Blog Tour: Mystery and Mayhem

Blog Tour: Mystery and Mayhem
Welcome to the second stop on the blog tour for Mystery & Mayhem: Twelve Deliciously Intriguing Mysteries, a collection of crime short stories by some of my favourite authors. For my stop on the tour, here’s part one of The Crime Club’s favourite childhood mysteries!

Blog Tour: Mystery and MayhemRobin Stevens
The book that really got me hooked on mystery was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. My father gave me a copy when I was 12 and challenged me to solve it. I thought I knew everything about the rules of mystery novels – and all my expectations were destroyed. Of course, Agatha Christie outwitted me completely. I put down the book knowing that when I grew up, I wanted to be a murder mystery writer.
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Blog Tour: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell / 5 Greatest Heroines in Literature

Welcome to my stop on The Madwoman Upstairs blog tour! I’m delighted to welcome Catherine Lowell to Pretty Books to chat about her favourite heroines from the classics.

Literature has given us no shortage of intelligent, adventuresome, and strong women to look up to. Here are the ones who top my list!

Penelope, The Odyssey
Clever, independent, and wise. Her husband might be the one at war, but she’s able to hold her own in a dangerous situation.

Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
Whip-smart and witty—Lizzy is the ultimate role model. A cliché but necessary addition to the list!

Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank
Here is a truly unique protagonist—someone so young and yet so courageous and insightful. Her heartbreaking and beautiful diary guaranteed her wish: “I want to go on living even after my death.”

Cimorene, Dealing with Dragons
My favorite heroine from a young adult novel. A princess who finds herself stuck in an arranged marriage, Cimorene runs away from home to go live with some kindly dragons.

Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing
Another smart, strong, and spirited heroine with a gift for brilliant repartee. She manages to combine a fierce independence with a hidden kindness and warmth.

Who are your favourite heroines from classic lit?

Think you know Charlotte, Emily & Anne? Think again. Samantha Whipple is the last remaining descendant of the illustrious Brontë family, of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre fame. After losing her father, a brilliant author in his own right, it is up to Samantha to piece together the mysterious family inheritance lurking somewhere in her past – yet the only clues she has at her disposal are the Brontë’s own novels. With the aid of her handsome but inscrutable Oxford tutor, Samantha must repurpose the tools of literature to unearth an untold family legacy, and in the process, finds herself face to face with what may be literature’s greatest secret.

Blog Tour: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell / 5 Greatest Heroines in Classic LitBlog Tour: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell / 5 Greatest Heroines in Classic LitBlog Tour: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell / 5 Greatest Heroines in Classic Lit

Blog Tour: Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison / 5 Best Literary School Trips

On My TBR / Winter

Welcome to my stop on the Never Evers blog tour! I’m delighted to welcome Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison to Pretty Books as they chat about their favourite school trips in literature!

1. Whitby (Room 13)
A school trip to Whitby – home of Dracula himself –  was always going to be a risky affair. Fliss – the protagonist of this great 1989 novel– senses something bad’s on the horizon, as she has a nightmare the evening before the trip. And her instincts are spot on – what should be an uneventful school outing turns into a full-blown horror mystery, in which teenagers get possessed by vampires and ghostly guest rooms suddenly materialise in the night.

2. London (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 & 3/4)
Adrian’s story of his school’s catastrophic trip to London is made even funnier by the fact it’s all recounted in chronological bullet points. So, things start badly (“7.10am Coach stopped for Barry Kent to be sick… 7.45am Coach stopped for Barry Kent to be sick again”), and get progressively worse (“11.50am Coach breaks down at Swiss Cottage… 11.55am Coach driver breaks down in front of AA man”) until the group finally arrives at the British Museum, only to “run beserk, laughing at nude statues”. The trip ends with the police escorting the entire school group back to their coach, as Barry Kent as been caught stealing ‘Grow-It-Big Cream’ from a nearby sex shop.

3. Amsterdam (The Fault In Our Stars)
OK, OK, this is not technically a school trip, but it IS a trip, it IS supposedly educational (they’re going to meet a novelist) and Hazel IS taken out of school to go on it. So we’re saying that it counts. Plus, it’s as eventful and emotional and meaningful as any other literary school trip: firstly, Hazel gets her heart broken on meeting her extremely disappointing ‘hero’, Peter Van Houten. And then, she gets her heart mended by getting jiggy with Gus almost immediately afterwards.

4. Birmingham (Geek Girl)
Harriet and Nat’s trip to the Clothes Show Live is obviously the spark for the whole Geek Girl series, but it’s also a pretty hilarious and eventful school trip on its own. Coach-based vomiting: check. Having to wear spare PE kit: check. Meeting a hot boy: check. Causing thousands of pounds’ worth of damage: check.

5. Hogwarts (Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire)
Obviously there’s no travel involved for Harry etc., but for Fleur and Viktor and their mates, the Triwizard Tournament represents a pretty incredible school trip, in which they get to hang out in a fairly amazing castle, watch and compete in a preposterous contest, and get off with loads of random British wizards and witches.

 Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison is published by Chicken House, £6.99.

Blog Tour: Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison / 5 Best Literary School TripsKicked out of ballet academy, Mouse is hating the school ski trip. Jack was sure it’d be filled with danger and girls, but hasn’t a clue about either. That’s until French teen sensation Roland arrives in the resort – and Jack’s a dead ringer for him.

After Roland persuades Jack to be his stand-in for a day, Jack, in disguise, declares his feelings for Mouse. But what happens when he’s no longer a pop star – will there still be music and magic on the slopes? From the critically-acclaimed authors of Lobsters, shortlisted for the YA Book Prize.

Blog Tour: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb / Reasons to Read Children’s Classics

Blog Tour: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb / 5 Reasons to Read Children's ClassicsWelcome to my stop on the Return the Secret Garden blog tour!

Scholastic published a pretty new edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden this month alongside a 1930s sequel, Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb.

It’s 1939 and a group of children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall. Emmie is far from happy to have been separated from her cat and sent to a huge old mansion. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house – a boy crying at night, a diary written by a girl named Mary and a garden. A very secret garden…

As I run the 2015 Classics Challenge and have thoroughly enjoyed delving into children’s classics, I thought it’d be lovely for Holly Webb to share with us why it’s important to read classics.

Why read a classic, when there are so many amazing new books published every year? Looking back, I read a lot of ‘classics’ when I was a child – my favourites were Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (unsurprisingly…) and A Little Princess, but I also worked my way through Arthur Ransome, E. Nesbit, especially The Treasure Seekers and The Would-Be-Goods, all of the Anne books, and as much Louisa M. Alcott as I could find. What Katy Did, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, all the Narnia books, plus any number of classic school stories and horse books – it goes on. I even had an ancient copy of The Wide, Wide World by Elizabeth Wetherall, published in 1850, and I loved it, but then I really was a sucker for anything old, and I skipped a lot of the moralising…

Trying to pin down what I love about all these books (which are only vaguely defined as classics, and were published over a long period, nearly a hundred years) is fascinating and frustrating. I keep coming up with more and more thoughts which don’t tie neatly into any argument. So…

The main thing, for me. All these books are led by strong child characters, often suffering great adversity (and your Victorian adversity could be pretty horrific). Mary Lennox comes to Misselthwaite after her entire household in India has died from cholera, and she’s been left alone in the family bungalow, eating the food from an abandoned dinner party. She’s then sent to a strange, ancient house full of servants, with a guardian who’s hardly ever there. It’s possibly the most dramatic way to leave a child to find for herself ever… I love her strange, cold, stubborn ways at the beginning of the book, and the way the garden changes her is so believable.

I’m fascinated by the details of everyday life from the time these books were written. It’s even better because these are things which the authors weren’t including to be interesting at all. It’s all just as it was. Some of this makes events tricky to understand, but that’s all the more intriguing. It gives you a real appreciation of modern medicine, too. I had pneumonia at about 10, and I remember thinking this was a very dramatic, storybook thing, and being very grateful that I wasn’t going to die!

Sense of place
Fabulous recreations of landscape – Dickon’s stories about the moor and its creatures in The Secret Garden are spellbinding, Frances Hodgson Burnett created the most amazing word pictures. And think of the descriptions of woods and walk in Anne of Green Gables (even if I do want to kick Anne for being a complete drip, some of the time…)

Continuity – sharing something special
Often, these books are bought for children by parents or grandparents, wanting to share their own love of the stories. While I was writing Return to the Secret Garden, so many people told me that The Secret Garden was one of their favourite books. It’s great to be able to talk about the books you love with the people you love!

Thank you for joining me on the blog, Holly! The Secret Garden and Return to the Secret Garden are out now. Go here to enter to win copies!

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Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (Classic #8) + Blog Tour

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (Classic #8) + Blog Tour

Shelved: Classic (Gothic, mystery)
Published: 1936 by Gollancz (Virago, current editions) 
Rating: ★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #8
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my 8th post for the 2015 Classics Challenge and the 24th stop on the Daphne du Maurier blog tour!

In the bitter November wind, Mary Yellan crosses Bodmin Moor to Jamaica Inn. Her mother’s dying wish was that she take refuge there, with her Aunt Patience. But when Mary arrives, the warning of the coachman echoes in her mind: Jamaica Inn has a desolate power, and behind it’s crumbling walls Patience is a changed woman, cowering before her brooding, violent husband. When Mary discovers the inn’s dark secrets, the truth is more terrifying than anything she could possibly imagine, and she is forced to collude in her uncle’s murderous schemes. Against her will, she finds herself powerfully attracted to her uncle’s brother, a man she dares not trust.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I read Rebecca in early 2012 and adored it, so it was about time to pick up another Daphne du Maurier! Virago got in touch to offer copies of Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek or Jamaica Inn as part of the blog tour to celebrate the new adult (left) and young adult (right) editions of the books.

WHY I Chose to Read It
I have already read and reviewed Rebecca. As for Frenchman’s Creek, I don’t know how I feel about pirates. But it has received such as glowing response on the blog tour that I might now be persuaded to try it. I enjoyed the quiet suspense of Rebecca, and Jamaica Inn sounded closest to that – a thrilling mystery set on the Cornish moors. Who can resist a dangerous world of smuggling and murder?

WHAT Makes It A Classic
Daphne du Maurier writes Gothic fiction full of mystery and suspense. She takes common themes from the classics and makes them feel a little more invigorated, even though it’s set in the 1820s – and with even more drizzly treacherous moors than in Wuthering Heights. In Jamaica Inn, the gloomy, foreboding atmosphere is as prominent as the bleak events that occur, as Mary Yellan struggles with the problem of her uncle Joss and his dangerous company.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
Jamaica Inn was deliciously dark; much darker and violent than I thought it would be, even with the promise of smuggling and murder! I adored our protagonist Mary, only 23 and incredibly determined. She’s instantly undeterred by her terrifying uncle, Joss. And I unexpectedly found myself understanding why Mary was drawn to his young brother, Jem, even as she says: He stood for everything she feared and hated and despised; but she knew she could love him. But perhaps I don’t love Gothic literature as much as I thought I did. I did not find myself rushing to get back to the story, similar to my experience of reading Northanger Abbey and the (second half of) Wuthering Heights earlier this year. Perhaps I find that the tension works much better for me with visuals on screen? But nonetheless, the twists kept me interested right up until the explosive ending.

WILL It Stay A Classic
I forget how old Daphne du Maurier’s books actually are. Her prose is so accessible that her stories could have been published for the first time this year. Jamaica Inn was published nearly 80 years ago and it is still as readable as ever, so I can see Daphne du Maurier’s novels still being read years from now. Hopefully the new YA editions will enable teenagers to discover her too! I’ll still be checking out more novels from her.

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love Gothic stories like Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey and Jane Eyre. People who love adventure, mystery and romance. People who want to read accessible classics. People who love bad boys!

Blog Tour
Check out the beautiful new editions below, out now!
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