Category Archives: Uncategorized

UK YA Book Bloggers Secret Santa: Thank You!

This year, I signed up to take part in the first UKYA-specific book blogger secret santa and it was so much fun!

The lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking organised the whole affair. We were all asked some questions by email to indicate our tastes and current bookish desires, and then each of us was allocated someone to purchase our gifts for. I had a lot of fun choosing mine: stalking the blogger’s goodreads lists to make sure I didn’t choose anything they already had etc. I received my beautifully wrapped gifts in the post in plenty of time for Christmas – in fact, they were the first under my tree!

Like a good girl (yes, certain other bloggers, I am looking at you!) I waited until Christmas Day to open my lovely gifts and the anticipation did not lead to disappointment, I can tell you! My lovely Secret Santa sent me two books I’d specifically wished for, plus three others to discover, AND some lovely cookie candy canes.

  • Entangled by Cat Clarke (I’ve wanted to read her for ages; I’m looking forward to a tautly-written UKYA thriller)
  • The Apothecary’s Daughter by Charlotte Betts (this caught my attention on a blog sometime last year; it seems like the kind of historical I enjoy)
  • Defiance by C J Redwine (this sounds like a YA fantasy with feminist overtones, so I’m pleased this was selected for me)
  • My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (I’d never heard of this, so am curious to read this contemporary family/romance story which several of my Goodreads friends rate)
  • Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby (this sounds like an interesting contemporary with comments to make about fame and celebrity)

I’m taking this opportunity to publicly thank my lovely Secret Santa, and the lovely Lynsey for organising it all. I hope everyone who took part had as much fun as I did, and I look forward to enjoying my books over the next few months.

The CILIP Carnegie Longlist

The longlist for this year’s Carnegie (and Kate Greenaway) medals was announced this week. I was excited to find that I have read several of the nominated titles for the Carnegie, and have several others lying around waiting for me (poor neglected books!). The ones I have read made me glad I don’t have to choose, as all were great.

So, here are the ones I have read:
15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins (my review)
The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner (my review)
This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees (my review)
Pendragon Legacy: Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts (my review)
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (my review)
The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon (my review)
A Waste of Good Paper by Sean Taylor (my review)

And here are the soon-to-be-read ones:
VIII by H M Castor
Mortal Chaos by Matt Dickinson
Unrest by Michelle Harrison
The Girl in the Mask by Marie-Louise Jenson
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Guess which six books have just jumped a few places in the TBR pile? 🙂

Round up for September

I thought I’d start including monthly round-ups here, as I’ve found them helpful on others’ blogs. I’ll do them on the last Sunday of the month from now on.

September Reviews

The Odds by Adam Perrott
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher
Horrid Henry’s A-Z of Everything Horrid
The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

2 YA (both fantasy, broadly), 2 kids’ (1 fiction, 1 non-fiction) and 1 women’s fiction

Other posts for September

Changes around the Hearthfire explaining my new posting schedule
Recommended Writers’ Resources 2 – a helpful blogpost and a handy book
Interview with James Dawson, Author of Hollow Pike – James talks about the book, the Queen of Teen award and his writing habits
Doing More Things: A Happiness Project of Sorts – a personal post
GCSEs – the English grade boundaries issue and the current position on the EBC, the replacement for GCSEs

Material on my website this month:

My website is focused on the teaching of English A Levels, especially Language, and is built around a collection of revision notes for students. I recently began a big revamp project, including new material which is updated weekly – a series of features for students, along with tips/activities/ideas/resources for teachers. The notes are fairly extensive at this point; this round-up will focus on the regularly updated content.

For teachers: a record of the students’ features (with occasional linked resources) and teaching tips:

  • using starters to create groups
  • differentiating analysis tasks
  • focused research tasks
  • activities building and testing linguistic frameworks knowledge.

On the students’ pages:

  • Features on: the Olympics and ‘new’ verbs; a child language semantic error example; language and sexuality and the implications of the Andrew Mitchell ‘f*ing plebs’ incident.
  • Vocabulary pieces on: synonyms for ’emphasises’; ambiguity; imperious; affect/effect.
  • Books for wider reading: Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop and Alexander Masters’ Stuart: A Life Backwards.
  • Reads to relax with: Keris Stainton’s Della Says OMG!, Jessie Hearts NY and Emma Hearts LA; Alan Gibbons’ An Act of Love; Victoria Lamb’s Witchstruck and Keren David’s When I Was Joe.

(For the website, the links will take you to this week’s page. Older material is available in the ‘archive’ section.)

Tuesday Tidings: Fab Competition from Elen Caldecott

Have you got bored 7+ children this summer? The author Elen Caldecott and her publisher, Bloomsbury, are running this brilliant competition to win a full signed set of her books, £100 of Top Shop vouchers and an iPod touch. All they need to do is produce a collage which shows an ‘awesome adventure’ and send it in before 31st October. For full details, the image above will take you to the site.

Here’s Elen herself with a bit more info:

To find out more about Elen and her wonderful books, visit:
Twitter: @ElenCaldecott

A Week of Celebration for Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas is being published by Bloomsbury next month and it’s set to be one of the big YA fantasy novels of the year. This novel has been ten years in the making, with earlier stories set in its world published on Fictionpress. As part of the lead-up to the novel’s release, three standalone stories from Celaena Sardothien’s past have been released, with a fourth due out soon.

Hooked on Books revealed the back cover of this gorgeous book on Friday. It works so well for this novel about an assassin which was originally inspired by the Cinderella story. Here’s that back cover copy:

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?

I read Throne of Glass this week and enjoyed it so much I downloaded the novellas immediately upon finishing it, and I’ve decided to devote next week here at the Hearthfire to this great new series. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be reviewing a novella a day, then the novel towards the end of the week. Here’s the short version though – this is a great epic fantasy focused on a young female assassin.

Tuesday Tidings: Letterbox Love 3

This British-themed meme came out of a Twitter conversation, is hosted by Lynsey at Narratively Speaking and allows us to discuss books arriving through our letterboxes (or Kindle whispernet of course …) every week or so. All links will take you to Goodreads or the publisher’s info page.

It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these, so there are a few books to tell you about (and sorry it’s not on a Sunday, as everybody else seems to manage:)). Here’s what I’ve received recently:

Review copies

From Bloomsbury

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas
Velvet by Mary Hooper
A daredevil assassin in an epic fantasy and a Victorian laundress who takes a new job assisting a spirit medium. Two quite different heroines, two YA August releases that I’m keen to read.

From Indigo

Soul Fire by Kate Harrison
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Part two of the trilogy that started with Soul Beach where the young and recently dead hang out on a virtual beach, and the first in a new series that sounds amazing: gothic and suspenseful, riffing off the Edgar Allan Poe story. How cool do these sound?

From Strange Chemistry

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings
Contemporary fantasy constructed around the very real mystery of Roanoke Island’s Lost Colony, Blackwood was amazing. I had a sneak peek and ended up reading the whole thing… I’ll post a proper review nearer to the release in September.  And Poltergeeks, out in October, promises so much: poltergeists, witchcraft and mystery.


A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton
More witchcraft! Again, it’s a contemporary setting with witches. I’m a bit of a sucker for witches and could ignore all the great reviews I’ve been seeing for this no longer. The second in the series (I think it’s going to be a trilogy) is out soon too, so I just might catch up in time to jump in – although sometimes I think it’s better to wait until a whole series is out to start reading it. Resisting bookish temptation was never really my strength, though…


Teeth: Vampire Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Moondance at Stonewylde by Kit Berry
The vampire tales are so enticing, offering a variety of approaches to the mythology: Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr and Holly Black are among the contributors, and I was thrilled to get the second Stonewylde book. I read the first three of this excellent series several years ago when they were self-published, and I’m going to treat myself to a read of the newly edited Gollancz versions all together sometime soon. Thanks go to my lovely sister for these (and don’t they look cool together!)


Horribly Famous: Mary, Queen of Scots
I won this in a game of Book Battleships on Twitter. If you don’t follow ScholasticUK on Twitter, this is a game they regularly play, with words for the x and y axes of a small battleships grid. I won on this occasion with ‘unnecessary comma’, which I chose because I see them so often in students’ writing and they bug me. It’s nice to get something positive from one 🙂

Letterbox Love 2

This British-themed meme came out of a Twitter conversation, is being hosted by Lynsey at Narratively Speaking and allows us to discuss books arriving through our letterboxes (or Kindle whispernet of course …) every week or two. All links will take you to Goodreads or the publisher’s info page.

So, here’s what I’ve received recently:

Review copies

From Orchard Books

Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton. Having come late to the party and recently enjoyed Della Says: OMG!, I’m expecting to really enjoy this UKYA tale of Emma’s family’s move to LA.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, which is coming out in paperback in July. I saw some of the reviews for the hardback version and it sounded great – a creepy ghost story, centred on a boy who “kills the dead” and meets a challenge in the form of Anna Dressed in Blood.

From Hodder Children’s Books

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley. This is an Australian YA coming out this summer, which focuses on a girl’s quest to find a graffiti artist. It sounds to me from the blurb like she effectively falls in love with him through his art – an intriguing idea.

The Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher. Coming out later this year, this UKYA sounds like a great fantasy read full of magic and mystery, combined with time travel. An obsidian mirror, used for ‘experiments’, becomes central in a boy’s search for his father, while others are also trying to get their hands on it.

From Orion Children’s Books

The Case of the Good-Looking Corpse (Western Mysteries 2) by Caroline Lawrence. In the second P K Pinkerton mystery, the 12-yr-old detective takes on an official case: finding a girl’s murderer before he can get to the girl’s maid who witnessed the whole thing.
The Mystery of the Smugglers’ Wreck (Adventure Island 9) by Helen Moss. In this adventure, the three children (and, of course, Drift the dog) find a smugglers’ wreck to explore and figure out. Bound to be great fun!

The Mystery of the Invisible Spy (Adventure Island 10) by Helen Moss. Our intrepid investigators suspect  a new resident on Castle Key Island (aka Adventure Island) to be a spy.

Adventure Island news

To celebrate the tenth Adventure Island release, there is a fabulous competition running from tomorrow. You can win the chance to appear in a future Adventure Island book! Plus a full signed set of the stories, and another set for your school or library. It’s a quest-type competition with clues to unravel and a code to crack, requiring you to visit different blogs on particular days.  For full details, check out the link above.

The Writer’s Treasury of Ideas by Linda Lewis. I bought this on recommendation from Womag Writer’s blog and, having had a quick flick, am sure it will be helpful. The writer has had many stories published in the competitive women’s magazine market, so she certainly knows a thing or two about effective short stories.

Good luck to the A-Z Bloggers!

As the first of April, today marks the beginning of the A-Z blogging challenge, in which bloggers commit to producing a post a day except Sundays in April, covering all 26 letters.

I took part last year, and covered a range of topics through the month, but many bloggers approach this in a more logical themed way. There’s a list of some of these themes at the A-Z blog.

I’m not participating this year, but I did want to wish everyone all the best with it. The A-Z blog has a list of the 1600+ participants.

Why not visit a few and see what they’re blogging about?

New Beginnings launch today

Today is the official publication date of New Beginnings by Rebecca Emin.

Join us over on Rebecca’s blog Ramblings of a Rusty Writer to find all of the details of how she is planning to celebrate today, or you can read some reviews of the book itself on or the novel’s Goodreads page.

Rebecca kindly sent me a review copy of her book and I read it last week. You can find my review here.

About New Beginnings

Sam Hendry is not looking forward to starting at her new school. Things go from bad to worse as the day of truth arrives and all of her fears come true… and then some.

When Sam meets a different group of people who immediately accept her as a friend, she begins to feel more positive.

With her new friends and interests, will Sam finally feel able to face the bully who taunts her, and to summon up the courage to perform on stage?

Still here

Well, term has ended, I’ve had my refreshing nap and here I am. We’ve all had the particularly lovely cold bug that’s been doing the rounds this year (*cough cough*) and work got a bit frantic there at the end. But that, as they say, is all over now. I have a lovely pile of poetry analysis coursework to tackle, new lessons to prep for next term and more than a couple of things left to do for Christmas to work as it should.

I will be back to posting more regularly now. Look out for some wonderful kids’ books to be reviewed, as well as more language-focused posts and some folklore-infused pieces over the next couple of weeks. A certain seasonal influence may even creep in at some point…