Have you heard…The Strange Tale of Barnabus Kwerk?

The Strange Tale of Barnabus Kwerk by Erika McGann/illustrator: Phillip Cullen

Erika McGann has done it again! After last years rousing success with Tabitha Plimtock and the Edge of the World, she is taking us on another exciting journey; this time to the centre of the Earth. There are monsters, gangsters of sorts, strange modes of travel and a search for gold. And it is brilliant!

THE STRANGE TALE OF BARNABUS KWERK

author: Erika McGann

illustrator: Phillip Cullen

O’Brien Press (26 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781788493475

Barnabus Kwerk lives in the biggest, fanciest house in Undle and all he wants is to make friends and be happy. He’s tried escaping the Big House numerous times, but is always caught before he can leave the grounds. So he’s trapped in the attic room with a secret collection of books. You see, his family are stinking rich, but they’re also dreadful people…the worst people you can imagine. Barnabus doesn’t want to be like the rest of the Kwerks. He doesn’t want to be involved with their constant quest for more riches and their never-ending gold-lust. But Barnabus has a secret. It’s so secret that not even he knows about it. And when, one stormy night a stranger calls; his Aunt Jemima; his life takes an incredible turn. She knows secrets – about the Kwerks’ dark past, about Barnabus’s mother, and about a glorious golden machine at the centre of the Earth. Aunt Jemima takes Barnabus on the adventure of a lifetime. And it all begins with the Clockwork…

illustrations by Phillip Cullen

Here is a book that ticks all of the boxes. Expert storytelling, exceptional world-building, unusual relatable characters , quirky moments of humour and emotion and a subtly-crafted, yet important message wind their way through a cracking tale full of well-paced action. The characters themselves are each filled with their own stories, complex and packed with feeling. You will immediately love some of them, and others, regardless of their humanness, you will loathe. And there’s even that bit of steam-punk built in. A beautiful story of family drama, a quest for gold and the possible end of the world, there are “monsters” of all sorts, both friendly and…well, the other kind; and one or two human monsters in the guise of poor Barnabus’ family members. If you’ve ever wondered what was at the centre of the Earth and how the planet works, this book explains it in that Prachett-esque way that we saw in McGanns’ previous (Tabitha Plimtock…) The Strange Tale of Barnabus Kwerk is a pure delight; funny, heartfelt, fast-paced and very intriguing. I was glued to every page! I don’t know what else I can possibly say…just read it. https://obrien.ie/the-strange-tale-of-barnabus-kwerk

Horror & Humour: Big Bad Me by Aislinn O’Loughlin…Blog Tour!

Hello! Welcome to my stop on the Big Bad Me Blog Tour! I want to start by thanking Little Island for including me. (I do love a good blog tour, don’t you?) And I hope you’re ready for a stupendously creepy, horrific and, at the same time, pretty funny book.

BIG BAD ME by Aislinn O’Loughlin tells the story of Evie, a teenage girl who’s just an ordinary teenage girl; just trying to get on with her life…and she’s just found out she’s a werewolf. So much for the ordinary. Her adopted scientist-mother has just disappeared somewhere on a research trip. When Evie and her older sister, Kate go to search for their mothers’ where-abouts, they get pulled into a paranormal, drawn-out battle involving werewolf hunters, vampires and a very strange small town packed with action, blood and dark humour. A riotous, raucus, Buffy-esque tale of sisterly devotion as they navigate their own little Hellmouth, filled with tension, twists and turns and general mayhem. Have I got your attention, yet?

I am thrilled to welcome Aislinn to FallenStar Stories with her guest post. Let’s hear what she has to say….

Humour and Horror

All the best horror stories include a babysitter, right? So, how’s this:

I was eight years old, happily watching The Famous Five on TV when my babysitter – my big brother, Seán – came in holding a VHS, and said: “I’ve got something better.”

What he had was Predator, or the last hour of it anyway. He’d started watching the night before, so I was shoved straight into the action, and horror! I remember sitting slack-jawed in front of the screen – wholesome Enid Blyton adventures well-forgotten – gasping: “Who’s that guy? Why is he upside down in a tree? WHERE DID HIS SKIN GO?”

When I tell this story, I usually get one of two of reactions: laughter, or this … look. This horrified concern, like “oh God! The trauma.” I wasn’t traumatised. In fact, that afternoon sparked a life-long love of horror that led here; to me writing a guest blog for Fallen Stars Stories as I celebrate the publication of my debut YA novel Big Bad Me – a funny urban fantasy/horror about a girl who finds out she’s a werewolf and then, along with her sister, gets pulled into a blood-soaked supernatural showdown with a body-count so high even I lost track (although it’s mostly a cute sister-story with lots of quips and awkward flirting).

But those two reactions do nicely illustrate the fine line between horror and comedy – and how sometimes the only real difference is your own perspective. After all, both comedy and horror writers tend to look at the world through a rather twisted lens, picking out the oddness, ironies, and contradictions, then amping them up to eleven and seeing what happens. Then it just depends whether you focus on the ridiculousness or unsettling awfulness of it all.

Or you could do both.

Sam Raimi famously remade his 1981 indie horror, The Evil Dead, as a black comedy semi-sequel: Evil Dead II. This reboot/sequel kept the original’s jump-scares and gore, but filtered it through a very different version the main character – Ash – who went from a relatively meek everyman to a brash, trigger-happy action-hero with a chainsaw-hand and seemingly endless supply of quips. It was a really good call.

More recently, we’ve seen plethora of comedy alumni turn their (still-attached, non-chainsaw) hands to horror. For example, Jordan Peele might be synonymous with smart horror now but, until 2015, he and Keegan Michael Key were winning Emmys for their hilarious sketches on The Key and Peele Show – which tackled everything from systemic racism to parties that Just Won’t Stop Even When You Want Them To (look it up, you’ll be glad you did). In the UK, Charlie Brooker was renowned for his work on satirical shows like Brass Eye and Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe long before he disturbed us with his scarily accurate speculative dystopias in Black Mirror. Even writer/actor Danny McBride, probably best known for appearing in Seth Rogan stoner comedies, has proven his horror-writing chops – tackling the scripts for recent Halloween reboot trilogy.

At first glance, these funny guys being secretly terrifying feels some kind of Shyamalanian plot twist. But, of course, it’s not. Horror and comedy writing require a lot of the same skills – in particular, the ability to elicit an immediate, intense reaction. And, whether that’s a belly-laugh or a jump scare, both depend good timing and a knack for subverting audience expectations. In other words, whether you’re making folks scream in terror or with laughter, you need to surprise them.

But there’s another reason horror and humour pair so well: if you can get someone laughing, you get their guard down. And if their guard’s down, you can really scare them. That’s why the comic relief characters tend to make it to the end (or, almost-end). They’re not just fun. They’re great for breaking tension, relaxing the mood and getting you really attached – not just to them, but to the characters they interact with, which ups the stakes for everyone.

Kathryn Foxfield’s books, for example, are jammed with doomed characters who are either knowingly funny, or who make you laugh with their unself-aware ridiculousness. Josh Winning’s fantasy-horror The Shadow Glass intertwines hilarious characters and scenarios with nightmarish imagery, for some proper gut-wrenching terror. And Grady Hendrix’s self-aware, tropey horror novels are given real heart through moments like a character desperately trying to save her possessed friend by yelling Phil Collins’ lyrics at her.

It’s not easy, striking that balance between horror and humour. Veer too far one way or the other and you risk losing the impact of both (you should see how many of my favourite jokes wound up in the Big Bad Me “deleted” folder) but when you get it right – the payoff can be scarily brilliant!

Thank you so much for that, Aislinn! Great stuff, altogether! BIG BAD ME by Aislinn O’Loughlin is out NOW! Little Island Books (October 2022); ISBN: 9781915071040 https://littleisland.ie/books/big-bad-me/

Heading North (part 2): Leila and the Blue Fox

Leila and the Blue Fox by Kiran Millwood Hargrave; illustrated by Tom de Freston

A couple of months ago, I posted a review of The Last Whale by Chris Vick; a book that took us on a spectulative future voyage into the Arctic north, chasing the last whale. In Leila and the Blue Fox, again we find ourselves traversing across the Arctic, but this time we are right here, in the present and we are not all that speculative. Based on the true story of an Arctic Fox who made her way from Norway to Canada in 76 days, covering a distance of 2000 miles, it’s….

LEILA AND THE BLUE FOX

author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

illustrator: Tom de Freston

Orion Childrens Books (29 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781510110274

Fox wakes, and begins to walk. She crosses ice and snow, over mountains and across frozen oceans, encountering bears and birds beneath the endless daylight of an Arctic summer, navigating a world that is vast, wild and wondrous. Meanwhile, Leila embarks on a journey of her own – to reunite with the mother who left her with her aunt and cousin in the UK after escaping their homeland in search of refuge; and uncovering the answer to her burning question…why? As scientist-mother Amani includes her on a breathtaking and treacherous voyage across the Arctic sea, Leila rediscovers herself and the mother she thought she’d lost, with help from a determined little fox.

Targeted at readers age 9 to 11, this is a multi-layered story, weaving together two moving tales of confusion, loss, endurance and hope. Combining Hargraves’ eloquent story-telling with de Frestons’ glorious, expressive illustrations (which add so very much to the tale), we are given the “full picture”; a deep understanding of the inner workings of both Leila and Miso, the Arctic Fox; of the inner and outer journeys they take. Through them, we enter worlds we would never normally visit; worlds of hardship and hope, and a few we can all relate to; worlds of conflict and misunderstanding. Through the use of the seemingly ever-present issue of migration. We begin to understand why people and animals flee their homelands; why they seek refuge, what they need when they arrive and how they can find it. Misos’ journey reflects that of Leila and Amani as they had previously run from Damascus. We see how deeply they have been affected by this running and how they are seen now because of it. Misos’ flight has been prompted by climate change and this environmental theme running across the pages causes us to think more deeply about the role of human actions in and on the natural world.

illustration by Tom de Freston

In all, this is a stunning story that causes deeper consideration of the relationships we have spent so much time on the planet building, both with the environment and each other. It’s a lovely, evocative book that combines these deeper themes with a cracking adventure that will inspire curiosity and wonder. Heartfelt, compassionate, brave and bold, quietly thrilling and simply beautiful. https://www.hachette.co.uk/titles/kiran-millwood-hargrave/leila-and-the-blue-fox/9781510110298/

WooHoo!!! It’s more Mouse & Mole!!!

Mouse & Mole: Clink, Clank, Clunk! by Joyce Dunbar & James Mayhew

It’s no secret that I love Mouse & Mole! All of these gentle, funny tales of two friends never cease to make me smile and warm my heart. And today is the publication day of their eighth book of adventures; Mouse & Mole: Clink, Clank, Clunk! Let’s see what they get up to….

MOUSE & MOLE: CLINK, CLANK, CLUNK!

author: Joyce Dunbar

illustrator: James Mayhew

Graffeg Ltd (22 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781802580877

Mouse hears a lot of clinking, clanking and clunking coming from the shed. It’s Mole, tinkering with their motorbike. But Mole goes a bit too far with his repairs….. One day, Mole becomes worried that he might fall off the roof. What if something is living on their and he has to chase it down? Fortunately, Mouse helps Mole see that really, he has very little to worry about…. While Mouse is preparing a surprise breakfast outdoors, a very confused Mole looks out the window to see Mouse being confronted by a frisky, fluttery ghost! Oh no! Whatever will they do?

Once again, these beautifully written expressions of friendship hit the mark! The drama, misunderstandings and minor mishaps let the reader know there is always an answer to the all too confusing circumstances of daily life, as long as you work together. I love the personalities of Mouse and Mole. Mole is a real dreamer; creative, rather messy and prone to a bit of imaginative exaggeration. Mouse, on the other hand seems more practical; imaginative yes, but a little more down-to-earth in his view…most of the time. The two work well together, asking questions, bouncing solutions back and forth…they are a great pair. The wonderful illustrations capture to tone and action of the story, with a natural palette that gives a reassuring sense of place, while placing the reader firmly in the habitat of Mouse and Mole. And the facial and body expressions! Marvelous!

This is a book of stories meant to be enjoyed and make you think. Is it really necessary to fix something that isn’t broken? Do you really have to worry about things that probably won’t happen? Is everything what you think it is? I always marvel at the adventures and the wisdom of Mouse and Mole. Addressing anxiety and worry (and the aforementioned imaginative exaggeration) with reassurance, gentle humour and keeping its’ theme of friendship and curiosity to the fore, Clink, Clank, Clunk is an utter delight! Charming, witty and comforting…just wonderful!!!

Thank you so very much to Graffeg Ltd for this pre-release copy…what an amazing bit of bookpost! And also, many thanks to both Joyce Dunbar and James Mayhew for creating the continuing saga of Mouse & Mole. https://graffeg.com/products/mouse-mole-clink-clank-clunk

Learning to Say Goodbye….Goodbye, Hobbs

Goodbye Hobbs by Emma Bettridge & Jospehine Birch

Learning to say goodbye is one of the most difficult lessons. That feeling of love and loss; of not knowing what to do or how to do just normal things is overwhelming. Here’s a picture book that just might help…

GOODBYE HOBBS

author: Emma Bettridge

illustrator: Josephine Birch

Graffeg Ltd (11 October 2022)

ISBN: 9781802582222

Merlin doesn’t want to go out; not without Hobbs. All Merlin can feel; all he can see is the empty space. But off he goes anyway; down the familiar route, up the lane by the house, across the fields…through the gate. But wait. What’s that familiar smell? Will it help him learn to say “goodbye Hobbs”?

This is a story about what it means to love and lose a friend; and how to find a reason to carry on. The writing is simple with an easy and familiar-feeling flow; the rhythm of ordinary life written with a clear eloquence that evokes emotion. The beautiful line and watercolour pictures convey the atmosphere of sorrow; the sense of autumn both in the outer world and inside, in the heart. And the posing and positioning of Merlins’ body, the expressions given to his face deliver the feelings perfectly. The loss of a much loved friend is clear. Warning: if you have ever lost a loved one, you will shed tears. But you will also find heart here. As we near the end of the book, hope lifts up into the story. We understand the simplest of things…those we love never truly leave us. Quiet, meaningful, filled with feeling…a book that helps you find reasons to go for a walk again. Beautiful.

I am posting this today as I remember our dear Molly. It has been six months to the day that we lost our dear friend. It’s hard. I still expect her to come to the door when I return home from work. There are times when I still reach for her food bowl…or stare at her unused bed. This book has helped…there are reasons to go for a walk.

Thank you to Graffeg, Ltd for sending this lovely, heartfelt book just when I needed it most. https://graffeg.com/products/goodbye-hobbs

Seeking…The Lord of the Forest (by Caroline Pitcher & Nicola Morris)

Happy Book Birthday to a picture book that can only be described as stunning…in every way. Out now, in striking large format, it’s….

LORD OF THE FOREST

author: Caroline Pitcher

illustrator: Nicola Morris

Graffeg Ltd (15 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781802581645

Following Little Tiger from his very first day, we watch him grow and play and learn the ways of his surroundings. Everything he hears is new and exciting. He tells his mother of all the wondrous sounds around him, and always she cautions Little Tiger, “When you don’t hear them, be ready. The Lord of the Forest is here!” But who is the Lord of the Forest? And how and when will Little Tiger find him?

The lyrical text waxes and wanes across the pages of this book, telling us Little Tigers’ tale, gently uncovering many aspects of life as a tiger living in the wild. We learn much. But we are also party to the growing anticipation of the arrival of the Lord of the Forest. Our watchful eyes scan page after page of the most beautiful watercolour paintings revealing the details and atmosphere of the forest. Each illustration is eloquent, filling our eyes with the story in a way that matches the words to perfection and giving us so much more. This is a book holds the wonder and rhythm of this little patch of the natural world, yes. But also, it is an encouraging story that speaks of growing up and recognising the true self when it emerges. Filled with feeling, power, delicacy and the balance of nature; elegant, fascinating…and glorious.

I would like to thank Graffeg Ltd for sharing The Lord of the Forest. https://graffeg.com/products/lord-of-the-forest

Taking A Trip Up Green River

The Story of Green River by Holly Webb

Holly Webb is well-known for her puppy and kitten stories for younger, newly competent readers; and for her Maisie Hitchins mystery series and so many others. All are a delight to read, capturing young hearts. Here now is something a little different. Touching on environmental themes and the effects of climate change; a story to mesmerise animal lovers everywhere…

THE STORY OF GREEN RIVER

author: Holly Webb

illustrator: Zanna Goldhawk

Orion Childrens Books (1 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781510111219

The river is high, again. The beavers’ dam needs fortifying against its’ incoming water. Silken is too small, too weak to help rebuild the dam, and her strange singing makes the practical and strong beavers feel uneasy. When she is blamed for an accident, she knows she will never truly belong there. And something calling her. She must take hold of her courage and embark on a dangerous journey up the river.

Young Sedge is the reluctant heir to the leadership of the Greenriver otter holt. His first spring he was nearly drowned in a flash flood that swept through the otter community, taking away much of what they knew; what they had of comfort and security. And now, the waters are rising again. Sedge believes he can save his holt from another flood, but he has to be brave enough travel downstream for help. As the two animals unknowingly swim towards each other, they are drawn to the heart of the river, its’ age-old song and the spirit of Greenriver, who takes the form of a snow-white otter, Lady River. But will Lady River hear their plea for safety?

An adventure that holds many twists and turns, dangerous encounters and a deep connection with the natural world, The Story of Green River is a real beauty! Here we meet characters not unlike ourselves, filled with social structures and constrictions, rumour and suspicion, with much to learn and experience and the heart to do it. Silken and Sedge are both quite young. They show the boldness, mischief and determination of that youth, but every step of the way, they must seek help from those older and more experienced if they are going to save their communities…and in the end, themselves. But it is the rashness of their youth, which has a wisdom of its’ own that brings them to their destinies and opens up the space for the old ways to be honoured, the new ways to be practiced and joining of both.

Holly Webb has a real knack for showing us the natural world in all its’ subtlety and nuance. The descriptions of the area put the reader right in the centre of the story. We gain a true sense of the woodland and river animals; their needs for survival, their lives in the world. She combines this with a sense of who we are as people through her use of personification. There is community and a path for understanding the other (though it may be difficult and rub against the grain, at times.) Every character, every space is fully imagined and well-rounded; made with a real sense of commitment to the tale. Beautifully written; captivating; filled with compassion, subtle humour and great adventure; a simply wonderful animal tale that will win your heart. For fans of her previous work, yes; but also for those who love books like Watership Down, Tarka the Otter, The Animals of Farthing Wood. https://www.hachette.co.uk/titles/holly-webb/the-story-of-greenriver/9781510109629/

Fox & Son Tailers by Paddy Donnelly

Fox & Son-Tailers by Paddy Donnelly; The O’Brien Press

Paddy Donnelly never ceases to thoroughly enchant me with his picture books. Storytelling and drawing have always been an important part of his life and his creations, gifted to us through both his illustrations and his writing, take us on imaginative, quirky, heartfelt journeys into the world around us. Here’s his latest…

FOX & SON – TAILERS

author/illustrator: Paddy Donnelly

O’Brien Press (5 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781788492768

Rory lived with his Dad, Fox in the busy little town of Ballybrush. Fox was a tailer; his grandad was a tailer; his great-grandad was a tailer. Animals came from all over to have their tails made by Fox. And Rory, of course, helped his Dad in the shop. Tailering is a noble profession passed down through the generations. But Rory was bored…all the same tails made all the same ways. Why couldn’t they try something different? When Rory shows his Dad his flashy, new designs, Fox isn’t so sure. Until a Very Important (and very particular) Peacock appears wanting something very special. This V.I.P wants something A-MAZ-ING!

A charming tale filled with wordplay and expressive pictures, this book is full of personality. It is a wonder that shows the magic of following your dreams and staying true to your own course, regardless of what others (even those closest to you) may think. There is also a solid sense of inter-generational family life; carrying on with traditions while adding that special something of yourself that allows for growth, change and well…life to bloom. With meticulous detail and clever twists of the brush, we visit an animal world not unlike our own, with a variety of creatures who have certain needs and expectations, all of which are met by Fox & Son. But it is Rorys’ dream to offer something unexpected. While first met with a gentle “just do as you’re told,” Rory is determined and quietly perseveres. And it seems he was right all along…we need a bit of “different” in our lives! Quirky, fun, creative, joyous…and heartwarming. Fox & Son Tailer is utterly wonderful!

Thank you to the good folk at The O’Brien Press for sharing this very special “tail” with me. Paddy Donnelly…you are a marvel. https://obrien.ie/fox-and-son-tailers

Harp Maiden: Ladder of Charms by Jackie Burke…the final installment

Harp Maiden series by Jackie Burke; covers by Rachel Corcoran; Lindon Books

Evie has come a long way in her journey to become the Harp Maiden. We have seen her receive a scholarship to study with renowned maestro, Lionel Thorn; only to discover it’s all part of a sinister plot orchestrated by the demon, Lord Volok. She has escaped the devastating fire at Dower Hall and seen the death of the ogress; discovering the magical Black Ruby that will bring the demon queen back to life. Overwhelmed, uncertain, but still determined to rid the world of dangerous demons once and for all, in the final installment, Evie faces tragedy at home and distasters plague the entire town and its’ surroundings while she struggles to take the final steps onto her own path….

HARP MAIDEN: LADDER OF CHARMS

author :Jackie Burke

cover illustration: Rachel Corcoran

Lindon Books (September 2022)

ISBN: 9781788462648

The ogress is dead; that we know. But demon lord Volok is still at large, seeking the five talismans so that he may resurrect his wife, the dreaded Queen Madruga. And it’s down to Evie to stop him; she is the Harp Maiden…it’s her job. But tragedy has struck at home, and disaster after disaster plagues her family, friends and the whole town as Evie struggles to complete the six steps of the Ladder of Charms. She must keep going, no matter what the cost, and tap into the powerful magic that awaits her; that will allow her to destroy Volok forever. It’s difficult and overwhelming and Evie worries that this new magic will change her, turning her into someone she doesn’t want to be. Will her friends turn their backs on her when they discover her deepest secrets? And where are the five talismans Volok needs? As Evie struggles to find the answers, her quest is coming to its dangerous close. But not before her father reveals a startling secret of his own. Evie must choose her own path, regardless of what her friends and family think…but it’s a choice she’s finding very difficult.

Dynamic and pacey, this book moves thoroughly across the now familiar landscape on a knife-edge. As the reader comes ever-closer to the end of Evie quest, we face illness, family trauma and the inevitability of consequences for our actions. Evie is growing in confidence, page by page. The choices she makes; decisions she is left to choose from; these all add an emotional turmoil to the tale as Evie struggles to do the right thing recognising with shock that she is not the only one with a hidden secret, that the truth is often fickle and manipulated and that support can come from the most unlikely source; sometimes the source you were trying to protect. And sometimes, you just have to be bold and reckless to accomplish your goal. While there is grave peril and sorrow along the way, there is also encouragement, love and hope. Yes, the consequences are high. Yes, you cannot save everyone, no matter how much love you hold for them. All you can do is your best and trust that will be good enough. A wonderful, enthralling read; complex, dangerous, intriguing…a unique blend of history, adventure, music and magic. A worthy conclusion to a marvelous series.

Many, many thanks to Jackie Burke for sharing the Ladder of Charms with me. I enjoyed every single page. https://www.grindlewood.com/

Danger Lurks Where The Fae Winds Blow… The Book of Secrets by Alex Dunne

The Book of Secrets by Alex Dunne; The O’Brien Press

Summer is over; school is back on and before you know it, it will be time for the Spooky Season. Halloween brings the opportunity for all kinds of magic and mayhem, especially when the fae cross into our world. And have I got a book for you…

THE BOOK OF SECRETS

author: Alex Dunne

cover illustration: Shona Shirley MacDonald

O’Brien Press (5 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781788493208

Eleven-year-old Cat Donnelly and her friends spend their final day of school before midterm break swapping scary stories and planning the ultimate trick-or-treating strategy. And the Pooka awakes from his decades long sleep, disturbed by Other Worldly happenings. For the first time in over fifty years, the Sídhe, the Trooping Fairies arrive in the small town of Clonbridge for their annual revels. Their arrival awakens other creatures, who have mischief and chaos in mind. With the Fairies back in town and other fae creatures on the prowl, this Halloween will be one Cat will never forget. Cat has the Sight, like her Granny Mary. This makes her a magnet for all things supernatural. But when the wild magic hurts her family, she needs to find a friend she can really trust. Together, Cat and Shane face the peril and must use all their wits and bravery to save those they love before the sun rises. Luckily, she has The Book of Secrets….

Throughout this book, even in its’ most mundane, “normal” situations, there is a burgeoning sense of being right on the edge. The author expertly crafts the atmosphere of Halloween; the veil between the worlds thinning, letting the other side creep in bit by bit. Setting this against a story of friendship, both present and lost, growing up, the generations in one family; it is extremely effective at creating a sense of being both real and unreal at the same time. The peril and action creep in until they take over all of Cats’ life as she clutches for some sense of safety, guidance; an anchor-hold in dangerous times. True to form, the faeries twist each circumstance to suit them, but the master of this is the Pooka. Oh, he is magnificent! Cunning, precarious, clever…a real renegade, the Pooka holds all the cards. Putting him back in his place takes every kind of wit and insight Cat can muster. There are strict rules and seeking the loopholes is a confusing, tricky business. All of this; the characterisation, dialogue, setting and human issues combine to create an adventure that cannot be missed. Once you open the book, it’s nonstop and utterly consuming. Compelling, rich in legend and imagination, The Book o f Secrets will make you rethink all your Halloween adventures.

Huge thanks to The O’Brien Press for sharing this fabulous story with me. https://obrien.ie/the-book-of-secrets