Sunday, December 4, 2016

This is Not a Werewolf Story by Sandra Evans - Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

Book Review
This Is Not a Werewolf Story
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Review by Suze

Raul goes to boarding school. He doesn't belong to any groups and doesn't have many friends there. He looks after the little kids at school and tries to stay out of trouble with his vicious gym teacher. Every student at Raul's school goes home for the weekend. Raul has a secret though. He pretends to go while he's actually staying. The reason for that is a beautiful white wolf. When they run he feels like he's home, which is why spending his weekends outside is so appealing.

Something changes for Raoul at school. He finally makes a friend, so he has the chance to share some of his life. He has a crush on a girl and there is a student who might be nicer than he seems. Is there someone Raul can trust with his secrets? He runs with a wolf and transforms, but he isn't a mean beast that kills and only comes out when there's a full moon, so he's certain he isn't a werewolf. What happens to him during the weekends and who is the white wolf that's always waiting for him?

This Is Not a Werewolf Story is a fun book filled with beautiful words and wonderful magic. I immediately loved Raul. He's strong and resourceful and he's terribly brave. His father isn't good at taking care of him and his mother has left them, which is why he ends up at the boarding school. His existence is pretty lonely, but he makes the best of it. He doesn't have friends, but in the forest that doesn't matter, then he feels like he's found his right place in the world. The deep connection he has with the wolf is unique, which is something I liked very much. I also loved that the school is fabulously peculiar and I enjoyed reading about the teachers and the students.

The inspiration for This Is Not a Werewolf Story comes from old folklore tales and I enjoyed what Sandra Evans has done with that information. She's skillfully used the amazing elements and turned them into a fascinating modern story. I absolutely loved that she's written her book with the help of her son, that makes it extra special. It's clear that there's much love and appreciation for the topic. I really enjoyed reading the vivid descriptions of Raul's adventures and his surroundings. The ending of the story is surprising and I liked the angle Sandra Evans has chosen. This Is Not a Werewolf Story is a fantastic book for both children and grownups.

About Sandra Evans

Sandra Evans is a writer and teacher from the Pacific Northwest. Her forthcoming middle grade novel, This is Not a Werewolf Story (Simon & Schuster July 2016), was inspired by her favorite 12th century French tale, Bisclavret, by Marie de France. Born in Washington state, Sandra spent her childhood on U.S. Navy bases from Florida to Hawaii, and returned to the Northwest as a teenager. Since then, she has lived and traveled in France and Europe, but has never strayed far for long from the Puget Sound region.

Find out more at



1) Your passion for French literature inspired your story, can you tell a bit more about that?

I was never a particularly strong student in French. It didn’t stop me from loving it, or the idea of it. At some point as an undergraduate I took a class from Professor Denyse Delcourt, a medievalist from Quebec. One of the first things she had us read was a 12th century collection of lais (short, narrative poems) by Marie de France. Professor Delcourt opened those poems up like a treasure chest. She gave me the key. And I’ve spent 20 years reading and rereading Marie’s stories and always finding more. Later, as a professor myself, I saw how few students think to take medieval literature classes, and I thought maybe the best thing I could do for my field would be to present those works to a younger audience. And I thought the best way to do it would be to follow Marie’s lead and write a new story by rewriting an old one.

2) What do you find so fascinating about (were)wolves?

As a child I had a recurring nightmare about being trapped in my house with a wolf trying to get in. We moved a lot but the dream followed me—the house was always the one I was living in at the time. I think I’ve always been fascinated by what they represent—the outlaw, the thief, the solidarity of the pack. And of course, as a child I loved folk tales and legends from all over the world. My favorite stories were always the ones where people were transformed into an animal or a tree or some other shape.

3) Could you describe Raul's character in six words?

Resourceful, analytical, observant, tender-hearted, curious, and courageous. And, of course, alone.

4) Can you tell a bit more about the background of the peculiar school Raul is attending?

My husband worked for many years at a non-profit agency that had foster kids living on site with social workers taking care of them. Although he didn’t deal with the kids directly, sometimes he’d hear the details of what had brought a child to the home. Those were sad stories. He was always impressed with how kind the social workers, how hard they worked, and how much they cared.

I also wanted to create a place where Nature could have a role in healing children. When my son was younger and having a tough year at school, I found that taking him down to the beach or for a walk in the woods was a quick way to get him out of his head and turn the page on a bad day.

5) You wrote This Is Not a Werewolf Story with the help of your son, can you tell a bit more about that?

That’s a whole story in itself! I’ve been an aspiring novelist pretty much my whole life. I’ve received about 800 rejections for novels and poems over the last 20 years. When he was in the third grade my son came across a picture book version of Marie de France’s Bisclavret in one of his classrooms. At that point I had an agent trying to sell my historical novel and meeting rejections at every turn. I knew I needed to write something else, while I had this agent still willing to read my work. When Mac came home and told me the story he had read, and I recognized it, I had one of those lightning strike moments. Write a book for kids! Mac and I decided to adapt Bisclavret to the Pacific Northwest. We played with every stereotype found in popular books for kids. It was really just a game; the rules were to remain faithful to the heart of the old story and to translate it to our time and place. In the end, my agent didn’t like it. I was discouraged, but I knew I had to keep trying to find a home for this story. I knew I needed my son to see me fail and try again.

Being a teacher mom who dreams of being a writer is like having 6 full time jobs. I hear a lot of women talk about how hard it is to write and work and parent. It is. In fact, it is pretty much impossible. So that’s why the story of my story is important. Because I seriously doubt this book would have been published if it weren’t for my son, if it weren’t for me being a mom. Implicating him in the process made it impossible for me to give up on myself. I did it for him, so that he would see that hard work and perseverance are more than empty words.

6) What are your plans for the future?

I am working on a prequel to TINAWS, set in 3500 BC in south western France. It will explore the roots of the White Deer Woods magic in the adventures and divine romance of a tough young woman named Red Moon. I am also working on a sequel to Raul’s story, and I have plans for another book in the series that will be set in the 19th century and link Red Moon and Raul and explain how the magic jumped continents.


One very lucky winner will receive a hardcover copy of This is Not a Werewolf Story & swag by Sandra Evans.

Book Review - Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop: Sequins and Snowflakes by Jane Linfoot

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Review by Tanya
Seraphina, Sera for short, is the head bridesmaid at the upcoming wedding of her sister Alice on Christmas Eve. Sera has to liase and work along with the best man to complete the arrangements. However, the best man turns out to be two best men, one of whom, Johnny, is someone she was involved with a long time ago. He managed to break her heart. The other is a rich charmer who's used to getting what he wants. The wedding is not quite as organised as Alice thinks. Her late arrival and the absence of her husband-to-be does not help with the process, even though there is a very detailed Wedding Handbook to follow. The Wedding Handbook says that the bridal party must not sleep together, which makes things extra complicated for Sera.

Sera is a designer of wedding dresses and has her own successful range, but she has never told her family what she does. Although she loves designing dresses she is struggling with ideas at the moment and with everything her sister wants her to do for the wedding. She is running out of time with her new bridal collection. Her thinking process is also sent into a frenzy when she comes across the man she fell hard for. He's the reason why she does not want to look for love or go on dates. Seeing him again brings back memories she would rather forget.

Sera has always felt like she is not as good as her sister and doesn’t want to be judged for being a designer. Alice is shocked when she finds out the truth and likes what her sister has designed even though it is very different to the sleek figure hugging dress that she has had made for her wedding. Even though Sera designs dresses she never wears dresses herself and does not like the dresses that her sister has chosen for the bridesmaids. Will she wear the pink dress and the heeled shoes for the wedding or maybe her shorts and a t-shirt?

The two best men could not be more different from each other and they do not get on at all. Quinn Penryn is outgoing and confident, he is not focused on actually getting things done and often causes more problems rather than solving them. His good looks, money and arrogance usually get him far in life and will probably continue to do so. Johnny, in contrast, is calmer and worked hard to get where he is. His background shows how thoughtful and considerate he is. He does everything in his power to get the wedding on track and to be a good best man.

Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop: Sequins and Snowflakes is the second book set in a wedding shop called Brides by the Sea, in the town of St Aidan Bay. The second book of the series made me laugh at the antic of the characters once more, but at the same time I saw the story of love and its different forms. There were a few storylines going on with different characters, as well as the main story of the wedding. This kept me gripped and eager to read on. It was lovely to catch up with the characters from the last book and I enjoyed seeing how things are developing for them. Jane Linfoot has written a Christmas read that will have you smiling with the many forms of love she describes. Get the sherry and mince pie at the ready to celebrate a Christmas wedding.
Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop: Sequins and Snowflakes is the second book in a series. It can be read as a standalone, but I do recommend The Little Wedding Shop by the Sea: Cupcakes and Confetti. If you're a lover of humoristic Christmas stories about love in many forms I think you will enjoy this book.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Penhaligon's Attic by Terri Nixon - Book Review & Giveaway

Book review
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Review by Suze
Freya used to love the sea, but an awful incident when she was still a little girl made her afraid of the water. After a long period of absence she's back with her father, Matthew, once more and has another chance to live at the Cornish coast, where she once was so happy. Matthew made a few big mistakes when Freya was younger, but he's trying to do things right this time. He works hard as a fisherman on someone else's boat to keep his father's bookshop afloat and he's living for his family. He wants Freya to have a good life and he will do everything he can to make that happen.
There are new faces in the village. Anna and her daughter Mairead have fled Ireland to start over at the place Anna's ancestors are from. Anna inherited the local pub and she's trying to make it as successful as possible. At first people are rude because they know she's keeping secrets, but when Freya needs her help Anna gives it generously without hesitation and because of this the lives of Anna and Matthew become intertwined. Will this mean there truly is a new beginning for Mairead and her mother or will the past eventually catch up with them?
Penhaligon's Attic is a beautiful story about two families with complicated histories. I loved the detailed and compassionate way Terri Nixon writes about her characters. The beginning of the twentieth century isn't an easy time to live in and through her thorough descriptions I could get a good grasp of what life was like in those days. The story has a well researched basis that's being combined with a fantastic intriguing plotline. The characters felt familiar and are easy to like. Because of that everything that happened to them kept me glued to the pages.
Terri Nixon's sentences have a nice natural flow and her writing is warm and comforting. I immediately fell in love with Penhaligon's Attic, it's a gorgeous story that effortlessly found its way to my heart. I enjoyed reading about the decisions and emotions of the characters as well as the fascinating setting. The sea brings a lot of good, but it never just gives, it also takes. The community is tight and secrets always have a way of coming out. The sea and the beach play an important part in all of them, the sea is unpredictable and it always surprises, which is perfect for a complex and interesting story.
Penhaligon's Attic has a lovely romantic ending that made me smile. The relationships in this book are complicated, but that doesn't matter when there's enough love in people's hearts. It's a great message. There's unconditional love, there's forgiveness, there are sacrifices and there are reconciliations, which all made the story riveting and compelling. I highly recommend this brilliant historical novel, it's a true gem.
Penhaligon's Attic is perfect for readers who like well researched historical fiction with an amazing setting and multilayered characters.
About Terri Nixon

Terri was born in Plymouth in 1965. At the age of 9 she moved with her family to Cornwall, to the village featured in Jamaica Inn -- North Hill -- where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also discovered apple-scrumping, and how to jump out of a hayloft without breaking any bones, but no-one's ever offered to pay her for doing those.

Since publishing in paperback for the first time in 2002, Terri has appeared in both print and online fiction collections, and is proud to have contributed to the Shirley Jackson award-nominated hardback collection: Bound for Evil, by Dead Letter Press.

As a Hybrid author, her first commercially published novel was Maid of Oaklands Manor, published by Piatkus Entice (a digital-first imprint of Little, Brown) in 2013. The paperback is published by Piatkus Books. The two further books in this series: A Rose in Flanders Fields and Daughter of Dark River Farm are published by Carina UK (a digital-first imprint of HarperCollins)

Terri's self-published Mythic Fiction series set in Cornwall, The Lynher Mill Chronicles, is available in paperback and e-book.

Terri also writes under the name T Nixon, and has contributed to anthologies under the names Terri Pine and Teresa Nixon. She is represented by the Kate Nash Literary Agency. She now lives in Plymouth with her youngest son, and works in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Plymouth University, where she is constantly baffled by the number of students who don't possess pens.

Twitter: @TerriNixon
Goodreads Author Page:
 One very lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Penhaligon's Attic.

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