When the Karate Kid gets real

This isn’t an obvious choice for my blog, but bear with – it will make sense in a minute. If you were wondering, I have never even tried a martial art myself and my personal knowledge is almost entirely limited to the Karate Kid movies, however one of my flatmates at Uni was a black belt in Aikido and his daily practices outside our place probably deterred any potential burglars, as well as impressing the rest of us with his commitment and dedication. Then I didn’t give it a second thought until my son started both judo and karate and I, like many other mums, found myself spending hours sitting outside the dojo.

As a mum of an enthusiastic seven-year-old, martial arts were pitched to me as self-defence, strength, and co-ordination training rather than combative, and offered in both our local community hall as well as at an after school club, so pretty much all his friends participated in one form or another, many did both. So from the title to the opening lines of this book I was a little surprised to see the emphasis on fighting, although in the context of the “mean streets” it makes sense. In fact, this sets the scene for a gritty, hard-hitting recount of a fascinating life bringing in class, race, and society generally. It’s by no means a light read, or an easy read, but I’m passing it to my now teenaged son to see what he thinks (NB: given the content, this book is not recommended for younger readers). In the meantime, I’m going to finish by saying I fully expect this to be turned into a movie or, more probably, a docufilm.

Blurb

Novelist and former karate champion Ralph Robb recounts his experiences at one of Europe’s toughest dojos and provides an insight into the philosophy and training methods of a club which produced national, European and world titleholders. In a hard-hitting story, Ralph tells of the fights on and off the mat; his experiences as one of a very few black residents in an area in which racist members of the National Front were very active; and the tragic descent into mental illness and premature death of the training partner who was also his best friend.

About the author

Author Ralph Robb

Ralph Robb was born and raised in the industrial town of Wolverhampton, England and now lives in Ontario Canada with his wife, cat and dog. A proud father of four, Robb works as an engineering technician and loves rugby, martial arts and a good book. His world is balanced by quality TV, global events, great outdoors and of course his grand-daughter. 

Chase those witches!

The Beatles song “Paperback writer’ is stuck on a loop in my head, although with a slight tweak to the lyrics.

So I wanna be a picture book writer
Picture book writer

I blame the new picture book, Chase Those Witches, by Elizabeth Dale! It’s just such great fun, so interactive, and fabulously illustrated. I absolutely love it. I’m definitely going to use it in some of my after school clubs.

Now bizarrely, I got sent this book to review a few days after I’d bought the new Tom Fletcher picture book, ‘There’s a witch in your book‘. It seemed such a coincidence to have two witch-themed interactive picture books on my desk at the same time, so I was very curious as to the differences.

Actually, they are both absolutely brilliant, and surprisingly different.

In a nutshell, Tom Fletcher has bright, bold graphic illustrations, easy actions, and a simple plot so is ideal for the youngest picture book reader.

On the other hand, Elizabeth Dale’s rollicking, globe trotting adventure has more detailed illustrations and slightly more complex actions, including a very funny “Whatever you do, don’t …” which of course I did, and every other reader will too! I laughed out loud at falling for that one. Anyway, as a result, it’s ideal for the older picture book reader.

Definitely no need to wait for Halloween to enjoy these witchy treats, although I can see both books being best-sellers when the spooky season arrives! Have fun 🙂

Blurb for Chase those Witches

When Bernie, a boy’s pet frog, is stolen by a coven of wicked witches, the reader has to help rescue Bernie by turning, shaking and blowing on the book as the boy ventures through ice caves and aboard pirate ships on his mission. A fun and interactive picture book adventure!

Author Biography

Elizabeth Dale worked as a writer of fiction for magazines before becoming a full-time author of children’s books. Her work has won multiple awards, including in the picture book category in the 2019 Northern Lights Book Awards. She was also a runner-up in the 2015 Dundee Picture Book Award.

Illustrator Biography

Sian Roberts graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Illustration from the Arts University in Bournemouth in 2018. She works as a freelance illustrator of children’s books.

A taste of Scotland?

Book tour banner

My own book tours are run by the fabulous Rachel Gilby from Rachel’s Random Resources and, although I try to stick to reviewing kids books on this blog, every now and then she tempts me with something different. So, as a Scot, and a Highlands girl myself, I couldn’t resist taking a peek at High Heels in the Highlands. There’s nothing much about the Scottish setting, in fact it’s ancillary to the story (fair enough given this is more RomCom than Literary Fiction), so I filled in the blanks with a place I know myself which worked rather well to flesh out the location.

Having created my setting, back to the plot. If you take Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons you’ll get the general idea; meddling Londoner decides to fix rural community. Compared to Flora in Cold Comfort Farm who managed to meddle in a charming way, I actively disliked Clem at the start, although I did warm to her over the book. Then replace the swarthy, brooding, silent Seth with Rory. Throw in a surprise inheritance, a mysterious housekeeper, some stereotypically brash American tourists, a sheep, a ceilidh, a wedding, high drama in the fashion and art worlds, etc, there’s certainly a lot going on but once I settled into the story, I loved the combination of community, mystery, dreams, and love.

Oh, and this is book 2 in a series, but I didn’t realise, and it can certainly be read as a stand-alone.

Blurb

High heels in the Highlands book cover

Clementine’s swapped a London flat for a Scottish castle – but will she get her fairytale ending?

After discovering they were heirs to an enormous fortune, the lives of the five Hiverton sisters have never been the same. 

While oldest sister Ariana settles in Norfolk, Clementine heads up to the remote Scottish Highlands to move into the castle that forms part of their estate. Not bad for a girl brought up scrabbling for money in a tiny house in East London…

However, Clem quickly finds out that Ruacoddy Castle is falling apart, the neighbours – especially grumpy young farmer, Rory – are suspicious of her and the eccentric housekeeper, Ottoline, is still in residence.

But as Clem finds herself growing closer to the village community, even growing closer to Rory and forming an alliance with Ottoline, she realises that life in the Highlands might just be the change she needed. 

She just needs to find out if Manolo Blahnik make wellies…Take a trip to the gorgeous Scottish countryside with this utterly feelgood, romantic and hilarious read – fans of Jen

Biography

Finalist for the 2021 Romantic Novelists Association Debut Romantic Novel Award for A New Life for Ariana Byrne

Liz Hurley (not THE Liz Hurley) writes exciting and heart warming stories that will make you cheer and laugh. Her heroines are overflowing with grit, gumption and good old-fashioned gorgeousness!

Author of 
– Dear Diary, a prequel to the Hiverton Sister series.
– A New Life for Ariana Byrne. Book 1 / Hiverton Sisters series
– High Heels in the Highlands. Book 2 / Hiverton Sisters series
– Cornish Dreams at Cockleshell Cottage. Book 3 / Hiverton Sisters series. 

Bear mania is real!

I’m now absolutely obsessed with Congletown (real place) history. Apparently, Congleton became notorious in the 1620s when bear-baiting and cockfighting were popular sports. The town was unable to attract large crowds to its bear-baiting contests and lacked the money to pay for a new, more aggressive bear. Legend tells that Congleton spent the money they were going to spend on a bible on a bear. Now that has the makings of a great story, but it’s not child friendly, so I was relieved to see that these bears are more of the picnicking kind.

A quick google confirms that Congletown is still totally bear obsessed. Beartown beer anyone?

The fact that Congletown is in Cheshire in the north of England caught me by surprise. I was expecting this to be a black bear inspired story, and set in America. With my educator hat on, this immediately started me thinking of a huge variety of themed projects.

Back to the book though. As a mum, I was a bit shocked that the teacher ignored the bully and confiscated a cuddly toy OVERNIGHT and I was happy to move on from that scene (plus I’m not even sure the bear needed to be absent for the story to work). Anyway, as the bear statues come to life, there’s a “Night at the Museum” party, and a great twist to the end.

Superb illustrations from Si Clark – amazing rich colours and lots of details. I also love that this book is the result of a community collaboration project.

Blurb

From the award-winning duo that brought you Sarah’s Shadow comes another magical adventure…

When bear-mad schoolgirl Sandy Lane has her beloved teddy bear Berisford confiscated at school, she dreads the thought of going a whole night without his cuddles. 

Little does she know that a bear-rilliant night awaits her, involving Berisford, a bear statue and many other wonderful friends!

Author Bio

I’m Nick Jones, an award-winning author originally from Bristol but now living in Congleton, Cheshire. I write books for kids and I’ve also written several joke books for adults. My first book, “Gagged and Bound”, was a best-seller under Puns and Wordplay on Amazon UK, and two sequels soon followed. You can download a FREE collection of my jokes here.

In December 2017, I tried something different: a children’s picture book about a girl who loses her shadow. Illustrated by the super-talented Si Clark, “Sarah’s Shadow” has proved popular with kids and parents alike. In 2018 it won Best Children’s Picture Book in the 2018 Book Awards on international book review site Readers’ Favorite. My claim to fame is that the same award was previously won by none other than Jim Carrey, the Hollywood actor-cum-children’s author! Sarah’s Shadow also won Runner-Up in the Book Excellence Awards and received a Purple Dragonfly Book Award as one of the best picture ebooks for children aged 6+.

In 2020 I ran a Kickstarter campaign during lockdown to fund this book. It was inspired by the Bearmania event that took place in 2011. Thanks to amazing support from businesses and individuals in Congleton and beyond, I raised £4,000 to illustrate and print the book. For updates, please follow me on social media or subscribe to my newsletter!

How to get into a writing habit (and keep it)

I must be part magpie – I love shiny new things. Unfortunately, this includes collecting shiny new writing projects. So I need help! I reviewed the first journal in this series a while ago and love the way it helps keep me from those oh-so-tempting distractions (you can about read it here). Having not quite finished Book 1, I was interested in what the next 52 weeks would look like, and how a blank journal could possibly be different! Of course, I had to ask the author what the difference would be, so here she is …

Why create a second volume of an undated journal and planner?

That’s an excellent point, and was my thought exactly when I first received a question about ‘next year’s version’. What next year’s version? It’s an undated journal and planner. Something you can buy and use over and over.

‘Right! I thought you might change the cover or something, so we don’t end up with a row of the same journals a few years from now.’

Now that I hadn’t considered. I, who wouldn’t even buy the same notebook twice…

Obviously, I could have taken the easy road after that seed was planted and simply slapped a new cover on the version I already had. That, however, isn’t how I do things (I might have to work on that at some point). So, instead of merely swapping covers, I handpicked fifty-three new writing quotes and came up with as many new writing prompts and exercises. Of course, I also gave the journal and planner a new look, because why not? (I really have to work on that not taking the easy road, don’t I?)

Without further ado, here’s the second volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating this new version.

Mariëlle

P.S. There’s no actual order to the two volumes. If you picked this one up first, you can simply get the other one next year.

DISCOUNT!

Anyway, when I finish my current (blue journal), I’ll definitely get another. And I do love purple, so I think it will be book two. By the way, this is a hefty tome, and you need a paper copy, so it’s well worth the price. But if you want to print at home, you can purchase a printable PDF through: https://payhip.com/b/0YgJ Get 50% off until 31 March 2021 by using the coupon code 52WOW during checkout.

52 Weeks of Writing:

  • makes you plan, track, reflect on, and improve your progress and goals for an entire year;
  • helps you unravel the truth about why you aren’t where you want to be; and
  • keeps you writing through weekly thought-provoking quotes and prompts.

With this second volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, writing coach and writer Mariëlle S. Smith brings you the same successful strategies to craft the perfect writing practice as she did in the first journal. The only difference? Fifty-three different writing quotes and prompts and a brand-new look!