Top Ten Tuesday – Ten Characters I’d Name A Dog or Cat After


Every week The Broke and the Bookish conjure up a new Top Ten list for us book bloggers to write about. This week is all about literary pets – and I’ve loved coming up with my potential names! I have a bad case of planning everything light-years ahead of time and so there are at least two pets on this list will become my first animal friends. The boy and I are still arguing about Austen the cat but a Westie called Watson is definitely on the horizon (and so is Austen really…)

I’ve paired each name with the type of dog or cat I envisage them to be – there’s only one that was predetermined and that’s Henry. He’s been taken directly from Dick King Smith’s The Invisible Dog, a title I adored as a child.

This has definitely been my favourite TTT so I hope you enjoy it!



Watson (left) = John Henry Watson (Sherlock Holmes series)

Pippi (top centre) = Pippi Longstocking (Pippi Longstocking series)

Scout (bottom centre) = Jean Louise “Scout” Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird)

Darcy (centre) = Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)

Henry (right) = Henry the harlequin great dane (The Invisible Dog)



Manderley (left) = home of the De Winters (Rebecca)

Pevensie (centre) = The Pevensie children (The Chronicles of Narnia)

Austen (top centre) = Jane Austen

Atticus (bottom centre) = Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird)

Jekyll (right)= Dr Jekyll (The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde)


I hope you had as much fun with your lists as I did with mine! What literary name would you choose for your dog or cat?


Mystic Murders


When Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus were kids, their fathers worker together at the Coleman Candy plant and carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them.

I bought this book three years ago on the recommendation of my uncle and finally picked it up this August when he was in deep in my thoughts. The multi-award winning film adaptation of Lehane’s novel is something I have always wanted to watch but, on the advice of my uncle, have waited until reading the book.

Childhood friendships come and go but one traumatic incident in a childhood summer unites three boys forever. Sean, Jimmy and Dave may have grown up in the same town but since that shared summer they have grown apart. Jimmy is an ex-con who runs the local store, Sean is police detective and Dave is just trying to survive. When Jimmy’s daughter goes missing, Dave returns home with blood on his hands and Sean is the detective investigating the disappearance – the waters of Mystic River are about to get very muddy indeed…

This is a riveting, high-pressured thriller that becomes more claustrophobic and more tense with each turn of the page. The three men leading the story, though very different, are all unpredictable and unreliable, making for a highly charged plot, expertly written and constructed by Lehane.

The book appears to centre on the concept of are we victims or masters of our own circumstance. Would Dave have been a completely different person if he hadn’t gone in that car as a child? Would Jimmy have been less of a thug, needing to prove the power of his existence at every opportunity? Could it just have easily been Sean living with the scars? Mystic River is a gritty and gripping novel with an incredibly dark conclusion. The secrets men have and the secrets communities ignore are found on every page of this book, making for an electric plot and a Lehane fan of this reader – Shutter Island next perhaps…

4 star


The Arrival of Autumn

This week has been the first week that has vaguely hinted at anything autumnal. I do hate the shorter evenings but the crisp sunny mornings of autumn just cannot be beaten! I’ve had a few morning walks to work that have given me a spring in my step (ironically!), not least because I’ve been wearing my new favourite shoes…


The boy absolutely loathes them but I don’t care, these shoes make me very happy indeed – how can you feel sad or depressed when your feet shine like gold bullion?!

There has also been so much adulting going on in my life that some shiny shoes have been a much-needed distraction! Last weekend the paperwork was all signed off and now suddenly I have a flat to call my own – eee!!! I love my new home, it’s a gorgeous flat and I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to be a home owner, but the coming of the handover did give me heart palpitations – so much responsibility! I am now with a modulated spreadsheet (thanks to my incredibly organised sister) and will be trying my very best to keep on top of everything… I’ll keep you posted!

This week has also delivered several very exciting packages – ones I have been waiting on for a very long time! The first is a print from an illustrator I worked with on my In Focus book – the amazing Jessie Ford. I’ve had my eye on her food print for ages, thinking it would be absolutely perfect for my new kitchen, and I eventually ordered and took delivery of it this week – isn’t it pretty?! She’s such a talented illustrator and a lovely lady to boot, please do check out her website.


The second delivery was something I ordered in May (!!) – the second illustrated Harry Potter and it does NOT disappoint! I cannot praise the combination of JK Rowling and Jim Kay enough, he has an intuitive and original view of the Harry Potter-sphere and creates utter magic on the page. I will be doing a proper review in due course but had to just share the excitement!


Wishing you all a fabulous Friday and wonderful weekend TTWers xx


Top Ten Tuesday – Autumn/Winter TBR List


Every week The Broke and the Bookish conjure up a new Top Ten list for us book bloggers to write about. This week is all about the books to see me through the winter. There are a few books on this list that are a step away from my normal reads – I think I fancy a reading shake up as the nights draw in!

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
My colleagues have been raving about this book for some time now and, as we write some non-fiction titles, Henrietta Lacks has cropped up in conversation on more than one occasion. Its time I found out more methinks…

The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men
I finally started the Patrick Ness Chaos Walking trilogy last month and I am determined to finish it off before the year is out – the opener, The Knife of Never Letting Go, was stupendous (review coming)!

Yes Please
I’m not usually one for biographies/autobiographies but Amy Poehler is far too awesome a human being not to read about. I was putting off reading this book until I had experienced the entirety of Parks and Recreation (one of my new all-time faves) and now all seven seasons have been consumed, the time has come to read about the genius woman behind Leslie Knope.

The Sisters Brothers
This book was huge when it first came out but Western’s weren’t really my thing so I steered clear. Some family members have read The Sisters Brothers and loved it and as the boy and I are going to see The Magnificent Seven this weekend, it may be time to give this Western a try.

Are You Dave Gorman?
I read this book about five years ago and thought it was hilarious! It’s a book I wanted to give the boy – as two men going on an adventure based on a conversation in the pub is something I know he’d get on board with! – but wanted to reread first because it was so good the first time round!

Reasons to Stay Alive
With winter drawing ever closer, I do get really affected by the darker mornings and eves so I feel now is the time to crack open a book that has inspired many. I loved Matt Haig’s The Humans and it’s become my go-to recommended read so I have high hopes for this one.

Noughts and Crosses
Since a BBC adaptation was announced, I have been desperately meaning to schedule a reread of Malorie Blackman’s signature series. The long winter evenings seem like a perfect time methinks…

I’ll Be Home for Christmas
My company’s sister imprint has released this Christmassy anthology about the meaning of homes. With some of the biggest names in YA contributing at least £1 form every sale going to the amazing Crisis charity – this book is already scoring major points before I’ve even turned the first page!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane 
Because who better to get you through the cold, winter evenings than Neil Gaiman?!

What titles will be keeping you entertained this autumn?


Writing ‘Feelings’ and Expressing Emotions

As regular TTWers will know, my job involves writing children’s books as well as editing them. Every single one of my books, from a sticker activity to a touch-and-feel with sound, means the absolute world to me but this Friday’s post is introduces one title that is extra, super special.


Feelings is a peek-through picture book that takes the reader on a journey through the emotions they might experience. It isn’t prescriptive or a handbook telling children how to deal with their feelings, it just describes how each emotion feels with the philosophy of “Looking from the outside, I may seem the same as you, but deep beneath the surface feelings bubble, stir and brew…


My Publisher came to me with the idea of writing a feelings book with a fixed character appearing throughout. He had already scoped out an illustrator for the project, the amazingly talented Richard Jones, so it was just the small case (!) of coming up with the concept and writing the book ready to brief.

I have to say, I don’t have a fixed process for writing. Sometimes I start writing in a notepad, making word bubbles, or typing combinations of rhymes in Word but with Feelings it began more clinically than other projects – in an Excel spreadsheet! Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of an abstract subject matter with the order of a grid but, by gradually making lists of feelings and buzzwords, a book plan was formed and I began writing.

To write how something feels can be quite tricky so for most of the emotions, I let the list of buzzwords I’d associated with the main feelings lead me towards a senario. For example for ‘Alone’ the words lonely, isolated, uncertain and vulnerable drew me towards the image of a floating bubble. Once the image was decided upon, I could then write the verse to accompany it and so on.


Feeling lonely…

I think that anyone who picks up this book will be blown away by the artwork from Richard Jones. He has done a stunning job bringing everything to life and I am very lucky to have worked with him on this project (and he’s such a lovely man too!) Feelings is Richard’s debut picture book so it became a very exciting project for both of us (and I can say “I knew him when…” when his illustration career takes off!) Richard has put his thoughts on the book here, sharing some early character sketches and developmental work.


So much joy and happiness!

For Richard, Elle Ward (the designer on the project) and myself this was a collaboration – working together on every spread to create, what we hope will be, a book to treasure as well as start conversation. Children learn to read pictures before they read words and with Feelings we hope to stretch that further, helping children to read and discuss emotions too.

You can purchase a copy of Feelings here and join in the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #FeelingsBook. I’m excited to see what you think!!



A Dahl A Day – Roald Dahl Day!


Happy Roald Dahl Day everybody! Today is not only Dahl’s birthday but it also marks 100 years since he was born, a very special Dahl Day indeed!

I have absolutely loved reliving the magical worlds he created in his books, rereading 16 of his books over the last 12 days (reviews can be found in the index). I really hope you’ve enjoyed your daily dose of Dahl over the last fortnight too!

There is no denying Dahl’s status in the canon of children’s literature for he is a naturally funny and instinctively clever storyteller. He invented some of the most loved characters in the whole of fiction and entertains children and adults alike across every generation. More importantly, he is my hero.

Today I turn to his ‘autobiographies’ Boy and Going Solo. I use quotation marks because Dahl very strictly lays down in his prelude to Boy that he doesn’t agree with autobiographies – they are too selective. Instead, both of these books contain the highlights from Dahl’s childhood and early adult years, memories he wanted to share with his fans. In both of these books you can see inspirations, events and people that perhaps became more than memory…


An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details.

A charming and nostalgic collection of short stories from Dahl’s childhood, Boy is where it all started! Written in a style not dissimilar to his fictional works, Boy is an insight to Dahl’s family, holidays to Norway, going to boarding school and growing up. The chapters are episodic, all containing humorous anecdotes of the events that shaped the life of this great man.

I get the impression from Boy that Dahl wanted to give his readers just enough to satisfy but not enough to expose him fully. The stories are quite narrow, frank and fast-paced and with no wide emotive angle on any of them. They are adventures that were no doubt elaborated upon in some cases for entertainment. In contrast, the actual snippets of letters to his mother from school are a really lovely addition, for the break up his narrative and return the school-day tales to something more tangible and real.

3 star



The ship that was carrying me away from England to Africa in the autumn of 1938 was called the SS Mantola.

A title with two meanings, Going Solo picks up where Boy left off to explore Dahl’s life after school – first working for oil company Shell in Africa and then signing up to become a fighter pilot in the RAF during WWII.

Given the subject matter, there is less whimsy Going Solo but you’ll be happy to know it’s not all seriousness. Dahl clearly loved adventure and his enthusiasm for life in Africa leaps off the page – particularly when describing African wildlife and the wonderful ridiculousness of British Empire society.

As in Boy, the narrative has a matter-of-factness, which serves to distance the reader from some of the more horrific events of war, inevitable deaths of colleagues and his horrific injury. I really enjoyed this style as it placed Going Solo firmly in the autobiographical camp, giving the reverence and respect this particular part of his life deserves.

4 star