About this blog

Hello and welcome! You’ll find quite a few things on this blog, all to do with books and writing as I’m a writer.

Roald Dahl

The original interview

Books reviews are here. (I’m also on Goodreads, where I review books as well, so please follow me there at my author page if that’s your interest.)

I’ve interviewed many writers, starting with Road Dahl, and you’ll find author interviews here.

My children’s novel THE KEEPER OF THE STONES is available now in the UK – if your bookshop doesn’t have it in stock, they’ll be able to order it for you. The same applies to my novel FAKE, contemporary fiction with a satirical twist. Both are also available online in the usual places. 

REVIEWS AND SUMMARIES FOR MY BOOKS

FAKE  “Hilarious…the dialogue is full of wit…written with charm and vitality. A clever, timely tale about desperate people maneuvering through a tricky situation.” – Kirkus Reviews

THE KEEPER OF THE STONES  “Lizzie herself is brave and appealingly thoughtful…Kay’s writing is another pleasure, atmospheric and poetic…Both gripping and lyrical—a fine time-travel tale.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

indie-books-we-love

“Not only is this book packed full of intrigue as Lizzie works to save her brother, it also quietly educates on archaeology and history…There’s strong description, good characterisation and humour to alleviate the tension throughout this adventure story.” – Indie Books We Love, LoveReading4Kids

“Absolutely gripping! My heart raced as I galloped along with Lizzie, and my brain whirled as I tried to unravel clues to the mysteries. The reading time flew by—as did time itself in this intriguing tale. Suspense, an occasional laugh, and many surprises … all here! I loved this book. So will you.” – Martha Kendall, Winner of Best Book for Young Adults, American Library Association.

In THE KEEPER OF THE STONES, a midnight ride to the stone circles on the family farm catapults Lizzie and her brother Daniel back to the Bronze Age. Trapped three thousand years ago, Lizzie must save Daniel and stop the Bullmaster before he destroys the Horse People and her family ceases to exist.

In FAKE, James Cowper – art dealer, gambler, thief – is going straight and on the brink of redeeming himself with his disillusioned wife, Imani. He’s still broke, but all he needs to take care of that is a rare art find. Then trouble arrives in the shape of a scheming landlord and an unwelcome dinner party with his boss. As events spin out of his control it appears that nobody, including Imani, is what they pretend. And over everything looms one make-or-break question for James: can he get a grip on his exploding life?

The rest of the blog
For other content, please see the tabs at the top of this page or just have a poke around. And thank you for reading! – Roz

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Review: The Ship of Shadows

The Ship of Shadows – Maria Kuzniar

There’s a lot of originality and fun in this book and I like that it’s girls and women on a magical ship.

We find out about ship that they’re seeking a magic map. It’s not for treasure; they land on a treasure island in one chapter, stuff their pockets and everything else with diamonds, rubies, and so on, and then that’s never mentioned again. It’s not to find a magical city – they find the city (and are attacked by an army of skeletons, so be wary of that if your child isn’t a fan of the more “horror” end of things, like the film The Mummy) – but they’re only looking for the city to get a piece of the map. Also the shadows on the ship – we’re told the shadows are the secret to the ship’s magic, but that wasn’t enough to get me fully emotionally involved in it.

Aleja is an inquisitive, intelligent, and brave girl, but doesn’t seem that bothered about leaving her family. Even at the end, she’s still in the same place emotionally – trying to decide between having adventures and going home. What she wants is to have an adventure and become a pirate and she does.

The diversity of the characters is a plus and the writing enjoyable, with vivid imagery. Different things happen – magic rooms appear in the ship, a kraken attacks, there’s a trip to a souk, not to mention the treasure island – but overall the events don’t totally knit together.

I see other reviewers enjoyed it more than I did, so perhaps I’m missing something. For me though there’s more glitter than gold in this pirate adventure.

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar
Published by Puffin Books in July 2020
Middle Grade (9-12 years old)

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Review: If Looks Could Kill

If Looks Could Kill – Olivia Kiernan

looksThe last time I read a book in one day it was several years ago and I was on a six-hour flight (with Jennifer Egan’s brilliant ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’). Just did it again because there was no way I was going to wait until the next day to find out what was going on in Frankie Sheehan’s latest case.

From the opening chapter–which you park, knowing it’s going to swing into play at some point and that will be a delicious moment–to the final page, you’re deep in Sheehan’s world and the plot twists hit early and keep going.

Once again, excellent taut writing and multi-layered characters give depth to a satisfyingly complex plot. Superb–best crime fiction out there.

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Review: The Wizards of Once

onceThe Wizards of Once – Cressida Cowell

Wonderful galloping tale of Magic, good and evil. Many influences feed into this, from Roald Dahl to Arthurian legend to fairy tales to Shakespeare, and the result, fired by Cressida Cowell’s imagination, is stellar. The chatty, jaunty tone of the “unknown narrator” means the evil bits never get too frightening, and Cowell’s brilliant illustrations perfectly support the story.

 

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Inspirational art

What a pleasure it was to run into a neighbour whose nine-year-old daughter read my children’s novel, The Keeper of the Stones.

I already knew she liked it and had used it for her school work.

It turns out she also loved the illustrations by Kelsea Rothaus, and was inspired to create her own picture!

bull picture

Such a lovely drawing, and it gave me the greatest feeling to learn how much a child has enjoyed my book.

If you’d like to learn more about The Keeper of the Stones, here’s the starred review from Kirkus Reviews.

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Signed copies – now available!

My debut children’s novel, The Keeper of the Stones, is now available on Amazon at a slightly reduced price, after coronavirus-related distribution challenges affected availability.

You can also buy the book directly from me, at a lower price, by emailing me at bookordersrk@gmail.com

The Keeper of the Stones_Cover Spread.jpeg

All copies are new and are signed by me.

About the book
A midnight ride to the stone circles on the family farm catapults Lizzie and her brother Daniel back to the Bronze Age. Trapped three thousand years ago, Lizzie must save Daniel and stop the Bullmaster before he destroys the Horse People and her family ceases to exist.

Fantasy for 9 and up. You can read a review of The Keeper of the Stones here.

Thank you.

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Review: Murder Most Unladylike

mmuMurder Most Unladylike: A Wells & Wong Mystery – Robin Stevens

Thoroughly enjoyed this witty, light-but-not-lightweight middle-grade murder mystery set in a 1930s girl’s boarding school in England.

Right from the start the first-person telling through the eyes of Hazel Wong, dispatched to Deepdean School for Girls from Hong Kong for a “proper” English education, gets a double thumbs-up. Cleverly, Robin Stevens has Hazel come from an Anglophile background – but she retains a healthy bemusement at weird English rituals, from school games to food. And Stevens doesn’t shy away from illustrating racism in the way Hazel is sometimes treated – lightly done, but no less on point for that.

The tale itself gallops along, with a host of interesting characters. At first I wondered how a murder in a school would be handled in such a way that the only investigators would be Hazel and her friend Daisy Wells, but that’s niftily dealt with and their investigation is completely believable. Some lovely twists in the tail too.

As a product of a girl’s boarding school myself (a few decades later, I’d like to point out!) I can confirm the authenticity of the setting, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Highly recommended.

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Review: The Vanishing Trick

trickThe Vanishing Trick – Jenni Spangler

A great story with an appealing magic core and a strong premise that I can see easily becoming a film, and probably doing very well with its target of middle-grade (8 and up) readers. For me though it had some challenges, starting with Leander, one of the three children.

The story opens with Leander and the first chapter is exciting. Leander, starving, steals a pie to eat and ends up hiding in a strange carriage with weird contents – and an encounter with a threatening woman who tricks him into giving up control of his life to her. It seems Leander is the intended hero, a sort of Artful Dodger type who survives on his wits. Yet, as the story develops, he doesn’t quite pull it off, being rather wishy-washy at times and hard to cheer on. (There’s an episode where he tries and fails to steal a crucial item, which the children get later anyway. Nobody ever knows about his attempt and I was left wondering why that scene was even in the book.)

Then there’s the endless internal debate each child has about their captor, Pinchbeck. Initially the two other children Charlotte and Felix explain to Leander the dangerous situation they’re in, but after that and for most of the book, each child has his or her own doubts which they repeatedly churn over to themselves in their own minds – sometimes wavering from one page to the next – which starts to get irritating and repetitive.(Stockholm Syndrome only gets you so far.) It’s so obvious to the reader that Pinchbeck is evil that the children’s vacillation between trying to escape to save their lives and loyalty and guilt about doing this makes it hard to get deeply involved with them. (I found this mixed message of them reminding themselves repeatedly of “kind” acts, like provision of food and clothes, by their evil kidnapper, almost to the end of the book, rather disturbing; perhaps it’s intended to show the children have empathy for Pinchbeck, but should you have empathy with your abuser who you believe has killed other children?) From a purely storytelling standpoint it takes away a lot of the tension as the children try to escape.

I found the multiple points of view between the three children problematic. This jumps as often as a page apart and is signalled by a little scroll with the child’s name above it. The result is a lot of telling the reader what each child is thinking, rather than showing through action or conversation, and there’s a lack of jeopardy despite the threat of one of them vanishing for ever. They do a number of things separately and only towards the end does this start to get coordinated so though we’re told they think of each other as family, I didn’t really feel that emotional bond.

Finally, I didn’t understand why Pinchbeck, who can pull off the amazing magic of the vanishing trick, apparently can’t perform any other magic. There are other disconnects too, which I won’t describe as it would give away the story.

There a few proof-reading and editing issues as well – Isaak’s name appears as Isaac in the fairly crucial caption for the illustration of his brother, for example, and in one place we’re told something ostensibly for the first time but we’d been told the same thing just a few pages before. All the characters present as white.

Despite these things it’s a wonderfully imaginative story and I’d love to see it as a film.

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Kirkus Reviews: The Keeper of the Stones

“Both gripping and lyrical—a fine time-travel tale.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

If you’re a writer, you know that 99 percent of the time you’re cursed by doubt, wondering whether you can actually write. So when, at about 10 pm UK time on Friday 8 May, I saw an email saying Kirkus had reviewed my debut children’s novel The Keeper of the Stones, my first reaction was to feel sick.

For context, Kirkus Reviews has been around since the 1930s and is an American gold standard in book reviews. The annual Kirkus prize is $50,000 per category (adult fiction, adult non-fiction, or children’s literature). Only books with Kirkus Star reviews are eligible for the prize.

As Kirkus puts it themselves on their web site: “One of the most coveted designations in the book industry, the Kirkus Star marks books of exceptional merit.”Kirkus

Imagine my disbelief, my repeated reading of the review, as I realised The Keeper of the Stones had landed a Kirkus Star.

It means the book is now eligible for the $50,000 Kirkus Prize for children’s literature (only books with a Kirkus Star are considered).

And it means the book has a global platform on the Kirkus Reviews web site along with other starred children’s authors, from Neil Gaiman to Lois Lowry to J.K. Rowling.

But most of all, it means that at least for a few minutes on a Friday night, I believed I can write.

(c) Roz Kay

The coronavirus lockdowns are limiting distribution, but you can still order The Keeper of the Stones directly from the publisher, Hayloft.

 

 

 

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Review: Don’t Think A Single Thought

Don’t Think A Single Thought – Diana Cambridge

redThis is a beautifully constructed book. As I read it, I felt I was being slowly wrapped in a python’s coils, being pulled relentlessly into the centre of Emma Bowden’s life. Each time I felt I’d learnt something about her, a tighter coil created another layer. The structure (which uses flashback chapters, a construct that I often find annoying) works better here than I’ve ever seen, with each flashback actually carrying the narrative forward. The way we slowly learn another piece, another piece, another piece of the childhood act that haunts Emma for the rest of her life is really well handled. It’s hard to know at the end whether the first version or the last version is what actually happened–Emma is an unreliable narrator.

The writing is also beautiful; other reviewers have commented on the elegance of the spare, cool prose. To me, it’s classic short story prose and the book IS short, barely more than a novella. Still, a slim volume can be a relief: something you can read in a couple of hours rather than ploughing through 900 pages of often bloated narrative over more days than you really want to spend with the characters. (That said, I did occasionally miss a richer drawing of the settings. I know Manhattan well, so I filled it in, but I found that sometimes what I was imagining as I read was secondhand, pulled from films, perhaps.) Perhaps because of the coolness, the slightly removed tone, I found myself fascinated by Emma rather than emotionally engaged with her, though I loved the style (andyellow stylishness) of the writing.

As the author notes, Emma’s life has close parallels with the life of the writer Sue Kaufman. The details of the latter’s life I read after I’d finished the novel (I found a detailed article by Diana Cambridge herself). Dates, main events, and aspects of character tally with Emma’s. In a way it’s a re-imagining of Kaufman’s life, and a rather dark re-imagining at that. I found it an absolutely compelling read.

Published by Louise Walters Books in 2019. Also available in a limited edition yellow cover.

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