Tuesday 17 October 2023

Blog Tour: Sally In The City of Dreams by Judi Curtin, illustrator Rachel Cocoran (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

Check out the other tour stops!


 9th October 2023, The O'Brien Press, 288 pages, Paperback, Review Copy 

Summary from The O'Brien Press

It’s 1911 and young sisters Sally and Bridget are sailing to New York to find work – leaving behind their home and everything they know in Ireland. The city is so big and strange, but the sisters and their new friend Julia are determined to make the most of this exciting new world. They have each other, and if they work hard, New York is full of opportunities.

Then, when a false accusation threatens to destroy everything, the girls realise there’s nothing more important than sticking together.

Nayu's thoughts

It is an absolute pleasure to review Judy's latest books, as they are always wholesome and uplifting, even when danger strikes. That is certainly true for Sally In The City of Dreams, with a gorgeous cover by Rachel Cocoran whose work I have seen before and like a lot. It captures the essence of sisterhood and friendship. Sally and Bridget are really brave to go to America on their own, but their family needs the money and they are young (ages not revealed that I can recall but suspect younger than 18 years old), it's a lot of responsibility. They discover their American relative is not as kind as she appears, which was a bitter disappointment for them both. They make a friend with Julia whose own tale has its' share of ups and downs (all 3 girls get a happy ending).

Sally is the narrator, and the story is about their new jobs and how they learn to adjust to life in America. It is not all plain sailing at all - even I didn't know how discriminated against the Irish used to be. Their homesickeness was relatable, as was their yearning for all the finer things in life that they couldn't afford even if they saved up for it. But life has a way of surprising people, and they were able to send their family something nice after a lot of hardship. Being in trouble with the law is never easy, but it was made harder for the girls because they were in a foreign land, even if English was the main language there was terminology they didn't know and, unfortunately, the Irish were treated poorly and misjudged instantly by too many people. I liked the letters between Sally and her mother, it might have been nice to have her mother's in a slightly different font, but the cursive style suited the tone. I liked how no matter what Sally and Bridget stuck by each other. It was a shock to learn a certain personality trait of Bridget as she is the older sister and always seemed so confident. 

While thankfully children these days can't work as young as those in the past (well they shouldn't, even if they do in some parts of the world), Sally's tale is absolutely an insight into life back in the 1800s. Life without instant communication lead to some disappointing situations. But everything, and I do mean every plot point got a happy ending eventually, ones that may need tissues too.

Interview with Judi Curtin

Total fangirl moment was being able to ask Judi some questions about Sally In the City of Dreams. Please note the questions were asked before I'd read the novel, so I didn't anything about it.

Was it harder writing two main protagonists rather than just one? Not really. Even though Bridget and Sally are equally important to the story, Sally is the narrator. That means we see everything through her eyes - and it’s easier for me to write!

What made you decide to have sisters instead of say a sister and a brother? I thought of a sister and brother, but went with two sisters in the end. This is partly because my story was inspired by my grandmother’s emigration from Kerry to New York in 1912 - and she travelled with her sister. 

Have you or your family had personal experience with migrating to another country that might have influenced this tale?   Yes, apart from my grandmother and great aunt, mentioned above, my parents emigrated from Cork to London, where I was born. My brother and his wife also emigrated to England. Interestingly, all my emigrant family members returned to Ireland in the end. 

Was there an event or person which sparked the idea for Sally and Bridget’s tale?  The concept of a young person emigrating definitely was inspired by family members, but the story is pure fiction. I think it was helped by listening to the Bad Bridget podcast, which alerted me to the difficulties faced by the Irish in America in the early 1900’s. This strand was important to me, as there are so many immigrants in Ireland these days, and I am very aware of the discrimination they often face. 

Do you have a special writing mug or glass for your writing sessions? I have a selection! I take carefully timed coffee breaks, and part of the ceremony is choosing which of my pretty mugs to use.

Extract from Sally in the City of Dreams by Judi Curtin 

Chapter 2

‘Wake up, girls. It’s time to go.’

It was still dark outside, but Mammy’s candle gave enough light for Bridget and me to get up and wash our faces and put on our best dresses, which we’d laid out on the chair the night before.

Aggie and Joe half woke, stretching up sleepy arms for hugs, before settling back to their dreams. I pulled the blankets over their shoulders so they wouldn’t get cold. I knew they’d sometimes miss Bridget and me, but in their own little world of two, things wouldn’t change too much.

Tom was curled in a corner of the bed, with a little smile on his face, as if he were dreaming of something nice. I picked his book up from the floor, and turned to the page with the picture of beautiful Princess Tiana, so he’d have something pretty to look at when he woke.

Bridget and I kissed his soft, warm cheek. ‘Goodbye, my sweet boy,’ I whispered. ‘Be good, and safe until …’

I choked on the last words, as Bridget pulled me away. ‘No tears,’ she whispered. ‘We promised each other, remember? If we cry we’ll only make it harder for Mammy and Daddy.’

She was right, but I wasn’t sure I could keep my promise. I patted Tom’s curls, which were damp from sleep, and followed Bridget out to the kitchen.

‘Come here, Sal,’ said Mammy, taking the brush from the shelf. ‘Let me plait your hair for you one last ...

She didn’t finish, and I pinched my arm to stop myself from crying. Of course I could plait my own hair in America, I’d been doing it for years, but I still loved Mammy’s gentle but firm touch, and how she hummed to herself as she combed and braided. So I sat quietly and tried to store up the moment like a treasure so I could take it out in the future, and remember it.

 ‘I’ve heated some milk for you,’ said Daddy, handing Bridget and me a cup.

‘And here’s some bread for the journey to Queenstown,’ said Mammy, jumping up and wrapping a few slices in a cloth. ‘They say you’ll get nice food on the boat, and you won’t go hungry at all.’

Neither Mammy nor Daddy looked at us, and their voices were funny as if they’d both caught colds overnight.

I drank my milk, and looked at the trunk that was next to the door. Inside were our few bits of clothes, and the presents of stockings and scarves some of the neighbour women had made for Bridget and me. Also in the trunk was the seed cake Mammy’d made as a present for her second cousin, Catherine, who was letting us stay with her in New York, and had found jobs for Bridget and me.

‘What’s Cousin Catherine like?’ I asked, suddenly afraid. Catherine left Ireland before Bridget and I were born, so we’d never met her.

‘I can barely remember her,’ said Mammy. ‘She grew up a few miles away from here, and we were both only young ones when she left.’

‘Is she kind? Will she be good to us?’

‘Didn’t she send the money for your fare?’ said Mammy. ‘And I heard a few years ago she sent money for another two girls from the other side of her family – wasn’t that a very kind thing to do?’

‘Are those girls still with her?’ I had no idea what New York was like, but I suddenly had a lovely picture in my mind. Cousin Catherine would have a big house, maybe near a stream or waterfall. There would be lots of bedrooms, and all the girls she brought to America would live there and be best friends.

‘I think there was a letter saying those two girls moved on to California a few months ago,’ said Mammy.

‘California,’ I sighed. That sounded even more exotic than New York. Maybe one day I’d actually see it for myself.

There was a sharp knock on the door. ‘That’ll be Connie,’ said Daddy. ‘Aren’t you lucky girls altogether that he has business in town today, and has room for you on the cart. Otherwise it would have been the train for you, and a night in lodgings in Queenstown.’

Bridget put her cup on the table, wrapped her shawl tightly around her shoulders and picked up her basket.

‘Come on, Sally,’ she said. ‘Get a move on. The boat won’t wait for us.’

As I picked up my bag and took my shawl from the peg, I suddenly felt sick and weak.

What were we doing? Why were we leaving our cosy home and our family to voyage across the sea to America?

I wanted to run to Mammy and throw myself into her arms and never let her go again.

I wanted to take Daddy’s hand and go for a long, long walk through the fields I’d known all my life.

I wanted to go back to bed and cuddle next to my sweet little brother, and tell him stories that would make him laugh like mad.

Manny came and put her arms around Bridget and me. ‘Be good girls,’ she said. ‘Promise me you’ll stay together and look out for each other. As long as you’re together all will be well.’

‘We promise,’ we both said, as Mammy pulled away and stood in the shadows, maybe thinking we wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes.

Daddy slipped some coins into Bridget’s bag. ‘I’m sorry I can’t afford more, but maybe this will help a little in the early days. After that you’ll be fine – sure aren’t the streets of New York paved with gold? Be safe, my dear girls. Now go, before Connie gets fed up of waiting.’

So Bridget and I walked out into the cold darkness on the first steps of our big journey.

From Sally in the City of Dreams by Judi Curin, in bookshops now, priced €12.99/£11.99. Published by The O’Brien Press.

Suggested read

Be sure to check out Judi's other work which it turns out I've been reviewing since 2011! I have sadly not yet read all her books, but a fair few as you can see! Here's to another decade of Judi's work ^u^ Links lead to my reviews which are all highly rated.



Eva's Holiday


Time After Time


 Fast Forward


You've Got A Friend 



Friday 13 October 2023

Review: Meli and Mac: Rendez-vous with a Flamingo by Elena Joannides, Margherita Ende (Children's, Picture Book, 10/10E)


December 2022, Mythiko Press, 32 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from Mythiko

 "It's expedition o'clock!" cries Mac, putting down his French book.

"Expedition Supervisor ready!" replies his sister, Meli. 

Adventure isn't far away when they stumble across a lost flamingo who speaks French. Can they help Freddie find his way to the flamingo festival of the year?

Join Meli and Mac for some flamingo fun in Serendipity Forest - and use the translation guide to learn a little French along the way!

Meli & Mac: Rendez-Vous with a Flamingo was selected by the Cyprus Association of Children’s and Young People’s Books (Cyprus IBBY), exhibited at the 60th annual Bologna International Children's Book Fair in March 2023 and at the 19th annual Book Fair in Thessaloniki, Greece in May 2023.

Nayu's thoughts

As someone who learned French at school and who enjoys watching anime in French and occasionally reading novels in the language, I was very intrigued how French would be incorporated in Meli and Mac's adventure. I was happily surprised it was done perfectly. There is a double-page spread at the back of the tale with all the translations and a few extra, but most importantly all French in the story is translated somewhere on the page, so breaking immersion of the tale to flip to the back is not necessary. This is good as it won't break story flow. 

Meli and Mac are really sweet siblings who somehow have a magical journal which when taken to a nearby forest transports them to far away lands and bring them home again. I loved the soft yet bright style illustrations which had loads of details to explore on each page. I love how Freddie is originally Mac's toy brought to life, how they see sights typically French, and they use what they learn when the finally go on the trip to France that they were studying for. There are lots of fun facts about flamingos to learn while Meli and Mac help their new friend out. The characters are lively and it is a great way to help introduce or reinforce words readers may have already learned in French class. 

Suggested read

Another colour read is The Art Garden by Penny Harrison and Penelope Pratley (Children's, Picture book 10E/10E) 


Thursday 12 October 2023

Guest Blog Post: Are Courageous Women in Stories More Interesting To Read About? by Linda Weaver Clark


Nayu: It is with great delight I present today's guest post, Linda Weaver Clarke, an author who writes a range of fiction including romance and cozy mysteries. My favourite series by her is the Amelia Moore detective series, I have links to the books I've reviewed in it in the 7th book, Amelia Moore #7 The Lighthouse Secret by Linda Weaver Clarke (Audiobook, Cozy Mystery, 9/10E) 

 You can find out about her romance books at the end of the guest post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and check out her work! Be sure to check out Linda's website too. I've read but not yet reviewed Light At the End of the Tunnel.

Are Courageous Women in Stories More Interesting To Read About? by Linda Weaver Clarke

 Courageous women in stories seem to draw readers’ attention and grab their interest. The bravery and strength of character easily draws them into the story. It takes courage to stick up for one’s rights and defend one’s beliefs. During the 1840s, there were many brave women who fought against injustice and inequality. Many wanted to have a better education. These women made a difference and influenced others to make a better life for themselves.

A fairly new historical romance series was released that has received outstanding reviews on Amazon and Audible Audiobooks. It is called “Women of Courage.” In these novellas, the spunk and courage of these women seem to draw the readers into a world of adventure.

In The Light at the end of the Tunnel, Hannah is a young single mother who has had a few hardships since arriving in America. But the trials in her life only make her stronger. Hannah realizes she can make something of her life by opening a hot chocolate shop. She soon finds that starting her own business isn’t as easy as she thought. But she will not give up. When Thomas learns that she has spirit, he is intrigued with her.

This romance wrapped around my heart as it took me into the struggles of Hannah, such a brave woman… The characters come to life on the page as Thomas falls for Hannah and adores her child. However, Hannah is caught up in her day-to-day trials and with her independent streak, she only thinks of making a life for her and her daughter. Can Thomas get her attention and change her mind?” ~ Author Gail Pallotta

Hannah isn’t the only one who shows her independent nature. Serenity has just as much courage. Chasing thieves off her property and entering a horse race are just a few things that describe this young Welshwoman’s spunk. In A Lady of Refinement, Serenity teaches an evening class for adults and helps them to read and write and have a better education. Reading is Serenity’s favorite pastime, where she can go on one adventure after another. She wonders if anyone can measure up to the heroes in her books. But the adventures soon become real after arriving in America. When Jonathan meets Serenity, a refined woman from Wales, he wonders how he can win her heart.

How I enjoy finding a book that will not let me put it down until I'm done!  This was the case with A Lady of Refinement.  Linda Weaver Clarke used a true story of her ancestor’s as a base, and it rang familiar to me, as my ancestors also migrated to America during the same time period. The main character, Serenity, is the refined lady and it was such a delight when she bested a few arrogant males.  My favorite character, however, was Jonathan, who was very taken with Serenity.  Time will tell if he is successful at capturing her attention.” ~ Louise Pledge Reviews

There is one more independent woman in this series. The third novella is about a young woman who stands before an audience and fights against involuntary servitude and slavery. Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist, wrote: “When the true history of the antislavery cause shall be written, women will occupy a large space in its pages; for the cause of the slave has been peculiarly a woman’s cause.”

In A Mississippi Sunset, Laura McBride is a liberated and courageous young lady who is convinced that she can help others in her crusade for equality. She encourages women to fight for their beliefs and be heard. But she soon finds out that women who speak publicly are looked down upon. When Deputy William Davies meets Laura, he admires her spunk and determination to fight against slavery.

I really enjoyed this sweet and clean historical fiction and romance. A Mississippi Sunset is part of a series of brave women who were not afraid to take a stand in what they believe needed to be changed and you will see some historical figures that appear in this book!  Loved that. This is a very enjoyable book and it is well worth a read!” ~ Sunnie Reviews

Taking true experiences from the author’s ancestors, this series of novellas was created. These young ladies were considered “women of courage.”

Watch 2 book trailers below to peak your interest.

Women of Courage trailer 1

Women of Courage trailer 2


About Author: Author Linda Weaver Clarke is the author of 35 books. All her books are family friendly. Linda works at the FamilySearch Center where she helps people find their ancestors. She also teaches a free class at FamilySearch about writing biographies and publishing it.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel is available on Amazon and on Audible narrated by BreAnne Okoren.



A Lady of Refinement is available on Amazon and on Audible narrated by BreAnne Okoren.



A Mississippi Sunset is available on Amazon and on Audible narrated by Elizabeth Schmidt.