Chris PriestleyToday I’m here with a very exciting post – I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to interview author/illustrator Chris Priestley to celebrate the release this week of his latest title Seven Ghosts, out with Barrington Stoke.

I’d like to start with a thank you to Chris; I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump for the past couple of months and it’s been a bit of a nightmare to stay engaged with a book! And then I picked up Seven Ghosts and for the first time in a long time I sat and I read and I couldn’t put this book down! I read it a few days ago, and it’s still giving me that warm feeling you get when you read a book that you love. Luckily I have a copy of Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror that for some unknown reason I haven’t read yet, so at least I have another book to look forward to this Halloween!

For those who haven’t had a chance to read Seven Ghosts, how would you sum it up? 

Seven Ghosts is a ghost story – not surprisingly – in which a boy called Jake is joining other winners of a writing competition on a visit to a stately home near where he lives. They are given a tour of the house and are told the stories of the ghosts who have been seen there. Jake is skeptical at first, but becomes more and more agitated by what he sees – or glimpses – on the tour. Something is very wrong, he just knows it. And we get to find out what it is…

71129141_692601324580923_833009393499508500_nSeven Ghosts is one of the best ghost stories that I’ve ever read; it was so cleverly crafted! How do you get your ideas for a ghost story?

Thank you! Ideas come from all over the place – a lifetime of reading and watching films and TV helps of course. I play around with thoughts of what creeps me out and hope that it will creep my reader out too. But location is key for me. I need to see the place I set a ghost story very clearly in my head. Often it is a version of a place – or mix of places – I’ve visited. I’m always thinking ‘Oh this would be a great location for a story’ and the location throws up its own ideas.

That’s actually a really interesting way of going about it! Location is so often overlooked as being a key thing in a book. The location in Seven Ghosts was wonderfully creepy! Do you believe in ghosts?

Not really. That’s not to say I think people who say they’ve seen them are lying. I get told lots of ghost stories of course – stories that are told as true – as anecdotes. I’m fine with that as long as I’m not expected to just take them on face value. Mainly though ghosts just don’t make sense to me. If ghosts exist, why are there not more? We should be tripping over them. If you can trip over a ghost.

I love your illustrations in Seven Ghosts! What medium do you use and why?

More often than not these days, I paint, but for the Seven Ghosts illustrations I used a pen – a Uni Pin Fine Line drawing pen to be precise – and black ink applied with a brush. They took forever to do. I’m very impatient, but I wanted them to have a lot of depth and texture and be really black. I also knew I wanted a little border to hint at old book illustrations. The designer sent me some examples of what she thought I meant and one was amazing Harry Clarke who did wonderful Poe illustrations, so I knew she got what I was talking about straight away (although mine don’t live up to that comparison, I hasten to add).

I think the patience paid off! They really do add depth to the story and give it that old fashioned feel. Do you set out writing with a plan or do your tales develop as you go along?

For these quick read books I do have a plan. There’s not the luxury of time to develop things because the book is only 15K words long. So I find it helps to have a plan, even if you drift from it at various points. Not a detailed one, just one that sets out the order of things and gives some idea of where you need to be in the story by x amount of words.

What’s the best ghost story that you’ve ever read?

That’s too hard. I’ve read so many. I think W W Jacobs The Monkey’s Paw remains one of the most satisfying. Such a great idea but ideas only just the start – then you have to do the idea justice in the way you tell the story. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill is a rare example of a ghost story that works as a novel rather than a short story.

Which book did you read most recently?

I’m most of the way through The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers which I’m really enjoying. I tend to have a few books on the go at once – a terrible habit that I can’t recommend because it often means I lose track of where I am.

I think a lot, if not most, of us in the book community can really relate there! There are just so many wonderful books out there that having more than one on the go becomes inevitable! Ghost stories, naturally, are very popular around this time of year! What’s your favourite way to celebrate Halloween?

I actually rarely do anything unless I’m booked to do an event. I don’t feel any great connection with the trick or treating, shop-bought American kind of Halloween. It feels too cuddly to me. I always mean to read a ghost story to anyone who’ll listen, but more often than not, we will try and kind an old school creepy film to watch.

You’ve written a few books for Barrington Stoke. How is writing a scary novella different to writing a full novel?

It’s very different actually. Creepy, Gothic fictions requires a certain slow build up to create the right atmosphere, so that can be a challenge. Language too – finding the right balance with language level. The trick – if that’s the right word – is to try to create the illusion of a slower, creepier pace whilst actually moving quite fast. As films have to do.

Which was your favourite ghost’s tale to tell?

This is always a hard one. I obviously care a lot about Jake because he is my main character and hopefully the reader will care about him too by the end. But I do like the Kingfisher’s story. I’ve written a lot of stories set in the Victorian/Edwardian eras and it was nice to write something set in the 1970s with a very different feel to it. That was the joy of setting all the stories in the same place – being able to set things along the timeline of the house.

Thank you so much to Chris for such interesting answers! I really enjoyed this interview and look forward to picking up more of spooky Chris Priestley books in the near future!

If you haven’t already, I’d highly highly recommend picking up Seven Ghosts and this is the perfect time of year to do so! It’s without a doubt one of my top books this year, and one of, if not my favourite Barrington Stoke title to date!

Thank you to Kirstin at Barrington Stoke for setting up this Q&A for me, and for sending me a copy of Seven Ghosts!

WWW Wednesday: 16th October 2019

Squeezing in a Blogtober post before it’s been too many days since the last one! I’ve tried to put less pressure on myself this year and am just posting when I can rather than feeling like I have to post every day of the month. It’s working out okay! Anyway, back to today’s post – it’s Wednesday so of course it’s a WWW Wednesday!

What are you currently reading? 

I’m half way through a couple of books, but I’m looking forward to a week off next week where I can really spend time getting stuck in!

What did you recently finish reading?

I had a bad day the other day, so my boyfriend suggested that I have a relaxing bath with a Lush bathbomb and read a book…I chose to read a shorter book and I really enjoyed it! It was the first book in The Big Top Mysteries series by Alexander McCall Smith and it had a lot of Enid Blyton vibes which I loved!

What do you think you’ll read next?

So I may have accidentally bought Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella which means a Shopaholic reread I think!


SEVEN GHOSTS – Chris Priestley


RELEASED: 15/10/2019
PUBLISHER: Barrington Stoke
GENRE: YA, Ghost Story

Jake and the other finalists in a writing competition have been invited to a stately house for a tour like no other. As their guide leads them through grand rooms, hidden nooks and magnificent grounds, they hear the stories of seven ghosts who haunt the halls. But strange shapes and shadows follow Jake as he journeys through the house and with each tale that Jake hears, he begins to feel more uneasy. All is not as it seems and soon Jake will discover that something is very, very wrong … Old ghosts are stirred-up for Halloween in this spine-tingling, multi-narrative horror. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged 8+

It’s been a while since I’ve sat and read anything more than a picture book in one sitting, but Seven Ghosts just gripped me from the very beginning! I expected to like this book because I do love a good YA ghost story and I know that Chris Priestley is an example of a fab author for these books, but what caught me off guard was just how much I loved it. I finished Seven Ghosts and immediately wanted to pick it up again and revisit the story!

This review will be short and sweet because I honestly think going into this book knowing as little as possible is the best way! It’s so well written and the story flows perfectly keeping you gripped throughout. It’s chilling and spooky and makes for the perfect Halloween read. I will definitely be picking up Seven Ghosts every year to read in October, and I highly recommend that if you’re after a good scary YA book that you do the same!

Thank you to Kirstin at Barrington Stoke for sending me a copy of this book!

Dyslexia Awareness Week: 7th – 13th October 2019

Barrington Stoke is an independent, award-winning children’s publisher and for over 20 years, we’ve been pioneering super-readable, dyslexia-friendly fiction to help every child become a reader. From our specially designed font to the colour of our paper, accessibility is at the heart of everything we do!

As you may have noticed, for the past few months I’ve been reading and reviewing some titles from Barrington Stoke. This interest has mainly been sparked by some of my favourite authors releasing titles with this publisher, but it’s really opened my eyes to some of the wonderful titles that are available!

I first became aware of Barrington Stoke when I was a bookseller; each section had a few dyslexia friendly books and I was intrigued about how they’re different and also I loved how it was often popular and established authors who were writing these novellas. I would often recommend them for people with children/teens who maybe had dyslexia or struggled with reading. However, one thing that I didn’t realise before is that Barrington Stoke titles are for more than just this audience with their novellas being accessible to reluctant readers, people for who a “normal” book may be just a bit too daunting or too much to concentrate on and even for those of us who are simply in a reading slump and need something that’s quicker to read but just as engaging as a full-length novel. I definitely fall into that last category. I’m fortunate enough to be a very able reader, but I do find that with attempting to be an adult I just don’t have as much time or energy to get lost in a big book. I’ve found every time that a Barrington Stoke title is one that I can get really stuck into and enjoy and for that I am very grateful!

Anyway. The reason for me writing aaaaall of that is that I want to share some love and light on Barrington Stoke. Dyslexia Awareness Week is the perfect time to do this; fundamentally that’s what this amazing publisher is all about. Today I will be sharing some of my favourites as well as some of the biggest titles from Barrington Stoke for all ages.

Picture Books – For 3+

9781781125090.jpgMAD IN THE BACK by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Richard Watson

A brilliantly funny snapshot of family life as two siblings drive their mother to distraction on the car journey from hell … All together now: “Are we nearly there yet…?”


9781781126929.jpgMOLLY ROGERS, PIRATE GIRL by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kasia Matyjaszek

Ferocious pirate Captain Firebeard and his crew rule the high seas. But the dastardly pirates meet their match when they kidnap a small, feisty girl named Molly!A wonderful colourful book bursting with pirates, adventure and whole lot of girl power!

Little Gems – For 5+

9781781128503.jpgTHE UNLUCKY ELEVEN by Phil Earle, illustrated by Steve May

Everything’s going wrong for the Saints this season, and Stanley’s team-mates think they finally know why. They have been cursed! A great sporty first chapter book with the power of teamwork at its heart.

9781781127704.jpgMARIELLA, QUEEN OF THE SKIES by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by Katy Halford

Fun and funny, science inspiration for girls and boys alike, as super-smart Mariella tries to put a stop to bed time once and for all! But without sleep will Mariella’s ideas disappear completely?

9781781127353.jpgTHE GREAT TELEPHONE MIX-UP by Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey

When the village wires get crossed after a storm, there’s a lot of confusion and plenty of missed connections. Can the villagers learn to love their neighbours and could the great telephone mix-up really be a blessing in disguise? A big cast of diverse characters light up this charming story all about community spirit.

Middle Grade – For 8+

9781781128367.jpgANTY HERO by Barry Hutchison, illustrated by Tom Percival

Ant isn’t like all the other kids and he’s hiding a strange secret behind the giant sunglasses he wears every day … But when his science teacher catches a glimpse behind the oversized green lenses, Ant is in grave danger. Can his new friends Zac and Tulisa save the day?Maybe not one for those afraid of creepy crawlies, but this unique friendship adventure is sure to make you laugh!

9781781126950.jpgWORRY ANGELS by Sita Brahmachari, illustrated by Jane Ray

Amy May knows about worries – so many people she meets have them. By being brave enough to open up her own worry box, can Amy May help those around her to find a way forward?Beautifully written and with a touching message about friendship, this is definitely a story to share with any young worriers.

9781781125359.jpgWINGS: FLYBOY by Tom Palmer, illustrated by David Shephard

On and off the pitch, Jatinder always plays it safe. The football summer school is meant to change all that. But when Jatinder opens an old book about ace fighter pilot, Hardit Singh Malik, he’s propelled into an adventure more thrilling than any football match! A perfect pick for history buffs who like a little fact with their fiction … 

9781781128657OWEN AND THE SOLDIER by Lisa Thompson, illustrated by Mike Lowery

Owen and his mum are struggling. It’s just the two of them at home now and they’re finding it difficult to ask for the help they need. When Owen discovers a crumbling stone soldier in the local park, it feels like he finally has someone he can talk to about his worries. But the town council cant’s see how important the soldier is and they
want to remove him. Owen’s scared that he’ll be left on his own again, but can he find the courage he needs to save the soldier before it’s too late?

Owen and the Soldier is the title that introduced me to reading Barrington Stoke books, and I ADORE it! As I’ve said before, considering that it’s such a small book, it packs so much emotion and a wonderful story into its pages. Lisa is a fantastic author and I’d love to read more novellas from her.

Teen – For 13+

9781781128855.jpgWHAT MAGIC IS THIS? by Holly Bourne

Sophia, Mia and Alexis are clinging on to a spark of hope that maybe – just maybe – magic truly does exist. But when they meet to cheer-up heartbroken Sophia, long-held secrets are revealed, hard truths start to hit home and their night of bewitching quickly takes an unexpected turn.With all of Holly’s signature wit and wisdom, this novella of sisterhood, secrets and spells will definitely enchant.

9781781126806.jpgTHE LIAR’S HANDBOOK by Keren David

River’s life is blown apart when his mum invites her new boyfriend into their lives. River is instantly suspicious of Jason – he seems fake, too good to be true, so River begins The Liar’s Handbook, and an investigation into Jason. But the truth he uncovers is nothing he could have predicted … Gripping and filled with twists, this is book you won’t be able to put down!

9781781125939.jpgOF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck

A completely unabridged edition of Steinbeck’s stunning novella, formatted to be dyslexia-friendly and super-readable for all – ideal for anyone studying this great American classic at school or university.

9781781128671BECAUSE OF YOU by Eve Ainsworth

Poppy’s having a nightmare at home. Her parents have split up and her mum’s new boyfriend is moving in. Dad is the one who’s always been there for Poppy, but now he’s drifting further and further away. It seems like things can’t get any worse until it all goes wrong at school as well and Poppy finds herself being targeted by spiteful bullies. As the vicious online comments keep coming, who can Poppy turn to for help?

WOW! So many wonderful titles, and that’s just naming a few! Thank you very much to Kirstin at Barrington Stoke for your help with this post, recommendations and for reigniting my love of reading with some of these titles!

If any of these books have taken your fancy or you want to try something from Barrington Stoke, then I have a code for you! If you buy any single titles directly from the Barrington Stoke website you can get 15% off with the code DAW2019. I’d definitely recommend taking a look!


Six for Sunday: 6th October 2019

When I first looked at the topic for this week’s Six for Sunday, I was like “STEPH. WHY?!” because it seemed so so difficult! However, it’s actually easier than it looks once you get into the swing of it! It’s a perfect theme to kick off Autumn and the first S4S of Blogtober. Six for Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by A Little But A Lot! Today’s theme is:

Autumn Feels: books with leaves

  1. The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert
  2. The Red Tree – Shaun Tan
  3. A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer
  4. Owen and the Soldier – Lisa Thompson
  5. Wild – Emily Hughes
  6. Four Seasons in One Day – Jessica Courtney-Tickle

As I got into it, I found it a bit easier to find books that had leaves on! Have you read any of these?




A type of book that I’ve not really posted about much, that I love, is manga. I’m of that age where manga was very much the in thing during my teen years and we used to all spend hours in the library reading all sorts of random books! This was the first type of graphic novel that I read, so I find it quite bizarre to read a graphic novel that goes from left to right; I’m so used to reading backwards! Today I thought I’d share with you some of my top recommendations!

Death Note, Vol. 1

Vampire Knight, Vol. 1 - Vampire Knight 1 (Paperback)Rosario+Vampire, Vol. 1 - ROSARIO & VAMPIRE 1 (Paperback)Princess Ai Manga: Destitution by Misaho Kujiradou - (9781591826699)Image result for vb rose volume 1Black Butler, Vol. 1 (Paperback)Absolute Boyfriend, Vol. 1

















I would highly highly recommend all of the above! There’s a variety of genres to suit all tastes, and I’m gutted that a couple of these are out of print because I’d love to get my hands on physical copies! That said, the ones that are still in print are very much my favourites! Have you read any of these?






















Murder Most Bookish

Recently, there has been a massive rise in the popularity of true crime documentaries on TV and Netflix. I’ve loved watching them for years, and I know of many other people with this fascination, but it just seems that it’s become more mainstream of late. This trend also translates across to books. Murder mysteries are all the rage across all ages and I for one couldn’t be happier! A good mystery really draws you in and grips you, and nothing is better than a murder mystery or crime book. So, today for Blogtober, I thought I’d share a few of my top top recommendations for children’s and teen books featuring a good murder mystery!

death in the spotlightThe Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens is the first that comes to mind. These books are an example of the PERFECT middle grade murder mysteries and I for one ADORE them! Death in the Spotlight (pictured) is my favourite in the series so far! I just love how cleverly they are crafted and how they keep you guessing right the way through.

img_0643One of my favourite books of all time by my Queen of Teen Crime is Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy. I just love how her characters develop and how the stories are so gripping! She touches upon some serious issues in her books, but in a way that’s sensitive and interesting to read.


img_4359A top read of this year, A Girl Called Justice is the debut middle grade book from author Elly Griffiths. Whilst I haven’t read any of her grown up books, I have seen how popular they are, and if this children’s book is anything to go by I can see why! The characters were brilliant and the story was gripping and full of twists and turns.


Top Ten Tuesday: 1st October 2019

IT’S BLOGTOBER! I will try my best to do it again this year; I really enjoyed last year and just posting something every day! First up, Top Ten Tuesday hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl and today’s list is a surprisingly challenging one! I wanted to try the tougher option which was to correlate the answers to the numbers, but I couldn’t do it!

book titles with numbers in them

  1. I Owe You One – Sophie Kinsella
  2. The Secret of Platform 13 – Eva Ibbotson
  3. The Secret Seven – Enid Blyton
  4. The Famous Five – Enid Blyton
  5. The One Memory of Flora Banks – Emily Barr
  6. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  7. You’re The One That I Want – Giovanna Fletcher
  8. Cat O’Nine Tails – Julia Golding
  9. Five Little Pumpkins – Ben Mantle
  10. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

Well, this list was harder than I expected it to be! I honestly thought I’d fly through but I found myself struggling a bit to think of books I’ve read or own that have numbers in! Have you read any of these?


Top Ten Tuesday: 28th October 2018

I couldn’t pass up today’s Top Ten Tuesday! The theme is perfect as we near the end of Blogtober! This is a tag hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and this week it’s:


which witch1. Which Witch? – Eva Ibbotson

2. Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball – Laura Ellen Anderson

3. The Beasts of Clawstone Castle – Eva Ibbotson

4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling

5. The Grotlyn – Benji Davies

img_06406. Breathe – Cliff McNish

7. The Poisoned House – Michael Ford

8. Newes from the Dead – Mary Hooper

9. Witch Child – Celia Rees

10. The Crucible – Arthur Miller

I love a good witchy book! I posted more recommendations in my Spooky Reads for Young Readers, Children and Older Readers posts earlier this month! I’m very excited for Halloween tomorrow – will you be celebrating it?

GIRL IN PIECES – Kathleen Glasgow

girl in pieces5/5

SundayYA today has involved a lot of recommendations, both books that are out already and books that are most anticipated for next year. One author that came to mind immediately for both of these topics was Kathleen Glasgow; I adored Girl in Pieces and am incredibly excited for How To Make Friends With The Dark! As I’m making my way through all my old reviews on retail sites and transferring them on to here, I figured that today is the perfect day to finally upload my review of Girl in Pieces from when I first read it way back in 2016 as a longlist reader for a children’s book award. I went on to nominate it for the shortlist, insist on copies being stocked in the bookshops where I worked, and sell sell sell!

img_3485I could not shut up about this book since I started and finished reading it; it’s an absolutely incredible debut! It’s filled with such raw emotion, but not to the extent that it is an uncomfortable or triggering read, and, although this is an extreme case of depression/self-harm, it’s one that sheds a very realistic light on the issue. For people who have experienced this, the book is inspiring and easy to relate to, but equally it’s enlightening for people who do not know much about the mentality behind self harm and suicide. One of my personal highlights is the BEAUTIFUL author’s note at the back. READ IT!


My heavily tabbed copy!

It’s surprisingly easy to read and get totally lost in because of the way it’s written. The book is separated into parts and the chapters are all of varying length, which added to the overall feel of the book as I felt that the “chapter” lengths sort of represented the state of mind of Charlie at various stages of her mental health. It’s also brilliant how Kathleen has touched upon the problem of young adult homelessness, and how often the reasons behind it aren’t the fault of the young people themselves but more a result of their situation at home.

All in all though, this book shows how you can hit rock bottom but it IS possible to carry on and survive despite all the stuff that life can throw at you.