Tuesday, 9 May 2017

REVIEW: The Island at the End of Everything


The Island at the End of EverythingI received a review copy from the publisher for free, in exchange for a honest review. This does not affect the content of my review in any form.

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Published by: Chicken House Books on 4th May 2017
Genres: Middle-Grade, Contemporary, Family, Diverse
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Links: Goodreads | Wordery | Hive | Kindle

Summary:

There are some places you would not want to go. Even if I told you that we have oceans filled with sea turtles and dolphins, or forests lush with parrots that call through air thick with warmth... Nobody comes here because they want to.
The island of no return.


Ami lives with her mother on an island where the sea is as blue as the sky. It’s all she knows and loves, but the arrival of malicious government official Mr Zamora changes her world forever: her island is to be made into a colony for lepers. Taken from her mother and banished across the sea, Ami faces an uncertain future in an orphanage. There she meets a honey-eyed girl named for butterflies, and together they discover a secret that will lead her on an adventure home. Ami must go back to the island of no return, but will she make it in time?




I don't think a few paragraphs of words - even a thesis - could ever explain my feelings surrounding this book. It has pretty much blown my mind out of the water. It sent me reeling over the edge of my seat, snatched my heart with its delicate claws and tore it to shreds. It has become my absolute downfall.

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I shouldn't be surprised - I fell head over heels in love with Kiran's debut The Girl of Ink & Stars which became an award winning novel for Waterstones Children's Book Prize and very well deserved indeed. Kiran has nailed it with another masterpiece, another award winning novel that deserves to be placed on a pedestal in the publishing industry. She has amazed me with another gut-wrenching, highly imaginative and vivid story about a young girl's journey through brutal obstacles that life has thrown at her. This is a story about love, between a mother and her daughter, about friendship and the hardships of being someone of colour. It is the perfect blend of genres that is suitable for any human to read. 

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Kiran's writing, as usual has a smooth silky flow, a rather spine-tingling feel like the words are singing from the pages as you read on. It's the most sensational experience, one I'd love to live through over and over. Her words capture you, mind, heart and soul. Very engrossing.

The story has key elements that I feel I've always been looking for that lack within the publishing world. Strong sense of character development, family relationships where parental figures feel real and well structured, friendships that are filled with life and love - and to top it all, a diverse cast of characters and the most beautiful setting. The imagery is insane and I'll never forget it.

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The Island at the End of Everything has raised the bar for all middle-grade novels out there and is worthy of receiving the title as one of the greatest books written in 2017. If not ever. Enthralling, majestic and beautifully written til the very last word - this is a story that needs to be shared with all. A story that needs to be read, remembered and cherished.

Rating:
Gold Wreath

Saturday, 15 April 2017

BLOG TOUR: Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined


Hello, welcome to my stop in the Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined Blog Tour! I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to take part and share a review plus a giveaway with you guys. This was a real good one!

Head over to my Twitter to check out the giveaway I'll be hosting where I'll be giving away 3 copies of EBINR


I received a copy of the book from the publisher for free, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect the content of my review in any form.
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined
Author: Danielle Younge-Ullman
Published by: Scholastic UK on 6th April 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Family
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Links: Goodreads | Wordery | Hive | Kindle 

Summary:

Ingrid has made a deal with her mother: she gets to go to the school of her choice as long as she completes a three-week wilderness programme. But when Ingrid arrives, she quickly realizes there has been a terrible mistake: there will be no marshmallows or cabins here. Instead, her group will embark on a torturous trek, with almost no guidance from the two counsellors and supplied with only the things they can carry. On top of this, the other teen participants are “at risk youth”, a motley crew of screw-ups, lunatics and delinquents. But as the laborious days go by, and as memories of her complicated past come flooding back, Ingrid must confront the question of whether she shares more in common with these troubled teens than she’s willing to admit.




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When I was first pitched this book at the Scholastic blogger feast earlier this year, I was immediately hooked in by the idea of this being described as "The Breakfast Club goes camping." Now if anyone knows me well, they would know just how much I love that classic movie and how much importance it holds in my life. It's absolutely brilliant. So yes, I was eager to sink my claws into a copy of this book. Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined also holds the award for having one of the most gorgeous covers designed! Props to the design team at Scholastic for nailing it there...

The synopsis pretty much covers the main base of the story. A young troubled teen Ingrid goes out on an adventure to scour the wild outdoors where even the smallest necessities are no where in sight. It's almost brutal and absolutely painful to watch as she endures the challenging hurdles she must face in an effort to prove herself. Ingrid by far, is truly one of the most relatable, honest and down to earth characters I have read about. Her voice was strong, packed with emotion and feeling - and much sarcasm. I thoroughly enjoyed switching back and forth between her past and present, told through a series of letters, flashbacks and exposition. There was a great balance and the story flowed smoothly.

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The exploration of family relationships within YA is something I am always on the lookout for, and in this case I was taken by the bond Ingrid held with her mother who had great musical talents only to face a tragedy leading to a much more, complicated outcome. It felt intense, invoked feelings within me to see Ingrid's anguish and desperation as a young child to see her mother falling apart. Honestly, it cut deep. 

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Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined greatly explores friendship, love and family and overcoming the hurdles in your life. With a strong voice, a great cast of characters thrown into a rather interesting scenario, it was fun, entertaining as well as thought provoking. A rather fantastic read and one I'd recommend to many.

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Rating:
Silver Wreath



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Danielle Younge-Ullman is a Canadian novelist, playwright and freelance writer. This is her second YA novel, and would be her first published in the UK. She studied English and Theatre at McGill University in Montreal, then returned to her hometown of Toronto to work as professional actor for ten years. This was character-building time during which she held a wild variety of acting and non-acting jobs–everything from working on the stage and in independent films, to dubbing English voices for Japanese TV, to temping, to teaching Pilates. LOLA CARLYLE’S 12 STEP ROMANCE (Entangled/Macmillan May 2015) is Danielle’s YA debut. Danielle also wrote the critically acclaimed adult novel, FALLING UNDER, (Penguin, 2008), published a short story called “Reconciliation” in MODERN MORSELS, a McGraw-Hill Anthology for young adults, in 2012, and her one-act play, 7 Acts of Intercourse, debuted at Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival in 2005. Danielle lives in an old house in Toronto that’s constantly being renovated, with her husband and two daughters.


CHECK OUT POST'S FROM THE REST OF THE TOUR

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Guest Post: Alice Broadway's Journey into Becoming a Published Author


Hello everyone!

I have the lovely Alice Broadway on the blog today with a very exciting guest post in order to celebrate the release of her debut novel - INK! I'm so excited to read this one guys and it has one of the most gorgeous covers ever! Hats off to the incredible design team at Scholastic for that one...

Now, the synopsis sounds absolutely incredible for this book and I couldn't help but feel intrigued about Alice's writing journey on how she became a published author and the birth of INK. So, she has agreed to share her story with us all! She's absolutely lovely. Thanks for this wonderful beautifully written post Alice! A pleasure to have you on my blog. 

Hope you enjoy everyone!

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Synopsis of INK

Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora's father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.

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Depression isn’t a great thing; I wouldn’t wish it on anyone - but it’s something I live with. When, in 2013, I finally admitted I wasn’t OK and began taking medication, I wanted to do something that might make me feel more hopeful. I decided to give Nanowrimo a try. In hindsight, this probably isn’t the course of action I would recommend to everyone with a recent mental health diagnosis, but it sort of worked for me. I didn’t ‘win’ Nano, but I did finish the month with words that hadn’t existed before and with a secret, excited feeling that the novel idea that had been swimming around my head for the past year might just work.

Fast forward to the following September and my youngest child was starting school. I decided to revisit those 12k words and give myself a year to see if I could make this writing thing work. My process included lots of faffing about, naps and reading self-help books about how to write a novel. With the help of friends who read my work and gave me feedback, in September 2015 I ended up with a manuscript that I was ready to send. By some miracle, four days after sending my work out I had signed with my dream agent, the incredible Jo Unwin at Jo Unwin Literary Agency [http://www.jounwin.co.uk/]. Jo helped me rework the manuscript (it needed it) and at the end of January 2016 she sent it out on submission to a number of publishers.

A month or so later I travelled to London and met Genevieve Herr from Scholastic. Hearing someone who absolutely ‘got’ Ink and who had great belief in the world was incredible. Even better, Gen had all the insight and instinct to nurture me as a new writer and make my scrappy manuscript much, much better. There was no question that she was the right editor for me and that Scholastic would be a creative and supportive publishing family to be part of. It took more work than I imagined but now I have a book that I am so proud of. Writing is often thought of as a solo-gig, but without the expertise of so many amazing people Ink just wouldn’t exist.

I’ve had a pretty straightforward ‘getting published’ experience and I’m very thankful for that. I think, if you had asked me, way back in 2013 what my hope for my writing would be, I would have said that I wanted to write my way out of depression. That hasn’t happened: I still have it, although I am vastly better because of good meds, good GPs and good therapy. I am learning that writing doesn’t fix things, that even achieving your dream doesn’t magically make all the hard stuff go away. But I’ve learned that in writing I open a door to hope and allow it to come in and make its home in me, and hope doesn’t seem to mind the mess.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Alice Broadway drinks more tea than is really necessary loves writing in her yellow camper van. She hates being too cold or too hot, and really likes wearing lipstick and watching terrible Christmas movies.

LINKS:
@alicecrumbs | Goodreads | Website | Wordery

Check out all the other posts during the Blog Tour!


Friday, 3 February 2017

REVIEW: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

HeartlessI received an ARC of this book from the publisher for free, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect the content of my review in any form.

Author: Marissa Meyer
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books on 9th February 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Links: Goodreads | Wordery | Hive | Kindle

Summary:

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. 

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.


Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.




Can we just crown Marissa Meyer as the Queen of Retellings? Was there any doubt that I would love this book? Nope. Although, I wasn't sure what to expect either because I've never been one for Alice in Wonderland retellings, or the original tale in general. But the idea of writing what I call, the origins, of a well known character with a twist is vastly impressive and Meyer nailed it with this glorious standalone.

Heartless focuses on the story of the Queen of Hearts, before she became the ruthless ruler that screams 'Off with the head!' and was overcome by shadows. We know her as a young Catherine in Meyer's retelling, with a talent for baking the most scrumptious treats. Warning: As the reader, you will feel great aching need to consume desserts of all kinds. Your mouth will water. You will feel starvation because you cannot have Catherine's delicious lemon tarts. The descriptions are INSANE.

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I was sucked in by the world building, the carefully thought out string of words Meyer put together to tell this tale of hers. It fascinated me to see her version of the Queen of Hearts story, and then breathe life into a whole new cast of characters, each with her own touch. I loved each and every character, they felt real, and I would gladly accept for this to be the true origins of each Wonderland character. Meyer has a great knack for writing retellings that sucks readers into the rabbit hole to which they would never want to leave. You'll be so invested into the story, the sizzling romance with chemistry that will shake hearts (Jest is truly enchanting. Who wouldn't want to fall in love with a court jester? SIGN ME UP) and then you'll be completely blown away by the end. 

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You will never be prepared.

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It's a weirdly, fantastical and magical tale with a generous amount of intense storytelling and a narrative that you will adore. Catherine's voice is one of many of Meyer's characters that I really enjoyed. She manages to make words flow like silk across the pages and that is true talent. Meyer just continues to bring out amazing and highly imaginative stories that we are lucky to read. And I shall continue to read them and all future stories she has to share.

Rating:
Gold Wreath

Thursday, 26 January 2017

REVIEW: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo



Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Author: Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Henry Holt & Company on 29th September 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Pages: 465
Format: Hardback
Series: The Dregs #1
Source: Bought
Links: Goodreads | Wordery | Hive | Kindle

Summary:

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.





It's a heist novel, they said. You'll love it, they said.

And they were correct in every sense.

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Also, why it took me over a year to finally get around to reading it, is beyond me. But in a sense, I'm glad because it meant no agonising waiting for the sequel and I could marathon through the duology with no regrets. Needless to say, I was fired up. Like seriously, buzzing in my seat like a rocket ready to take off, kinda fired up. I raced through Bardugo's Grisha trilogy the previous year - again, I marathoned the lot. It was also my second attempt having failed to have been hooked by Shadow & Bone first time around - and Sankta Alina, I enjoyed it a whole lot that second time around. The immense world building and magical words Bardugo stringed together was everything I yearn for and desire in a YA Fantasy. I adored the Grisha series, I really did. The Darkling and Nikolai shall forever be emblazoned on my heart forevermore.

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So when I discovered that Leigh would be writing a duology set in the same universe, I could barely contain my excitement. I was ready for more Grishaverse. Ready to be destroyed in every way possible. Six of Crows did not disappoint. It was the perfect build up, dramatic, clever and incredibly engrossing. The cast of characters, the diversity, it was the most exquisite piece I had read in such a while and the most appeasing. I lapped up every single word. And that was it. It was just the beginning and I knew the sequel would have a lot to live up to. I had been in a lazy mood for weeks, especially when it comes to reading. I felt like I lost that special spark whilst reading that got me so sucked into the book that I completely lost track of time. That feeling disappeared for a while despite the numerous exciting new releases I had at my feet. Truthfully, I was terrified that I may slowly be growing out of YA or reading in general. But no.

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It was just a matter of waiting for the right book. And that book was Six of Crows. It made me fall in love with reading and Fantasy all over again. I felt like a kid that just discovered that their favourite sweet has been made into an ice cream. It's a weird image but seriously, I was that kinda kid. I fell in love with the expanded Grisha world, the carefully flawed yet flawless characters, damaged and complex, fleshed out and realistic. I loved them to pieces. My beloved Kaz Brekker. He deserves all the happiness in the world.

The heist part - can I just ask, is Leigh some sort of immortal Queen of writing the most incredible and clever storylines?! The twists, the ploys, the deviousness!!! Saints, I was mind blown by how deftly the story was crafted, the Dregs crew working together and hatching brilliant plans. It was truly wonderful. A delight. Let me be a Dreg. Where do I sign?

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Again, it was just the beginning. The best beginning I've read in a long while but undoubtedly a long term favourite. For that roller coaster experience and heartstopping feels that will drive you insane, this is perfect for you. For any reader.

No mourners. No funerals.

Rating:
Silver Wreath

Sunday, 22 January 2017

REVIEW: Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle


I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher for free, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect the content of my review in any form.

Mafiosa (Blood for Blood)

Published by: Chicken House Books on 5th January 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Series: Blood for Blood #3
Source: Publisher

Summary:

Protected by an infamous mafia family, Sophie is living a dangerous lie, pretending to lead a normal life. But the deceit can’t last for ever. Her heart belongs to a killer and Sophie’s the prime target of a rival clan. She’s determined to seek revenge on her mother’s murderers, but can she pay the price – can she be a mafiosa?


(Sorry not sorry, for the J-Hope GIFs. They're the most accurate reaction GIFs I found.)

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OK. This is, perhaps, the fifth time I'm attempting to write this review. Up until now, it's mostly been me fangirling, sobbing, raging and throwing out paragraphs of words that make absolutely no sense at all because they're just a mix of capitalised letters. Not even in English. 

It's just... taking me longer to write this review than the former two books in this series because this is it. The end. Finale. Fin. Done and dusted. What am I supposed to do now? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?! How could my favourite series of all time... be over now? I cannot bear to let go of these characters that I have grown to love and cherish so much. It's been one heck of a roller-coaster and thrill of a journey. One I shall not forget, for many lifetimes.

It's been emotional. The tears were real. The feels were real. I wasn't ready.

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Mafiosa is the cherry on top of a delicious cream cake that you have been greatly anticipating since you set your eyes on it. Not only do you expect for it to be great, but you'll want to savour it, and you know you'll love it. Mafiosa is the most satisfying, electrifying conclusion to a fantastical and thrilling journey that will set hearts on fire, and quite literally, break it at the same time. I was not prepared for the endless waves of carefully thought-out plot twists, the sizzling slow-burn romance and the downpour of tears that would follow.

It's hard. It's hard to talk about this book without giving too much away. It's truly best to go into this series a little blind, without knowing what to expect other than the fact that it's going to be purely awesome. Catherine Doyle's flawless and engaging writing meshes well with her dynamic cast of characters that are set to capture your little hearts. Her master creativity skills doesn't even stop there - it only gets better, more engrossing and intense. I've never felt more alive than when I do when reading her books. Catherine Doyle is a majestic storyteller.

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This series will take you places you never thought existed. It's an adventure worth exploring and worth remembering. Each book raised the bar that much more, the stakes becoming higher, the need for more becoming almost feral. I devoured this series and it'll always remain as one of the greatest trilogies to have ever been written. It's made me fall in love with YA, and more importantly, reading, all over again and that feeling is the best in the world.

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I will never not recommend this series and book push it onto fellow readers - it's one of those special unicorns and I'm eternally grateful to Cat for giving the world such a precious gift. (Although, I will NEVER forgive you for crushing my heart. You know why...)

If you wish to be graced by one of the greatest protagonist's ever written, Sophie Gracewell, then you will need to read this series. Read it. FOR LUCA FALCONE WHO FOREVER HAS MY HEART AND BLACK SOUL. For the adrenaline, the chaos and for the great storytelling. For one of the most beautiful YA friendships ever written, one of the best romances with burning chemistry that will send you reeling, and the way it explores family relationships. Everything was beautiful. I'll never get over it.

Well played, Catherine Doyle.

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Rating:
Gold Wreath

Friday, 13 January 2017

BLOG TOUR: The White Tower Guest Post


Hello! Welcome to my stop in #TheWhiteTower blog tour! I have the lovely Cathryn on the blog today with a guest post for you guys about her Top 5 Books that fire up her imagination!

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I love a realist novel as much as the next person, especially when it’s written by Tolstoy (or Vasily Grossman). But there are times when you want a bit of literary diversison and a book that skews your assumptions about the world. Children can find plenty of alternative versions of the world they live in: for adults it is a little harder to find books which present the world in a different way and yet don’t topple into magical realism. I’m not going to mention Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita as I presume everyone will know it (although I love it not for the talking cat or the cream that can make you fly, but for the portrait of Pontius Pilate and the notion that two millennia of Christianity was brought about by a migraine) but instead here are some of the books I’ve read that have made me think about the world a little differently.

1. The City and the City, China Mieville

The City & the City

I’ve only just started reading Mieville and, I can’t put The City and the City down. I’m not sure if it will add up to anything by the end, but the concept – two cities which don’t acknowledge the other in any way – and the nod to Bruno Schulz in its Eastern European flavour is giddy-making.

2. Metropole, Ferenc Karinthy

Metropole

Written in 1970, this Hungarian novel wasn’t translated into English until 2008. I’m a sucker for translated fiction and this one is deliciously unnerving and thought-provoking. A linguist travelling to a conference in Helsinki falls asleep on a plane and wakes up in the wrong city. Despite speaking several languages, he cannot communicate with anyone but the beautiful lift attendant of his hotel; nor can he fathom the customs of the country.

3. The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen

The Rabbit Back Literature Society

Ella, the heroine of this Finnish novel, is chosen to become the tenth member of a prestigious writers’ group in the small town of Rabbit Back. Presided over by the enigmatic Laura White, membership involves playing ‘The Game’. This is an entirely surprising, anarchic, and touching novel.

4. The Adjacent, Christopher Priest

The Adjacent

I’ve picked this novel almost at random because every novel I have read by Christopher Priest has been wonderful. I find myself almost reading off the page, I’m so delighted at what he both explains and withholds. This one is about alternative realities. Yes please.

5. Journey by Moonlight, Antal Szerb

Journey by Moonlight

I love Antal Szerb, it really is that simple. Every word he’s ever written (and sadly there aren’t enough as he was a casualty of the Holocaust). A man takes a walk at night through the backstreets of Venice and Szerb insists that we accompany this accidental hero on his surprising and sometimes dangerous journey. One of those perfect novels.

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Thanks for a wonderful post, Cathryn! I cannot wait to dive into The White Tower!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


After reading Theology at Cambridge University, Cathryn Constable went on to
work in magazine journalism, writing for Vogue, W, Elle, The Independent, Tatler
and The Sunday Times, before realising her dream of writing stories for children.
Cathryn is married with three children and lives in London.

ABOUT THE BOOK



Alchemy meets dreamy reality in this new atmospheric adventure from the
author of the bestselling debut, The Wolf Princess.

The White Tower is the uplifting and magical story of Livy, a young girl lost in
throws of grief and forced to move schools. Struggling to cope with life, Livy
finds solace high up on the rooftop amongst the domes and spires of her new
home. With the perfect blend of science and dreamy reality, Constable paints a
rich and atmospheric story of a lonely girl coming to terms with the death of her
best friend and finding a way to let go of her pain.

Cathryn Constable’s debut novel, The Wolf Princess, was one of the bestselling
debuts of 2012. It swept the board with gorgeous reviews and was shortlisted for
the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and the Specsavers National Book Awards.

LINKS: