Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Guest Post – The Five Best Bits Of Being A Debut Author – And The Five Worst by Rowena House

I am absolutely over the moon to have the brilliant Rowena House on the blog today to celebrate the release of her debut novel The Goose Road and the fact that Rowena is our debut of the month for our April #BritishBooksChallenge18!

The Goose Road was released on the 5th April published by the wonderful Walker Books and is a brilliant historical fiction read that will take you on the most wonderful journey.

So today Rowena talks to us about being a debut author in the fab guest post…the best bits and the worst….

France 1916. Angélique Lacroix is haymaking when the postman delivers the news: her father is dead, killed on a distant battlefield. She makes herself a promise: the farm will remain exactly the same until her beloved older brother comes home from the Front. “I think of it like a magical spell. If I can stop time, if nothing ever changes, then maybe he won t change either.” But a storm ruins the harvest, her mother falls ill and then the requisition appears… In a last-ditch attempt to save the farm from bankruptcy, Angélique embarks on a journey across France with her brother’s flock of magnificent Toulouse geese.

The Five Best Bits Of Being A Debut Author – And The Five Worst

Best bits

 You did it!

 At last all that effort is rewarded. The doubt is gone, that gnawing fear: will I ever make the grade? Hell, yes. I’ve got a book out there! It gets a bit knackering, punching your fist in the air, but basically that’s the feeling.

Clever, creative publishing people believe in your creation

Discussing the inspirations for The Goose Road on social media recently brought home forcefully something I’d rather forgotten amid the nitty-gritty of copy edits, proof reading, building a website etc.

Angelique’s story is my take on a largely ignored side of life at a truly terrible time. I’m talking about how serious life can become for young people, and how sad, funny, strange and cruel.

I’ve had the privilege of spending years thinking about these things, and wondering how a peasant girl might, conceivably, have found the strength to deal with everything the First World War threw at her.

Now clever, creative people in the publishing industry are backing my imagination with their money & expertise – which is fantastic.

You’ve met – and continue to meet – amazing people

If there are lonely, tortured writers in garrets out there, I suspect they’re mostly trying to get some alone-time from all their writing mates, and tortured about how much time they spend on Twitter.

Because one of the very best bits about becoming a debut author is taking part in the wonderful world of writing communities online and in real life.

I’ve met an ocean liner’s worth of fascinating people over the past eleven years (which is how long it’s taken me to get here) many of whom I hope will remain friends for life.

 You’ve served your apprentice. Lack of confidence now is self-inflicted

This one is probably personal as I tend to be over-confident as a person, which might be a mask for deep-seated fears and phobias. But, hey, I’ve got a book out. My neuroses can damn well get back in their cave.

Seriously, though, there is so much first-class, detailed, free advice available to writers that whatever your worry, help is invariably on hand.

Even if you don’t own a library of writing advice guides, there’s always support online. Try Emma Darwin’s impeccable blog, This Itch of Writing. Each time I’ve run into a problem, this site has offered me a considered, practical, do-able solution.

The next book will be better – and cheaper to produce

Confession: I’ve spent in excess of £10,000 on training, research and travel in my quest to get published. I like learning, I loved taking an MA in creative writing (my biggest expense) and I find the buzz of writing festivals energizing.

Also, I wanted to research The Goose Road thoroughly, which meant four research trips to France. Which I could afford. Just.

From now on, it’s me and the laptop and writing in my spare time while earning enough to fill in that £10k hole in my pension savings, and supporting my son through university.

That’s going to be tough. As a freelancer, I could dedicate my time to whatever I wished. But I’ve learnt so much that I know I can do it again – and better.

 Worst bits


 Getting published takes forever. Your need the patience of heaven’s entire communion of saints to survive this process with any sense of equilibrium – which I don’t have. Frankly, the waiting drives me nuts.

 Grand Old Duke of York syndrome

Getting a debut novel published is an achievement, a pinnacle moment. For the last eleven years I’ve been marching up to the top of this hill…

So yeah, it’s downhill now for the foreseeable future. And that’s because of…

The money

I’m a breadwinner – and writing, famously, don’t earn you no bread.

As a member of the National Union of Journalists since 1983, I’m shocked at the level of pay for writers in the UK. The Society of Authors calculates that currently the average income from a single work of fiction is £6,000.

Naturally, I don’t yet know how well or badly my debut novel will sell, so the following figures are for illustration only – as I keep trying to reassure myself.

The Goose Road took me the full-time equivalent of approximately 15 months to write: three months research, six months for the first draft, three months for a structural edit, and another three for post-contract copy edits etc. and unpaid promotional work. Given a five-day week, that average income of £6k would work out at £20 a day.

Which is about the same as illegal migrants earn picking tomatoes in southern Italy. Seriously. There was an article in The Guardian a couple of months back about illegal migrant tomato pickers in southern Italy. I did the maths.

The opportunity cost

Every moment I spend writing, I’m not doing something else. Like being with my family, walking the dog, earning a living, or campaigning to save African elephants or British badgers. I’ve made my choice. I won’t ever get that time back again…

So how do I know if it was worth it?

A debut is by definition a new thing. Untried and untested. Potentially weak, short-lived. Forgettable. How will I ever be able to judge if it was worth all the time, effort and resources it took to birth it?

The early reviews have been kind, for which I’m hugely grateful, but we live in a capitalist age; publishing is a business. So success – and with it the chances that Book Two will also make it into the shops – depends on sales as well.

Yet every experienced author I’ve ever come across tells debuts not to worry about sales: that way lies madness, they say. Get on with your next book, they say. It’s the only thing in your power.

So maybe this is the worst bit about being a debut author: that you’re still on the same road you’ve been travelling for years. There are new horizons, yes. But no guarantees whatsoever.

You can buy a copy of The Goose Road here or from your local book shop!

About Rowena House

ROWENA HOUSE spent years as a foreign correspondent in France, Africa and then again in Europe before turning to fiction. She visited the WW1 battlefields of the Western Front repeatedly to research her prize-winning First World War short story, The Marshalling of Angelique’s Geese (WAR GIRLS, 2014) and again for her debut novel, THE GOOSE ROAD (Walker 2018). Her fascination with the Great War, the trenches, and the appalling artillery battles of the Somme and Verdun began at school when studying the war poets, Wilfred Owen in particular. As an adult, she experienced war first-hand as a Reuter’s reporter in Ethiopia, and saw its terrible impact on civilians. Now settled in the English countryside with her husband and son, Rowena holds a Master’s degree in rural economics and another in creative writing, and mentors fiction writers alongside her journalism and storytelling.

You can find out more about Rowena on her website – www.rowenahouse.com

Or why not follow Rowena on Twitter – @HouseRowena


With thanks to the lovely people at Walker I have 5 copies of The Goose Road to giveaway to 5 lucky winners!

I am hosting this giveaway through my twitter here

UK Only

Ends 20/04/2018

Good Luck!

A huge thank you to Rowena House for such a fab guest post and to Jo Hardacre for asking me to host and sending me a copy of the book!

Have you read any of the The Goose Road?  What did you think?  What was your favourite part?    I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall – 5 stories behind the story… by Karen McCombie

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall

I am super excited to have been asked to be part of the blog tour for this wonderful historical MG fantasy, The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall by Karen McCombie.

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall was released on the 2nd June 2016 published in paperback by Scholastic.

A huge thank you to Faye Rogers and Scholastic for having me on this wonderful tour.

For my stop on the blog tour I have a wonderful guest post from the lovely author herself, Karen McCombie with five stories behind The W.

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall

Ellis is losing track of time…

After leaving her friends to move to a crumbling Scottish mansion, Ellis is overcome by anxiety and loneliness. Then she hears whispers in the walls…and finds herself whisked back in time to 1912. 

At first, she feels like she’s finally home. But the past may not be as perfect as it seems – and is there more to hope for in the present than she first thought?

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall – 5 stories behind the story…

1) I was fearsomely shy as a child

We moved a lot – I went to five primary schools, including one in Australia – and I just wasn’t resilient enough to handle that without wobbling. Every move felt like an uphill battle to start again, negotiating new classmates, trying to suss out who’d be nice and who’d be horrible. I channelled some of that ‘moving’ dread when I wrote the character of Ellis, whose mother’s new husband whisks them from bustling London to the wilds of the Scottish Highlands.

2) OK, sometimes it was a little WORSE that just shy wobbles

I had some of the best times and the best of friends in my teens, but occasionally, anxiety would roll right in out of nowhere and bowl me over. It’s happening now for my own teen daughter, and when I was writing ‘The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall’, I really felt I wanted to reflect what anxiety feels like, since it’s a reality for so many teens. But also, I wanted it to be just part of Ellis’s reality. For the teen me, for my lovely daughter, for so many teenagers out there, it’s important to remember that while you have to acknowledge it and understand it, anxiety doesn’t define you.

3) I grew up on the 14th floor of a high-rise block of flats

My surroundings might have been very modern, but as a child, my heart was lost to history. I’d sit in my bedroom in Aberdeen, Scotland, with views of the North Sea and oil rigs outside, while inside, my head was full of Victorian ghost stories (‘The Amazing Mr Blunden’ by Antonia Barber), Georgian mysteries (‘The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris’ by Leon Garfield) and pioneering life in the USA of the 1800s (‘The Little House on the Prairie’ series by Laura Ingalls Wilder). I was SO much of a history nut that it surprises me now to think I haven’t written historical novels till fairly recently, with last year’s WII evacuee story ‘Catching Falling Stars’ my first.

4) Stealing people’s lives is an occupational hazard

It’s tricky being an author’s friend or family member; we pinch bits of your lives all over the place! And in ‘The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall’, Ellis’s mum Sadie is loosely based on my lovely friend Emily, who is a hair and make-up artist. I’ve loved the stories she’s told me of the glamorous shoots she’s been on, working with famous actors, musicians and models (and wow, can some of them be AWFUL, naming no names). But I’ve loved her tales of working on less-glamorous jobs too, like the time she had to paint 20 actors totally orange for a Tango commercial! Come to think of it, I owe Emily a copy of ‘The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall’ and a big thank you…

5) The house that haunts me still…

In my twenties, a film student friend asked me to help with a film project. It sounded fun, so I said yes, of course. Fast-forward, and we’re in the wilds of the countryside, INSIDE a long-deserted, decaying Victorian manor house that my friend had discovered and wanted use as a location. Technically, we were trespassing – which made me feel extremely uncomfortable, but I am SO glad that I bent the rules (if not quite broke the law) and wandered around the faded grandeur of the sadly vandalised building. It felt like such a privilege to have seen it, and to imagine it in all its glory. The house, naturally, has become Wilderwood Hall in my novel. I’d love to revisit it, but in the years since, when I’ve been back in the area and driven around, I’ve never been able to rediscover it. And somehow I think it’s better to leave it that way…

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall

You can buy a copy of this book here or why not visit your local bookshop

Or why not add it to Goodreads here

About Karen McCombie

Karen McCombie

Karen McCombie is from Aberdeen but now lives in North London with her husband, daughter and one big ginger cat. 

Before Karen became a full-time writer she worked for several teen magazines such as Just Seventeen, Bliss and Sugar in a variety roles – everything from Fashion Editor to Features Editor – all very exciting and glam!

Karen has sold over one million books in the UK alone and has been translated into 15 languages.

Find out more at www.karenmccombie.co.uk and take the opportunity to join Karen’s Club!

You can also follow Karen on twitter – @karenmccombie

Or Facebook here

Blog Tour

You can catch up or folow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


Monday 6th June

Powered By Reading

Library Girl and Book Boy

Tuesday 7th June

So Many Books, So Little Time

A Daydreamer’s Thoughts

Wednesday 8th June


Big Book Little Book

Thursday 9th June

Tales of Yesterday

An Awfully Big Adventure

Friday 10th June

YA Yeah Yeah

Snuggling on the Sofa

Saturday 11th June

Luna’s Little Library

Sunday 12th June

Bookish Outsider




A huge huge thank you to Karen for such a fab guest post and to Faye Rogers and Schlastic for organising!

Have you read The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall?  What did you think?  Have read any of Karen’s other books?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!


Spotlight – #ThisIsWhoIAm Tour – Birmingham

IMG_1193On the 8th June 2016 Waterstones Birmingham have a fab event with an awesome author line up!

I had reserved my ticket and was all set and ready to attend and then Waterstones contacted me and asked me a question….

tiwiatThat’s right!  The people at Waterstones Birmingham are letting me loose in these fab authors!

With thanks to Waterstones (and persuasion from my hubby and friends Jim Dean and Faye Rogers – thanks guys) I will be chairing this fab panel at this fab event!

I am a little nervous I have to admit but I am also hugely excited!

Do tweet @WaterstonesBham for a free ticket!

So whilst I am busy reading these fab authors books (or the ones I’ve not yet read yet) and prepping questions I thought it would be fun to shine the spotlight on them a little and find out a little more about them……

You can also check out what I would put in my time capsule here

Eve Ainsworth


Eve Ainsworth is a writer of Adult and YA fiction. She also loves tea (lots of it), 80’s music and most things relating to The Beatles.

Seven Days, Eve’s Young Adult debut, was published by Scholastic Uk in Feb 2015. The Blog of Maisy Malone is a adult comedy novel that has received pleasing reviews on Amazon.
Crush, also published by Scholastic will be published in March 2016.

Eve has had short stories published in magazines such as Writers’ Forum and Prima.

She is now working on her third YA novel for Scholastic.

Please check out her website www.eveainsworth.com or follow her on Twitter @EveAinsworth        

7 days


School should be a safe place for Jess, but at the moment it’s everything she dreads. Jess’s life is difficult enough without Kez picking on her. Kez’s life isn’t any sweeter. She has plenty of problems too but she finds comfort in knowing she is better off than Jess – or so she thinks… Told from the point of view of the bullied and the bully, this is a taut, powerful story of two girls locked in battle with each other and themselves, spiralling towards a shocking conclusion.    



Love hurts … but should it hurt this much? Reeling from her mum’s sudden departure, Anna finds the comfort she needs in her blossoming relationship with Will. He’s handsome and loving, everything Anna has always dreamt of. He’s also moody and unpredictable, pushing her away from her friends, her music. He wants her to be his and his alone. He wants her to be perfect. Anna’s world is closing in. But threatening everything is a dark secret that not even Will can control… Eve Ainsworth’s gripping second novel is a pitch-perfect exploration of love at its most powerful, addictive and destructive. 


You can buy Eve’s books here or from your local bookshop.

Check out my review of 7 Days here or Crush here

Also check out this fab character Q&A with Lyn from 7 Day’s here

Harriet Reuter Hapgood 

harriet_reuter_hapgoodHarriet Reuter Hapgood is a freelance journalist who has worked with Marie Claire, ELLE and InStyle in the UK. The Square Root of Summer was inspired by her German mathematician grandfather and her lifelong obsession with YA romance, which includes an MA thesis on Dawson’s Creek from London College of Fashion and a dissertation on romantic comedies at Newcastle University. She lives in Brighton.  

You can find out more about Harriet on her website – http://harrietreuterhapgood.com/ or follow her on twitter – @hapgoodness 


My heart is a kaleidoscope, and when we kiss it makes my world unravel . . .

Last summer, Gottie’s life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason, the boy to whom she lost her heart wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time – back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then . . .

During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last.

The Square Root of Summer is an astounding and moving debut from Harriet Reuter Hapgood.

You can buy The Square Root Of Summer here or from your local bookshop.

Lauren James  

71cXRJuzSVL._UX250_Lauren James is 23, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Her first novel The Next Together, a YA reincarnation romance, is out now with Walker Books in the UK and has been translated into over six languages worldwide. The Last Beginning will be published in October 2016.

She is an Arts Council grant recipient, and is longlisted for the 2016 Branford Boase Award. She lives in the West Midlands. You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James or her website laurenejames.co.uk  


A powerful and epic debut novel about fate and the timelessness of first love. Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. How many times can you lose the person you love? For Matthew and Katherine it is again and again, over and over, century after century. But why do they keep coming back? How many times must they die to save the world? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? Maybe the next together will be different.  



The epic conclusion to Lauren James’ debut The Next Together about true love and reincarnation. Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation? For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future.    


Winter, 1940: there is a murderer on the loose at Bletchley Park, the headquarters of Britain’s most daring codebreaking operation against the Nazis. Can two young codebreakers Kitty and Matthew catch the killer?

This standalone short story can be enjoyed by new readers and existing fans of Lauren James’s The Next Together series.

You can buy Lauren’s books here or from your local bookshop.

NB – The Last Beginning is due to be released on the 6th October2016 and the e-short Another Together on the 2nd June 2016

Leila Sales   


I was born in 1984, and I grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, with my parents and our cat. When I was little, I wanted to grow up to be a writer, actress, or singer. The writing part turned out to be easiest to accomplish, since it turns out I can’t really carry a tune, though I can do a pretty compelling karaoke rendition of “Hey Mickey.”

I wrote and illustrated approximately one million picture books when I was in elementary school, all of them about unicorns or cats or princesses, or princess unicorns who were best friends with princess cats. When I was seven, I wrote a longer story about quintuplets named Marissa, Larissa, Clarissa, Melissa, and Alyssa. The quintuplets were not princesses, but they did get invited to a royal ball.

During middle school and high school, I wrote five unpublished YA novels. I also acted in plays, competed in gymnastics meets and debate tournaments, babysat, and did an awful lot of schoolwork. My favorite school subject was math, and my worst subject was either science or Spanish.

I went to college at the University of Chicago, where I majored in psychology. I also performed in Off-Off Campus (an improvisational and sketch comedy troupe), competed in debate tournaments all over the world, helped judge the world’s largest scavenger hunt, and wrote a humor column for the school paper. And I wrote another unpublished YA novel, for which I was awarded the Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize for Fiction Writing.

After graduating, I got a job at a children’s book publishing company in New York City, where I remain to this day. My first novel was published in 2010, and since then, I’ve just kept working on more. During the daytime I read other people’s books, and during the nighttime I write my own. What more could I need?

Learn more about me by following me on Twitter or befriending me on Facebook.

You can also find out more about Leila on her website – http://leilasales.com/


All her life, Elise Dembowski has been an outsider. Starting a new school, she dreams of fitting in at last – but when her best attempts at popularity fail, she almost gives up. In a cry for help, she self-harms, and when news of that gets around school, things get even worse for Elise.

But then she stumbles upon a secret warehouse party. There, at night, Elise can be a different person, making real friends, falling in love for the first time, and finding her true passion – DJing.

But when her real and secret lives collide, she has to make a decision once and for all: just who is the real Elise?



Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose: it makes her feel like she matters. But she’s tired of being loyal to people who don’t appreciate her – including her needy best friend and her absent mum.

Arden stumbles upon a blog called ‘Tonight the Streets Are Ours’, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, and it feels like she’s finally found a kindred spirit. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.

During one crazy night in NYC filled with parties, dancing and music – the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does – Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was either.

You can buy Leila’s books here or at your local bookshop


It would be awesome to see you there!

Do tweet @WaterstonesBham for a free ticket!

You can also check out what I would put in my time capsule here

Have you read any of these books or met any of these fab authors before? What questions would you ask if you were chairing the panel?  I would love to here from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @ChelleyToy !

Wish me luck!


Tales Events – #BrumHist Waterstones Birmingham April 2016

IMG_0785On the 2nd April 2016 I attended this brilliant Historical Fiction In YA and MG event at Waterstones Birmingham with five awesome authors!


It was brilliant afternoon full of interesting facts and writing historical fiction tips!


There was the awesome Emma Carroll….



















The lovely Katherine Woodfine….



The brilliant Lauren James



The fabulous Helen Maslin



And the wonderful Rhian Ivory who was the chair of the event….



We were encouraged to live tweet using the #BrumHist from the event.  A few of us did this and I think it really captured the conversations and the event so I have storified it!

As you can see the panel was brilliant!


After the event it was time for a signing!



And of course time for a mingle with the authors and meet internet friends in real life!

brumhist16brumhist15A huge thank you to Waterstones Birmingham for hosting such a fab event and to all the authors for being absolutely brilliant!

Happy Reading!


Guest Post – Libraries, Bubble Bath and Camels by Alison Rattle










I am super excited to be a part of the YA Shot Blog Tour and thanks to the lovely author and YA Shot organiser Alexia Casale I have been paired up with the lovely and fascinating Alison Rattle!


“YA Shot is a one-day Young Adult and Middle Grade ‘festival’ taking place in the centre of Uxbridge on Wednesday 28 October 2015 in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge. 71 authors will be involved in a programme of workshop, panel and ‘in conversation’ events (plus book-signing sessions) in the Uxbridge Civic Centre, Waterstone’s Uxbridge and Uxbridge Library. There is also a programme of 6 fantastic blogging and vlogging workshops. YA Shot is part of the ‘Culture Shot’ (now called ‘Culture Bite’) programme of events that the Libraries are organising across the Borough in October 2015.”

You can find out more about YA Shot by visiting the website www.yashot.co.uk

To buy tickets for this fab event click here

When I was paired with Alison the lovely people at Hot Key Books sent me a copy of The Beloved.  I’ve not read anything by Alison before so I am hugely excited to read this.  Thanks Hot Key!


I am going to be reading this very soon as part of a read along for YA Shot Goodreads Group!

YA Shot 2015
YA Shot 2015 19 members

Discussion about YA Shot 2015, particularly to link up with other people going and to discuss pre…


So now let me pass you over to the lovely Alison who is here today to discuss her love of libraries….

Libraries, Bubble Bath and Camels

I love a library. An anywhere library. A library in a phone box, a library in a coffee shop, in a van, on a narrowboat and yes – on a camel. The Mongolian Children’s Mobile Library in fact, which carries books via camel to remote communities in the Gobi desert. How cool is that? Or hot. It is the Gobi desert after all.

     And did you know, that before the Public Libraries and Museum Act of 1964, which made it obligatory for every council to provide its community with a free lending library, many folks used to trip along to their local branch of Boots the Chemist to borrow a book or two? Introduced in 1898 by Florence Boot (a lover of literature), the Boots Booklovers Library had 450 branches and over one million borrowers in its heyday. The libraries were situated at the back of the shops and were beautifully fitted out, with comfortable chairs, carpets and plants and flowers. For a small subscription customers could borrow as many books as they wished and when they had finished reading, they could return to books to the same branch they borrowed them from or to any other branch of Boots in Great Britain. So along with all your toiletry essentials, soap, indigestion remedies and of course, bubble bath, you could take home the latest romance, western or whodunit. Sadly, with the advent of cheaper paperbacks and the opening of more and more public libraries (hooray!), the last branches of Boots Booklovers Libraries closed in 1966.


I love the idea of a library in a chemist shop. In fact, it’s that sort of quirky social history detail that I’m always on the lookout for. My first three YA novels were all inspired by such fabulous historical titbits. The Quietness was inspired by the horrific trade of baby farming in the 19th century, The Madness by the business of 19th century sea bathing and The Beloved by the true story of a mad preacher and a Victorian cult. And libraries have played a MASSIVE part in the whole research process for each of these books.









   Yes, I know the internet is a wonderful tool. It truly is. But you can’t find EVERYTHING on there. And if you don’t actually know what you’re looking for, then where do you begin? But go to a library and rifle through the history and local history sections and you’re guaranteed to come across some brilliant nugget, some sparkling gem, some little piece of historical wonderfulness that you’ve never heard of before. There’s nothing I like better than settling down in a snug room with floor to ceiling shelves groaning under the weight of hundreds of books just waiting to give up their glorious secrets. It can take just one sentence, one photograph, one unusual story to spark my imagination and to begin the journey into a whole new world.

     It’s how I first learned that laudanum (a derivative of opium) was routinely given to babies in the Victorian era, that a woman walked every street in London to create the first A-Z map and that tea leaves were once used to clean carpets!

     One of my favourite libraries (which has since closed and moved its collection to a new building in Yorkshire) was the British Newspaper Library at Colindale. This library was an astonishing place, housing around 700,000 bound volumes of newspapers and magazines, some dating back to the 17th century. Inside, it was all high windows and wood panelling and smelt gorgeous; of musty paper, granny’s front room, polish and pencils. The majority of the newspapers had been transferred onto microfilm to preserve the original copies, but it was still possible to order original copies of many 19th century newspapers. They were delivered to your table in huge bound books and I cannot tell you how amazing it was to turn the crackling pages inside and to be transported to another time and place. Many of the newspapers were so fragile that the edges of the paper flaked off in your fingers.

     I spent hours in another century, reading of gruesome murders and the subsequent investigations and laughing at the claims of advertisements for products still familiar today. BOVRIL – imparts new strength and increased vitality to the system, fortifying it against diphtheria, influenza, colds, chills and other prevalent ailments. Ha! Who knew?

     The miscellaneous advertisement columns provided an invaluable insight into everyday life with adverts for ‘maids wanted’, ‘pianos for sale’ and ‘washing taken in’ placed next to sinister ‘babies wanted’ adverts…


Oooh, I loved that place so much I could have moved in permanently!

     I don’t get the chance to travel to as many libraries as I used to, but my local library in Wells, Somerset is still my first port of call when I’m beginning a project, when I haven’t got a clue where to begin, when I want a warm place of refuge, when I want peace and quiet to work…in fact, any excuse and you’ll find me there. Like right here and now in fact. Now SSHHH, I’ve got a blog to finish….

About Alison Rattle


I was brought up in Liverpool in the days when children could still play out on the streets and you only went home when your mum shouted you in for tea. But unfortunately I lost my Scouse accent after years of living in the Midlands. I live in Somerset now with my three teenage children (am I really that old?), my partner – a carpenter – an extremely naughty Jack Russell and a ghost cat. I yearn for a cottage by the sea.

Before becoming a writer I was a fashion designer and I still like to dress the part; much to the embarrassment of my teenage daughters. I was also a production controller for a group of newspapers, a painter and decorator and a barmaid. I now own a teeny tiny tea room and get to eat cake and talk about books all day with my lovely customers

I have written books for adults on subjects as diverse as ghosts, mad monarchs, how to boil a flamingo and the history of America. But writing for teenagers is the most satisfying job in the whole world.

I read loads every day and usually have three books on the go at once: one in the loo, one by my bed and one in the kitchen for when I’m cooking. I quite often burn the dinner. My favourite books are ones that deal with uncomfortable subjects and really get inside your head. I loved Jenny Downham’s Before I Die and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. Brilliant!

I was inspired to write The Quietness when I read an original transcript of a trial at the Old Bailey in 1871. A woman was sentenced to hang for murdering babies in her care. One of the witnesses was her 15-year old housemaid called Ellen. I couldn’t get this maid out of my head and kept imagining her life and what she saw and how she felt. I had to do loads of research for the book and learnt so much about the grim and gruesome side of life in Victorian England. Which of course I loved!

You can find out more about Alison on her website here

Or why not follow Alison on twitter using @alisonrattle

You can but Alison’s books here

Ya Shot Blog Tour

yashotblogtour1You can catch up and keep up to date on the YA Shot Blog Tour here


A huge thank you to Alison for an absolutely brilliant guest post and to the lovely Alexia Casale for not only pairing me with Alison, but for organising the brilliant YA Shot!

*hugs to you both*

Have you read any of Alison Rattle’s books?  What did you think?  Do you have any fab library stories?  Will you be attending YA Shot?  Do let me know!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this post or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading




Review – Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis

Crow Mountain lowres jacket


The lovely people at Chicken House have kindly asked me to be part of the How Do You Like Your Romance Blog Tour featuring Darkmere by Helen Maslin and Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis.

I have recently read and loved Crow Mountain and have read the wonderful Darkmere a few months ago also.  Both are brilliant reads and I highly recommend picking up a copy of both!

Today I am reviewing the breath-taking Crow Mountain!

You can also check out my Darkmere blog tour post where I share an exclusive extract from the book here

Check out my review of Darkmere here

Or check out inspiration and a deleted prologue from Darkmere here

Do you like your romance Epic and Sweeping……

Crow Mountain lowres jacket

While on holiday in Montana, Hope meets local boy Cal Crow, a ranch-hand. Caught in a freak accident, the two of them take shelter in a mountain cabin where Hope makes a strange discovery. More than a hundred years earlier, another English girl met a similar fate. Her rescuer: a horse-trader called Nate. In this wild place, both girls learn what it means to survive and to fall in love, neither knowing that their fates are intimately entwined.

Publisher – Chicken House

Published – 3rd September 2015

Pages – 416 pages

Format – Paperback

Category – Historical Fiction, Romance

Source – I was sent a copy of this book by the wonderful publishers Chicken House.  This does not affect my review or my opinions in any way and am delighted to write an honest review.  A huge thank you to Chicken House for sending me this book to review.

** Please note Tales Of Yesterday Reviews are written as spoiler free as possible**

I was lucky enough to have been invited to the Chicken House Blogger Brunch back in July where I got to hear a bit more about Crow Mountain from both Barry Cunningham and the author Lucy Inglis herself and it left me super intrigued to read the book.

I have to say I was not disappointed. Even after hearing about it at the brunch this book still fully surprised me in the most wonderful way possible.

My heart was swept away by Lucy’s fantastic writing style combining historical fiction with present day in breath-taking alternate chapters.

Crow Mountain tells the story of two girls, Hope in present day and Emily in the past in a kind of diary written style and revolves around them meeting two boys, Cal and Nate.

In present day Londoner Hope is very much controlled by Meredith, her environmental scientist mother, who takes Hope with her on a research trip to Montana in the USA where they stay on a huge Ranch. Whilst there Hope befriends Cal who shows her around the ranch, it’s animals and tells Hope some of the history surrounding their beautiful habitat. This is where Hope discovers a diary from 1867 written by a girl named Emily who is on her way from London to Montana to marry a suitor arranged by her parents. After a terrible accident Emily is found by a horse trader named Nate and what pursues is a touching story with similarities that echo the present day events with Hope and Cal.

I really enjoyed the way that from a reader’s point of view we are ahead of the historical side of the story pre Hope finding the diary and we get to experience Hope and Cal’s reaction to everything that we have read.

I found the historical side of the book really intriguing and I was blown away by the amount of historical research that must have gone into this book. I got to learn about a way of life, culture and a time that I did not know much about. I cheered with joy during a battle between Native Indians and the bad guys. I shed tears over the death of many buffalo.  I became intrigued my the legend of a horse of a lifetime.   And I fell in love with Nate as much as Emily does. I really felt that Lucy Inglis catapulted me into the 1800’s . The imagery that is created is spectacular and wonderfully written.

I found the present day story more of bump back to reality and I really felt how Hope was mesmerised by the story she was reading in the diary.

Whilst my favourite character was Nate *swoons* I really liked a character we meet in the middle of the book called Rose!  She is so comfortable in her own skin and such a memorable character it was lovely and often funny to read.  I feel that we all need a Rose in our lives.

On the flip side of the coin Hope’s Mom Meredith was really dislikeable.  She is very controlling of her daughter and it’s almost suffocating.

Crow Mountain to me was a story about two women who lead very suffocating different lives and are pushed beyond limits out of their comfort zones, but in turn this changes them and it allows them to learn who they want to be.  You see these two wonderful characters develop throughout the story and like Rose become comfortable in who they are like a butterfly breaking free of it’s cocoon.

“I’m getting the feeling you and I are from whole different worlds” Nate

And that ending! OMG! My lips are sealed! The last few chapters of the book had me very misty eyed indeed where the similarities and the coming together of things began to tie up.  You get this feeling in your gut that you know what’s coming and I had everything crossed that I was wrong!

I really highly recommend Crow Mountain for something different and especially to people who enjoy historical fiction and with two sweeping, epic romances people will fall in love with the book, the characters and the world that Lucy Inglis has created.

I award this book 4 out of 5 Tales Of Yesterday Books!


Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis is out now and published by Chicken House. For more information visit chickenhousebooks.com 

You can buy Crow Mountain here

Or why not add it to Goodreads here

Find out some inspiration behind Crow Mountain here

About Lucy Inglis

Lucy Inglis lower res

I’m a historian and novelist, a speaker, and occasionally a television presenter and voice in the radio.

Between 2009 and 2013 I created the Georgian London blog, the largest free body of work on the eighteenth century city online, and my book about the same. My book, Georgian London: Into the Streets, was published by Viking for Penguin in 2013 and shortlisted for the History Today Longman Prize. Described variously as, ‘a great read by a talented new historian’, ‘something quite delicious’, ‘packed to the brim with the minutiae of life’, and my personal favourite, ‘If you could cram all your Georgian facts into a large glass and drink it, here it is, the flavour reeking of sex, booze, coffee, tea, dismembered whale parts, rot and riot’. ‘Her passionate curiosity and love for the city rise off the page like smoke’, and it’s out now in hardback and paperback from wherever you like to buy your books.

As of 2014, I am writing Milk of Paradise, a book on opium’s past and present, for Macmillan.

My first novel, City of Halves, came out with Chicken House in April 2014 and has been longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Branford Boase award. In autumn 2015, Chicken House will publish Crow Mountain, a novel about the birth of the state of Montana, set between 1867 and the present day, as two young women cut the binds of family and society to discover who they really are, and where they belong.

Sometimes, I am on television or Radio 3 or 4. On screen, I presented Fight Club: A History of Violence, about female bare-knuckle boxing in gin-soaked Georgian London and was on the Great British Bake Off, talking about the history of cookery writing. I was in Grave Trade for the History Channel and the Georgians series for the BBC, which were part of the 300th anniversary of George I coming to the throne in 2014.

When not doing any of the above and sometimes when I should be, I can be found messing about on twitter, where I am far more likely to talk about none of the above in favour of the serious social problems of our time, such as hipsters.

You can follow Lucy on Twitter using @lucyinglis

Or check out Lucy’s website – lucyinglis.com

Blog Tour

How do you like your romance?

You check out a fab extract from Crow Mountain here

Find out more about Darkmere in my review here

Or catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour here!


Darkmere by Helen Maslin and Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis are out now and published by Chicken House. For more information visit chickenhousebooks.com 

A huge thank you to Laura at Chicken House for inviting me to be part of this fab blog tour!

Have you read Crow Mountain?  What did you think?  Has this review intrigued you enough into buying a copy?  Do you have any favourite romance stories?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading….*swoons*


Tales Quiz – Which Lydia Syson Character are you?











I am super excited to be a part of the UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour again and if you haven’t guessed already I have been paired up with the lovely Lydia Syson!

This time around the UKYA Extravaganza is taking place in Nottingham on the 10th October 2015 and is featuring all of these amazing authors!


When I was paired with Lydia we quickly got our heads together and have hopefully come up with a post for the tour that is fun and different.

Today we get to find our which Lydia Syson character you are most like!

About The Books


Paris, 1871. Four young people will rewrite their destinies. Paris is in revolt. After months of siege at the hands of the Prussians, a wind of change is blowing through the city, bringing with it murmurs of a new revolution. Alone and poverty-stricken, sixteen-year-old Zéphyrine is quickly lured in by the ideals of the city’s radical new government, and she finds herself swept away by its promises of freedom, hope, equality and rights for women. But she is about to be seduced for a second time, following a fateful encounter with a young violinist. Anatole’s passion for his music is soon swiftly matched only by his passion for this fierce and magnificent girl. He comes to believe in Zéphyrine’s new politics – but his friends are not so sure. Opera singer Marie and photographer Jules have desires of their own, and the harsh reality of life under the Commune is not quite as enticing for them as it seems to be for Anatole and Zéphyrine. And when the violent reality of revolution comes crashing down at their feet, can they face the danger together – or will they be forced to choose where their hearts really lie?


Romney Marsh, July 1940. When invasion threatens, you have to grow up quickly. Sixteen-year-old Peggy has been putting on a brave face since the fall of France, but now the enemy is overhead, and the rules are changing all the time. Staying on the right side of the law proves harder than she expects when a plane crash-lands in the Marsh: it’s Peggy who finds its pathetic, broken pilot; a young Polish man, Henryk, who stays hidden in a remote church, secretly cared for by Peggy. As something more blossoms between the two, Peggy’s brother Ernest’s curiosity peaks and other secrets come to light, forcing Peggy and Henryk to question all the loyalties and beliefs they thought they held dear. In one extraordinary summer the lives of two young people will change forever, in a tense and gripping historical drama.


Spain, 1936. Felix, a spirited young nurse, has travelled to Spain to help the cause of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. But she is also following Nat, a passionate young man who has joined the International Brigades fighting Franco. And George – familiar George from home – is not far behind, in pursuit of Felix … As Spain fights for its freedom against tyranny, Felix battles a conflict of the heart. With the civil war raging around her, Felix must make choices that will change her life forever. An epic and moving historical adventure.

Which character are you most like? 

Take the quiz to find out and share your results with us on twitter or leave a comment.

If you cannot see the quiz below click here and scroll down

About Lydia Syson


Lydia Syson has worked with words and stories all her life, in her early career as a radio producer for the BBC World Service, and now as an author of critically acclaimed YA fiction which ‘brings history to life’. A World Between Us (Hot Key Books, 2012), a story of politics and passion set during the Spanish Civil War, was Highly Commended by the judges of the Branford Boase Award, and longlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize and the UKLA Book Award (2014).  Her second novel,That Burning Summer (Hot Key Books, 2013), chosen by The Independent as a Children’s Book of the Year, is set on Romney Marsh in Kent during the Battle of Britain.  If you want to know what happened in Paris after the events of Les Mis, look no further than Liberty’s Fire, a Telegraph ‘Best YA Novel of 2015’, which tells the unbelievable story of the 1871 Paris Commune. Lydia is also the author of a PhD (2003) about explorers, poets and Timbuktu and Doctor of Love (2008), the biography of James Graham, an 18th century medical entrepreneur who designed an electrical, magnetic Celestial Bed for conceiving perfect babies. She is currently a Royal Literary Fund writing fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

You can follow Lydia on twitter using @lydiasyson

Or check out her website www.lydiasyson.com

You can buy Lydia’s books here

Lydia also did a write up about the this post and me here

Blog Tour

You can follow the rest of the blog tour below or why not check out my UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour post here detailing all posts on the tour and authors attending the event!

UKYAX October Blog Tour Banner FINAL

You can find out more about the UKYA Extravaganza in Nottingham on the website here

Or follow them on twitter using @UKYAX

Or find out what we got up to at the Birmingham UKYA Extravaganza here

You can find out more about the Birmingham UKYA Extravaganza authors and the blog tour that took place here

Or why not catch up on the Nottingham UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour posts and authors here

UKYA logo new

A huge thank you to Lydia for being fab and together creating something fun and different!

Also a huge thank you to Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass for organising the UKYA Extravaganza and having me on the blog tour!

See you there!


Review – The Diviners By Libba Bray


It’s 1920s New York City. It’s flappers and Follies, jazz and gin. It’s after the war but before the depression. And for certain group of bright young things it’s the opportunity to party like never before.

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-tute-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

Publisher – Atom

Date Published – 18th September 2012

Pages – 592 pages

Format – Paperback

Category – YA

Source – Bought

** Please note Tales Of Yesterday Reviews are written as spoiler free as possible**

This book was suggested to me by the wonderful author Keris Stainton and I kept putting the book off and off and off for quite a while as, if I’m honest, I was quite intimidated by the size of the book.  At a huge almost 600 pages I kept picking the book up every time I was ready to start a new book, reading the blurb and then putting it back down thinking “It’s to big to read now” or “Do I have enough time to read this book”?.  I finally (after Keris prompting me when I posted a tweet on twitter – thanks Keris) thought lets do this!  I’m so glad I did.

I have never read anything by the American author Libba Bray before although I had heard of her and have heard such wonderful things about her previous books including high praise for The Diviners.  From what I have read about Libba she is the queen of historical fiction and in writing The Diviners decided to take on the 1920’s New York Jazz Age with a fantastic supernatural twist which, for me, chilled me to the bone! As well as being intrigued by the whole historical side of the book, especially with it being set in the 1920’s which I did not know much about,  I love a creepy read and as I also heard that this book (s) had a US advance of $1 million I was expecting great, scary things.  Just how scary and creepy I really was not prepared for!

The opening to this book, A Late Summers Evening, sets the 1920’s scene at a party with a group of friends who decide to play with a Ouija Board (nothing good EVER comes from playing with a Ouija Board) and unknowingly they awake something dark and evil.  This opening few pages, for me, where chilling and the beautifully crafted descriptions made my heart beat just that little bit faster!  You can listen to the opening few pages told in 1920’s style here.

The story centres around a seventeen year old girl called Evie who, after being shamefully banished by her parents  for embarrassing the family name, goes to stay with her uncle Will in New York who seems to have a slightly unhealthy obsession with the occult.  Evie is over the moon as New York is THE place to be and is where her best friend Mabel lives and Evie intends to tear up the town.  That is until the police find a murdered girl who has been marked with a cryptic symbol.  Will is called to the scene and this is where Evie realises that she could help catch the killer as Evie has a secret which may prove helpful.

The book is broken up into named chapters and do not always focus on seventeen year old Evie.  There is Sam the cheeky chappy pick pocket, Jericho the serious mysterious student, Mabel the shy best friend, Theta the beautiful talented flapper girl, Memphis the illegal number runner and of course a few dead bodies and a truly terrifying villain!  All of these characters become intriguing throughout the book as stories unfold in a complex, twisting plot with a LOT of creepy and sometimes stomach churning moments (If you have read the book I will say the words cat and rabbit heart and hopefully you will know what I mean).  Libba Bray really gives us an all round ensemble of characters and even throws in a bit of a love triangle amongst all of the creepy moments.

I have to admit I really struggled with the first quarter of this book (I would say around 80 pages).  I found Evie such a selfish and beyond annoying character and I found myself getting frustrated.  I found the detail and the narrative of the book a little over whelming and  I struggled to get to grips with the what seemed like annoying one liners and slang I couldn’t get my head around.  As usual I turned to twitter!

Through posting on twitter I found a lot of people found the same with some people giving up on the book, but a lot of people telling me to stick it out you will love it.  I rarely give up on a book.  I put the book down for a few days and without really thinking about it started looking up clips and music from the 1920’s to try and get my head around the language and the historical period as I thought maybe my lack of knowledge of this era was causing me to not like the book (if that makes any sense).  I stumbled across a dedicated page set up for The Diviners  – www.thedivinersseries.com .  On here were clips of the book (as above) told in 1920’s style narrative, 1920’s music, character profiles for the book etc.  It gave me a real sense of the era and for me as a reader struggling with a book it really helped.  I picked the book up again and really got into it finding that I was reading the speech differently and actually realising that Evie was actually quite a bright and breezy character.  I had a break through!  But I almost put the book down again when Keris sent me this link for The Diviners Book Trailer ….If you scare easily do not click on the link!  Well I didn’t put the book down (yay) and I loved it.

For me the stand out character in the book was Memphis…I loved his character to pieces.  He looks out for his little brother Issiah and try’s his best to look after him.  His whole presence in his scenes stole my heart and for me was the most relatable character.  That being said, as mentioned above, all the characters were intriguing and Libba Bray offers us such detailed back grounds of the characters you really get to know them.  The whole supernatural theme runs throughout the book with the perfect balance of good versus evil and an amazing climax at the end.

I found out before finishing the book that The Diviners is a four book series with the second book, Lair Of Dreams, due to be released on the 14th April 2014 in the U.K and the last 40 pages of the first book really set the scene for the next book and left a few burning questions in my mind.  I really cannot wait for the second book and it is one that I am definitely excited to read next year.

If you like historical fiction, supernatural ghost stories, haunted houses, creepy things, murder and a bit of love this book is for you.  I noticed a question on Libba Bray’s website which made me chuckle.  When asked what we, as the reader, can expect from The Diviners Libba simply answers NIGHTMARES!

I award this book 4 out of 5 Tales Of Yesterday Books


You can buy The Diviners book one and find out more about book two (or maybe even pre-order book two) here

If you would like to know more about Libba Bray and her other books check her out on her website http://libbabray.com/ or follow her on twitter using @libbabray

Has anyone read this book?  What did you think?  If you haven’t read the book do you think you will?  I would love to hear from you – either click the reply button at the top of the page or why not tweet me on twitter ( @chelleytoy ) ?

Happy Reading


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