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Posted in MG Book Recommendations

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl

Mr Willy Wonka is the most extraordinary chocolate maker in the world.

And do you know who Charlie is? Charlie Bucket is the hero. The other children in this book are nasty little beasts, called: Augustus Gloop – a great big greedy nincompoop; Veruca Salt – a spoiled brat; Violet Beauregarde – a repulsive little gum-chewer; Mike Teavee – a boy who only watches television.

Clutching their Golden Tickets, they arrive at Wonka’s chocolate factory. But what mysterious secrets will they discover?

Our tour is about to begin. Please don’t wander off. Mr Wonka wouldn’t like to lose any of you at this stage of the proceedings . . .

Blurb from Penguin Books

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Book Cover

I’m going to try not to get too misty-eyed here, because Roald Dahl is my HERO. And Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is my FAVOURITE. Everyone should read this book, at least once!

I remember going to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, as much as I remember my first day of school, or when I got my Sports Day ‘participation trophy’, or when I broke the class fish. Roald Dahl’s books are a PART of my childhood; they held my hand through my growing-up-ness.

And when it comes to Dahl’s books, nothing gets my tummy rumbling more than his gloriumptious, scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Factory! There’s lickable wallpaper, hot icecream, A CHOCOLATE RIVER! It all starts with those five golden tickets: five chances to enter a world of pure imagination.

I’d give anything for a Golden Ticket… ANYTHING!

FUN FACT! Did you know that in 1971, Roald Dahl received a Christmas card from a real-life Willy Wonka! He was a postman from Nebraska, and no doubt, was inspired to write to the author after the release of the amazingly splendiferous Gene Wilder movie. And Roald Dahl kept the postcard tacked to the wall of his writing hut.

Here are the bookylinks:

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

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 day 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 out into the world he has hidden from his whole life.

For the fate of everyone rests on his shoulders alone.

Blurb from Lorraine Gregory’s website
Book Cover: THE MAKER OF MONSTERS by Lorraine Gregory

This book really knocked me for six. I’d stumbled upon it in the wonderful world of Twitter and pounced. It was in my library faster than you can say, “Aaaaah! Monster!” And when I started reading it, I didn’t stop.

The Maker of Monsters is my kind of book. It’s fast-paced (Rhosgobel rabbits, fast) and there’s more action than you can shake a stick at. The whole book is a rip-roaring rollercoaster, dragging your emotions through heartache, hope, kindness… and MONSTERS!

Think ‘Frankenstein’, but with a sugar-rush.

The characters are so well-imagined that within a few pages I felt like I’d known them all my life. Sherman and Tingle, two of the sweetest monsters, were my favourites. I spent the entire book wanting to take them home with me! This book is a must-read.

I laughed, I shed a tear; The Maker of Monsters has it all.

Here are the bookylinks:

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in Writerly Wrangling

Hahahaha! “Smile” and “Laugh” synonyms

The first draft is usually when I confetti my manuscript with laughs and smiles. And the first edit is when I’ll search through each instance and either delete, look for an alternative or bestow it with the honour of being allowed to stay. Yes, I could cut out so many stages if I just applied this ruthlessness to the first draft, but what can I say – my first drafts are messy and this is my process. 🙂

I’ve made this infographic for when you want an alternative word, especially when you still want to say e.g. “she laughed” but are looking for a more expressive word.

Smile and Laugh Synonyms

Here’s a 2020-centric tip (and let’s hope it’ll only apply to 2020!): With us wearing masks when we’re out and about, it’s the perfect time for a little people-studying. It’s amazing how much we watch someone’s mouth when they talk to us, so it’s natural for we writers to transfer that to the page with smiles, laughs, smirks and frowns. But the necessitation for mask-wearing has meant we need to translate body language differently.

Next time you’re on the bus or in the supermarket, study people’s behaviour when you think they’re smiling or laughing (try not to be too obvious!). What do you see? What other quirks and characteristics are they exhibiting? Maybe they’re being expressive with their hands? Or their shoulders shake? Or they’re fanning away the onslaught of happy tears? Keep a bank of mannerisms in your writer’s notebook and you’ll always have it to refer to for new and imaginative action tags.

Here are the links to more in the Synonym Series:

Happy Writing, Writerly Friends.x

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

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?

Blurb of The House of One Hundred Clocks by A.M. Howell, from the author’s website.
Book Cover of The House of One Hundred Clocks by A.M. Howell

Edwardian setting, creepy house, one hundred clocks and THEY’RE NOT ALLOWED TO STOP. Yep, The House of One Hundred Clocks had me hooked from the off.

There’s a Hitchcock-level of tension in this book. You’re kept in a constant state of suspense. You know that the clocks can’t stop and at many points during this read I found myself hoping they didn’t. It’s not often that I’ll read a book and hope that nothing happens! But the characters were so well portrayed, that I very quickly connected with them and put myself firmly on their team.

Add to that, the evolution and trappings of Edwardian society: glimpses of invention, of poverty, and rising feminism, all carefully woven into the story, makes this a must-read for all. Here are the bookylinks:

Here are the bookylinks:

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in Writerly Wrangling

Now, look here! “Look” synonyms

“Look” is my nemesis when it comes to editing the first draft. My characters are always ‘looking up’ or ‘looking down’ or ‘looking here’ or ‘looking there’. Most of the time, I’ll search for ‘look’ and delete the reference entirely. It’ll go on the pile of culled words and I’ll find a new action for my character. But sometimes, the action is right.

I generally go through each use of the word ‘look’, and decide whether a better word can be used. I’ll ask myself questions of the scene and the character’s motivation. For instance, there is a world of difference between, “she glanced”, “she gazed”, and “she glared”. Yet, each example gives a much fuller picture in your mind than “she looked” ever could.

It seemed only fair that I share this infographic with fellow serial lookers. It makes the third in my Synonym Series. Here are the links to the others:

“Look” Synonyms

Happy Writing, Writerly Friends.x

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

BOOK SCAVENGER by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, 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 and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold’s attackers make them their next target.

Blurb from Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s website
Cover from the Book Scavenger website

When I read the blurb, I knew I was going to love this book.

At late-o’clock, when I should have been asleep, I was devouring the first few chapters of this book. I entered a world of scavenger hunts, cryptic clues, weird and wonderful literary types, and general bookishness, and honestly, I never wanted to leave.

The moment I truly fell in love with this book, was when I met Steve. He’s James’ cowlick. And the minute I read that, I grinned. This was my kind of book! Those little injections of humour were the icing on a fabulous book-cake for me.

Joining Emily and James on their frenzied hunt around San Francisco for the next clue, was fun. It was hectic, edge-of-your-seat fun-fun-fun, where you always have someone on your tail so you push-your-neck-out-to-keep-a-fraction-ahead kind of fun. It is adventure with a capital A. I am head-over-heels in love with this book, and now I want more.

Here are the bookylinks:

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in Writerly Wrangling

Going Somewhere? Here are some walking synonyms.

This is part two of my Synonym Series! The first part talked about using ‘said’ in dialogue and offered a graphic of synonyms. You can find that here. This part talks about going places.

This is an easy one to tackle on the line edit and it’ll do wonders to liven up your Work In Progress. Do a word search for all instances of “walk” in your manuscript. Sometimes, “walk” will be just fine. Don’t try and shoehorn a more complicated phrase when a simple one works best. However, a red flag, should be when “walk” is followed by an adverb.

“She walked quickly” can become, “she raced” or, “she darted”. Both are much more succinct and dynamic examples to describe the action.

Similarly, “she walked slowly” can become, “she lumbered” or “she ambled”. You can see how it adds another dimension to your phrase: “lumbered” suggests that she has the weight of the world on her, like every step is heavy. Whereas, “ambled” is a little lighter, like she is aimless. That’s the beauty of a stronger word. It can convey so much more than “she walked slowly” ever could!

Here’s a handy little infographic of synonyms to help you on your way!

“Walk” synonyms

Happy Writing, Writerly Friends.x

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

GREENGLASS HOUSE by Kate Milford

It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House and themselves.

Blurb from HMH Books.

I absolutely loved this book. LOVED IT. There’s something all-together cosy and comforting and vintage about it.

This incredible read had all the hallmarks of a classic whodunit: take a rambling old house jam-packed with mystery and treasure, quirky guests who feed you stories and drop clues; and an enigma woven through history. Within a few pages, I had dived head-first into the adventure. And before long, I was questioning everyone.

EVERYONE was a suspect. NO-ONE escaped my wrath! Did I guess right? No. Did I see it coming? No. Did I unravel all the clues? Nope. I guess I’ll leave the mystery-solving to the professionals. But for me? Jeepers – it was a heck of a THRILLING RIDE!

You won’t regret reading this book! To help you on you way, here’s the bookylinks:

Happy reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in Writerly Wrangling

‘Said’ is alive and well, but here’s some synonyms just in case you want to mix it up a little.

There is so much conflicting advice out there for when to use ‘said’ in dialogue. Should you use it? Shouldn’t you use it? Some people say never; others say always. It can become confusing and overwhelming. I say this, because I have been both confused and overwhelmed.

The aim of the game is to produce imaginative and flowing prose. This means you have to use all the tools at your disposal.

It is true, that ‘said’ should be used in the first instance. The thing about this little word is that is disappears. Think about this the next time you are reading dialogue. Do you really notice the ‘saids’? Your brain is most likely glossing over them, focussing on the dialogue and using them as an anchor to know who’s speaking.

So when do you use synonyms?

A great tip is to go through your manuscript, search for ‘said’ and see if there is an adverb following it. If there is, the likelihood is a synonym will be more dynamic. For example, if you’ve written, ‘she said quietly’ then, ‘she whispered’ is better effective. Or, ‘she said loudly’ becomes, ‘she shouted’.

Just to throw a spanner in the works: there is room in the writerly world for adverbs. I know that some people think they are the devil, but I love them. And when used carefully, can produce a great voice to your work. As I said earlier: use ALL the tools in your arsenal.

Here’s some synonyms to help you on your writerly way:

‘Said’ synonyms

Happy Writing, Writerly Friends.x

Posted in Short Stories

Spring Fling Writing Contest 2020

The Challenge

Find a gif and write a Spring-inspired children’s story, using a maximum of 150 words.

Snoopy & Woodstock gardening

My Entry: ‘THE JAMMIE DODGER TREE’ (149 words)

Archie Pickle firmly believed that a good day started with a pair of galoshes and a runcible spoon. Spring was springing and he had work to do before it was sprung.

“I’m planting a Jammie Dodger tree!” He dug a hole in the lawn and surrendered one of his favourite tea-dunkers. Watering it generously, he tapped the soil with his sole, marvelling at a job well done.

That night, the next-door neighbour twitched her curtains, grumbling to her long-suffering husband.

“That crackpot Pickle woman is digging up her front garden.”

“Mm-hmm.”

“It’s two a.m.!”

“Mm-hmm.”

“Any sane person would be in bed!”

Next morning, Archie shimmied on his galoshes and raced outside. A glorious, jamilicious treat-laden tree had sprung up.

Mrs Pickle gazed at the delicious wonder. “It’s magic,” she sighed.

Archie rolled his eyes, pointing at the spoon and the watering can. “It’s not magic, mum. It’s science.”