BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Today is our stop on the blog tour for Peril en Pointe by Helen Lipscombe. This dance-themed middle-grade mystery has been described as 'Murder most Ladylike meets Ballet Shoes'!
Read on for a review of Peril en Pointe followed by an exclusive guest post in which the author explains the how, where and when of her writing routines.
Book Title: Peril en Pointe (available here)
Author: Helen Lipscombe
Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: July 2019
Most Suitable For: Upper KS2
Reviewed By: Angela Kent (@FljsLibrary), Librarian
I thoroughly enjoyed the first of Helen Lipscombe’s Swan House mystery novels. This story is enthralling and endearing in equal measures, so I was completely drawn in from start to finish.
My favourite (and the most heart-breaking) quote from this book is when main character Milly recalls how she saw herself and Willow as young girls attending ballet tots:
‘I still remember the smell of angel cake (her) and wee (me) mingling as we did the
We meet Milly at a very difficult time. As the daughter of a prima ballerina, expectations of her are extremely high. Unfortunately, she shares the stage with a true ballet diva (her arch enemy – Willow). She recalls the night that changed her life - her jealousy and loathing for Willow Perkins leads her to make a mistake which ruins their chances of winning the prestigious Scarlet Slipper. In addition to this, on the same night her mother mysteriously disappears without a trace and Milly wrestles with the idea that she chose to leave because of her mistake. Disgraced, she is thrown out of her ballet school and with her mum still missing, Milly doesn’t know what the future holds.
When Milly unexpectedly receives a scholarship to join a mysterious ballet school, her life becomes even more complicated – not only does it transpire that Willow Perkins is her new roommate and the school is covertly a school for spies, but she learns the true danger her mother is in and it is her mission to rescue her. With secret tunnels, spy gadgets and plot twists galore, this book is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Milly and her newly found friends make for a very unlikely group of heroes but looks can be deceiving – luckily for the residents of Swan House. I had my suspicions regarding the villain in this story, the clues were there after all, but all credit to Lipscombe as she still managed to completely bamboozle me with the true culprit.
What I adored, even more than the mystery, was that the cast of protagonists had their own flaws and struggles but gained the confidence to overcome them through the friendships we see developing throughout this fantastic novel. I would highly recommend this book to children aged 9+ and I eagerly await the second novel.
Guest Blog Post
by Helen Lipscombe, author of Peril en Pointe
My Writing Routine – how, where and when I write
When I started writing PERIL EN POINTE a hundred and fifty years ago – not really, it just feels like it – I’d drop my youngest off at school, then start the thirty-minute walk into work, allowing time at the other end to make notes in the cafe around the corner from my office. By then, I’d have a fully-formed conversation between Milly and her friends playing in a loop in my head. Sometimes a whole chapter. On the walk back to school, I’d carry on from where I’d left off – and at some point between peeling potatoes and helping with homework, frantically scribble everything down before it was forgotten. Usually on the back of a cereal packet.
Things have changed since then. My kids have left school and I’ve taken a break from my old job. Amazingly, PERIL EN POINTE has been published and I have a sequel in progress. I also have a place to write; a nook in a newly converted study next to the kitchen. It has a pin board, a printer and a desk. It’s a very nice desk. My dog loves to snooze under it. But actually sitting at it feels a bit like going back to school. Being at my desk means I have an imminent deadline. It means re-writing. Editing. Clarifying. It means hours and hours of concentrating. All day. Every day. For months.
In the earliest stages of writing a story, I’ve realised my desk is my least productive place to be. I still think best when I’m out for a walk, in a café, or library. Not that I need peace and quiet. At the stage when word count starts to matter but the story is still unfolding like an Ordnance Survey map on a blustery day, I’m in my own story world, oblivious to dogs barking or radios blaring.
In fact, I find most of my ideas still catch me unawares; typically, when I don’t have the means to write them down. I dreamt up the villain of PERIL EN POINTE on a station platform in the dead of night – its climax, on a deserted hillside. Most of my lightbulb moments seem to happen in the middle of the night or the middle of nowhere.
So, if you ever do spot a small, dark-haired woman with a faraway look in her eyes, obsessively repeating the same phrase under her breath, you might like to offer her a pen and a scrap of paper . . .
PERIL EN POINTE by Helen Lipscombe is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com and follow Helen on twitter @Helen_Lipscombe
Many thanks to Helen for writing the guest post and to Review Panel member Angela for reviewing our copy, provided by the publisher.
Check out the other stops on the blog tour, too!