Source: Direct from Publisher

A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “Solomon’s Bell” (Book Two: Genie Chronicles) by Michelle Lowery Combs

Posted Wednesday, 20 May, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

#WyrdAndWonder Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: A few years ago now, I started to review for World Weaver Press – until I reached the day where my focus on the stories I was receiving for review fell by the wayside. A lot of this had to do with my personal health, the recovery of my father’s stroke and other things which bring adversity into your life which can and will affect your readerly life. I cannot remember exactly what first took me away from reading “Heir to the Lamp” or the sequel “Solomon’s Bell” – however, I did attempt to read them at various moments throughout the past few years including shortly after I received “Solomon’s Bell” for which I posted a Cover Reveal and Extract.

During our 2nd Year (2019) for #WyrdAndWonder, I wanted to redeem myself a bit by getting back into the stories I attempted to read during our 1st year of #WyrdAndWonder (2018) but due to the migraines and other issues I was having with my health, I was unable to complete my reading schedule for the event. This is one of the series I was most eager to read and am thankful I finally was able to start reading it during our 2nd Year of Wyrd and Wonder whilst finishing it in our 3rd. As I know there are other readers who are following or joining the event directly who appreciate Magical Realism and/or stories of the Jinn as much as I do. Perhaps they will find a new author through my ruminations and as always, I hope whenever I feature a story or anthology by World Weaver Press – word will continue to get out about this lovely Indie Publisher for Speculative Fiction!

I received a complimentary copy of “Solomon’s Bell” direct from the publisher World Weaver Press in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

I admit it, ever since I met a ‘Golem’ & a ‘Jinni’, I’ve been intrigued by Magical Realism stories involving the Jinn!:

Set during a pivotal game for Virginia as a competitive JV Girls’ Basketball competitor – we open the story as Ginn is about to receive some humbling and surprising news about herself, her destiny and the ways in which she previously perceived her world. You can intuit this through the revelation at the end of the game – where her team is down for the count, the opposing team has a new member whose height puts them at a distinct advantage and where Ginn’s team is doing everything they can not to  lose the faith they could win the game from the underdog status they found themselves trying to overcome. It is here – as we are with Ginn in the car with her family as they make their way to the gym to see the game, we notice a few things about her – she’s not comfortable being in a large family nor is she enthused about having as many siblings as she has which were achieved through adoption.

The adoption side of her life is lightly touched upon – mostly through the angst of a thirteen year old who isn’t quite sure why her parents wanted to keep adding to their family or have to take-on the world whenever someone from outside the family grew critical of their choices in life; especially in how they grew their family through adoption. You can understand her perspective on the matter – as she has an eclectic sibling group whilst you can also appreciate the heart and humbled spirit of her parents who wanted to raise children and did not have a preference of whether or not they were all biologically related to them. I have a soft spot for stories involving Adoption – as I am desiring to adopt from foster care in the future – therefore, whenever I see a story involving Adoption, I do take a more critical eye on how it is discussed and how it fits into the story being told.

I think part of the reason I was struggling to anchour into story and to get into step with Ginn is how her story was being disclosed. It felt a little disjointed at first – but then, once you see her with her mother and she starts to talk about her grandmother – you start to notice her differently, seeing how much she’s trying to understand this transitional period of her life and somewhere at that junction her story starts to move forward in a way you can soak into her world.

Ginn is a girl on the brink of entering her teenage years but she’s more bogged down in worrying about what is plaguing her mind moreso than going through puberty. She has a caring mother who looks after her whenever she’s not feeling quite up to par and even goes out of her way to ensure her daughter will feel a bit better which I felt was a sweet touch. What was lovely though was seeing how a few life lessons and life philosophies were being layered into the story-line – guided by Ginn’s Mum but also, turnt over for introspective reasoning by Ginn herself. There is a point about how nightmares can overtake you if your not careful about how you extract yourself from them but also, on the importance of family. This is a close-knit family who appreciate being with their grandmother but also with each other – even if half the time, I suspect they drive each other a bit batty round the edges, as all good-natured large families do.

You have to laugh, really! Combs has worked in some cleverly placed real-world cultural points of interest into the background of the story – such as Ginn’s Mum having an affinity of interest for the cooking shows we all get excited about time after time – giving her children a bit of an interesting voyage into the culinary arts! I was smiling the whole time as apparently Ginn’s Mum isn’t as gifted in the kitchen as my Mum is nor is she as naturally intuitive about how certain ingredients work best together. This is why I was smiling the most – hearing Ginn tell it, they would be better off if they cooked from ready-made boxes and ate out on occasion if they could afford to do it.

Where the story took a turning into the fantastical is when Rashmere shows up rather unexpectedly and how he points out to Ginn all the different ways her current life is about to unravel. The expressive nature of Rashmere is too adorable! You’ll have to read the story to find out the species Rashmere is on first sight but somehow, Combs tapped into how he could be expressive despite his small presence when he initially enters Ginn’s life. In essence he steals the scene!

I immediately felt connected to Gran – she’s the kind of grandmother you can warm up to rather quickly because of her approach to life! She has a zest for humour and she has a winsome attitude when it comes to how she disarms your nerves. I loved her back-story about how she had to overcome the odds against her on the Army bases her husband had been stationed on? It shows how sometimes the people who exhume the most confidence can sometimes have their own struggles to bear and work through just like everyone else. Mostly though – she just seemed like a wicked awesome grandmother and definitely someone you could confide in the worries weighing on your mind such as the kind Ginn had on hers.

Gran had a keen ability of telling Ginn her back history in such a way that makes it credible despite the fact it has a lot of fantastical elements inside it – as this is a heritage which involves the Jinn. Though not quite the kind of Jinn everyone has heard of before but the kind who has a mixed heritage that involves the Jinn and humans. From there, what was quite impressive is how well Gran took to ensure Ginn of the details even to discuss how her feelings on this matter of disclosure were not the same as her parents – which struck me a bit as an interesting piece of information – as if Ginn’s adoptive parents dismissed a portion of her back-story, than if it weren’t for Gran disclosing the fuller story to her on her birthday, one had to wonder – would Ginn have started to deepen her curiosity about all the unexpected events happening to her since she turnt thirteen?

As we shift into the story of the Jinn – Combs does a wonderful job at educating us on the past histories of the Jinn, how they can exist and what their nature involved in regards to how they used their gifts of magic. It never felt like a specific section of information being given to you as she used Ginn’s own lack of understanding her birth origins as a route of information being passed onto the reader. The closer Ginn went with her own research, the closer we felt we understood who the Jinn were and the laws of how they existed. This also broached the topics of the books of Jinn known as the ‘grimoire’ and how the ancestry of the Jinn was as ancient as it were timeless.

Personally, my favourite character was not Ginn but Rashmere! He had the best attributes as a character but also, I felt his role in the story was so rounded and fleshed out, that his presence was a true delight to have threading through the background. I definitely am hoping he has a strong presence in the next volume of the series Solomon’s Bell as he was a keenly pivotal character within Heir to the Lamp.

This is a good novel to serve as a gateway into Magical Realism (as its the lighter side of the genre) whilst also giving a good footing of insight into Urban Fantasy and mythological Fantasy involving the Jinn. I think it would appeal to a lot of readers who are seeking a bit of danger and adventure within a fantastical world where not everything is exactly as it seems on the surface of what is being presented but where if you dig a bit deeper into the heart of what is being said, you’ll find the truth glimmering as strong as the purple smoke which is Ginn’s trademark.

-quoted from my review of Heir to the Lamp

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “Solomon’s Bell” (Book Two: Genie Chronicles) by Michelle Lowery CombsSolomon's Bell
Subtitle: Genie Chronicles Book Two
by Michelle Lowery Combs
Illustrator/Cover Designer: Sarena Ulibarri
Source: Direct from Publisher

Ginn thinks she has problems at home until she magically lands herself in 16th Century Prague. To save her family, Ginn uses her newfound genie powers to transport herself and her friends to 16th century Prague. Only one thing there remains the same as at home: she can't let anyone know what she really is.

The Emperor of Prague and those closest to him are obsessed with magic. In pursuit of it, they’ve waged war on the citizens of their city. In the citizens' defense, someone has brought to life a golem, a dangerous being with connections to an artifact capable of summoning and commanding an entire army of genies.

Can Ginn escape the notice of the Emperor as she attempts to discover a way to defeat Prague’s golem in time to save her family from a similar creature?

Solomon's Bell is the sequel to Heir to the Lamp and the second book of the Genie Chronicles series.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Book Page on World Weaver Press

ISBN: 978-0997788877

Also by this author: Solomon's Bell (Cover Reveal + Extract), Heir to the Lamp

Also in this series: Heir to the Lamp


Genres: Fantasy Fiction, Magical Realism, YA Fantasy, YA Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction


Published by World Weaver Press

on 7th March, 2017

Pages: 224

Published By: World Weaver Press (@WorldWeaver_wwp)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Ebook

The Genie Chronicles series:

Heir to the Lamp by Michelle Lowery CombsSolomon's Bell by Michelle Lowery Combs

Genre(s): Speculative | Young Adult | Fantasy | Lore & Legends

the Jinn (or Jinnis or Genies) | Adoption

Similar Reads: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (see also Review)

About Michelle Lowery Combs

Michelle Lowery Combs

Michelle Lowery Combs is an award-winning writer and book blogger living in rural Alabama with her husband, one cat and too many children to count. She spends her spare time commanding armies of basketball and soccer munchkins for the Parks & Recreation departments of two cities.

When not in the presence of throngs of toddlers, tweens and teens, Michelle can be found neglecting her roots and dreaming up the next best seller. She is a member of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave, Jacksonville State University’s Writers’ Club and her local Aspiring Authors group.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission. Read More

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Wednesday, 20 May, 2020 by jorielov in #WyrdAndWonder, Adoption, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blogosphere Events & Happenings, Book Review (non-blog tour), Brothers and Sisters, Equality In Literature, Folklore, Folklore and Mythology, Foster Care, Indie Author, Magical Realism, Orphans & Guardians, Siblings, Speculative Fiction, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, World Weaver Press, Young Adult Fiction

A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “The Monster Apprentice” (Rahana Trilogy: Book One) by Felicity Banks

Posted Saturday, 16 May, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 1 Comment

#WyrdAndWonder Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I first heard from Odyssey Books late last year, however, the timing of accepting their review request for “The Monster Apprentice” wasn’t the best timing for me due to my health and my migraines. As I was setting to mind what I wanted to do for Wyrd And Wonder this year, I decided to reach out to the publisher to see if I could schedule guest author features and perhaps finally accept the chance to read and review “The Monster Apprentice”. This sparked my idea of hosting Felicity Banks during @SatBookChat as 1 of 3 guest Indie Fantasy Authors for #SatBookChat (the bookish chat I host on the weekends featuring strong female characters across genres) and having the chance to read and review her novel. I was thankful I could put together a mixture of guest features (guest posts and interviews) as well as two reviews for this Indie publisher in New Zealand.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Monster Apprentice” direct from the author Felicity Banks and the publisher Odyssey Books in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Prior to finishing my readings of “The Monster Apprentice”

– I hosted the lovely Ms Banks during our first #SatBookChat during #WyrdAndWonder:

I love having the chance to feature Indie Authors on Jorie Loves A Story and during #SatBookChat – as it helps me showcase authors, publishers and stories I personally love seeking out myself who are on the Indie side of book world. I’ve been showcasing the Indies since I first started book blogging as at my heart as a reader is an Indie sensibility as I grew up having such a wonderful Indie bookstore in my city. Not to mention as a book blogger my knowledge of Indie publishers, press and authors is now on a world-wide scale of discovery.

Ever since Year One of #WyrdAndWonder, I’ve wanted to select Indie Authors and/or publishers to highlight, read and showcase as I want to help encourage other readers of Speculative Fiction and Fantasy to take a chance on an Indie novel and/or series. This is also the same mindset behind why I love hosting Indie Authors during #SatBookChat – whose roots were in hosting strictly Romance & Women’s Fiction novelists – however, in early 2020 I started to lay down the bones of change wherein we’re now featuring *all!* genres wherein you can find wicked strong female characters and/or stories which have a Feminist bent to them. We still focus on Romance & Women’s Fiction – however, I’m expanding it as my own readerly inclinations are more encompassing now that we’ve reached our six year of the chat!

What was so dearly delightful about Ms Banks is how she made the chat personable (sharing photos in the timeline of the chat) and how she answered questions directly about the world within the Rahana trilogy. To gain a bit of insight into how this world was constructed be sure to seek out the archive of our #SatBookChat.

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Ahead of discussing this lovely book on both #SatBookChat and on Jorie Loves A Story – I put together a short teaser of a #booktube #vlog #unboxing video which I shared on Twitter. I had a most delightful time answering one of the #WyrdAndWonder challenge prompts which was “The Best Things Come in Threes”.

I had planned to finish reading this novel and release my review last weekend – however, the hours escaped me and I wasn’t able to finish until now. I cannot wait to hear what my fellow #WyrdAndWonder readers will think once they find out about this intriguing world – wherein heroines step through ordinary lives into extraordinary circumstances!

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A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “The Monster Apprentice” (Rahana Trilogy: Book One) by Felicity BanksThe Monster Apprentice
by Felicity Banks
Source: Direct from Publisher

The only weapon Dance has is her name.

When pirates threaten the tiny hidden island of Luar, Dance knows her home has only one hope of survival: the magical monsters that killed her twin sister.

Dance loses her friends one by one as she attempts to prepare her strange apprentices for the showdown between monsters and pirates. Can she do it alone?

The Monster Apprentice is a powerful story of looking at the world differently and finding an answer in an unexpected place.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781925652130

Genres: Children's Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle Grade Fantasy, Mythological Fantasy, Pirate Fiction


Published by Odyssey Books

on 1st May, 2018

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 139

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Published by: Odyssey Books (@OdysseyBooks)

Felicity Banks invented the fantasy world of Rahana while living in Indonesia. She grew up reading stories set in Narnia and Middle Earth, and she wanted to invent a fantasy world that was just as beautiful but didn’t feel British, or white, or male.

In Rahana the weather is tropical and the people are visually similar to Indonesians. Magic is common, and makes physical strength irrelevant. There are millions of islands both small and large, and sailing technology is more advanced that the other sciences. Rahana is a thriving tropical world where people are born with a love of the high seas.

Naturally, the world is full of pirates.

Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

Converse via: #TheMonsterApprentice, #MGLit, #MGFantasy
as well as #pirates and #MiddleGrade; #IndieAuthor, #IndieFantasy

About Felicity Banks

Felicity Banks

Felicity Banks is a Canberra author specialising in fantasy and interactive fiction, including her Antipodean Queen fantasy steampunk series, which is also published by Odyssey Books. All her interactive fiction is listed under “Felicity Banks” (visit site) and most of her interactive fiction can be read via an app.

She writes about all her various pirates tales (some appropriate for children, some definitely not) on her Facebook page as well as sharing stories and images that appeal to the not-so-secret pirate within all of us.

She met her husband at a pirate ball, and has two little pirates at home.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #WyrdAndWonder
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Posted Saturday, 16 May, 2020 by jorielov in #Unboxing BookMail, #WyrdAndWonder, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Book Review (non-blog tour), Childhood Friendship, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Death of a Sibling, Fantasy Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Life Shift, Middle Grade Novel, Mother-Daughter Relationships, School Life & Situations, Siblings, Twin Siblings

#PubDay Book Review | “Adequate Yearly Progress” by Roxanna Elden

Posted Tuesday, 11 February, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Book Review banner created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I have been a book blogger hosting publisher blog tours and/or featuring book reviews for Simon & Schuster (as well as a few of their imprints) since 2017 however I didn’t start to host for them regularly until 2018. What I appreciate about being a book blogger for this publisher is that they have the tendency of knowing the types of Contemporary & Historical stories which interest me to read even before I realise there is a new release forthcoming which I might gravitate towards wanting to read! It never fails to delight me finding one of their emails in my Inbox because they have the tendency of selecting the stories which align wonderfully with my own bookish wanderings. It is a joy to be a book blogger on their publisher blog tours and/or hosting reviews for them outside of the organised blog tours.

I received a complimentary copy of “Adequate Yearly Progress” direct from the publisher Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

The reason reading ”Adequate Yearly Progress” appealled to me:

Ever since I was in school, I oft wondered what the teachers were talking about when they weren’t in the classroom. Growing up during budget cuts in the public & private school systems in the United States was an interesting view of the education system. Programs like Art, Drama, Shop (construction) and anything ‘extra’ after school were generally the first to get cut whilst they also had shortages on textbooks which is why I still remember how difficult it was to ‘lose our lockers’ in seventh and eighth grade because we literally had to go down to using ‘class sets’ without taking anything home except for copied work sheets which you could do in your sleep. In other words, for a lot of the years I was in school I didn’t feel academically challenged but what I gained instead was self-confidence, self-advocacy and self-esteem; in essence, I was building life skills and learning how to navigate the world.

Still though – there was a lot of bureaucratic red tape for the teachers, including the good ones who were student centred and held our interests ahead of their own. Some wanted to do more but were hindered by the budget or the restraints of the rules within public or private education (depending which school I was attending and which grade level). The only time I really had a chance to interact with the faculty and teachers more directly was in eighth grade where I befriended the school principal who tragically died prematurely shortly afterwards and in high school where the veil was fully lifted and I learnt far more than I expected!

For these reasons and the current state of public education in America, I decided this might be a rather timely novel to be reading. I also grew up being a dyslexic learner where most of my teachers didn’t realise I had learning difficulties because I learnt to overcompensate for my dyslexia – however, that’s a topic for another time as it lead to its own quirky complications!

Suffice it to say, from a very young age when it came to academic curiosity and literary wanderings – I did most of my educational pursuits off-campus and outside traditional education. I learnt more from my Mum who was technically my first teacher and through my family who always encouraged me to have as many experiences as I could and to seek out alternative learning opportunities.

Once I learnt how to work round my dyslexia the world of books became a cosy comfort because there wasn’t a subject I couldn’t explore on my own and there was a wide literary world out there to time travel through – in essence, what I have shared on Jorie Loves A Story is a small fraction of insight into my life as an independent learner and a self-motivating reader who continues to self-educate herself through literature and libraries.

Thus, I was dearly curious how this Contemporary novel might explore the current state of the educational system and the teachers who have a lot to deal with in regards to resources available to them in order to educate the children in their classrooms. I also thought it might have some cheeky humour along the way which is always a good thing to find!

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#PubDay Book Review | “Adequate Yearly Progress” by Roxanna EldenAdequate Yearly Progress
by Roxanna Elden
Source: Direct from Publisher

Roxanna Elden’s “laugh-out-loud funny satire” (Forbes) is a brilliantly entertaining and moving look at our education system.

Each new school year brings familiar challenges to Brae Hill Valley, a struggling high school in one the biggest cities in Texas. But the teachers also face plenty of personal challenges and this year, they may finally spill over into the classroom.

English teacher Lena Wright, a spoken-word poet, can never seem to truly connect with her students. Hernan D. Hernandez is confident in front of his biology classes, but tongue-tied around the woman he most wants to impress. Down the hall, math teacher Maybelline Galang focuses on the numbers as she struggles to parent her daughter, while Coach Ray hustles his troubled football team toward another winning season. Recording it all is idealistic second-year history teacher Kaytee Mahoney, whose anonymous blog gains new readers by the day as it drifts ever further from her in-class reality. And this year, a new superintendent is determined to leave his own mark on the school—even if that means shutting the whole place down.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781982135027

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Education & Learning, Literary Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teachers & Educators


Published by Atria Books

on 11th February, 2020

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 400

 Published By:  Published By: Atria Books (@AtriaBooks)
{imprint of} Simon & Schuster (

Converse via: #AdequateYearlyProgress, #ContemporaryFiction + #RealisticFiction
Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Audiobook & Ebook

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About Roxanna Elden

Roxanna Elden

Roxanna Elden is the author of Adequate Yearly Progress: A Novel, and See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers. She combines eleven years of experience as a public school teacher with a decade of speaking to audiences around the country about education issues. She has been featured on NPR as well as in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and more.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Tuesday, 11 February, 2020 by jorielov in 21st Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Equality In Literature, Fly in the Ointment, Learning Difficulties, Literary Fiction, Modern Day, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Publishers & Presses (Direct Reviews), School Life & Situations, Simon & Schuster, Teacher & Student Relationships, Vulgarity in Literature

A #blogmas blog book tour | “Christmas is for Children” by Rosie Clarke – a review with an extract!

Posted Thursday, 19 December, 2019 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

#blogmas 2019 badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I was invited to join the Head of Zeus blog tour for the Christmas Historical Fiction story of “Christmas is for Children”. I was delighted on a few different counts – for starters, I’ve been seeing a lot of tweeting about Rosie Clarke amongst book bloggers I follow who read her stories and by other readers who appreciate her novels. I’ve been keen to think she might be a Historical novelist I would enjoy reading myself and when the chance came to read this novel, I was thankful it was going on a paperback blog tour! This is also one of the authors I see tweeted about during a new tag I found in the twitterverse #SagaSaturday!

I haven’t been hosting for this publisher for very long and each blog tour I am able to host I feel blessed as I love celebrating authors from the UK and the stories they are telling through the different genres Head of Zeus is publishing which encourages my bookish and readerly wanderings into Crime Dramas, Historical Fiction and Historical Sagas as well as other genres I’ve keenly become intrigued by over the years as I’ve been blogging.

I received a complimentary copy of “Christmas is for Children” direct from the publisher Head of Zeus in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Enjoy reading this extract from “Christmas is for Children”:

3

It was the beginning of December now and the cake shop had pretty coloured lights in its windows when the two children approached hand in hand. They pressed their noses up against the glass, looking longingly at the delicate glass stands with their offerings of delicious cakes. There were all kinds of mouth-watering treats: sponge cakes dusted with icing sugar and filled with buttercream, soft buns covered in sticky pink icing, almond tarts, madeleines and rock cakes, crisp meringues filled with buttery cream, as well as the beautiful iced Christmas cake right in the centre. Also, piled up in little glass dishes, were chunks of coconut ice, chocolate truffles, fudge and, the best of all, right at the front of the window, two sugar mice: a pink one and a white one.

‘Look, Ben,’ Ruthie cried. ‘Sugar mouses… pink for me and white for you…’

‘It’s sugar mice, Ruthie,’ Ben said, looking at the sweet treat as longingly as his sister. ‘Perhaps Dad will get us one each for Christmas …’

Ruthie looked up at him, her eyes large and dark blue like her late mother’s but filled with knowledge that a child of her age should not have. A single tear slid down her cheek, because she knew they wouldn’t get a stocking this year. Their dad was out of work again; last night he hadn’t even had a shilling for the gas and he’d lit a candle to see them to bed. She knew he lined up down the docks every morning hoping to be given a job, because Ben had told her that was why he was so miserable.

Everything was horrible in Ruthie’s world. Ma had died nearly nine months ago and since then things had got steadily worse. The house was often cold and empty, no food in the pantry. No one looked after her any more; her clothes split and got dirty, and her pale hair tangled; she needed someone to brush and comb it and put it into plaits, because it was so fine that otherwise it went all over the place in the wind.

Mum had done her best while she was able. She’d cooked and scrubbed and looked after her kids, but over the last two years her cough had got worse and worse. The doctor said it was bronchitis and wanted to send her away to a place at the sea where she might get better, but they didn’t have any money and there was a long waiting list for such places if you were poor. Mum had finally died in March, and that had left them alone with their father.  He did his best but it wasn’t the same without Mum.

Dad got up early to give them breakfast before he went down to the docks to stand in line, but the work was scarce and more often than not he came home without even a shilling in pay – and when he did, he often stopped at the pub at the end of Fettle Street to have a drink. His mates who had worked that day shared a few pence when he was broke and so when he had work he repaid them by buying drinks he could not afford. Sometimes, when he was very down he didn’t stop at one drink, and when he came home, he was laughing but couldn’t stand up properly – and those days there was never any money for the gas meter and very little to eat.

Ben told his sister it didn’t matter. Their Dad wasn’t a bad man; he wasn’t a violent man who knocked his kids about and deliberately neglected them. Robbie did as much as he could for his kids, but recently he’d been passed over for all the better jobs. Ben had heard him telling Fred at the fish shop that the Gaffer didn’t like him because he’d stood up for one of the older men.

‘You should go to Mr Penniworth,’ Fred had told him. I’m sure he doesn’t know how unfairly the Gaffer treats the men.’ Mr Penniworth was the overall manager for the East India Docks, but the men hardly ever saw him on the dock and no one went to his office unless invited.

‘I couldn’t do that, Fred,’ Robbie had sighed. ‘I’d be marked as a troublemaker and then I wouldn’t get work anywhere in London.’

‘Well, it’s a rotten shame, that’s all I can say. You’re a decent man, Robbie Graham, and you deserve a bit of luck.’

Dad had laughed and thanked him for his kind words, paying a shilling for two fishcakes and sixpence worth of chips. Fred had filled the bag right to the brim and Ben, his sister and their father had eaten well that night, but that was days ago now and it had just been bread and dripping since.

It didn’t matter to Ben that he had shoes that were down at the heel, holes in his socks and didn’t get a threepenny piece for sweets on a Saturday like some of his friends. He knew that times were hard and money was tight. Ben wasn’t the only boy in school with trousers bought off the second-hand stall and cut down to fit. Nor did he mind that he and Ruthie had to come home to an empty house after school. He could get their tea, a bit of bread and jam or some chips if Dad gave them three pennies. What made Ben unhappy was the way his father’s shoulders hunched when he came home at night with a few coppers in his pocket after working hard all day.

The old cottage belonged to Ben’s father, because it had been left to them by his grandfather, who had been a seaman all his life, and it was the reason they’d all come to live here, leaving the rooms they’d rented near his mother’s home in Yarmouth. It wasn’t really much of a place, but it was somewhere warm to sleep, because the range in the kitchen heated that room and the rooms above it. The only time they ever used the parlour was when Ben’s mother died and her coffin stood there for three days before the funeral.

‘Look,’ Ruthie pulled at Ben’s sleeve as the door of the sweet shop opened and the nice lady came out. ‘It’s Miss Flo…’

‘Hello, you two,’ Flo Hawkins greeted the children with a smile. ‘It’s cold this evening. You should hurry home, because I think it might snow.’

‘I like your sugar mouses,’ Ruthie said and gave them a last lingering look before Ben took her hand firmly. ‘When I see them, I think it will soon be Christmas.’

‘Yes, it will,’ Flo agreed. She held out a brown paper bag to them. ‘It’s almost time to close – and these won’t keep until the morning. I thought you might like them.’

‘Oo, thank you,’ Ruthie squealed in excitement and took the bag quickly before Flo could change her mind. ‘It’s ever so kind of you, Miss Flo.’

‘It’s perfectly all right,’ she said. ‘Perhaps your father will buy you a sugar mouse for Christmas.’

Ruthie shook her head sadly. ‘Dad can’t find a proper job,’ she said and pulled at Ben’s hand. ‘Miss Flo gave us buns with icing on top. I love your buns, Miss Flo.’

‘You’re very kind, miss,’ Ben thanked her a little stiffly, because it wasn’t the first time the cake shop lady had given them a cake she claimed wouldn’t last until the morning, but every time it was fresh and delicious. ‘I’ll clean yer windows for yer if yer like, miss.’

‘Thank you, Ben, but my sister does them every morning herself,’ Flo said. ‘One day I’ll find a job for you, but you don’t have to work to pay me for a cake I can’t sell…’

With that she went back into the shop and closed the door.

Ben took his sister firmly by the hand. ‘Don’t eat yer cake until we get home, Ruthie. It’s rude to eat in the street.’

‘I’m ’ungry,’ Ruthie grumbled and her tummy rumbled to prove it, but she kept the bag shut, holding on tightly so that she wouldn’t lose it.

‘Dad wouldn’t like us taking charity,’ Ben said. His eyes were stinging with the tears he was fighting. Miss Flo’s kindness always made him want to fling his arms round her and hug her, but his pride held him back.

‘It isn’t chari— whatsit…’ Ruthie said and pulled on his hand. ‘Miss Flo is just a nice lady and she told us the cakes wouldn’t last until the mornin’…’

I was thankful I could share an extract from Christmas is for Children – as I personally enjoy reading these when I am seeking out a #newtomeauthor! This particular scene is rather a poignant one as it helps set you inside the heart of the novel and into the lives of the two children the novel affects directly. This reading marks my first introduction into the saga styling of Rosie Clarke and I am thankful I could be on the blog tour this December featuring a new Christmas set story of hers as it truly was a beautiful story to read.

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A #blogmas blog book tour | “Christmas is for Children” by Rosie Clarke – a review with an extract!Christmas is for Children
by Rosie Clarke
Source: Direct from Publisher

Times are hard in London... dare they hope for a miracle this Christmas? Perfect for the fans of Katie Flynn and Dilly Court.

December 1930.

Christmas should be for the children – but with the Depression biting deeper, it looks like many in the East End will wake up to nothing on Christmas morning. Widower Robbie Graham is out of luck and work. Some weeks, he earns just enough to put food on the table for his children, Ben and Ruthie. A treat for their Christmas stockings is a distant dream for his little family. Local cakeshop owner Flo Hawkins can't bear the thought of any child having nothing for Christmas. Along with her beloved sister Honour, she hatches a plan to bring some festive cheer to the community. But maybe this year, it will be Flo who receives the greatest gift of all...

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781788549936

Also by this author: Book Spotlight: Love and Marriage at Harpers

Genres: Christmas Story &/or Christmas Romance, Historical Fiction


Published by Head of Zeus

on 7th February, 2020

Format: UK Edition Paperback

Pages: 280

Published By: Head of Zeus (@HoZ_Books)

Converse via: #ChristmasIsForChildren, #HistNov or #HistFic

Available Formats: Trade Paperback & Ebook

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About Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke

Rosie is happily married and lives in a quiet village in East Anglia. Writing books is a passion for Rosie, she also likes to read, watch good films and enjoys holidays in the sunshine. She loves shoes and adores animals, especially squirrels and dogs.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Thursday, 19 December, 2019 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Fathers and Daughters, Head of Zeus, Historical Fiction, Publishers & Presses (Direct Reviews), Realistic Fiction