Posted in Animal Friends, Blog Tour, Book Review, Childrens Books, Friendship, Guest post

Tabby’s Big Year- Hollie Anne Marsh 4* #Review @Hollieannemarsh @rararesources #Sweetbriars2 #MiddleGrade #Horses #ComingofAge #BritishEquestrian #teen #kidslit #Family #Friendship #BlogTour #GuestPost

After Tabby’s father vanishes, a deep rift develops in Tabby’s family. Tabby’s mother is focused on being a star performer in her pharmaceutical sales career, while Ava, Tabby’s older sister, is living with grandparents in Cornwall. Tabby feels neglected by her mother and jealous of Ava and although outwardly diligent and responsible, she’s like a kettle about to blow its top… bottling things up until it’s nearly impossible to keep a lid on her frustration and sadness.

Tabby finds solace with her best friends Cate and Violet at Sweetbriars Farm where she is nursing her dream horse Bliss back to peak performance, to be able to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.

Tabby also finds herself facing other challenges – saving her beloved horse Nancy from the knacker’s yard and finding the courage to tell her friends the truth about her family. 
Will Tabby be able to save the horses she loves and be brave enough to tell people how she really feels?

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This book certainly stirred some memories for me. At Tabby’s age, I was totally obsessed with horses, and the scenes in the stable yard evoked happy times. This story is the second in the ‘Sweetbriars series, but as I haven’t read the previous book, and enjoyed it, it reads well as a standalone.

Tabby lives with her mum, who is trying to forge a new life, as a single mum. She has a career and this is her main focus, Tabby is self-sufficient and not surprisingly, old for her years because her mother leaves her to fend for herself a lot of the time. Haunted by her dad’s leaving, Tabby reveals her vulnerability and you empathise.

Estranged from her sister, who lives with their grandparents in Cornwall, this story is about reconnecting with family and understanding that everyone’s life has ups and downs, no matter how ideal it appears from the outside. It’s also about learning to trust your friends and being honest about your life and the problems you face.

The issues are those facing young pre-teens and younger teenagers in contemporary society and are explored in a clear and non- judgmental way.

The focus is on Tabby and the horses, one Bliss, she is helping rehabilitate from an accident, and another horse who she is particularly fond of, she battles to save.

The setting is vividly described, and the characters are realistic, and avoid being stereotypical.

As an adult, I enjoyed reading this story, and feel that is perfect for the intended age group.

The perfect read for any horse obsessed young person.

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

Hollie Anne Marsh and the Sweetbriars equestrian series 

I wrote the manuscript for the first Sweetbriars book over ten years ago. I had a dream to create a premium equestrian series like the successful Saddle Club series, with an addictive mix of horses and ‘coming of age’ themes.

When I was younger, I loved these kinds of books and read them all. I would trade books with my friends, and we would discuss them for hours.

After having a baby and being made redundant from my corporate job, I finished the first book; Leaving The City and then recently, I finished the second book; Tabby’s Big Year… it’s been great to do something creative again and fulfil a lifelong dream!

There are three main characters; Cate, Tabby and Violet and they spend most of their spare time at the Sweetbriars Farm.

Cate Sullivan is the daughter of the family who owns the farm and is the main character in the first book. She is sweet and endearing, however a bit of a worrier!

In the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, we follow Tabby’s story. Tabby lives with her mother in the quaint village of the Dales. She is diligent and hardworking, however, is grappling with her family situation as her father vanished and her older sister Ava moved to Cornwall to live with their grandparents. Tabby becomes a regular at Sweetbriars, finding solace with the horses and her dear friends.

The last character; Violet, she is the sassier of the three girls and she also keeps a horse at ‘Sweetbriars’. She says what she thinks and keeps you guessing with her peculiar ways and habits!

I ran a ‘Search for a Cover Star’ competition for both books in the series and for Leaving The City (the first book), I found a talented young rider, Faye Heppelthwaite, alongside her show pony Gigman George to grace the cover. The photo was taken in an English meadow by the photographer Paul Ruffle and it’s pretty stunning.

For the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, I took it one step further and ran a competition where a young girl could not only grace the cover, she could also win a photo shoot with her pony or horse with photographer Katie Amos. Twelve-year-old Sia Reiss won the competition and participated in a photo shoot in scenic Yorkshire with her eighteen-year-old horse Frankie.

As part of entering the competition I asked entrants why they thought they should win the competition and here is what Sia said, which I thought was gorgeous: “My pony Frankie is 18 years old and has arthritis. His glory days are over. He is a one in a million pony and I love him so much. To me, the best way I can think of celebrating Frankie is having him on the cover of a wonderful book.” 

Here is one of my favourite photos from the photo shoot. I think it’s easy to see the special that Sia and Frankie have.

Image Credit – Kate Amos

In Tabby’s Big Year, there are important lessons for young readers. The main character, Tabby has been through a lot in her young life and has a habit of bottling things up and pretending she is ok. The book teaches that by bottling things up, problems only seem more significant.

Tabby also thinks she is the only one with problems, and there is a moment in the book where the neighbour of the Sweetbriars farm Sophia, opens up and reveals how her father also abandoned her… this is a lightbulb moment for Tabby, as she thought everyone around her had things perfect.

Tabby also found Sophia strange (she’s eccentric, lives in a rundown house with oddball parents), but realizes they have a lot in common and Tabby and Sophia become quite close. So, I think the book also teaches young readers not to judge people by the way they look. This was also quite prevalent in the first book too.

What’s next? 

Well, the obvious thing seems to write another Sweetbriars book from Violet’s point of view. It could also be fun to write a book about the quirky neighbour of Sweetbriars Sophia and her life… she is a bit of an enigma. Then the books could continue – as the series is in its infancy. At this stage, I am not sure how far I will take it, but I do think it has potential.

Tabby’s Big Year

The second book in the Sweetbriars Equestrian Book Series tells the story of twelve-year-old Tabby and is set in The Dales – a fictional rural Devon village in the Southwest of England.

After the disappearance of her father, several years before, Tabby, her older sister Ava and her mother, are still grappling with the consequences. Things need to be brought out into the open… but go on being unsaid, as a huge rift develops leaving the family at odds with each other.

While Tabby battles her feelings of being neglected by her mother, she unexpectedly has to face another battle – to find the courage to save her last horse, Nancy from being sent to a premature end at the knacker’s yard.

Tabby also has the responsibility of caring for a young horse, Bliss – her dream horse who was entrusted to her and is recovering from a serious accident. The clock is ticking as Tabby nurses him back to health and peak performance to be able to achieve her dream: to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.

By her side are her two best friends, Cate and Violet. Tabby also develops an unlikely friendship – with Sophia. Tabby realises she has much more in common with her than she ever could have imagined. 

It’s a big year for Tabby… will she be able to find the courage not only to save the horses she loves the most but also to speak up and tell the people closest to her how she really feels?

Hollie Anne Marsh is an Australian author who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her partner, baby boy and horse Frieda. 

Hollie has been horse riding since she was a little girl, enjoying activities such as Pony Club, showjumping, eventing, and trail riding in the great Australian bush. Hollie lived in England for almost ten years where she had two horses and trained them for dressage. 

The ‘Sweetbriars’ series is inspired by all the special moments Hollie spent with horses – good, funny, and challenging moments! 

Additionally the ‘coming of age’ and ‘growing up’ experiences that Hollie had. 
Hollie hopes that readers will be able to identify with the characters, find the books’ fun to read, and they will help readers learn more about horses.

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Posted in Author Interview, Book Spotlight

Debra J. Edwards – Author Interview

Author Interview

Did a specific event or person motivate you to become a writer? Can you tell us what happened?

As a primary school teacher, I once taught a class of 6-7 year olds. They were at an age when their baby teeth would become wobbly and fall out – often during the school day. They used to love telling me about it although it did drive me a little crazy at first. It got me thinking as to what a tooth fairy might do with the teeth, but as there were a few tooth fairy books out already I didn’t pursue the idea. But I couldn’t leave it alone so decided to put a different spin on it all using teenagers in the main character roles.

Are you a full time or part time writer?

Having taught in primary schools for 20 years, I am now happy to say that I write full time. Before, I worked through the day and early evening making it difficult to find time for writing. I had to squeeze in time after marking each evening which could result in very late nights. Weekends were wonderful though and meant I could find a little extra time during the days to write. I did try getting up very early to write, but that didn’t work for me. I’m just not a morning person.

What are the three best things about writing for you?

Tricky question as writing brings so much to writers. Okay…
I love how the stories in my head start to come to life as soon as my fingers hit the keyboard. Breathing life into a new character is so amazing. It’s great to see just how much they develop as the plot unfolds.
Writing brings me a great feeling of accomplishment. I was never an ‘A’ student at school so it gives me so much pleasure when my books are read and enjoyed. To think that the crazy characters in my head are being let loose on the world feels so good.
Being a writer is a somewhat lonely profession, but it has actually opened up a great social network for me. I belong to the SCBWI which means I get to talk to other writers about what I’m doing and attend numerous events where I can meet agents, publishers etc. I’m also a lively participant on Twitter where I to chat to other paranormal writers mostly, but also take part in YA chat hours.

You write books for children and young adults, what made you pick these genres?

Because I worked in a primary/elementary school, writing for children seemed a natural start to my writing career. I was able to try out my ideas on my target audience each day and they gave me great feedback. It wasn’t always what I wanted to hear, but that’s the whole point and it made me reconsider some plot points and refine my character development.
I had read a lot of young adult books and wondered if it was an age range I could move into. I’d always wanted to write a ghost story too. I thought it might be too scary for an MG audience, but not scary enough for adults so YA seemed to be the right range. In a way it was a gamble, but the story has been received well by the target audience. And because my previous MG readers are now older, they are forming a fanbase for my YA books.

Can you tell us about the books you have written?

I have three children’s fantasy novels published for the 8-12 year range although I have sold a lot to teenagers and adults. In fact, my oldest reader for these books is in her sixties! They are stories about a group of stroppy teenage tooth fairies and how they try to save their world.

Aggie Lichen Pilp Collector cover 1 JPG

Here’s the blurb for the first book:
Aggie Lichen faces the same dilemmas as any other thirteen year old; what to wear, how to keep out of trouble at school. But while other thirteen year olds are doing their homework or settling down to watch T.V., Aggie flits from house to house in search of prize pilps. That’s where Aggie is a little different. You see, Aggie Lichen is a pilp collector – a tooth fairy!
One nightsgritch – a tooth collecting evening – Aggie is attacked by a bright, mysterious light. Is it just a low flying glow worm or a bad tempered giant bluebottle? Or, as Aggie and her gang suspect, is it something more sinister?
Unknown to them, Aggie and her gang have just thirty days to solve the mystery and save their kind but time is not on their side … neither are the Sprites or the Grublins …

I also have a Tween/YA paranormal novel out, Marvin’s Curse. It tells the story of a 17 year old boy who has inherited the gift of speaking to ghosts from his dead dad. Here’s the blurb for it:

Final cover for Marvin Herbie Quote

How would you handle the dead?

After losing his dad, 17 year old Marvin finds he can see and talk to the dead, an inherited ‘gift’. Bonus, you might think, but Marvin hates it. It makes him different and he just wants to be ‘normal’. He meets Stella in the graveyard that backs onto the house he’s just moved into.

‘My name is Stella, Stella McCartney. It says so inside my trousers.’ (!?!)

A mysterious business card reveals that Stella has lost her memories and all signs point to Moghador, a gateway to hell where a pawnbroker holds the answers. Oh, and she’s dead!

Do you follow a set process to write your books? If so can you share it with us?

Not really a process as such. I tend to jot down ideas in a kind of mind map and add to that when other things come to me. I scribble notes as I go in a carefully selected notebook for that particular book. I’m very much a person who just writes things down when watching TV or in the car (not driving, of course!). I usually write the first draft, have a read through then move on to structural editing. For the first time, I’m using an editing workbook (Darcy Pattison – Novel Metamorphosis) to try and improve the process by using the exercises suggested. I have used a freelance editor for all my books to ensure that I haven’t missed any issues before the books are unleashed on the world.

What’s your favourite time of day to write? Why do you enjoy writing at this time?

I prefer to start writing around mid-morning. I’m not a particularly early riser and need a few cups of coffee before I can begin. It’s a time when I feel most awake and able to tackle the writing challenges of the day. I’m quite happy to write early evening too depending on where I am in my story. If I’m at a difficult part, I like to press on to see if I can solve the issue, if not, it waits until the next day – after the coffee though.

Do you have need to be alone to write?

Yes, if I am at home and I need quiet too. I like to keep the door shut on my study to keep any form of noise out. This can often be my dog barking for attention or music blasted out by my husband. But I also enjoy writing in cafes on cruise ships which is a complete contrast as there can be around 2000 people at any time on these ships.

Do you have a favourite writing space? 

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I write mostly in my study which looks out on to trees and greenery. It has a firm chair which means I have to sit up straight and focus. In a softer seat I tend to slouch and fall asleep… zzzzzzz!

What are you writing at the moment? What do you plan to write this year?

I’m currently editing another YA book, The Iron City. It’s kind of a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Hunger Games – with dragons. In the book, it falls to a geeky teenage girl, Rae, to save the world from dragons. Here’s a snippet!

‘I am George, the original George as in George and the Dragon?’ said George, taking a Peter Pan stance. ‘And this is my trusted friend, Ascalon.’ He pulled a small wand like stick from his pocket. ‘…the dragon slaying lance.’
Rae stared hard at George then transferred her fierce look to the stick/lance he was holding. Then she burst out laughing. ‘Oh, please! George and the Dragon?’ She fell back against the tree. ‘Are you for real?’
George shook the stick several times. ‘It does that sometimes. It gets stuck. I think it’s all the crap it’s collected over the last few hundred years.’
‘Oh my god. You’re still talking, George,’ said Rae. ‘And it’s still just a stick. Look!’

Aggie Lichen Pilp Collector cover 1 JPG

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Arty's Revenge cover JPG

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Aggie Lichen Book 3

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Final cover for Marvin Herbie Quote

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Marvin’s Curse Trailer

Goodreads – Marvin’s Curse

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