Ten years ago, Jess’s mother was murdered by the Magpie Man. She was the first of his victims but not the last. Now Jess is the star of a YouTube reality series and she’s using it to catch the killer once and for all. The whole world is watching her every move. And so is the Magpie Man.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK Books in return for an honest review.
‘Are You Watching?’ has universal appeal for those drawn to page-turning reads. The social media and YouTube concept is aimed at young adults.
Jess hopes her story will attract a viral audience and draw out her mother’s killer. Told from her point of view, the reader has immediate and uncensored responses from the main protagonist. It also maintains the mystery, as we only know what she does. Relatable and realistic, Jess is a likeable character, with authentic teenage emotions and motivations.
This is an emotional story. Jess feels her mother’s loss but also griefs her family’s demise. Her father is an understandable emotional wreck and she is doing this for him as much as for herself. Parents may question, whether they would have allowed their teenager to do this. Jess’s father feels guilty about his daughter’s damaged life, and will make amends anyway he can.
The book’s structure of short chapters aids the pacing and suspense, which builds as the story progresses. The plot has twists and an unexpected ending.
This story has dark themes, but it is written to engage its target audience. Contemporary fiction focused on crime, relationships, suspense and technology, which will appeal to an older adult audience too.
Vincent Ralph has been writing in one form or another since his teens and always dreamed of being a novelist. He owes his love of books to his mother, who encouraged his imagination from an early age and made sure there were new stories to read. Vincent has lived in London, Cornwall and Chester but he now lives in his home county of Kent with his wife, son and two cats.
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?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
It’s 1942, and Maisie McCall is in the Scottish Highlands doing her bit for the war effort in the Women’s Timber Corps.
As Maisie works felling trees alongside the enigmatic John Lindsay, Maisie can’t help but feel like their friendship has the spark of something more to it. And yet every time she gets close to him, John pulls away. It’s not until Maisie rescues John from a terrible logging accident that he begins to open up to her about the truth of his past, and the pain he’s been hiding.
Suddenly everything is more complicated than Maisie expected. And as she helps John to untangle his shattered history, she must decide if she’s willing to risk her heart to help heal his. But in a world devastated by war, love might be the only thing left that can begin to heal what’s broken.
‘In Another Time’ is aptly named. Its strength is that it captures the culture, prejudice and ethos of WW2 Britain and even though I would like more details on the day to day lives of the lumberjills; you get a sense of who these pioneering women were and what sacrifices they made for the war effort.
Maisie’s independent spirit makes her a perfect candidate for the Womens’Timber Corp (WTC). The clash of personalities makes the story authentic, and the complexity of the main characters makes it easy to empathise or not with them.
John is a troubled character, but despite her naivety, Maisie begins to understand his emotional trauma, but a girl can only be pushed away so many times. Their romance is sweet but hampered by their circumstances, tragedy and the jealousy of others.
The ending is heartwarming and what Maisie and John deserve.
A lovely story for young readers that will appeal to anyone who likes a little romance and is interested in the unsung heroines of WW2.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins – Children’s Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
“A complication just showed up. Mmm, a beautiful complication.”
Juggling assignments and missing her old life inBritannia Beach, Derian Lafleur’s first year at university has beenoverwhelming to say the least. A sun-filled, all-expenses-paid, springbreak getaway with her best friend, Sophie Sakamoto, is exactly what she needs. Or so she thinks…
Until the last person in the world Derian expected to see shows up at the Acapulco resort, and her already stressful life suddenly becomes a million times more complicated. When the girls’spring break takes an unexpectedly dangerous turn, they find themselves lost and injured in the Mexican wilderness, and Deri is the only hope they have for getting out alive. If only she can figure out what to do next.
I read book 3 immediately after ‘What are the Chances’ because I wanted to see what happened to Derian and Trevor. You won’t be disappointed if you’re a romantic but this story has lots of surprises and adds suspense and drama to the romance and self-development of the previous books. The Britannia Beach series is worth reading and book 3 provides an exciting and satisfying conclusion. Now at university, life is a little ordinary, Deri and Trevor are together but Deri is still unsure of her place in his life, although he is number one in hers. A surprise invitation leads to reunion, unexpected danger and a maelstrom of emotions for Deri. Friendship and love are centre stage in this story and it’s often poignant. The ending is suspenseful and well written and a perfect ending to a lovely young adult series. I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
Dystopian Cinderella tale aimed at the Teen and Young Adult market. Told from America’s point of view, one of the selected, this portrays a young girl’s emotional journey, in rather unusual circumstances. This is an introductory novel and mainly catalogues the first part of America’s journey as a ‘selected’. She is a likeable character, mindful of others feelings but definitely a free spirit. The other girls in the story have interesting personalities. There is a love triangle of sorts, which I guess will be explored later in the series. This book has been around for four years and has attracted a phenomenal amount of very mixed reviews. Whilst, I’m not engaged enough to read anymore in the series, if you enjoy a modern day take on fairy tales with a definite dystopian setting, this should appeal. I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins- Children’s via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The story’s vivid imagery draws the reader into the world of London’s street gangs. Sean Harker has many commendable qualities, despite his criminal intentions and is an easy anti- hero to identify with, whatever your age but particularly for the intended late teen, young adult audience. This is a hard-hitting story. The reality of Sean’s life as a gang member is often sordid but when his luck runs out, the chance to start again beckons but will he survive it? The scene setting of the first few chapters is so important for the rest of the story, as Sean’s new life collides with his old with alarming consequences. Although Sean makes some questionable choices and friends, these illustrate his naivety, despite his former life as a gang member. The plot is simple to follow but the strong characters make it exciting and page turning and Sean is definitely a character who could have more adventures in future books. ‘Street Soldier’ is great storytelling with a realistic edge. Fast paced action with a true hero and an overriding theme of hope, whatever the challenges. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Returning home to Britannia Beach a year after her life was shattered is bittersweet for Derian Lafleur. Although some things settle back into place, others don’t click like they used to…especially her friendship with Trevor Maverty.
Derian suddenly wishes the boy next door would see her as more than just a kid sister type. She tries to be everything she thinks he’s looking for— bolder, more experienced – but is that who she wants to be?
With the fate of her family’s historic inn on the line and Trevor making life more complicated by the day, Derian struggles to manage her unexpected feelings, and deal with a past she’s not quite ready to leave behind.
Derian returns home a year after her father’ death, to find some things always stay the same, whilst others are subtly different. Derian has a gift, which confuses her. She matures emotionally in this story, as she accepts past tragedy, copes with change and discovers her inner strengths. Romance or the lack of it dominates Deri’s life. Finding it where she least expects, leads to mixed emotions and false starts. When she accepts who she wants, they are annoyingly reticent. Deri’s friends and family are interesting, realistic characters, who bring Britannia Beach to life. The language and heat level are appropriate for the intended readers. The ending completes this chapter of Deri’s young life but leaves un- answered questions for the next book in the series. I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.