Posted in Uncategorized

#AmQuerying THE GRAVEDIGGER

Bram (12) always has a half-baked scheme up his sleeve. He lives on an island in the North Sea where, in the sprawling underbelly of catacombs, his family tour business breathes life into tragic ghost stories.

But business is dwindling. Tourists barely disguise rolled eyes and pitiful smirks, leaving damning reviews in their wake. Worse than that, Bram’s ill-conceived hoax-video of “bona fide ghosts” royally backfires. Legendary supernatural debunker, Cressida Strange, gets a whiff of it. She posts a fatal reply to expose the fraud live from the island in a special broadcast on Halloween night. With closure already looming, it’ll be the final nail in the coffin for the family business. Bram has 24 hours to fix it.

Armed with his phone and a new plan to knock Cressida Strange off her warpath, Bram sweet-talks his friends into a ghost-hunting stakeout in a forbidden part of the catacombs. Maybe they shouldn’t have gone through the mysterious Red Door. When it slams shut behind them, Bram’s blood runs cold.

Trapped in a mind-bending labyrinth of forgotten paths, dead-ends, and stirring graves, Bram battles to keep his plan on track. But the Gravedigger—a vengeful spectre ruing a lifetime of injustice—stalks the tunnels. Relentlessly tormenting every sorry soul in the catacombs, the Gravedigger wants to add Bram to his collection. Can Bram make it to Cressida Strange’s broadcast in time? He’s got to make it out of the catacombs alive first.

THE GRAVEDIGGER is a read-it-with-the-lights-on gore-free ghost story, perfect for fans of The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier with the eerie atmosphere and mounting dread of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Prince of Mist.

Posted in Short Stories

Fall Writing Frenzy 2021

The Challenge

Pick one of the Fall images (provided) and write a 200-word max piece inspired by that picture.

Rosh Hashanah – Credit: Bing

My Entry: BAD APPLES (158 words)

Three stinky children reeking of candyfloss and syrup stole into my garden one day, and with their grubby little hands plucked three of my ruby Red Deliciouses. Their eyes danced with dreams of toffee apples. They shrugged away warnings that A WITCH LIVES ‘ERE.

Two cups of flour and one cup of fat. Maybe I’ll dunk those brats in scorching sugar. Six teaspoons of ice-cold water, the kind you’ll find in the deepest, darkest, depths of my well. Maybe I’ll glaze their chubby cheeks with caramel. Press together into silky dough. Perhaps I’ll mount them on giant popsicle sticks. And flatten with a rolling pin like roadkill.

But they’d only scare off the crows.

Two hours later, to the sound of silence in the playground, I rested the steaming hot pie on the window ledge. Honey and spice frosted the air. Crumbly pastry sparkling with sugar longed to be cracked. And beneath?

The perfect recipe for bad apples.

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

Five Middle-Grade Books… with Monsters

THE MAKER OF MONSTERS by Lorraine Gregory

Brat has always lived in the isolated castle on the island, taking care of the vicious creatures that his master creates, waiting in terror for the moment when they are ready to be put to use. But then the unthinkable happens. The monsters get out. Now Brat must overcome his fears, and venture into the world he has hidden from his whole life. For the fate of everyone rests on his shoulders alone. . .

If you’re after a book featuring monsters then this is the one for you! It’s got monsters galore! It’s monsters, squared! There are sweet, lovable monsters that’ll steal your heart. And there are scary, blood-curdling, spine-chilling monsters that’ll have you reading this book with the lights on. Super fast-paced, page-turning read – I loved this book!

THE BIGWOOF CONSPIRACY by Dashe Roberts

When twelve-year-old, UFO-obsessed, Lucy Sladan sneaks out in the middle of a thunderstorm to investigate the unexplained disappearances in her hometown of Sticky Pines, she finds more than she bargained for: a huge hairy creature, a thirteen-year-old stranger named Milo Fisher and a deep-rooted secret. Together, Lucy and Milo become entwined in a mystery that threatens to engulf the whole town of Sticky Pines and its weird and wonderful residents.

Quirky. Spooky. Funny. Bigfoot? This is a crazy-fun adventure wrapped in a sci-fi mystery that’s like the X-Files meets Scooby Doo.

THE DARKDEEP by Ally Condie & Brendan Reichs

When a bullying incident sends twelve year-old Nico Holland over the edge of a cliff into the icy waters of Still Cove, where no one ever goes, friends Tyler and Ella – and even ‘cool kid’ Opal – rush to his rescue . . . only to discover an island hidden in the swirling mists below.

Shrouded by dense trees and murky tides, the island appears uninhabited, although the kids can’t quite shake the feeling that something about it is off. Their suspicions grow when they stumble upon an abandoned houseboat with an array of curiosities inside: odd-looking weapons, unnerving portraits, maps to places they’ve never heard of, and a glass jar containing something completely unidentifiable. As the group delves deeper into the unknown, their discoveries – and their lives – begin to intertwine in weird and spooky ways. Something ancient has awakened . . . and it knows their wishes and dreams – and their deepest secrets.

Do they have what it takes to face the shadowy things that lurk within their own hearts?

Stranger Things meets Middle Grade! This fast-paced book is heaped with creepy. There’s something seriously evil in the Darkdeep and it knows that the scariest things live in your own imagination.

CRATER LAKE by Jennifer Killick

Who is the mysterious bloodstained man who stops their coach? Why is no one around when Lance and the rest of Year Six arrive at the brand new Crater Lake activity centre?
But this is just the beginning of the school trip from hell; a fight for survival that sees five pupils band together to save their classmates from an alien fate far worse than death. But whatever happens, they must Never. Ever. Fall asleep!

Monsters from out of this world! This book is seriously creepy and super spooky. And it’s gory… but in that deliciously disgusting way that’ll have you cringing with a smile on your face.

SMALL SPACES by Katherine Arden

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and a peculiar deal made with the smiling man–a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.


Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you. Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: Avoid large places. Keep to small.

Scary, with a capital S. If you don’t want to be terrified of scarecrows for the rest of your life, you might not want to read this. That being said: you want to read this! Small Spaces will easily make the Top Ten of any Spooky MG list. It’s utterly brilliant and a must-read.

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

Five Middle-Grade Books… with Witches

THE JUMBIES by Tracey Baptiste

Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they? When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and to save her island home.

Incredible creepy story set in Trinidad and rich with Caribbean folklore, The Jumbies ticked all the spooky, witchy boxes for me. Suspense, intrigue, mystery, this magical tale is an atmospheric read you won’t be able to put down.

NIGHTBOOKS by J.A. White

A boy is imprisoned by a witch and must tell her a new scary story each night to stay alive.

Alex’s original hair-raising tales are the only thing keeping the witch Natacha happy, but soon he’ll run out of pages to read from and be trapped forever. He’s loved scary stories his whole life, and he knows most don’t have a happily ever after. Now that Alex is trapped in a true terrifying tale, he’s desperate for a different ending–and a way out of this twisted place.

With nods to 1001 Nights and Grimm’s Fairytales, this book is seriously scary. Nightbooks is a proper page-turner oozing with nightmares and suspense.

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON by Kelly Barnhill

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is in fact a good witch who shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge – with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions flock nearby. A volcano, quiet for centuries, rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl . . .

A fabulous book filled with quirky, charming characters you’re guaranteed to fall in love with. The Girl who Drank the Moon deals with sorrow, loss, family, belonging, whilst also drawing you into a magical and mysterious quest.

TWELVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT by Christopher Edge

Why are the patients of Bedlam waking every night at twelve minutes to midnight? What is the meaning of the strange messages they write? Who is the Spider Lady of South Kensington?

Penelope Tredwell, thirteen-year-old owner of The Penny Dreadful, is always seeking mysteries to fill the pages of her magazine. But this isn’t any ordinary story, it’s the future.

And the future looks deadly…

This book hooked me from the very first page. There’s such a wonderfully macabre atmosphere to it, set in the Victorian era at the turn of the century when magic meets innovation. There isn’t a witch in the traditional sense, but for me, the Spider Lady exuded those eerie sorceress vibes, which is why I had to include Twelve Minutes to Midnight in this list.

THE VANISHING TRICK by Jenni Spangler

Step into a world of secrets, folklore and illusions, where nothing is as it seems and magic is at play…

Madame Augustina Pinchbeck, travels the country conjuring the spirits of dearly departed loved ones… for a price. Whilst her ability to contact ghosts is a game of smoke and mirrors, there is real magic behind her tricks too – if you know where to look.

Through a magical trade, she persuades children to part with precious objects, promising to use her powers to help them. But Pinchbeck is a deceiver, instead turning their items into enchanted Cabinets that bind the children to her and into which she can vanish and summon them at will.

When Pinchbeck captures orphan Leander, events are set into motion that see him and his new friends Charlotte and Felix, in a race against time to break Pinchbeck’s spell, before one of them vanishes forever…

Creepy, Gothic, with a fantastically twisted villain, this book is bewitchingly written. Set in Victorian England, The Vanishing Trick explores spiritualism with seances and tarot cards, mystery, misdirection, and magic. An incredible dark fairytale and a must-read!

Posted in Short Stories

Spring Fling Writing Contest 2021

The Challenge

Find a gif and write a spring-inspired story. Anything related to Spring, geared towards kids ages 12 and under. 150 words max.

THE SPRINGTIME GROUCH

(150 WORDS)

Ever heard of the Springtime Grouch? The plague of Seedtime. The witherer of all that grows.

With the personality of stinky socks, he dines on slug curry and maggot rice. His favourite day of the year is Valentine’s Day; he celebrates by sneaking into the local greetings card shop and with a thick marker colours all the ruby-red hearts black. And he doesn’t even stay in the lines.

He’s a wet blanket, a stick-in-the-mud; all parties are pooped when he’s around. With Spring festivals and sunshine, the Grouch doesn’t care if the world is in bloom. His eyes – like two melancholy curled-up woodlice – are one blink away from murder.

The Easter Bunny should be stowed in a pot! The boiling kind.

If you happen to see him poking around your garden with his shovel of bats, don’t for Pete’s sake let him stay… Tell the Springtime Grouch to GO AWAY.

THANKYOU to everyone involved in this fab competition for their amazing generosity and for putting a spring in my step this year. I had so much fun bringing the Springtime Grouch to life!

And be sure to check out Ciara’s blog for all the other incredible entries from the wonderful kidlit community.

Posted in Uncategorized

About Me

ME THEN:

I’ve always loved books. You can thank my Nan for that. A day out with her would involve going to the local library where everyone knew her name and always had the newest book saved under the counter for her, and we’d emerge an hour later with a stack as tall as me. When we got back to the farm, she’d toss the books in the tumble dryer so the dogs and the geese couldn’t get at them (there’d been a few book-casualties in the past), and then, later on, she’d pull one out, slide it across the table and say, “Try this, Gen. The author’s really good. Their books are a bit scary…so don’t tell your mum”. And I’d get that little flutter of excitement in my belly.

Half English – half Mauritian, I grew up in Essex and moved to London when I was eighteen. I spent over a decade working in bars and restaurants where I had every job in the book – from Kitchen Porter to General Manager. But my favourite time of the day was getting on the bus at 2am on Shaftsbury Avenue or Waterloo when I’d finally be able to pick up where I left off in the book I was reading. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed my tube stop because the whole world outside my book had disappeared. Of course, days off involved heading to the ring of charity shops in Crystal Palace, scouring the bookshelves for more!

But reading books wasn’t enough. I wanted to be a writer.

Imposter syndrome held me hostage for many years. Was I too old? Too inexperienced? Could I really do it? The impossible dream. But there was also another tiny voice: you’re driven; you’re hardworking; you’re determined. Is there a book in me? YES, there’s a book in me. There are loads!

In 2013 when I was thirty-years-old, I moved to Switzerland to start a new chapter in my life.

ME NOW:

I write every day. I’ve never been happier. And my pyjama collection has grown considerably.

Since 2013 I have thrown myself into all things writing. I’ve studied, workshopped, devoured craft books, practiced, practiced, practiced. I’ve experimented with genre; I unearthed a love for Middle Grade fiction. I’ve discovered a community of likeminded writers and found fellow people passionate about the craft that I’m lucky to call my friends. I’m always learning; I’ll never stop learning.

Naming my favourite books is an impossible task. There are books I’ll return to that are imbued with nostalgia – Lord of the Rings, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Narnia books. As a kid, I journeyed through the Goosebumps books, then Point Horror, before I graduated to adult horror – so those books will always be dear to my heart, and to this day I’m still chasing the next spooky-book-high. If you were to peruse my burgeoning TBR today, you’d find it brimming with Middle Grade. I adore books for that audience and would list The Graveyard Book, The Night Gardener, Small Spaces, and The Jumbies among my favourites…but the list could go on and on and on…

When not writing (and if I’m not reading), you’ll probably find me planning Christmas and baking: I run a Christmas recipe website where I can feed my passion. I love art and painting. I’m a happy geek and will binge-watch the heck out of the Lord of the Rings (extended, always), Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, anything Marvel, all Disney. I love action movies: talk to me about Die Hard, John Wick, and anything from the 90’s. I’m a lifelong Manchester United fan, I love Formula 1, and snooker. And I’m a passionate advocate of ocean conservation. Three of my favourite possessions are: my replica of the Holy Grail from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, my candleholder shaped like Gandalf’s staff, and a Manchester United scarf my dad bought when he emigrated to England from Mauritius in 1973.

MY FUTURE

I’m lucky to have found something that makes me truly happy in life and know that whatever lies ahead – my constant will be writing. My ultimate dream is for a kid to dress up as one of my characters on World Book Day. Yes, I’ve got a long way to go until that dream may be realised. There will be hard work with highs and lows on the horizon, but I’m raring to go and I genuinely believe that perseverance pays off in the end.

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

THE VANISHING TRICK by Jenni Spangler

Step into a world of secrets, folklore and illusions, where nothing is as it seems and magic is at play…

Madame Augustina Pinchbeck, travels the country conjuring the spirits of dearly departed loved ones… for a price. Whilst her ability to contact ghosts is a game of smoke and mirrors, there is real magic behind her tricks too – if you know where to look.

Through a magical trade, she persuades children to part with precious objects, promising to use her powers to help them. But Pinchbeck is a deceiver, instead turning their items into enchanted Cabinets that bind the children to her and into which she can vanish and summon them at will.

When Pinchbeck captures orphan Leander, events are set into motion that see him and his new friends Charlotte and Felix, in a race against time to break Pinchbeck’s spell, before one of them vanishes forever…

The Vanishing Trick blurb from Book Depository

The Vanishing Trick is spooky in a marvellously macabre and unsettling way, with a fantastically twisted villain. The story hooked me from the beginning, and the pace really ramps up as the story progresses making it a proper page-turner.

I adored the story, and was drawn in to the gorgeously Gothic, dark, creepy atmosphere from page one. From then, I couldn’t put it down! I really connected with the main character, Leander, right from the off, and felt his plight – positioned as he was – on the bottom rung of Victorian society. The other two protagonists also had a wonderful complexity to them. With each chapter, the perspective shifts from one to the next, and I found them all to be strong characters worthy of carrying a scene. And I had such a soft spot for Felix and his hauntingly beautiful violin-playing and the terrible weight he carries in his soul. I would happily read a whole book just about him!

Highly recommended! Here are the bookylinks:

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier

A chilling ghost story about two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. More than just a spooky tale, it’s also a moral fable about human greed and the power of storytelling.

Blurb from Jonathan Auxier’s website

“This is the best book EVER!” (is what I said to my boyfriend after devouring the first half of The Night Gardener at whiplash-inducing speed)

I couldn’t put it down. I tried to, at about 2am whilst frantically blinking away that insufferable pest: sleep. I went to bed, and then five minutes later, the book was open and I was reading ‘just one more chapter’ under the duvet using the torchlight from my phone. The last time I did that, I was ten.

It’s the kind of book that seeps into you and gets under your skin. There’s that prickling sensation. That spidery sense on the back of your neck like someone’s watching. I was double-taking shadows out of the corner of my eye. It is the very best in the creepy, the unsettling and the foreboding. I am so sad it’s over.

If you too want to read this incredible book and then, like me, internally lambaste yourself for reading it too quickly and not making it last, leading to the worst book-hangover of your life, then here are the bookylinks!

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

2020: all my 5-star reads!

Here they are: all the fabulous fiction that got ALL THE STARS from me! They are in no particular order (just the order I read them in) and along with the book’s blurb, you can click through to the Book Depository link should any take your fancy. It’s been so wonderful revisiting the amazing books I read last year, and I hope that among these you find some gems to call ‘your favourite reads’!

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

THE GIRL WHO SPEAKS BEAR by Sophie Anderson

They call me Yanka the Bear. Not because of where I was found – only a few people know about that. They call me Yanka the Bear because I am so big and strong.

Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, Yanka has always wondered about where she is from. She tries to ignore the strange whispers and looks from the villagers, wishing she was as strong on the inside as she is on the outside. But, when she has to flee her house, looking for answers about who she really is, a journey far beyond one that she ever imagined begins: from icy rivers to smouldering mountains meeting an ever-growing herd of extraordinary friends along the way.

SONG FOR A WHALE by Lynne Kelly

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she’s the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she’s not very smart. If you’ve ever felt like no-one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to “sing” for him! But he’s three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?

ESCAPE FROM MR LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein

When Kyle Keeley learns that the world’s world’s most famous game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, has designed the town’s new library and is having an invitation-only lock-in on opening night, Kyle is determined to be there! But the tricky part isn’t getting into the library–it’s getting out. Because when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must catch every clue and solve every puzzle to find the hidden escape route! 

THE MANY WORLDS OF ALBIE BRIGHT by Christopher Edge

When Albie’s mum dies, it’s natural he should wonder where she’s gone. His parents are both scientists and they usually have all the answers. Dad mutters something about Albie’s mum being alive and with them in a parallel universe. So Albie finds a box, his mum’s computer and a rotting banana, and sends himself through time and space to find her…

THE HIGHLAND FALCON THIEF by MG Leonard

Harrison Beck is reluctantly joining his travel-writer Uncle Nat for the last journey of the royal train, The Highland Falcon. But as the train makes its way to Scotland, a priceless brooch goes missing, and things are suddenly a lot more interesting. As suspicions and accusations run high among the passengers, Harrison begins to investigate and uncovers a few surprises along the way. Can he solve the mystery of the jewel thief and catch the culprit before they reach the end of the line?

THE GARDEN OF LOST SECRETS by A.M. Howell

October, 1916. Clara is sent to stay with her formidable aunt and uncle in the grounds of a country estate. Clara soon discovers that her new surroundings hold secrets: a locked room and a hidden key, and a mysterious boy who only appears in the gardens at night… But can Clara face up to her own secrets, and a war she’s desperate to forget?

BOOK SCAVENGER by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it’s the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon arriving, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold himself. Racing against time, Emily and James try to uncover the secret at the heart of Griswold’s new game-before Griswold’s attackers find them.

THE MAKER OF MONSTERS by Lorraine Gregory

Brat has always lived in the isolated castle on the island, taking care of the vicious creatures that his master creates, waiting in terror for the moment when they are ready to be put to use. But then the unthinkable happens. The monsters get out. Now Brat must overcome his fears, and venture into the world he has hidden from his whole life. For the fate of everyone rests on his shoulders alone. . .

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman

This is what he remembers, as he sits by the ocean at the end of the lane:

A dead man on the back seat of the car, and warm milk at the farmhouse.
An ancient little girl, and an old woman who saw the moon being made.
A beautiful housekeeper with a monstrous smile.
And dark forces woken that were best left undisturbed.

They are memories hard to believe, waiting at the edge of things. The recollections of a man who thought he was lost but is now, perhaps, remembering a time when he was saved…

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?

THE BIGWOOF CONSPIRACY by Dashe Roberts

When twelve-year-old, UFO-obsessed, Lucy Sladan sneaks out in the middle of a thunderstorm to investigate the unexplained disappearances in her hometown of Sticky Pines, she finds more than she bargained for: a huge hairy creature, a thirteen-year-old stranger named Milo Fisher and a deep-rooted secret. Together, Lucy and Milo become entwined in a mystery that threatens to engulf the whole town of Sticky Pines and its weird and wonderful residents.

THE HOUSE OF ONE HUNDRED CLOCKS by A.M. Howell

JUNE, 1905. Helena and her parrot, Orbit, are swept off to Cambridge when her father is appointed clock-winder to one of the wealthiest men in England. There is only one rule: the clocks must never stop. But Helena discovers the house of one hundred clocks holds many mysteries; a ghostly figure, strange notes and disappearing winding keys… Can she work out its secrets before time runs out?

DOLL BONES by Holly Black

My name is Eleanor Kerchner.
You can call me the Queen.
I died in 1895.
Now it’s time to play.

THE ABSENCE OF SPARROWS by Kurt Kirchmeier

In the small town of Griever’s Mill, eleven-year-old Ben Cameron is expecting to finish off his summer of relaxing and bird-watching without a hitch. But everything goes wrong when dark clouds roll in. Old Man Crandall is the first to change — human one minute and a glass statue the next. Soon it’s happening across the world. Dark clouds fill the sky and, at random, people are turned into frozen versions of themselves. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no one knows how to stop it.With his mom on the verge of a breakdown, and his brother intent on following the dubious plans put forth by a nameless voice on the radio, Ben must hold out hope that his town’s missing sparrows will return with everyone’s souls before the glass plague takes them away forever.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL by Soman Chainani

Every four years, two girls are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon. Legend has it these lost children are sent to the School for Good and Evil, the fabled institution where they become fairytale heroes or villains.

With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she’ll join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White at the School for Good. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black dresses and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.

But the two girls soon find their fortunes reversed – Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.

But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are?

WINTERHOUSE by Ben Guterson

Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms–most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to care for, and even Winterhouse itself? 

CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley

Even though his awful Great-Aunt Gertrudis doesn’t approve, Micah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other–the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. With his friend Jenny Mendoza in tow, Micah sets out to find the Circus and the man he believes will save his grandfather. The only problem is, the Lightbender doesn’t want to keep his promise. And now it’s up to Micah to get the miracle he came for.

CITY OF GHOSTS by Victoria Schwab

Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead… and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger. When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil — and herself.

And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

THE PRINCE OF MIST by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver’s father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past.

Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn . . .

SMALL SPACES by Katherine Arden

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and a peculiar deal made with the smiling man–a sinister spectre who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.

Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you. Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: Avoid large places. Keep to small.

CORALINE by Neil Gaiman

There is something strange about Coraline’s new home.

It’s not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It’s the other house – the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. For ever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back.

CRATER LAKE by Jennifer Killick

Who is the mysterious bloodstained man who stops their coach? Why is no one around when Lance and the rest of Year Six arrive at the brand new Crater Lake activity centre?
But this is just the beginning of the school trip from hell; a fight for survival that sees five pupils band together to save their classmates from an alien fate far worse than death. But whatever happens, they must Never. Ever. Fall asleep!

THE SECRETS OF WINTERHOUSE by Ben Guterson

The two friends follow a trail of clues, inadvertently attracting the attention of a suspicious new hotel guest: Elana Vesper. The clock is ticking as Elizabeth and Freddy struggle to figure out whether Elana is merely a pawn or a player in the plot to revive the spirit of Gracella. If that wasn’t enough, Elizabeth suspects she is coming into her own special powers – and she’s fearful it might lead her right into Gracella’s vicious web.

THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS by Chris Priestly

Sam and Lizzie are freezing and hungry on the streets of Victorian London. When Sam asks a wealthy man for some coins, he is rudely turned away. Months of struggle suddenly find their focus, and Sam resolves to kill the man. Huddling in a graveyard for warmth, Sam and Lizzie are horrified to see the earth around one of the tombs begin to shift, shortly followed by the wraithlike figure of a ghostly man. He warns Sam about the future which awaits such a bitter heart, and so begins Sam’s journey led by terrifying spirits through the past, present and future, after which Sam must decide whether to take the man, Scrooge’s, life or not.

THE DARKDEEP by Ally Condie & Brendan Reichs

When a bullying incident sends twelve year-old Nico Holland over the edge of a cliff into the icy waters of Still Cove, where no one ever goes, friends Tyler and Ella – and even ‘cool kid’ Opal – rush to his rescue . . . only to discover an island hidden in the swirling mists below.

Shrouded by dense trees and murky tides, the island appears uninhabited, although the kids can’t quite shake the feeling that something about it is off. Their suspicions grow when they stumble upon an abandoned houseboat with an array of curiosities inside: odd-looking weapons, unnerving portraits, maps to places they’ve never heard of, and a glass jar containing something completely unidentifiable. As the group delves deeper into the unknown, their discoveries – and their lives – begin to intertwine in weird and spooky ways. Something ancient has awakened . . . and it knows their wishes and dreams – and their deepest secrets. Do they have what it takes to face the shadowy things that lurk within their own hearts?

CHRISTMAS DINNER OF SOULS by Ross Montgomery

It’s a dark and lonely Christmas Eve in the dining room of ancient Soul’s College. The kitchen boy, 11-year-old Lewis, has helped prepare a highly unusual meal, made with unrecognisable ingredients, cooked by a mysterious chef. And then the guests arrive … and carnage ensues. They are ex-students of Soul’s College, and they are all completely demented. They demand bottle after bottle of wine, flinging their cutlery and howling like banshees until … silence. The Dean of Soul’s College has arrived, and the evening’s ceremonies must begin.

For this is the annual meeting of a secret club for those who despise children, warmth, happiness, and above all Christmas. Each member must try to outdo the others by telling the most terrible, disgusting story they know.

THE HAUNTING OF AVELINE JONES by Phil Hickes

Aveline Jones loves reading ghost stories, so a dreary half-term becomes much more exciting when she discovers a spooky old book. Not only are the stories spine-tingling, but it once belonged to Primrose Penberthy, who vanished mysteriously, never to be seen again. Intrigued, Aveline decides to investigate Primrose’s disappearance. Now someone…or something, is stirring. And it is looking for Aveline.

TUNNEL OF BONES by Victoria Schwab

Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.

She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.

When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter — and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.

And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever.

Posted in Writerly Wrangling

#AmQuerying SAVING THE HUMBLE BRAG

The Kujira: a titanic and macabre skeletal whale that reaps the souls of the damned. Twelve-year-old Levi has been fleeing it for 387 years.

First Mate Levi is dead on his feet, but there’s a new soul aboard the ghost ship the Humble Brag. Sam is fearless, covered in shark bites, and she’s pretty okay about being dead. Levi likes her immediately, because no-one ever said a floating graveyard couldn’t use a bit of spirit. A ship of rescued souls, they make the best of the afterlife, flying full sail from the gruesome whale—fugitives from the dreaded below.

But it all comes crashing down when an epic storm hits and Levi’s dad – Captain of the Brag – is flung overboard into the jaws of the Kujira and hauled down to the underworld. With the supernatural link to the ship severed, the Humble Brag will fade to nothing, and they’ll all be next on the Kujira’s menu.

And then Sam’s like, “Why don’t we just nip down to the underworld and rescue him?”

Levi is faced with a chilling dilemma that involves going to the one place he’s spent 387 years running away from in a terrifying race against time. The clock is ticking. Eighty-two salvaged souls aboard the Brag are relying on Levi to step up and be the leader he never wanted to be.

Save the Captain. Save the Brag.

The Graveyard Book meets Pirates of the Caribbean, SAVING THE HUMBLE BRAG is perfect for fans of Dashe Roberts (Sticky Pines) and Jennifer Killick (Crater Lake) and anyone who loves dark adventure and spine-tingling horror laced with humour.