Monday, 23 January 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Young Adult Book Picks January 2017 - US Published Post

Amanda Hocking - Freeks: A Novel - Published by St. Martin's Griffin (January 3, 2017)

Step into a wondrously strange new world with this dazzling new standalone novel by Amanda Hocking, New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles! 
Mara has become used to the extraordinary. Roaming from place to place with Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Carnival, she longs for an ordinary life where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. 
She gets her chance when the struggling sideshow sets up camp in the small town of Caudry, and she meets a gorgeous local guy named Gabe. But before long, Mara realizes there’s a dark presence lurking in the town that’s threatening the lives of her friends. She has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she had in order to save everyone she cares about―and change the future forever. 
In the pages of Freeks, Amanda Hocking once again proves her ability to create amazing characters and enchanting worlds that will capture your imagination and never let go.

Stephanie Garber - Caraval - Published by Flatiron Books (January 31, 2017)

Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Veronica Roth - Carve the Mark - Published by Katherine Tegen Books (January 17, 2017)

Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in internationally bestselling author Veronica Roth’s stunning new science-fiction fantasy series.
On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?
Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.
Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

Alexandra Bracken - Wayfarer (Passenger) - Published by Disney-Hyperion (January 3, 2017)


I've been orphaned by my time.
The timeline has changed.
My future is gone.

Etta Spencer didn't know she was a traveler until the day she emerged both miles and years from her home. Now, robbed of the powerful object that was her only hope of saving her mother, Etta finds herself stranded once more, cut off from Nicholas-the eighteenth century privateer she loves-and her natural time.

When Etta inadvertently stumbles into the heart of the Thorns, the renegade travelers who stole the astrolabe from her, she vows to finish what she started and destroy the astrolabe once and for all. Instead, she's blindsided by a bombshell revelation from their leader, Henry Hemlock: he is her father. Suddenly questioning everything she's been fighting for, Etta must choose a path, one that could transform her future.

Still devastated by Etta's disappearance, Nicholas has enlisted the unlikely help of Sophia Ironwood and a cheeky mercenary-for-hire to track both her and the missing astrolabe down. But as the tremors of change to the timeline grow stronger and the stakes for recovering the astrolabe mount, they discover an ancient power far more frightening than the rival travelers currently locked in a battle for control. . . a power that threatens to eradicate the timeline altogether.

Friday, 20 January 2017

School Wars Blog Tour - St Grizzle's vs Beaky Malone + Karen McCombie and Becka Moor

St Grizzle's School For Girls, Goats and Random Boys Blog Tour

I am delighted to welcome you to the penultimate Stripes School Wars Blog Tour. As part of Team Grizzle, I have a tempting post from the illustrator, Becka Moor about producing the final character illustrtaions for the book.

To find out more about the illustrator and the author look at their website and follow them on #StGrizzles. You can join in with the rest of the #SchoolWars blog tour for more fantastic guest posts.



How you developed your character illustrations

I was first given some character descriptions from Karen, the author. I did a few sample doodles of a couple of the characters and tweaked them until they were just right and everyone was happy with them. I then drew a whole cast line up of the main characters next to each other to see how they might work together. St Grizzles is a really fun concept and story so I just tried my best to make the characters as exciting and interesting as possible.


 

Becka has very kindly sent a range of bookcover concepts in the lead up to the final draft and edition that was published.







Many thanks to Becka Moor for sending the above illustrations and information about her work for this book. 

Becka Moor is an Illustrator & Storyteller from Manchester. 

She studied Illustration for Children's Publishing at Glyndwr university, graduating in 2012. She has since gone on to work on a lot of really fun projects including her first fiction book, Violet and the Pearl of the Orient (Harriet Whitehorn, Simon & Schuster) which was shortlisted for the Waterstones book awards in 2015.

Other projects include The Royal Babysitters (Clementine Beauvais, Bloomsbury) which was shortisted in 2014 for the first Sainsburys book awards, The Wigglesbottom Primary series (Pamela Butchart, Nosy Crow) and her first UK picture book as illustrator, The Three Ninja Pigs (David Bedford, Simon & Schuster.)


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Jack Cheng - See You in the Cosmos - Book Review (Puffin 2 Mar. 2017) Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books



A space-obsessed boy and his dog, Carl Sagan, take a journey toward family, love, hope, and awe in this funny and moving novel for fans of Counting by 7s and Walk Two Moons.

11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan - named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he'll uncover - from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.

See You in the Cosmos is the first book to be published by the outstanding new talent, Jack Cheng. The novel will be jointly published by Puffin Books, here in the UK, and Dial Books for Young Readers in the US. It's a fantastic story that will make its maiden voyage into the cosmos on a golden iPod and beyond from early March 2017. 

The skies will certainly move and the stars will shine brightly with every page turned. It's an uplifting and poignant story which is told with passion. It has been written from deep within the author's heart. As you skip your way through the book, following 11-year-old Alex Petroski (space obsessed boy) through a moving landscape of emotions, his distinctive voice will pull you through a turbulent narrative that is one of the best that I have read for some time. Other people will make comparisons to other books but, in my opinion, that is not really fair. This book and its plot is a unique reading gem and one that I would definitely recommend for you to read. 

When I received this book for review, I initially had my doubts about it. I loved the book cover but the synopsis did not really grab me. It was only when I opened the first page that I became hooked by the internal voice from the main character; it's brilliant, compelling and very special. Alex records everything and the story plays out through a sequence of recordings from his golden iPod. He records the story of how he travels to New Mexico, to a rocket festival, with his best friend, Carl Sagan (his dog), who was named after his hero the American Astronomer. 
The ongoing transcript of Alex's iPod is brilliant and a really quirky way of telling the story. 

It is a very moving and powerful story. Alex finds out that a man, with the same name and birthday as his dead father, has an address in Las Vegas. From this point forward, the story will move you incredibly as you laugh and cry throughout this amazing journey. One minute you will be flying to Mars on a tank full of LOX immersed in great humour, but then you'll find yourself catapulted onto a rollercoaster full of acronyms and emotions that will hit your senses. It soon brings you crashing back to earth with sadness, a heavy heart and a feeling of emptiness. 

I hope you that you will read this book once it has been published as it will make you look at the world and people around you in a different light. It will pump you full of empathy and humility and should, hopefully, also show you the joy of being alive. It's a fantastically inspiring read that will take you out of the stratosphere and stay in your heart for a very long time. The last time I felt like this was reading 'The Bubble Boy' by Stewart Foster. Fantastic, riveting and I have awarded it five golden stars! 

See You in the Cosmos - SYS! 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Interview with Author Huw Powell (Spacejackers) The Pirate King (Bloomsbury Kids)


Here we are, as promised, Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books interview with Huw Powell, the author of the Spacejackers trilogy. The Pirate King is the latest, and final, book to be published in the trilogy on the 12th January by Bloomsbury Kids Books. Here is my recent review of The Pirate King if you would like to know more about this book. Welcome, Huw, and thank you for taking the time out to answer some personal questions about your writing career and The Pirate King. 

Here are the questions and answers to the interview. I hope that you enjoy these and that they entice new readers to the series. 
  1. The Pirate King is the third and final adventure, what can we expect?

    Friendship, space pirates and a galaxy load of adventure! Teenage tearaway, Jake Cutler, returns in The Pirate King to search for his father and save his friends. The galaxy is now at war and Jake is right at the heart of it. He needs to lead the independent colonies into battle, but will anyone trust to a spacejacker? Jake has to prove himself as a leader, so he can take down the corrupt Interstellar Government once and for all.

  2. How would you best describe a swashbuckling adventure? 
    Fast and furious, where daring heroes use their courage, wits and sword skills to defeat sinister villains and save the day. Swashbuckling spans several genres, featuring pirates, musketeers, knights and outlaws – with heroes such as The Three Musketeers, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Princess Bride, Robin Hood, Zorro, Blackbeard, Jack Sparrow, Morgan Adams and (of course) Jake Cutler.

  3. How did you feel, when you had written the last word?
    I knew at the time that the writing process wasn’t quite finished, that there would be edits and re-writes, but typing that final full stop was like finally solving a very long and complicated puzzle, or finishing an epic game of chess. It was over, the first draft was complete. I was mentally exhausted, but buzzing from the achievement, as well as relieved to hit the deadline. I remember that there was a strange emptiness in my head, where before there had been a relentless hive of activity and trains of thought spanning three novels. But it didn’t last long – because writers move on; our brains becomes restless and we get itchy fingers. A question suddenly popped into my head: “What’s next?”

  4. Is this really the end? What's next?
    For now, this is the end of Spacejackers, or at least the end of this particular trilogy. However, you never know when adventure might call again for Jake Cutler. It has been a lot of fun writing the three Spacejackers novels, but it’s time for a change. I’m going to work on a few new ideas this year and see where they take me. But who knows, there might be a fourth Spacejackers novel one day.

  5. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
    Swear words. When you’re a child, there’s nothing more intriguing than a collection of forbidden words. The fact that these words are kept secret from children, that they are reserved for adult use only, makes them as notorious as Lord Voldemort. What really gives swear words power is the reaction of those who hear them. The level of offence and upset that these words can cause made me realise that language must be used with respect.

  6. What dreams have been realised as a result of your writing?
    It’s always special to get published, to see your name in print, to see your ideas on a page, to discover your book on a shelf, to hold it in your hands, to smell its print, to hear the audio book, to download the e-book, to visit schools and speak at literature festivals, to sign copies for excited children, to receive positive reviews and to be short-listed for an award. Writing a trilogy was a massive challenge and a journey of discovery. It’s still hard to believe that all three books are now published. I’ve still got a few more writing dreams to realise, including winning an award, improving sales in the USA and having my books adapted as films.

  7. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
    Yes, I started writing a YA novel before Spacejackers, but I stopped half-way through the final chapter. The story is dark and gritty, however it’s not easy to describe and I knew it would struggle to find a mass market, therefore I decided to park that particular manuscript and make my name with a space pirate adventure instead, before taking another look at it.

  8. Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
    Absolutely. They say that you should not judge a book by its cover, but the cover can help a book to stand out on a crowded shelf. Awards, reviews and recommendations are useful when searching for the best books to read, however a good cover can often tell you everything you need to know. I was adamant that the Spacejackers cover would feature a skull in a space helmet over crossbones, because this would tell readers exactly the sort of book they were buying.

  9. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
    For children’s books, it’s important to make things easy for the readers, so they can immerse themselves in the plot and enjoy the experience. Yes, books should challenge your imagination and vocabulary, but not to the extent that readers have to work for every sentence. For me, quirky sentence structures and excessive ‘wow’ words disrupt the narrative flow, which can burst the reading bubble and get in the way of the story. There are other important elements, such as tone, pace, spelling and grammar, as well as avoiding obvious clichés and tropes. But most of all, children’s books should be engaging and exciting (and if possible, fun)! 

  10. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which authors/illustrators would you invite? 
    Everyone has their favourites, however I would include those whose works have touched me the most, as well as those who would make fascinating dinner guests (assuming we can go back in time). My list of children’s authors and illustrators would include JRR Tolkien, Sir Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, Richard Adams, Douglas Adams, CS Lewis, Roald Dahl, Julia Donaldson, Quentin Blake and Raymond Briggs. I would also have David Baddiel and David Walliams on standby, in case the dinner conversation became too serious.

  11. Anything else you would like to share with us? 

    I’ve discovered a lot over the last few years as I’ve written the Spacejackers trilogy. I’ve discovered that the average author earns £11k a year (according to the Society of Authors); that girls read more than boys (according to the Literacy Trust); that reading for pleasure helps children to do better at school (according to the Institute of Education); that school and public librarians are literary saints; that book bloggers are massively important for the industry; that you should trust your agent and publisher; that writing is not a gift, it’s hard work; that commercial novels are less likely to be short-listed for awards; that family time is precious; and that I love writing children’s books!

Monday, 16 January 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle Grade Book Picks (9-12yrs) January 2017 - US Published Post One

Here we have four hand-picked books to munch away for your reading pleasure in January 2017 all published in the US. 


Keir Graff - The Matchstick Castle -  Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (January 10, 2017)

A wild and whimsical adventure story, perfect for fans of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Brian can think of a few places he'd rather spend his summer than with his aunt and uncle in Boring, Illinois. Jail, for example. Or an earplug factory. Anything would be better than doing summer school on a computer while his scientist dad is stationed at the South Pole.
 
Boring lives up to its name until Brian and his cousin Nora have a fight, get lost, and discover a huge, wooden house in the forest. With balconies, turrets, and windows seemingly stuck on at random, it looks ready to fall over in the next stiff breeze. To the madcap, eccentric family that lives inside, it’s not just a home—it’s a castle. 
 
Suddenly, summer gets a lot more exciting. With their new friends, Brian and Nora tangle with giant wasps, sharp-tusked wild boars, and a crazed bureaucrat intent on bringing the dangerously dilapidated old house down with a wrecking ball.
 
This funny, fantastical story will resonate with any reader who’s ever wished a little adventure would find them.

"For boys and girls alike, this story sings.”—Blue Balliett, award-winning author of Chasing Vermeer 

Dan Gemeinhart - Scar Island - Published by Scholastic Press (January 3, 2017)

Jonathan Grisby is the newest arrival at the Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys--an ancient, crumbling fortress of gray stone rising up from the ocean. It is dark, damp, and dismal. And it is just the place Jonathan figures he deserves.

Because Jonathan has done something terrible. And he's willing to accept whatever punishment he has coming.

Just as he's getting used to his new situation, however, a freak accident leaves the troubled boys of Slabhenge without any adult supervision. Suddenly the kids are free, with an entire island to themselves. But freedom brings unexpected danger. And if Jonathan can't come to terms with the sins of his past and lead his new friends to safety... then every boy on the island is doomed.

Dan Gemeinhart's most gripping novel yet, this is a tale of misfits and outcasts at odds and in peril, and a redemption story that shines a light on dark truths to reveal that the strongest prisons of all are the ones we build for ourselves.

Watt Key - Terror at Bottle Creek - Published by Square Fish; Reprint edition (January 10, 2017)

In this gritty, realistic wilderness adventure, thirteen-year-old Cort is caught in a battle against a Gulf Coast hurricane. Cort's father is a local expert on hunting and swamp lore in lower Alabama who has been teaching his son everything he knows. But when a deadly Category 3 storm makes landfall, Cort must unexpectedly put all his skills―and bravery―to the test. One catastrophe seems to lead to another, leaving Cort and two neighbor girls to face the storm as best they can. Amid miles of storm-thrashed wetlands filled with dangerous, desperate wild animals, it's up to Cort to win―or lose―the fight for their lives.
Terror at Bottle Creek by Watt Key is a harrowing survival story set in a gripping, man vs. nature situation.

Holly Goldberg Sloan - Short - Published by Dial Books (January 31, 2017)
In this heartwarming, funny middle-grade novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Counting by 7s, Julia grows into herself while playing a Munchkin in a production of  The Wizard of Oz
 
Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she'll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn't ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive--one of the adults with dwarfism who've joined the production's motley crew of Munchkins. With her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia's own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn't want to fade into the background--and it's a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!
 
Bubbling over with humor and tenderness, while emphasizing the importance of role models, this is an irresistible story of self-discovery.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Huw Powell - The Pirate King (Spacejackers) - Book Review - Published by Bloomsbury Children's


The galaxy is at war and Jake Cutler is at the heart of it. With his friends and allies captured, it's up to teenage space pirate Jake to go into battle and take down the corrupt Interstellar Government once and for all. But in order to win this battle, Jake must find his father and confront secrets from his own past …


Prepare for blast-off with the explosive third book in the Spacejackers series – perfect for fans of Star Wars, pirates and space adventures of all shapes and sizes.

The Pirate King has been published today and, sadly, this is the last instalment of the Spacejackers series. This has been one of my favourite on-going series, but it has now come to a galactic supernova end. It has been a fantastic series, but the question everyone wants the answer to is: will we ever see Jake Cutler and the crew again? Well, you will have to buy the book and turn the pages as fast as a rocket launching to find out. So go on, what are you waiting for? This fabulous book is out now in all good bookshops across the galaxy.  


The third book follows on seamlessly from the second book 'The Lost Sword'. Jake finds himself searching for the answers about his father and whether he is alive or not. This leads him into interesting scenarios and dangerous situations. However, you'll have to read the book to find out more. 

Jake forms the group The Independent Alliance to unite the galaxies to fight the corrupt Interstellar Government. He leads the independent colonies into battle which results in a climatic battle that will fill your space boots full of swashbuckling capers.


From start to finish the story is brilliantly engaging. It has been injected with a gravitational pull that super-charges your imagination and will capture the mind of all readers regardless of age and gender. Any loose ends are neatly tied up by the end of the book to create a satisfying reading experience.

You could read this book as a standalone story but, if you do, then it should make you read the other books with gravitational force. It will fill you with humour and action battles as well as giving a massively explosive space opera. It has a great setting full of brilliantly executed, imaginative characters as well as a wonderful plot straight from a childhood dream. Will you be sucked into a black hole (or two!) or as a reader will you come out fighting fit? This is a fantastic series. In fact, it is one of the very best to keep your attention from the first book until the very last page of this book. MAGNIFTY!!!

Please keep an eye out for the interview with Huw Powell which explores The Pirate King (book 3) and his writing career. This will be available on Mr Ripley's Enchanted books website early next week.

Read an extract here: http://media.bloomsbury.com/rep/files/the-pirate-king-extract.pdf