COVER REVEAL! Punch by Barbara Henderson

We’re delighted to reveal the cover of Barbara Henderson’s book ‘Punch’, her second with Cranachan Publishing. Isn’t it fab? The book will be out 23rd October 2017.



Smoke belches out through the market entrance.

And me?

I turn and run.

When 12 year-old Phineas is accused of a terrible crime, his only option is to flee. In the unlikely company of an escaped prisoner and a group of travelling entertainers, he enters a new world of Punch and Judy shows and dancing bears. But will Phineas clear his name? And what can he do when memories of a darker, more terrible crime begin to haunt him?

The Author says:

When Anne Glennie, Director of Cranachan Publishing, said that this time, the cover needed a proper illustrator, I was really excited. I had been so happy with the much commented-on, striking cover of Fir for Luck my previous novel, which had been designed in-house. A collaboration with a real life illustrator felt like a step up again. I went crazy on Pinterest, gathering all sorts of bits and pieces which may come in handy. Working for a very small publisher comes into its own here – I was properly consulted on every aspect of the process. The whole thing felt like a real team effort.

Unlike the title strapline, the illustrator was very much in the right place at the right time. Anne had sent a range of mock-up ideas for the cover through to me, and my niece from Germany happened to be staying with me at the time. She is a graphic designer and also about to graduate from an Art and Illustration degree, so I showed her. She doodled for half an hour, just so that we could send some drawings to any potential illustrator and say: something along these lines please.

Anne’s reply was ‘Let’s hire her to do it’!

I absolutely love the final result! The boy running from the fire, the stripes, the circus writing and the bear and puppet bring so many aspects of the story together without looking overcrowded, and I am a particular fan of the title on the pinned up cloth, reflecting the make-do mentality of Victorian travelling entertainers pinning up banners wherever they went. And if you saw a row of these on a shelf across a bookshop, they would surely attract your attention, right?

Barbara Henderson, Author

Taken with Lumia Selfie

Barbara and her niece Corinna

The Publisher says:

When it came to the cover for Punch, we knew we wanted an exciting circus-feel to it, incorporating red and white stripes to attract the eye, and elements from the story, including a bear, a dog – and of course, our main character Phin. But there was a problem – we’d also need our other ‘main character’: Punch! The title of the story would not make any sense without our puppet protagonist. I mocked up a few cover ideas, incorporating the elements, and used Victorian scraps against our stripey background – so it was modern, but historical at the same time. However, it soon became clear, that if we didn’t want it to look like a scrapbook – we were going to need a professional illustrator… We began the process of going back and forward with Corinna, to achieve the look we were after. The bear’s too scary… Punch is too scary… It’s a fine line between hinting at the dark themes that run through the book, and scaring off potential customers… Luckily, Corinna was so patient with us and we are delighted with the beautiful final illustration. Corinna’s wonderfully detailed story-book style drawings are perfect – I fell in love with the bear at first sight. For a small publisher, hiring an illustrator is a big investment, but both the book and Barbara totally deserve it.

Anne Glennie of Cranachan Publishing

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Review: Richard’s Story by Rebecca Rode

About the book:

What Rich wanted was a soccer scholarship and a girlfriend. What he got was an apocalypse.

The story of a teen who battles for love and survival in a dying world, then founds a nation from the ashes.

A prequel to the Numbers Game series.

Richard’s Story is available exclusively in Shattered Worlds. 20+ YA novels in one volume. Click to grab your copy.

Review by Katy Haye:

I only glanced at this story, thinking I’d have a quick look and discount it as not for me. I rarely read books with a male POV, and I really don’t like sport, so a book about a boy who’s mad keen on football (soccer) wasn’t going to be my thing, was it? Maybe I could pass it along to Piranha Gill-Marie who loves footie…

Blimey, I shouldn’t have written this one off so quickly! I was gripped by the end of the first page. It is about a boy, Rich, but it’s not “about” football at all. Rich is a rather fabulous, perfectly ordinary teen whose plans for life are destroyed by a terrorist apocalypse. His narration was spare and emotional, heartbreaking and terrifying in places (especially given how the world is right now). The progression from normality to chaos and desperation was disturbingly realistic.

I was utterly gripped. I’ll definitely be reading more in this series because I need to know what happens to these people.

Grab a copy of Richard’s Story exclusively in Shattered Worlds, available to buy or via your KU subscription. Shattered Worlds also includes Piranha Katy Haye’s steampunk story, The Clockwork War, so there’s another reason to grab the collection while it’s available!

Cover of YA collection, Shattered Worlds

Grab 20+ fabulous YA novels in one collection.


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CLASSIC YA The Outsiders by S E Hinton

‘This is one of those books when you keep wanting to shout, “No! Don’t!” at the characters.’

The protagonist of The Outsiders, first published in 1967, is 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis, who lives with his two older brothers, both of whom have put aside their own ambitions to keep the family together after their parents died in a car crash. The oldest, Darry, is the leader of a local gang known as the ‘greasers’. Their rivals are a gang of richer kids called the ‘socs’ (it’s short for ‘socials’, so you know how to say it). There’s a hopeless inevitability about all the interactions between the members of the two gangs: sometimes one or the other is looking for trouble and make sure to find it, sometimes offence is given accidentally, but not forgiven, sometimes an encounter escalates into violence when someone steps in to defend another. Darry and Ponyboy’s other brother, Sodapop, desperately want him to stay out of the violence, to get good grades and step out of their life. But Ponyboy is immersed in the community. He can dream of another life, but he must stand by his friends.

The Outsiders is an intense and moving read, one of those books when you keep wanting to shout, “No! Don’t!” at the characters, and yet at every turn you understand the reasons for their actions. For such a short read, there’s incredibly depth to it, both in the characterisation and in the complex relationships between the characters. While many YA novels focus on the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery, here, Ponyboy is discovering his own world and in particular discovering the complex motives and desires that drive people around him.  And although so much of the book seems to underline the hopelessness of trying to escape from the situation, it ends with a glimmer of hope.

Is it dated? Probably in terms of the action itself. I imagine with the prevalence of firearms in the US these days, rival gangs wouldn’t meet to fight with knives alone. But in terms of groups of people being antagonistic to each other over the differences between them, nothing could be more relevant.

Claire Watts

More to Read!

Written 15 years earlier, The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger is a prime example of a YA book where the protagonist’s journey is internal rather than external.

I’ve just finished reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas which is a gripping and emotional story which focuses on the repercussions of the killing of an unarmed black teen by a police officer in today’s US. As I read about gang affiliations and the support of the community even in communities that seem broken to the outside world, little bells kept going off in my head, reminding me of The Outsiders.

Claire Watts writes and edits fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults. Her latest YA novel is Gingerbread & Cupcake.


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CLASSIC YA – Daisy Miller by Henry James

A very slight book, but nevertheless compelling.

piranha stars blue 4

daisy-millerI first read this many years ago and remember it as atmospheric and enthralling. So I have to admit to being a little disappointed on reading it again. Daisy seems insipid, Frederick predatory, Daisy’s brother and mother are appalling. The snobbery that underlies the whole social setting is deeply unattractive. Maybe this was what James was intending to portray. Strange how I didn’t really see that first time round. Daisy is charming, but definitely not likeable. She’s a world away from the current-day ultra-bright YA heroines.

At first you are sure Daisy is stupid. Then you begin to think that she has a point. Then that she really is really, but even so that she should be allowed to be herself. The ‘hero’ Frederick is far more badly behaved, with his liaisons with older women, but this is never criticised.

This is a book that grows on you. It is beautifully written, as you would expect of Henry James, with a lingering sense of beauty and doom. I remember believing as a teenager that Daisy would win through and being really sad that she didn’t. This time around, I appreciated the writing but didn’t sympathise with Daisy nearly as much.

This is an interesting read for its portrayal of the contrasting manners and attitudes of the American and European characters, and also for its study of innocence misdirected. A very slight book, but nevertheless compelling.

Review by Gill-Marie Stewart

Gill-Marie writes YA mystery/romances as Gill-Marie Stewart. As Gilly Stewart she also writes women’s contemporary fiction. The first book in her YA series about George and Finn is Music and Lies (try the first chapter here).

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Review: Ember Burning by Jennifer Alsever

About the book:

Senior year was supposed to be great—that’s what Ember’s friend Maddie promised at the beginning of the year. Instead, Ember Trouvé spends the year drifting in and out of life like a ghost, haunted by her parents’ recent, tragic death.

At home, she pores over her secret obsession: pictures of missing kids— from newspaper articles, from grocery store flyers— that she’s glued inside a spiral notebook. Like her, the people are lost. Like her, she discovers, they had been looking for a way to numb their pain when they disappeared.

When Ember finds herself in Trinity Forest one day, a place locals stay away from at all costs, she befriends a group of teenagers who are out camping. Hanging out with them in the forest tainted with urban legends of witchcraft and strange disappearances, she has more fun than she can remember having. But something isn’t right.

The candy-covered wickedness she finds in Trinity proves to be a great escape, until she discovers she can never go home. Will Ember confront the truth behind her parents’ death, or stay blissfully numb and lose herself to the forest forever?

Cover of Jennifer Alsever's Ember Burning

Click to try it for yourself.

Review by Katy Haye:

Ooh, this was really good. I loved Ember’s character – damaged, beaten but fighting.

And the story combined with Jennifer Alsever’s writing was very powerful: There was a tremendous, creeping sense of dread that worked so well. As I read there was always half a thought of, “Oh no, what’s going to happen next?”

Folklore and strange happenings were woven into a seriously creepy world. There was a bit of a cult feel to it. I kept urging to Ember to get out, which of course she was trying to do (of course, if you want to know whether she does, and whether you even think she should, you’ll have to read the book).

If you’re looking for something different and new, then Ember Burning comes highly recommended. It doesn’t fit neatly into existing categories but beats a whole new path. One that’s full of traps and people who can’t be trusted.

Compelling and creepy, I loved it.

Even better, the sequel, Oshun Rising, is out next week, so there’s more in this world to move onto once you’ve read Ember Burning.

Katy Haye writes speculative YA fiction. Post-apocalyptic romance, Rising Tides, shortlisted for the 2017 RONE Awards, is available now.

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Review: Rowan Wood Legends by Olivia Wildenstein

About the book:


I wasn’t the sort of girl who believed in fairytales, let alone tales about faeries. But that changed the day Faeries came to my small town and Hunters rose from their graves.

On that fateful day, I received a book, a peculiar collection of myths and legends. Turns out it was so much more than stories. And just as I was on the verge of unlocking its secrets, it was stolen from me by someone I called a friend.

Now, I don’t know whom I can turn to, whom I can trust. All I know is that there are two sides, and I am straddling the great divide because I am both Faerie and Hunter. And although I swore I would never choose, I am slowly falling for one of those sides…

Cover of Olivia Wildenstein's Rowan Wood Legends

…And just check out that GORgeous cover!

Review by Katy Haye:

If you haven’t read Rose Petal Graves (first in the series), then go grab yourself a copy right now. It’s utterly glorious.

Rowan Wood Legends kept up the same high level of writing I’ve come to know and love about Olivia Wildenstein’s books. The mythology surrounding the faeries and the hunters is absolutely delicious. This instalment brought excellent developments in character, plot and the legends themselves.

I particularly loved the knife-edge split with characters appearing friends one minute and foe the next. I’m still not entirely sure who to trust, since I vacillated all the way through!

However, I am firmly on Catori’s side and want it to all work out for her (hmm, with one person in particular, perhaps – maybe I am taking sides where the heroes are concerned). Can’t wait to see if we get peace between the faeries and the hunters – or a huge battle!

Grab your copy now.

When not reading, Katy writes speculative YA fiction. Steampunk short The Replacement Princess is available right now for FREE.

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CLASSIC YA The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

“the existential angst of adolescence”

I hardly know how to start to write a review of The Catcher in the Rye. Published in 1951, it’s a book so famous surely anyone who is interested in reading books with teen protagonists will already have read it. I expect people to know who I’m talking about when I reference Holden Caulfield. My own copy of the book doesn’t even have a blurb or a cover illustration – readers are expected to know what they are picking up.

My copy from 1981

But no list of Classic YA could possibly be without The Catcher in the Rye, so here goes:

16-year-old Holden Caulfield has been asked to leave his expensive New England boarding school. He hasn’t done anything shocking. He simply skips lessons and doesn’t apply himself. He mopes about at school, irritating and being irritated by the people who surround him, counting the days until he’ll have to go home and reveal that he’s failed at yet another school. He sets off into New York trying to distract himself until the moment when he’ll have to face the wrath of his parents. Here he reaches out to old friends, teachers, bartenders, taxi drivers and a prostitute, but each time it seems people want something from him and he feels that each person he interacts with is, in his words, ‘phony’ or fake. In contrast with this, from the reader’s perspective, Holden could not be more honest. We see the story from deep down inside his head, how he feels about what’s going on, reflections on his own behaviour, the people around him, events from the past triggered by what’s going on.

People who don’t like the book often complain the Holden is just a whiner, but for me, The Catcher in the Rye captures the very essence of what it is to be an adolescent. Holden aspires to things that are part of the adult world like drinking and smoking and sex and he feels trapped by the things imposed on him by the educational establishment and his parents. He is almost entirely self-focused, analysing his own behaviour and struggling to see anything from anyone else’s perspective. The light for Holden comes in thinking about childhood, the pure joy of his relationship with his dead brother Allie and his observations of his younger sister Phoebe. It’s Phoebe who will save; she catches him when he’s falling by showing him she needs to be caught.

It’s entirely possible that I love The Catcher in the Rye because it was a book that fell into my lap at a time in my life when I needed to read a book like this. There weren’t so very many books that focused on the existential angst of adolescence around back then, while today there are shelves full. Though surely none so pure, so heartfelt as Holden Caulfield’s angst.

Read it. See what you think.


Claire Watts

More to Read!

There are a few other works by Salinger, though he was a notorious recluse who published nothing between 1965 and his death in 2010. I’ve found interesting to read The Catcher in the Rye alongside S E Hinton’s The Outsiders (published 15 years later) which I’m going to review later in the month.

Claire Watts writes and edits fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults. Her latest YA novel is Gingerbread & Cupcake.


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