“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis


Flynn’s from the wrong side of the tracks, but he may be just right for Jess…

The truth is that Jess knows she’s screwed up. She’s made mistakes, even betrayed her best friend, and now she’s paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen.

The truth is that she wishes she was the carefree party girl everyone thinks she is. She pretends it’s all fine. That her “perfect” family is fine. But it’s not. And no one notices the lie…until she meets Flynn. He’s the only one who really sees her. The only one who really listens.

The truth is that Jess is falling apart, and no one seems to care. But Flynn is the definition of “the wrong side of the tracks.” When Jess’s parents look at him, they only see their differences, not how much she and Flynn need each other. They don’t get that the person who shouldn’t fit into your world might just be the one who makes you feel like you belong.

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The greenhouse is sort of shaped like an old barn. It’s opaque with plastic and steel siding. The door is open, and I follow Wilf inside and pause and then breathe it in. The smell nourishes me. Moist air fills my lungs. I’ve forgotten how much the scents of greenery soothe me. It reminds me of different times. Simpler times.

“Nice,” I tell him, looking around at rows of plants on tabletops and plants stacked on the floor. I realize I’ve missed the satisfaction of nurturing plants.

There’s a man on a ladder in the middle of the greenhouse, fixing a shelf, with his back to us. A little boy stands at the bottom of the ladder, watching. Wilf walks over and pats his head and kneels down to his level. “How are ya, big guy?”

The little boy stands taller and giggles and holds out his hand. He’s got it wrapped tightly around a plastic blue train.

The man on the ladder turns and looks down at me. My heart stops.

It’s not a man at all. It’s him.


My face burns.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

Wilf frowns and then looks at me. “What’s up with you kids these days? In my time, we treated nice–looking young ladies with respect,” he says to Flynn gruffly. “Flynn, this is Jess. She volunteers here.”

I say a silent thank–you to him for calling me nice–looking and glance back at Flynn.

“Since when?” he asks.

“Since now. How about, ‘hello, nice to meet you’?” Wilf says to prompt both of us. “Is that so hard?”

“We’ve already met,” Flynn says.

My cheeks stay on fire as he climbs down the ladder.

“The shelf is fixed,” he says to Wilf. “Slumming?” he adds to me as he jumps to the floor. He folds up the ladder and then leans it against a counter lined with plants.

The little boy stares back and forth.

I try to think of something light and witty to save the moment, but my mind is blank. Instead, I panic. “What’d you do to get stuck working at this place?” I say, channeling my inner Nance.

“What’d I do?” He stares at me and then his lips turn up. “I didn’t have the right daddy, I guess. I’m here to have lunch. With my little brother. I’m not a volunteer.”

My stomach drops. Fail. Epic fail.

About the Author

Janet-Gurtler-#3 -USERITA Award finalist Janet Gurtler’s young adult books have been chosen for the Junior Library Guild Selection and as Best Books For Teens from the Canadian Children’s Book Center. She has had her writing compared to Judy Blume and Jodi Picoult and that makes her happy. She has volunteered at a few soup kitchens and hopes to do more. Giving back is so important. Janet lives in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada, with her husband, son, and a chubby black Chihuahua named Bruce.

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You can win a copy of The Truth About Us by clicking the link HERE

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22892748How did I get the book? Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Genre: Contemporary / Crime Mystery / Thriller

Synopsis: From the author of CHASING THE DARK comes a thrilling young teen crime mystery, guaranteed to keep you guessing until the very end.

Not long after Aliya’s family escapes Afghanistan for Britain, her brother is accused of a bomb attack. Aliya is sure of his innocence, but when plumber’s son Dan finds a gun in their bathroom, what’s she to think?

Dan has his own reasons for staying silent: he’s worried the gun might have something to do with his dad. Thrown together by chance, they set out to uncover a tangled and twisted truth.

200words (or less) review: I didn’t want to put this book down from the moment I began reading chapter one. Sadly I started If You Were Me at lunchtime so I had to go back to work but I raced home and didn’t move from my sofa all night.

The story is narrated in alternating chapters by Aliya and Dan, they each have clear and distinct voices so while it’s nice that the publisher’s picked different fonts to make it obvious the narrator had changed I don’t think it was necessary.

I was pretty taken by Aliya from the start; she’s so determined to help her brother despite everything that is stacked against her. Dan took a little longer but I think that’s because I wanted him to be a certain way when actually Sam Hepburn makes him much more realistic.

If You Were Me is intense and it’s pretty easy to get completely immersed in Aliya and Dan’s story.

Recommend it?


Come back for the If You Were Me Blog Tour
on the 24th April 2015

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23840750How did I get the book? Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Genre: Fantasy / Mystery

Previously reviewed: Maggot Moon
Operation Bunny (Wings & Co #1)
The Three Pickled Herrings (Wings & Co #2)
The Vanishing of Billy Buckle (Wings & Co #3)

Synopsis: It’s Hallowe’en and Podgy Bottom is in trouble. All over town cars are being shrunk to the size of a matchbox in the blink of an eye; a giant purple bunny rabbit is running riot and a strange-looking broomstick is causing chaos and calamity…Sounds like a case for Wings & Co, the famous fairy detective agency! Can Emily, Buster and Fidget put a stop to this magical mischief before it’s too late?

200words (or less) review: This is the last current book in the Wings & Co series. I sincerely hope it’s not the last ever book as I’ve adored Emily, Fidget and Buster’s adventures so much. I don’t think I’ve ever read a series of books in such quick succession – I read all 4 within a week, 2 in one evening and if I didn’t have work if would have been quicker.

The Matchbox Mysteries sees the return of Harpella, still a giant purple bunny but on a mission to get her broom back and return to human form. There is also the shrunken vehicles (collected in matchboxes), robberies and the shop going into lockdown. It’s a lot for Emily to deal with and a lot of the reader to keep track of. This book is very busy, it still has all the charm I love about Wings & Co but because so much is happening I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous in the series.

May the mysteries of Wings & Co continue.

Recommend it?


How did I get the book?
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Genre: Fantasy / Mystery

Previously reviewed: Maggot Moon
Operation Bunny (Wings & Co #1)
The Three Pickled Herrings (Wings & Co #2)

Synopsis: The Wings & Co detectives are in Puddliepool-on-Sea. The giant Billy Buckle is missing. His daughter Primrose is desperate to find him – and so are the detectives, because Primrose is growing bigger every day and living with a giant isn’t half as fun as it sounds. There’s also a murdered pianist and a vanished fortune-teller to deal with. It’s up to Emily, Fidget and Buster to get to the bottom of it!

200words (or less) review: Reading a Wings & Co book is always a joy because you know you’ll have Sally Gardner’s wonderful word- and worldcraft. (Hopefully that sentence works… I’m no word genius.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating it – I adore these books.  They just have everything I could want: amazing and imaginative writing, wonderful characters and of course the brilliant world they inhabit. Which is pretty close to ours, just that little bit more magical. ;)

In the The Vanishing of Billy Buckle the shop has packed up and moved (because occasionally it does) to Puddliepool-on-Sea. Emily, Fidget and Buster are trying to look after Primrose, a not-so-small-giant-but-still-little girl who is fast outgrowing the shop while they find her missing father.

I read this book immediately upon finishing The Three Pickled Herrings and enjoyed it just as much.

Recommend it?


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16166128How did I get the book? Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Genre: Fantasy / Mystery

Previously reviewed: Maggot Moon
Operation Bunny (Wings & Co #1)

Synopsis: At the Wings & Co. Fairy Detective Agency, Emily Vole and her friends are beginning to worry. It’s five months since their official opening and they still haven’t had one case.

Then local landowner Sir Walter Cross dies suddenly and mysteriously. The detectives suspect fairy meddling. And when Mr Rollo the tailor mysteriously loses everything and Pan Smith’s wedding plans are ruined the night before her big day, they’re convinced there must be magic at play. Now they have not one, but three pickled herrings to deal with! Can they solve the mystery of who is stealing people’s luck before the meddling fairy goes too far?

200words (or less) review: After falling head over heels in love with the first book in the series I couldn’t wait to get started on The Three Pickled Herrings. Like Emily I do miss the charming Miss String and I was happy that she wasn’t forgotten by the characters.

This book is the first mystery, or rather it’s three mysteries that might or might not be related. Look I’ll keep using words like ‘love’ ‘adore’ & ‘wonderful’ when it comes to these books so you might as well get you to it.

Living at Wings & Co. Fairy Detective Agency (which has the best library btw) isn’t quite turning out as Emily expected, her and Buster aren’t getting along. I actually appreciate this storyline – because instant friends don’t always happen and you can respect each other’s skills regardless. Also while Emily is certainly smart she doesn’t know everything so Fidget, Buster and Emily working together benefits them all.

The Three Pickled Herrings is a great sequel, the writing and language (particular Fidget’s fish-focused vocabulary) is perfection. I loved the way everything came together. Bring on book 3.

Recommend it?


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22915276How did I get the book? Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Genre: Contemporary

Synopsis: When 15-year-old Carolyn moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the junior class at Adams High School. A good student and natural athlete, she’s immediately welcomed by the school’s cliques. She’s even nominated to the homecoming court and begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn’s bitter romantic rival. When a video of Carolyn and Shane making out is sent to everyone, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut, as Brooke and her best friend Gemma try to restore their popularity. Gossip and bullying hound Carolyn, who becomes increasingly private and isolated. When Shane and Brooke—now back together—confront Carolyn in the student parking lot, injuring her, it’s the last attack she can take.

Sarah Bannan’s deft use of the first person plural gives Weightless an emotional intensity and remarkable power that will send you flying through the pages and leave you reeling.

200words (or less) review: Sarah Bannan’s debut is about a subject most of are all too familiar with: bullying. Whether as victims, bystanders or perpetrators.

Carolyn is the new girl, she’s pretty and different but still belongs somehow. She goes out with one of the most popular guys in school, something his ex-girlfriend does not like. Then when they break up the campaign really kicks off.

Admittedly it took me a while to get used to the narration style of this book (first-person plural), it’s an effective way to tell Carolyn’s story. Our narrator never has a name and everything is ‘we’. They are part of the story but remove themselves and their responsibility in this way. Consequently I felt outside of the story myself, not as emotionally involved as I would have liked to be.

Did the school enough? What about the parent’s? asks the outside. What about Carolyn herself? narrator responds. The story takes place over a whole year, chartering the rise and fall of Carolyn at the hands her tormentors and those that once were her friends.

Weightless narration makes this book stand out and I thought that the second half in particular was good. Certainty leaves you thinking…

Recommend it?


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1708209Sarah Mussi was born in Gloucestershire. After her education at a girl’s school in Cheltenham, she completed a post graduate degree at the Royal College of Art before leaving the UK for West Africa. She lived in Ghana, West Africa for over eighteen years, marrying a Ghanaian and teaching in Accra. Sarah now lives in Brixton and teaches in Lewisham, splitting her holidays between England and Ghana.

Twitter: @sarahmussi


Siege, Riot and Breakdown are all set in the near future. Each of these futures is terrifying to me (I think because they are so plausible) for example: forced population control, the school system in Siege. Where does the inspiration come from? 
I think the inspiration for my books – at least the ones that you mention – comes from working with young people and seeing the world through their eyes. Being around teenagers practically everyday (teaching is the day job!) – you would have to be very insensitive not to see the very many worries they have – the biggest one of which is what the future holds for them. This worry encompasses: how they will make their mark /be successful/become the people they want to be and be happy and fulfilled and possibly rich too. They are naturally concerned about the dangers that lie ahead of them  – and being teenagers they are beset with all sorts of other anxieties too – which they do not always know how to respond to – and sometimes cannot always put a finger on, or a name to.  I think they are apprehensive of growing up and of taking up their place in a society that hasn’t happened yet and seems so changeable and so alien – and – yes, let’s be truthful, is often very unwelcoming to young adults.

Teenagers have to accept a lot of bad press and are rarely championed as being the solutions to the past – or the great hope of the future. The teenagers I work with also often seem rather cast down to me, sad maybe at losing the carefree nature of childhood and their earlier visions of a fantastic world out there waiting for them. So that when I begin to see The World through their eyes – it seems a very dark and forbidding place filled with very many troubles. I think that the settings I create in my novels reflect this, and I suppose I am always trying to find a happy or at least hopeful or workable solution to the possible darkness I sense they feel is lying ahead for them.

On the back on that I’m giving you a free platform to talk about anything – GO:
Well on that point (the darkness – I mean – as above)- I guess I am always trying to create a utopia out of the possible many dystopias that await young people. I feel that one of the most important things I want to do is to empower female heroines to be able to make meaningful social change. I guess at heart I’m The Original Feminist – though I have learned to shut up a bit on that front (!) But I want to create heroines who take up a clear position (often at some personal cost) vis-à-vis the establishment: for example in SIEGE: the education system, in RIOT; the political system, in BREAKDOWN: corruption and apathy and excess – anyway I then want to have these heroines fight for themselves – but also for others – kids who perhaps have no voice or are too bound up with the Here and Now to be able to see the bigger picture. Don’t get me wrong,  not that I want my heroines to have an elevated/worthy position (yuk) or be trying to change social outcomes from a worthy point of view (double yuk) I want them to be very much grass roots and down with the peeps, so that even though in a book like RIOT, my protagonist, Tia, who comes from a moneyed background,  does not have access to the avenues of power that her family have – and must fight against the impending future outlined for her and her peers in the same way as any other person. I guess I want to see the triumph of the everyday character. I want Bambi to take on Tyrannosaurus Rex and win.

Your books have strong characters, which of these would you say is closest to you?
In many ways I think I am like all of my characters, or at least there is a part of me in all of them. For example like Leah in SIEGE, I’m concerned about responsibilities between family members and how our actions affect other people close to us; like Tia in RIOT I want to right the wrongs that I see around me and correct injustices and fight for everyone to have a better future. And like Melissa in BREAKDOWN, I am quite determined. I don’t think many things stop me once I’ve set my mind on my goal. I want to carry on going until I get there. I think I possibly – actually even put bits of myself into all of my characters – not just my protagonists – even into the bad guys! When creating my villains there are elements of me that I have drawn on to give them life, give them something a bit more realistic than just moustache twirling villainy.

25024179So why did you want to write Bomb?
BOMB is one of those dark futures out there waiting for the unsuspecting. It is one of the darkest shades of darkness that has haunted me the most. Recent events in schools in London – in the UK – seriously spooked me – so I wrote BOMB to highlight a growing problem –  but writing a book takes a lot longer that it does for days and weeks to speed by  – and the darkness that I was grappling with in BOMB suddenly and terrifyingly  mushroomed into a horrible reality. As I was writing the novel – events turned fiction into fact, and I’ve been left with a very weird sense of literary deja vu and of not really having  managed to lay the demons that drove me to write BOMB to rest at all.

If you could only pick one of your books to recommend, which would be and why? (Yes I’m mean.)
Well it would have to be BOMB – because that deals with the darkness around us right now – but I think SIEGE was my best – because it is really uncompromising and BREAKDOWN my fave – because it has such a beautiful resolution.

Best & worst things about being a writer?
One of the best things about being a writer is that you can go on research trips (I’m on a research trip right now) and do lots of writing with lots of details and description – and you don’t have to actually sit down and do the hard work of Writing. In short you do all the fun bits of driving around, taking photos, dictating notes and imagining outcomes. TOTAL BLISS.  The next favourite thing is talking through plotlines –  I LOVE that !!! I love sitting around a table with other writers and plotting out stories and suddenly inventing marvellous and magnificent scenes and plot twists and metaphors for reality!

I think one of the worst bits about writing is when things don’t appear on the page as you envisage them when on those amazing research trips, and when having those conversations around those writerly tables, after a glass of wine! You can’t get the idea to be on the page in the way that is in your brain  -and you feel so clumsy as a writer – the words aren’t there  -the meaning isn’t there – and you get very dispirited. Another of the worst things about being a writer is sometimes working to a deadline and there is never enough time. I get to sometimes what I call the Muesli Stage of writing – which means I’m just stuck to the laptop (however sunny it is outside/ whatever treats others offer me) and all I’ve got is a box of muesli next to me and a jug of water  – and I just have to just keep going eating handfuls of dry cereal stuff to keep me going until it’s all done – terribly bad for your health and it makes a horrible mess too. SHEER HELL.

Changing the subject, apart from writing what do you love doing?
Apart from writing what I love doing most is walking. I like walking mostly through the countryside – though I’m not terribly keen on it when it’s wet – and I’m not a fast walker or a mountain climber or anything very elite in that sort of way. I just like to plod along with my earphones in listening to a book that I might have downloaded from Audible or perhaps an old classic that I got as a freebie from Librivox. I like sitting on park benches and musing about the things around me too – after I’ve done two or three miles.

What do you think are the differences between UK and US YA?
I’m not sure I’m very qualified to talk about the differences between YA in the US and UK. But if pushed I’d say – I think all YA is absolutely fascinating and important and wonderful – and I think the strands of the genre are possibly quite inter-changeable between the two countries. The only thing that they have of course in the US is a much bigger audience pool.

22432850Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
I’m a secret romantic and always wanted to write fantasy plus romance and happy endings!

And what happens now?
What happens now is that I finish this amazing trilogy that I’m writing about Welsh Dragons! It’s based on legends from the Mabinogion which are spliced into the genre of the supernatural and ROMANCE. Yes ! I’m going to come out as a ROMANTIC – and shout about LOVE and DRAGONS and MAGIC and totally indulge myself and escape from the darkness for a bit …! Something to help me get over BOMB. (But don’t worry all you readers out there – I will also keep on writing about DARK FUTURES and TERRIFYING SITUATIONS too  – in fact I am also working on a really scary book RIGHT NOW called KILL CAMP ….. more on that soon ….)

However at this VERY moment I’m about to go off to Cadair Idris to investigate the myths and mystery behind the giant, Idris Gawr. I’m going to FIND A GIANT, and see if he can be fallen in love with – sound good?

Quickfire Round

Tea or coffee?
Definitely T.

When no one is watching do you dance?
No, I don’t dance but I make up a lot of very silly rhymes. I just sing them to myself as I’m plodding along.

You can have one superpower, what would you like?

What do you do when you see your books in shops?
Feel surprised!

Favourite dish, that you can actually cook?
Veggie soup.

15723139What word describes you best?

The book you’ve read the most?
Lord of the Rings!

Last film you saw at the cinema?
The Hobbit

What’s the perfect cure to a bad day?
Gin & a good book.

And finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
Oh I don’t know something easy to answer and something that doesn’t make me sound all pretentious and things – something fun and silly and good for a laugh!

Bookmark talesofyesterday.co.uk for Friday’s post with David Owen! :)



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