Book Review

The Momentous Expiration of Tremmy Sinclair – Michael F Stewart

Today I am joining the blog tour for The Momentous Expiration of Tremmy Sinclair by Michael F Stewart. Many thanks to Michael for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to join the tour.

BLURB:

Seventeen years old. Rich. Hot. Captain of the Drone War team. Head prefect of a surreally elite boarding school. Tremmy is dying.

His illness strips everything from him­-­including the support of his teachers and friends who once nurtured his bright future. Worst of all, his best friend’s meteoric rise has come at the expense of Tremmy’s spectacular fall. Far from going out with the bang he’d hoped for, Tremmy faces betrayal.

But his illness has the power to expose the best as well as the worst of his school, his friends, and himself. Tremmy sets out to prove that the community he loves has to overcome its fear of death in order to truly begin to live. And Tremmy receive the momentous end he so fervently desires.

Trigger Warnings: Although Young Adult, this novel is recommended for ages 16+ due to profanity, mature themes, and sexuality. It contains subjects such as suicide, death, illness, medical assistance in dying, sexual assault, and racism. I approach these subjects with sensitivity and careful research, but they are part of the story.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Final Front Cover Tremmy Sinclair

REVIEW:

It’s hard to know where to start with this book. You wouldn’t necessarily expect a book where the chapters are counted down in “Days to Demise,” and where the outcome for the main character is known from the start to be funny or life affirming, but somehow The Momentous Expiration of Tremmy Sinclair manages to be both. Of course, there are sections that brought tears to my eyes, or made me stop to ponder the bigger messages contained in the book as well, all of which add up to make this a very powerful read.

From the outset, Tremmy and his friends are not characters who are easy to like. These teens make the Upper East Siders of Gossip Girl look poor, and boy, do they know how to use every inch of their privilege to the best advantage. They indulge in some seriously questionable behaviour, and I get the distinct impression that pre-diagnosis, Tremmy would have been right there with them. However, Tremmy’s prognosis leads him to reassess everything he knows, and with the help of Margot and Audra (both of whom I absolutely loved), he goes through a rapid metamorphosis of character which gives me hope that it is never too late for anyone to address any changes they may need to make in their lives. I thoroughly enjoyed the immense character growth that Tremmy goes through, and the chance to catch a glimpse of the man he could have been.

The Momentous Expiration of Tremmy Sinclair is a thoughtful reflection on the euthanasia argument as well as real coming of age story. I would highly recommend it to YA fans of all ages.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

thumbnail_Michael F Stewart Author Pic

Michael F. Stewart is an award-winning author of many books for young people in various genres, including Ray Vs. the Meaning of Life and Heart Sister (Fall 2020, Orca Books).

Michael lives in Ottawa.

To learn more about Michael and his next projects visit his website at www.michaelfstewart.com or connect via Twitter @MichaelFStewart.

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs joining the tour for this book.

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Extracts

The Five Things – Beth Merwood

Today I am sharing an extract from The Five Things by Beth Merwood, as part of her blog tour. Many thanks to Beth for allowing me to share this extract, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

For nine-year-old Wendy, the summer of 1969 will never be forgotten.

Local kids have always told stories about the eerie wood on the outskirts of the village, and Wendy knows for sure that some of them are true. Now the school holidays have started and she’s going to the wood again with Anna and Sam, but they soon become convinced that someone is trying to frighten them off.

When a terrible event rocks the coastal community, the young friends can’t help thinking there must be a connection between the incident, the tales they’ve heard, and the strange happenings they’ve begun to witness. As glimpses of a darker world threaten their carefree existence, they feel compelled to search out the underlying truth.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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EXTRACT:

In this extract, it’s the school summer holiday of 1969. Wendy has heard stories about the fields and the wood where she and her friends like to play. She believes her older brother also knows a few tales – he would have played there too when he was younger. She’s trying to tease some stories out of him. The fields and the wood, and the mystery about them, are to be key to the events of the summer.

The next afternoon, Philip and I were at home. He asked if I wanted to go shrimping. We gathered up the nets, found a large bucket, and set off for the rock pools that appeared at the far end of the beach at low tide. We walked to the end of the sea wall, beyond the breakwaters, and past the camp on the cliff.

“Do you think there’s anyone up there?” I said.

“Can’t hear anyone.”

“It’s a good camp, isn’t it?”

“Not bad.”

I knew Philip admired it, but being older meant he had to be a little dismissive too. We took off our plimsolls and paddled through the shallow water to the first stranded rocks. We began sweeping our nets beneath their overhangs, under the weed, and into the pools that had formed between them.

“I suppose you kids are going to Bridges’ fields?” Philip said.

“Sometimes.”

“There’s a lot of stories about those fields, you know.”

“I know. I’ve heard some stories.”

“And some people say the wood is haunted.”

“Haunted?”

“Yeah.” Philip’s net came up jumping with glistening shrimps. “Look, there’s tons here! Come and help me.” We knelt on the sand and carefully sorted them out. Most went into the bucket, but we’d been taught to return the small ones and also any females that were carrying eggs.

Philip was soon striding on ahead toward the next cluster of rocks. I followed, almost having to run to keep up.

“What stories do you know?” I asked, keen to hear some tales I could pass on.

“About the fields? I can’t really tell you.”

“Why not?” I said.

“I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

“Tell me now!”

“Look, there’s a hermit crab!”

“Let me see.” The tiny creature was scuttling across the drying sand.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Five Things - BethMBeth Merwood is from the south of England. The Five Things is her debut novel.

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Make sure you visit the other blogs joining the tour to find out more about The Five Things.

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Book Review

Rising Star – Michele Kwasniewski

Today I am kicking off the blog tour for Rising Star by Michele Kwasniewski. Many thanks to Michele for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.

BLURB:

In the first book in THE RISE AND FALL OF DANI TRUEHART series, RISING STAR, fifteen-year-old Dani Truehart is living a life that is not quite her own. Driven by her mother’s desire for fame and fortune, she has spent her childhood dutifully training for a career as a pop star. On the brink of discovery, doubts begin to creep into Dani’s mind as she questions her own desire for fame, and she wonders whether she can trust the motivations of the adults who are driving her forward.

Following a brilliant audition arranged by her vocal/dance coach and former ’80s pop icon Martin Fox, Dani is thrown full-force into the music industry. She leaves her friends, family and scheming mother behind to move with Martin, who has become her legal guardian, into the Malibu compound of her new manager, Jenner Redman. Jenner, the former swindling manager of Martin’s boy band, leverages what’s left of his depleted fortune to launch Dani’s career.

Isolated from her life at home and trying to stay apace with her demanding schedule, Dani struggles to keep in touch with those she loves, connect to her withholding mother and find her voice as an artist. With Martin and Jenner at odds over their rocky past and finding herself unprepared to handle the pressures of her future singing career, Dani’s debut album and future stardom are at risk of falling apart.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Rising Star Cover Image

REVIEW:

I read a lot of YA, but occasionally I pick one up that just makes me feel old, and Rising Star is one such book. I spent large parts of the book distracted by Dani’s age and how she seemed far too young to be thrust into the music industry, and this unfortunately prevented me from becoming completely invested in the story. That said, learning the ins and outs of the music industry was fascinating and Jenner’s Malibu compound seemed idyllic – it was easy to see how a young singer could be swept away in the excitement of it all.

Dani’s mum seemed like a total nightmare, and I really felt for Dani trying to get out from under her control, all the while hoping that her dad would stand up for her.  While both Dani’s parents infuriated me at time, I took to her sister Geena, and  dance coach Martin instantly, although throughout the book a little voice was telling me not to trust Martin – only time, and the rest of the series, will tell if that little voice was right or not. I hope it’s not because I found him to be a captivating character.

I can see younger YA readers falling under the spell of this book and actually think it could be a hugely popular teen TV show. There is so much material to work with within the music industry, and it will be interesting to see where Dani’s journey takes her.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle Kwasneiwski Author PicMichele Kwasniewski is an entertainment industry insider who has seen what the Hollywood machine can do to people – having worked for many years in film and television production on such films and TV shows as Primal Fear, Independence Day, Evita, Face/Off, Big Brother, and many TCL, HGTV and Discovery series including Meet the Pandas, Adoption Story, Wedding Story, and Extra Yardage.

With her book, she shares the glamour and excitement of fame as well as the hard work it takes to achieve success and the price of living in the public eye. Everyone wants to be famous, but most people have no idea what that really means. Michele has seen it firsthand.

She is an active member of the Producers Guild of America.

Make sure you visit all the blogs coming up on this tour for more on the Dani Truehart story.

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Book Review

Glass Coffin – Gabby Hutchinson Crouch

I am thrilled to be joining the blog tour for Glass Coffin by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch today. Many thanks to Gabby and Farrago  for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

The tyrannous Huntsmen have declared everyone in one village to be outlaws, since they insisted on supporting the magical beings of neighbouring Darkwood. Why won’t they accept that magic is an abomination?

Far from being abominable, the residents of Darkwood are actually very nice when you get to know them, even Snow the White Knight, who can get a bit tetchy when people remind her she’s a Princess.

In order to stop the Huntsmen from wiping out all magical beings, Snow and her friends have to venture into the Badlands of Ashtrie, and seek the support of the Glass Witch – but she has plans of her own, and let’s just say they’re not good ones.

Glass Coffin is the final book in the acclaimed Darkwood trilogy – a modern fairy tale series to bewitch grown-up fans of Terry Pratchett and younger readers alike.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Glass Coffin Cover

REVIEW:

When I saw the blurb for this book it sounded so far up my street that I signed up for the tour despite the fact that I hadn’t read books one and two series. I promptly went online to buy them and catch up and I wasn’t disappointed. Just reading the character list at the front of each book put a smile on my face.

The Darkwood series is a fairy tale reimagining like no other. Forget everything you thought you knew about wicked witches and delicate princesses, as this series turns their previous incarnations on their head. I particularly liked reluctant princess Snow and her pack of feral dwarves, and poor misunderstood Jack.

Glass Coffin is a suitably dramatic conclusion to the trilogy, with an awkward (to say the least) encounter with the bitter Glass Witch, and tensions between the Huntsmen and the Darkwood residents and their supporters reaching boiling point. Throughout the final adventure of our heroes, Gabby Hutchinson Crouch’s dry humour shines through even in life or death situations, making this a very entertaining read from start to finish.

Whilst on the surface Glass Coffin is a fun fairy tale retelling, deep down it is a story of acceptance and what can be achieved if everyone works together to fight intolerance. These vital messages are wrapped up in a wonderful adventure that will appeal to all ages. In fact, my oldest friend has a 13 year old son who loved the first two books in the series as much as I did, and I am so looking forward to discussing the entire trilogy with him once he has read this book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gabby Author pic

Gabby Hutchinson Crouch (Horrible Histories, Newzoids, The News Quiz, The Now Show) has a background in satire, and with the global political climate as it is, believes that now is an important time to explore themes of authoritarianism and intolerance in comedy and fiction. Born in Pontypool in Wales, and raised in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, Gabby now lives in Canterbury.

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Don’t forget to visit the other blogs joining the tour for more about Glass Coffin and the Darkwood residents.

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Meet the Author

Berlin Reload – James Quinn

I am joined today by James Quinn as part of the blog tour for his novel, Berlin Reload. Many thanks James for taking the time to answer my questions, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.

How much of your “Gorilla Grant” series is based on your own experiences? Is he inspired by real people?

Great question!  That’s always the fun part for the reader I think, trying to figure out if life influences art.  I always say the same things; there are elements of the books that have happened and some that I’ve used artistic licence about.  Most of the technical things and scenarios in the books – surveillance, weapons skills, covert operations, etc – have happened in some shape or form that I’ve been attached to, although not quite to the degree that Gorilla becomes involved in them in his “Redaction” operations.

Gorilla is absolutely inspired by real people.  His looks are inspired by an old friend of mine called Steve; stocky, tough.  His skills are taken from a UK Special Forces officer that I knew way back when and who was a great influence on me in my career (as is much of his background).  And yes…there are elements of myself in Gorilla too, but not too many.

Your work has taken you all over the world. Do you have a favourite place to visit or somewhere you would like to include in a future book?

America is like my second home and at least one of my books, Rogue Wolves, has been predominantly set there.  I have been lucky enough to see some amazing countries over the years and it has absolutely helped with locations for the books.  For Berlin Reload I was able to utilise my time spent in Rome, a place that I adore, for the first part of the book.  I had planned on visiting Berlin prior to starting writing the story, but the events of 2020 ended that abruptly.  I’m hoping to visit Berlin soon and see how far off the mark regarding the descriptions and feel of the place I was.

I suppose the only region I have limited experience of is China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, etc,  so maybe I could set one of the future books in that part of the world?

Does the subject matter of your books make them tricky to research, or to gain access to research sources?

It actually doesn’t.  That sounds strange I know but for me at least it’s true.  I’m fortunate to have a background in that subject matter and a healthy network of contacts in the intelligence, special operations and specialist security communities.  So writing about this genre is just like a busman’s holiday for me.

The biggest problems I had, certainly for the early books, was getting the details correct about how people lived their lives back in the 50’s and 60’s.  Were the streets still the same?  How did they travel overseas?  What household gadgets did they have?  It sounds silly I know, but they were the questions that I pondered on the most!

Do you have a set writing routine or favourite place to write?

I really don’t.  I’m not one of those authors that has to hit a set number of words per day or write constantly for several hours.  Once I have the ideas in place it will usually come like machine gun bursts – a scene or a collection of scenes – for a few intense days and then maybe nothing for weeks.  It partly depends what I have on work wise and partly if I have anything to say.

On saying that Berlin Reload came out like a tsunami and I had it finished in less than three months because I worked on a little bit of it every day.

The place I write the most is in my office sat at my desk.  It’s quiet and there are no distractions and that seems to help with the flow of writing for me.

What can you tell us about your upcoming writing projects?

Well now that Gorilla Grant is retired I am currently working on a short story anthology called Clandestine.  It deals with intrigue, espionage and deception.  It probably has about nine stories in it, each of them (hopefully) with a bit of a twist at the end.  For me short stories are a guilty pleasure to both read and write.  Stephen King says that it is a bit of a dying art and I agree with that statement completely.  It’s the most concise form of storytelling that forces the writer to provide the bare minimum of words while still getting across the information clearly.

After that, a short break, and then I’m starting on my new major character for the next series of books entitled The Fisherman.  It’s set in the modern era and concerns a covert intelligence operative on a mission to uncover a series of global terrorist conspiracies.

I’ve been putting the Fisherman off for over a year or so now, but I think it’s time he was let out of the box to run free.  I can hear him tap, tap, tapping on my consciousness with his hooked blade every night when I try to sleep, so I’m looking to forward to meeting him and seeing where he takes me, and the readers, over the next few years.

Berlin Reload Cover

BLURB:

“The time of reckoning is here, Gorilla Grant.” Jack “Gorilla” Grant, retired assassin and former spy, is living a new life as a peaceful, successful businessman. But when his daughter is kidnapped in Rome, it is just the opening gambit in a series of events that pushes him back into the “Redaction” business that he once walked away from. Unseen forces are moving against Gorilla and dangerous enemies from his past are threatening his future, intent on turning a cold war into a hot war. But Gorilla has one rule; don’t mess with my family. And he’s willing to kill to enforce it. From the dangerous streets of 1960’s Berlin to a hit contract in Austria, and finally to a race against time in East Germany, Berlin Reload is an epic cold war spy story that spans the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, and throws James Quinn’s anti-hero Gorilla Grant into a mission where he may have to decide between the life of his daughter and the dawning of a new conflict between East and West.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

James Quinn Author PicJames Quinn is the author of the “Gorilla Grant” series of spy novels. A professional security consultant and corporate intelligence operative, he currently resides in the UK but likes to travel extensively around the globe.

His next projects are “Clandestine” – a short story anthology, based around espionage, deception and intrigue – and The Fisherman, which introduces a new character to the world of covert intelligence.

Visit the official James Quinn author website for more information about upcoming projects and events;

https://gorillagrant101.wixsite.com/jamesquinn

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Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part on the tour to find out more about Gorilla Grant.

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Book Review

Cut From The Same Cloth? – Edited by Sabeena Akhtar

I am stepping away from the world of fiction with my second review today as I share with you a collection of essays written by Muslim women about life in Britain. Many thanks to all the ladies involved, and to Unbound for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.

BLURB:

  • Perceived as the visual representation of Islam, hijab-wearing Muslim women are often harangued at work, at home and in public life yet are rarely afforded a platform to speak on their own terms.
  • From modern pop culture to anti-Blackness, faith and family, politics, education, creativity and working life; Cut From the Same Cloth? is an anthology which gives visibly Muslim women creatives a space to speak to the matters that mean most to them.

Do you wear that at home? Where are you really from? Does he make you wear that? Do you support acts of terror? Do you believe in “British values”? Can I see your hair? Do you have equality? Are you hot in that? Can you be a feminist? Why don’t you just take it off? Do you wear that in the shower? Are you oppressed?

Whether it’s awkward questions, radical commentators sensationalising their existence, non-Muslims and non-hijabis making assumptions, men speaking on their behalf, or tired stereotypes being perpetuated by the same old faces: hijabis are tired. Cut From the Same Cloth? seeks to tip the balance back in their favour, with the space to offer honest insight into the issues that really affect their lives.

Here, twenty-one middle and working class contributors of all ages and races look beyond the tired tropes, exploring the breadth of their experiences and spirituality. It’s time we, as a society, stopped the hijab-splaining and listened to the people who know.

It’s time for change.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Cut From The Same Cloth Cover

REVIEW:

More years ago than I care to count, I studied Islam as part of my Religious Studies GCSE, and have been lucky enough to visit one of Islam’s holiest sites in Israel. However, to my shame, I have never given any real thought as to how women in the Muslim faith live their lives or are treated by others. Coming from a white, middle-class background, I have grown up in the privileged position of never having to consider the issues that others deal with on a daily basis. I want to improve my understanding, and this book has been a great help in this. Reading this book, I quickly realised that although my education taught me enough to know that the media’s depiction of Muslims, and particularly Muslim women, is wildly inaccurate, it taught my nothing about their day to day experiences.

Cut From The Same Cloth? is not a book that can be read in one sitting. Each essay and each of the amazing women involved in the project deserve the time to fully absorb what they are saying and it would be a disservice to them to simply read their words and instantly move on to the next. The essays range from heart-breaking to uplifting and just about every emotion in-between, and cover a broad range of subjects and experiences. They are all deeply personal accounts of life as a Muslim woman in Britain, and some served as serious eye-openers for me.

Cut From The Same Cloth? feels like an extremely important book that I would urge everyone to read, and it has been a real privilege to “meet” these women and be involved in the blog tour.

ABOUT THE EDITOR:

Sabeena is a writer, editor and the Festival Coordinator of Bare Lit, the UK’s principal festival celebrating remarkable writers in the diaspora. She is also the co-founder of the Primadonna Festival which spotlights the work of women writers, and of Bare Lit Kids. She will be available for events around publication and can be found tweeting at @pocobookreader

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Book Review

Threadneedle – Cari Thomas

I am thrilled to be joining the blog tour for the amazing Threadneedle by Cari Thomas. Many thanks to Cari and Harper Voyager for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

Anna’s aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences.

Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever.

Until she meets Effie and Attis.

They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revellers lose themselves in a haze of spells.

But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her aunt was right all along. Is her magic a gift or a curse?

Told through spells created with knots and threads, this is a story that is both innovative and based in traditional witchcraft.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Thread Needle - Front Cover

REVIEW:

I first heard about Threadneedle from my lovely friend Kate Kenzie who couldn’t say enough good things about it. With it coming so highly recommended, I knew that this would be a book that I would love. Even with such rave reports though, Threadneedle still caught me by surprise – not least because it has a contemporary setting, whereas for reasons known only to my subconscious, I had been utterly convinced that it was going to be historical. Once I’d got beyond that little misconception though, it wasn’t long before I was utterly hooked.

Threadneedle is a book of contrasts, the light and dark of magic, the warmth of Rowan’s mum and the positively Arctic personality of Anna’s aunt, the fine line between teaching someone a lesson, and taking it just a little too far. It is full of magic and mystery and I loved following Anna on her voyage of discovery of both magic, and life with friends. I was completely swept away by the hedonism of Beltane, which was actually vaguely reminiscent of a club I went to in Ibiza many years ago. I found myself longing to visit the magical club, and hidden library of magical texts, and all the other secret spaces there are to be found in London.

The complicated friendships, family relationships, and shared histories mean that there is an awful lot to unpick in this book, and I don’t want to give any of it away and take away the pleasure to be found in discovering it for yourself. It is a wonderfully original story which cleverly entwines plenty of the history of witchcraft within it.

Fantasy and YA are my two favourite genres of books, so Threadneedle was always going to be a winner for me. I couldn’t read this book fast enough but at the same time I didn’t want it to end. Here’s hoping I don’t have to wait too long for more from Cari Thomas.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cari Thomas - Author picCari Thomas has always loved magic, inspired by her upbringing among the woods and myths of Wales’ Wye Valley. She studied English and Creative Writing at Warwick University and Magazine Journalism at The Cardiff School of Journalism. Her first job was at teen Sugar magazine where she ran the book club and quickly realised she wanted to be the one writing the books instead. She went on to work at a creative agency, spending her spare time researching magic and accumulating an unusual collection of occult books. She wrote her debut novel Threadneedle while living in London, wandering the city and weaving it with all the magic she wished it contained. She now lives in Bristol with her husband and son, who bears the appropriately Celtic name of Taliesin.

A NOTE FROM CARI THOMAS:

I remember the old family stories about my Great Aunt Mary. A fiercely independent, enigmatic woman who was said to be a witch. Perhaps it was these early stories seeping into my subconscious, perhaps it was devouring The Worst Witch, or growing up in rural Wales surrounded by myth and fairy tales, or maybe it was just me, but from a young age I developed a fascination for all things witches and magic.

But let’s not forget that the witch’s hut always sits outside of the village for a reason. In my research, I became just as obsessed with magic’s opposite forces – repression, fear, suspicion and prejudice. After all, if my Great Aunt Mary had been alive a few centuries earlier she may well have been burnt at the stake.

Witch hunts became an area of fascination for me and the more I read the more outraged I became – how powerful, outspoken women and men, or people of the pagan faith, or simply outsiders, have time and time again been suppressed, silenced and extinguished from society. How the power structure of the day meant that it was near impossible for them to have a voice and to defend themselves. Why was it such people terrified those in power? Why were we not taught more about this dark period of history? Why did the themes feel like they still resonated so strongly today?

I explore these tensions in Threadneedle – the freedoms of magic set against a fear of witches and feminine power; schoolgirls forced to take on the injustices of the world one spell at a time.

The sheer joy of writing the book came in bringing these tensions to the modern world and particularly into the London setting we think we know.

Ultimately, this is where the heart of the story lies: in feminine power and sisterhood, bringing together an unlikely set of outsiders, who together must navigate their way through the light and dark of being a young woman in today’s world. A world that is more complex than ever and yet still plagued by many of the same issues that my Great Aunt Mary would have faced, and all the witches who came before her.

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