the characters is one of the things that keeps pulling me back to this series. It’s great to see how relationships, friendships and rivalries evolve over the course of the story as different problems are thrown at the characters.

There is so much complexity in all of the characters and they continue to develop in this novel, which I am glad about since that is something that was lacking in the first two books. Some of them did annoy me a bit in this book, but they have been through hell so I can maybe forgive them for being irritating. Nobody’s always nice. Nobody’s always perfect. Toto – a new character – added some much needed humour to what is a very grim series. Not laugh out loud comedy – that would be kind of out of place – but enough to give me a wry grin and break up all the disaster, tragedy and death going on left right and centre.

There are some issues in this series with presentation of female characters. At times they are presented as weak and needing saving or protecting. At the beginning of the series as well there seemed to be an imbalance of lead male/female characters. However, the more I think about it and further the story goes on, there are some really good things. There are a long list of female characters who are strong for one reason or another – Dekka, Brianna, Dahra, Lana and more. Brianna saves Caine’s arrogant butt in this book which made me figuratively punch the air – I wouldn’t do that literally…. Dahra is someone who I feel gets forgotten about, but she’s running a hospital practically on her own, trying to learn as much as she can from textbooks, and is the one who figures out they need a quarantine to stop the plague spreading. So while there are some problems, there are also some really great parts to the presentation of female characters in this series.

There was no let-up in this book. It was packed with lots of action and suspense and the ending was so mysterious and intriguing. I’m still really not sure how this series is going to end, and that’s one of the things that keeps me reading. It’s unpredictable and I want to see how this tangled web is going to be resolved.

Mid-year Reading Round Up 2018


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33154647We’re already halfway through 2018! So today I’m looking back at what my best books have been so far this year and looking ahead at what novels I want to sink my teeth into in the second half of 2018. According to Goodreads I’m on track to reach my 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 25 books, having read 12 so far this year.

Two books that I loved were Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray and The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Defy the Stars had me hooked all the way through and I loved the darkness of The Young Elites. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass was also a highlight.

I finished Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy but unfortunately was disappointed by the final book, Ruin and Rising. The series is still a favourite of mine though. Other books that didn’t live up to my hopes were The Girl King by Meg Clothier and S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett – both had great concepts and potential, but could have been much better.

I read Lies – the third book in Michael Grant’s Gone series – and enjoyed it more than the first and second books. I’m currently a third of the way through the fourth book, Plague, and although it’s good, it is really grim and making me feel a bit squeamish at times (all will be explained in my review).

9781406330359I finally got around to reading A Game of Thrones, and was not disappointed. I have the second book, A Clash of Kings, waiting on my shelf. I’ll definitely be reading that before the end of the year.

Other books I’m excited to read before the end of the year are Ringer by Lauren Oliver and Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. These are both second books in series, and as I loved the first books, I want to continue reading the characters’ stories.

What have been your reading highs and lows so far this year?

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass


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Throne-of-Glass-book-coverThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2012 by Bloomsbury Children’s

Pages: 433

Star Rating: 4/5


Back Cover Summary:

Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?


This novel is the first in a series, one which I look forward to continuing reading. Throne of Glass really held my attention. I felt engaged and invested in the fates of the characters.

Mass does a really great job at character development. There was a lot more focus on the characters than I was expecting. This isn’t a fast-paced fantasy. Although I really liked that Mass spent time properly developing her characters (something many YA books fall short on), I would have liked to have seen more of the competition. There are many Tests but we only see a couple of them. Including one or two of the others would have heightened the tension for me and made the tournament feel less sidelined. I did begin to lose interest part way through, with the emphasis on character relationships meaning the central plot was secondary at times, but the book always managed to pull me back in before I got too detached. There is a mystery element running through the story which helped keep the pages turning.

I also took issue with the premise of the tournament itself. The idea is brilliant and a great premise for a book. However, I never really understood why the king would want to choose between assassins, murderers and thieves to be his ‘Champion’. The whole idea of the competition seemed a bit contrived. A little more reasoning to this would have made it seem less forced.

Celaene was a great character, though I would have liked to see more of her flaws and more character development for her. She is the kingdom’s best assassin, she plays the piano, is well read and speaks more than one language. While the piano playing scene was a great opportunity to see a different side of her character, I’m pretty sure she only plays the piano that once. That made it seem a bit pushed in there for that purpose. Too much emphasis is placed on how good she is at everything. More exploration of her flaws and weaknesses would make her a much more rounded character. I have read a lot of reviews where people find Calaene annoying, but I liked reading about a main character who is self-assured and vain, rather than meek as seems to be a YA trend. There are a lot of allusions to Calaene’s past and what has made her the person she is now, but I wanted to see more development of her current character. I hope this will happen more across the series.

Dorian and Chaol were great characters and, unlike Celaene, I felt they had strong character arcs. Nehemia was a good character as well and I’m interested to see how her friendship with Celaene develops in the next books.

Unfortunately, the antagonists were not given the same care and attention as the protagonists. While the central protagonists were fleshed out, interesting characters, the antagonists were underdeveloped and clichéd – the tyrannical king, the muscled, bullying competitor, the power-hungry lady and a creepy duke. They were cut out characters given no distinguishing traits or aspects that made them stand out from any other cardboard villain out there.

There is, essentially, a love triangle in this book. Usually that would set my alarm bells ringing. However, it is brilliantly done. This is because the characters aren’t aware they are in a love triangle (or don’t admit it). The focus of the characters’ thoughts isn’t who the girl will choose. So often with love triangles the female character spends a ridiculous amount of time lamenting over who she is going to choose. In this book, it is nothing like that. This is how a love triangle can be effectively done without making the reader cringe. It was actually enjoyable to read! Something I feared I would never be able to say.

Although it wasn’t a five stars for me, I absolutely loved Throne of Glass, and look forward to seeing what direction the series will take.

Book Review: S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett


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35912128S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett  

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2017 by Hot Key Books

Pages: 304

Star Rating: 2/5


Back Cover Summary:

Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

A twisting thriller for fans of One of Us Is Lying and Pretty Little Liars.

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S.

To her surprise Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ – an invitation to spend the half term weekend at the country m

anor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S.

Greer joins the other chosen students at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, and soon realises that they are at the mercy of their capricious host. Over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying reality that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…


Before reading this book I didn’t really know what ‘blood sports’ were so I wasn’t really expecting a book about a group of posh, aristocratic teens hunting deer, shooting pheasants and catching fish. I had to adjust my expectations a little as the term ‘blood sports’ and not knowing what it meant skewed my expectations a bit. I hope I’m not the only one who didn’t know what blood sports are…

The first few chapters of the book were written in a way that included a lot of summary, which I struggled to get into. Although reference to a murder on the first page certainly caught my interest. Fortunately, it didn’t continue with lots of summary and I enjoyed the writing more when the book got going.

I liked that it was set in England, that made a nice change, and how Greer often thought in terms of films as she has watched a lot of them with her dad, so her sphere of reference fit her interests. I enjoyed Greer’s character and her narration. Other characters, however, were not given much personality. The ‘villains’ of this book were very one-dimensional, quite clichéd, and given no individual motivations. They’re rich and evil and that’s basically it.

The novel is told retrospectively, from Greer looking back on events, giving her an awareness in her narration of what is going to happen next, with the ‘hook’ (non-intentional fishing pun…) of the book always being references to a murder (right from the beginning this is mentioned). There were often suggestions that something worse was going to happen in the next chapter. This is a good way to keep a reader’s interest, but the problem is you build it up so much that it’s hard to live up to the expectation you’ve built up in the reader.

There was no romantic connection between any of the characters, yet two end up together at the end (no spoilers as to who), which feels put in just for the sake of it, to tick the romance box, rather than because there was actually any chemistry between them. It would have been better if they had just been left as friends.

The ‘twist’ that came a couple of chapters from the end was a bit farfetched to me. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I won’t linger, but it wasn’t one of those exciting, heart-stopping twists. It was a ‘really?’, rolling my eyes kind of twist. It was too sudden, there was no set up for it, so it felt forced. The epilogue was very choppy and all over the place like it was thrown together. The twist in the epilogue did surprise me a bit more, but was kind of an obvious decision to make.

There was an incredibly clichéd therapist at the end that just made me sigh. Why do authors keep reverting to stereotypes and clichés for these characters? At least have a realistic therapist, not just some hippy caricature (yes, that is what is in this book).

One thing I did like (because I seem to have said a lot of negative things so far) is how the book explores the issue of technology, how it dominates our lives, and the idea of living without it. The contrast between the ‘Savage’ world and the absence of technology in the ‘Medieval’ world is really interesting.

Nothing really surprised me about this book. It’s pretty obvious what the ‘sinister’ stuff going on is fairly early on. I think the author could have gone darker with this, could have made it so much more suspenseful than it was. The idea had a lot of potential. Perhaps my hopeful expectations of this being an amazing book were too high, but I was left kind of disappointed and deflated.

Book Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead


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9781595141743Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2013 books 1-3 set, Penguin (first published 2007)

Pages: 336

Star Rating: 3.5/5


Back Cover Summary:

Only a true best friend can protect you from your immortal enemies . . .

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger . . . and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever . . .


I watched the film adaptation of this before reading the book. Having seen the film a couple of times, I could remember most of it, so there weren’t really any surprises when it came to reading it. Especially as the film is pretty faithful to the book compared to a lot of adaptations. Even so, I enjoyed reading the book and am glad I picked it up. There weren’t any points where I felt bored; Mead kept my interest all the way through even though I knew the story.

I like the world Mead has created, with the two different kind of vampires – Moroi, who are alive, and the Strigoi, who are dead and more like the kind of vampires readers will be familiar with – and their half-vampire guardians, the dhampir.

Rose’s voice came through in the first person narration strongly right from the start. I had a clear picture of her character early on which showed great characterisation. Lissa was also a good character, along with Dimitri and Christian. Other characters ended up falling into stereotypes and clichés a bit too much, unfortunately.

The focus in this novel was more on the friendship between Rose and Lissa than romantic relationships. There was romance, but it felt like friendship was put before romance which made a nice change for a young adult paranormal novel. Others I have read have been focused on a main character and a romantic interest, often with friends sidelined. So it was refreshing to see friendship explored more in this one.

The biggest weakness in Mead’s writing was the action sequences. This book wasn’t driven by action, there were only a couple of fight scenes towards the end, but these were very weak. The action was described very vaguely which meant there was no suspense and it wasn’t at all exciting. Even in a book where action isn’t the focus, if you’re going to include a fight scene it needs to be written well. In this novel, they weren’t described well at all.

I was really torn between a 3 or 4 star rating for this one, but since I’ve given books I liked a lot more than this 4 stars, I figured it had better get 3.5 stars. I did, however, very much enjoy reading it.

There’s not much indication at the end of this first book what direction the series is going to go in. With six books in total, there must be some new plot threads introduced in the next book to keep the story going. I’ll be interested to read the next one, especially as I won’t know what to expect since there isn’t a film adaptation.

Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo


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14061957Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo   

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle edition, 2014 by Orion Children’s Books (first published 2014)

Pages: 369

Star Rating: 3/5


Back Cover Summary:

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as Alina begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction – but claiming it could cost Alina the very future she is fighting for.


The final book in the Grishaverse trilogy was, unfortunately, a little disappointing. While I liked the book, it didn’t pull me in, not in the same way the first two books did.

There were too many inner monologues for Alina that just felt repetitive. Her thoughts and emotions could have been written better in places. Elsewhere, the writing was good though, and I continued to enjoy the world building. I thought it was interesting how Alina was viewed as a Saint. It’s not something I’ve really seen in fantasy before, but totally makes sense for someone with ‘magic’ to be viewed that way by some people.

Bardugo is pretty mean to her characters in this book, things rarely go the ‘heroes’ way, which I liked. It showed how the characters had to keep getting back up and fight mentally to keep persevering. Though Bardugo seemed to be taking this book in a dark direction, it somehow ended up being too soft in the end, which I don’t mind, except the lead up led me to think it was going a different way. Like the author wanted to take it in a darker direction at the end, but dipped their toes in and decided to back out. Perhaps I’m wrong, maybe she wanted a touch of darkness, but was always going to end it in a less dark way. The fairy tale framing does suggest there would be a happy ending of sorts.

There were some surprising twists and exciting scenes, but between those I wasn’t hooked. One of the twists also came totally out of the blue, a bit too much so. It was a bit of a stretch. But I liked how it took the last quarter of the book in a different direction to what I was expecting. It certainly wasn’t predictable. Though at times it was very simple. There weren’t any subplots or complexities outside of the main thread.

There was a lot of build up to the ‘final battle’ but then it seemed to be over very quickly. There could have been a lot more tension and emotion in the battle. If it had been developed more, it would have had more impact.

One thing I disliked is how one of the character’s deaths was dealt with. A secondary character dies in the ‘final battle’, but it’s sort of randomly mentioned afterwards in a totally detached way. Alina doesn’t even seem upset, yet she is totally distraught by deaths of other secondary characters in the trilogy. This character’s death was totally skimmed over, almost like an afterthought – ‘oh by the way and this character died in that battle’. It seemed like the character was killed off just to tick the box, since it’s unrealistic for everyone to survive. I thought that character’s death was handled badly.

This book was disappointing compared to books one and two. It just seemed to lack the spark the first two had. I did like the epilogue though, it was satisfying. I’m glad I finished the series and would pick up another of Bardugo’s books in future even though I didn’t love this book as much as the others.

Author Interview: Lynden Wade


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A Bit of Magic is an upcoming fairy tale retelling anthology, and will be the fifth collection of stories published by the Just-Us League. One of the authors, Lynden Wade, joins me today for an interview about her contribution to the anthology – ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl’.

LYNDEN WADE AUTHOR PHOTOLynden Wade was home schooled in a village in West Africa, giving her lots of time to read. The bright colours of illustrations to fairy tales, legends and medieval history – worlds away from the dry grasslands and termite hills around her – inspired her to write her own stories. Her muses include Joan Aiken, Diana Wynne Jones and Rosemary Sutcliff. She has had stories published in The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3 and in the JL Anthology From The Stories of Old. Two more stories are due to be published in 2018 in addition to ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl,’ her contribution to A Bit of Magic. She is working on a historical novel. She loves tea shops, book shops, period drama, castles and trees. You can find her on, on and on Facebook.

What inspired your retelling?

One of my favourite books as a child was ‘The Kingdom under the Sea and Other Stories’ by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski, who drew delicate silhouettes that entwined the text. I particularly loved the story ‘The Reed Girl,’ but I also felt quite impatient with the Prince, who kept letting the reed girls die because he didn’t get to them fast enough to give them water. It needed a retelling!

Sounds like an interesting story to base a retelling on. What was the hardest part of writing it?

Trying to make Yanek, the hero, sympathetic. He’s got to move from stupid and a bit conceited, but kind-hearted too, to acknowledgement that he doesn’t have to use his muscles to solve everything.

What other short stories have you written for the JL anthologies?  

I contributed ‘The Goose and his Girl’ to the first JL anthology, From the Stories of Old.  

How did this experience differ from writing ‘The Goose and his Girl’?

I’d already rewritten the story before putting it through the JL grinder, so it didn’t need as many rewrites!

Always handy to get a head start! Did you stick closely to the fairy tale you rewrote?

No, my story goes on from the reed girl incident. Yanek needs to meet other daughters of nature to learn his lesson.

Do you prefer a happy ending, and did that affect how you wrote your story?

The original had a happy ending – if you don’t count the two dead reed girls! I felt I had to tread a careful line when I reworked this element. If nothing happened to the girls Yanek met, then he wouldn’t notice the effect of his crash-and-burn approach to life. If they died, the reader would lose all sympathy with him. I hope I’ve got the right balance.


There’s often a balancing act when rewriting stories. Did you find retelling a story more or less challenging than writing an original story, and how did the experience differ?

It gives you a diving board, so you can dive straight in. I don’t find the fairytale structure limiting, either – it’s pretty loose and flexible. Personally, what I found challenging here was that I love the style of classic fairy tales, and like to write something that aims to be lyrical, with characters that are quite simple – everyman and everywoman. But I had to consciously round my characters a bit more to appeal to a modern audience.

How did you combine elements from multiple fairy tales to create one story?

I needed more girls for Yanek to quest for. At first I used elements of Eastern European fairy tales to inspire me – the Firebird from Russian fairy tales, and the Griffin from Bulgaria, as I remember. Quite late on in the writing process I realised that though I’d been using characters from one geographical area, the root story is Hungarian and the Hungarian language and people are a different ethnic group from most of Eastern Europe, which is Slavic. I kept the griffin, because he seems to stretch over a fairly wide geographical space, but changed the Firebird into a Fire Toad, my own invention.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was five. My mother kept my story about the tooth fairy. I won’t be publishing it, though!

Everyone starts somewhere! So you’ve been writing for a long time. What projects are you working on now?

I have a story based on the legend of Wayland the Smith that is due to be published in another anthology at the end of this month: it’s called ‘The Web and the Wildwood’ and it will appear in The Forgotten and the Fantastical 4. In between, I’m working on my third draft of a historical novel about characters from the Foundling Hospital in London in the 18th century.

A Bit of Magic will be released on 31st May.

Follow the rest of the blog tour:

Melion Traverse hosts Mae Baum — 18th May

Heather Hayden hosts B.C. Marine — 21st May

Allie May hosts Rebecca Mikkelson — 24th May

M.T. Wilson hosts Lynden Wade — 27th May


Louise Ross hosts Heather Hayden — 1st June

Authors4Authors hosts Katelyn Barbee — 6th June

Mae Baum hosts Allie May — 9th June

Elise Edmonds hosts Louise Ross — 12th June


Cover Reveal: A Bit of Magic


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This comes to you a day late as I wrote down the wrong date! Never mind. The next release from the Just-Us League writing group is A Bit of Magic, a Collection of Fairy Tale Retellings. The anthology will be released on the 31st May. Today I bring you a reveal for the gorgeous cover, created by Louis Rakovich at Indigo Forest Designs. Each story in the anthology is accompanied by an illustration by Heidi Hayden.

A Bit of Magic 3D large

The oldest story can be made new again, changed and altered until it is reimagined and restored.

Pride interferes with happily-ever-afters: a proud princess is tested and tests the prince in return; a young thief is caught red-handed and must make amends; and a vain queen struggles to save her stepdaughter.

Finding love is not a simple task: a hero searches for the ideal magical bride; an innocent librarian is charmed by a man with a menacing secret; a queen takes a spoiled prince as her sole deckhand; and a well-intentioned princess seeks to make things right with her father.

Change causes chaos, for better or worse: a scheming cat seeks to better the lot of his daydreaming master; a cursed pirate captain is given a second chance when he finds a young stowaway; a spoiled teenager suffers the consequences of turning her best friend into a toad; and a thief and a rebel hiding secrets meet at a ball.

Follow these characters on their journeys as eleven magical tales are turned on their heads and seen from new perspectives.


A Bit of Magic is the fifth anthology published by the Just-Us League and is available to preorder now from Amazon.

The A Bit of Magic blog tour continues through May and June with interviews with the authors. On 27th May I’ll be interviewing Lynden Wade, author of the short story ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl’.


Melion Traverse hosts Mae Baum — 18th May

Heather Hayden hosts B.C. Marine — 21st May

Allie May hosts Rebecca Mikkelson — 24th May

M.T. Wilson hosts Lynden Wade — 27th May


Louise Ross hosts Heather Hayden — 1st June

Authors4Authors hosts Katelyn Barbee — 6th June

Mae Baum hosts Allie May — 9th June

Elise Edmonds hosts Louise Ross — 12th June