Monday, 22 January 2018

Becka Moor - Children's Book Illustrator - Q&A Interview - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books


Welcome readers.... 
What a wonderful way to start the new year. I have a fantastic interview with children's book illustrator Becka Moor - I have a lot of respect for our unsung hero of the children's illustration world. It's always amazing when an illustrator finds time out of their busy schedule to answer some questions regarding their profession, so thank you very muchly. This is a particularly good post as the questions bring out the personality of the illustrator and give's us a brilliant insight into her typical working week.

If you would like to know more about Becka Moor and see some of her recent work then please check out her website: beckamoor.com   or catch up with her on twitter: @BeckaMoor 

How did you become an illustrator? 
I was taking a course in Graphic Design and found myself doodling characters on scraps of paper and in sketchbooks any chance I got. I realised that I wanted to give these characters a story, a setting, a format for them to explore. I wasn’t very good but I was passionate about it and decided to go to University and study ‘Illustration for Children’s Publishing.’ I signed with an agent just before I graduated which was very exciting, and the rest as' they say, is history! 

Do you think an illustrator needs a style? 

It depends on what sort of illustration career you want, I think. If you want to have an impact on the market in your own way then your style is your biggest asset. Better to have one style that is unique and that you’ve honed and nurtured and are known for, especially if you’re an illustrator working in publishing. It’s a very tough industry to get into with a lot of competition, so you want to stand out. But it’s each to their own!


What is your favourite medium to draw/paint with? 

I work purely digitally on a Wacom Cintiq which helps to bridge that gap between traditional and digital artwork. I try to retain a sense of traditional media as much as possible by using textured brushes and am working on adapting my style to reflect that even more as I go. I do still love sitting with my coloured pencils and doodling in a sketchbook, though. 



Describe your typical working week? 

I’m an early riser so I get up around 6.30-7am, go for a walk, attempt to make myself look presentable, have breakfast, hop in my car and drive to work. I decided in late 2016 that I’d had enough of working from home on my own so now rent a desk in a co-working office full of other creatives. Once I get to work, I undertake the most important task of the day which is to make a brew. 

I aim to be sat at my desk by 9am at the latest, switch on my computer, check emails, have a natter and then get stuck into work. I typically spend a couple of hours on one project and then maybe switch to something else to break things up. I take lunch at 12ish depending on how busy I am. I sometimes go for another walk just to clear away the cobwebs and escape my desk for half an hour. We have a little ‘break out’ area in the corner of the office where we hangout and eat. 

I usually sit there looking at my own homemade lunch whilst yearning after somebody else’s who bought something tasty from the shop. The afternoon is spent cracking on with more work until I get to the point where I need a break/change of scenery. Sometimes I just need a time out and to carry on again once I get home where I can mutter to myself and pace without judgement. I try my best to keep ‘office hours’ but inspiration comes and goes as it pleases. Rinse and repeat Monday to Friday. 


Could you tell us a bit about any of your upcoming projects? 

Of course! I have just finished a picture book called ‘Sir Boris and the Tall Tales Princess’ written by Marc Starbuck and publishing with Egmont very soon. It’s all about a brave knight and a badly-behaved princess who causes a lot of mayhem and mischief that our poor hero has to deal with! 

I am currently working on a handful of fiction projects, the last in the ‘Violet’ series which is very bitter-sweet, also the last in the ‘Goodly and Grave’ series and getting ready to start the fourth ‘St Grizzles’ book. I’ve also just started work on a new picture book and have a non-fiction brief popping into my inbox any day, so I’m fairly busy! 


What helps you be more creative? 

Reading as much as possible, going for a walk, working with other creative folk, listening to loud music, looking at how other people create. Being curled up on the sofa with a cup of coffee and a sketchbook. Having re-runs of cheesy tv series on in the background. Watching cartoons. 



What kind of illustration projects are you most interested in? 

Anything that I can relate to and feel passionate about. I really love detail and researching different time periods, so I always get a little flutter when something comes up where I get the chance to do that. If I don’t like it and don’t feel I can do it justice, I will pass on it. I’m more known for my fiction work and that is my comfort zone, however, it’s always a lot of fun when a picture book brief hits the desk as I see it as both a challenge and as an opportunity to think differently which can be exciting.



What would you consider to be a good design or illustration? Could you give us an example? 

This is such a tough question! There are so many examples of great design out there, but I thought I’d stick to what I know – book covers. I love, love, love this cover for ‘Wildwood’ written by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis. The balance is perfect. The typography is gorgeous. The details are just stunning. I can’t say enough great things about it. I remember seeing it on a shelf when it first published and I took it straight to the till and bought it. I didn’t know what it was about at that point, but the cover and the design sold it to me. 


What is a favourite piece of work that you have produced? 

This is mega boring but I don’t have a favourite. I feel like my style is currently going through a transitional period as I’m growing as a person and as an artist and realising the direction that I’d like to head next. Plus, I’ve never been able to make a direct decision in my life. Why start now? ;) 


Who are your favourite illustrators and why? 

Sara Fanelli. She’s quirky, bold, fun and has been a huge inspiration to me. Chris Riddell is a firm favourite. I first read one of his books (Muddle Earth) when I was a child and decided then that I wanted to do what he did. I just didn’t know it was a possibility! Shane Prigmore. His character designs are amazing. The late, great Jill Barklem has been a huge inspiration as well. Her attention to detail is outstanding and many hours have been spent getting lost in her beautiful illustrations.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Katy Birchall - Secrets of a Teenage Heiress - Book Review (Egmont Publishing)


Flick's family have owned The Royale – one of London's most prestigious hotels – for generations. But Flick isn't that interested. She is interested in the newest guest – superstar celebrity Skylar Chase, and Sky's mega-famous group of friends, including dreamy YouTube star, Ethan Duke. But just as Flick gets the chance to join their glittering squad, she gets grounded following an unfortunate incident involving a prince, a wardrobe and a selfie stick (it could have happened to anyone!). With only her Instagram star pet dachshund, Fritz, for company, will Flick find a way to escape The Royale and join the fame game?

This is a book that puts me as a reader/reviewer out of my comfort READING zone. However, this year is all about me pushing my reading boundaries and trying anything that has been sent to me. Last year I would have taken one look at this book, read the synopsis and then thought that this sounded like it was not for me. However, on this occasion, I would have been very wrong. Secrets of a Teenage Heiress was recently published by Egmont Publishing on the 11th January 2018. The authors recent 'The it Girl' series has found the heart of teenage readers and their funny bone to great acclaim.  

Get your selfie sticks ready and come and read this book. As soon as you turn the pages you will fly into the world of Flick and Fritz (the dog). Flick's life involves living in the world famous hotel 'The Royale'. The reason I loved it so much is that the narrative instantly transported me into the book. Plus, the main characters actually felt like real people. The descriptive backdrop felt like The Ritz in London, which was possibly one of the inspirations for this book. 

This book takes a look at the celebrity side of life with Sklar Chase. It shows that being famous does not stop you from being human and having normal feelings. The book also covers and focuses on teenage girls who look up to famous people and want to emulate them. Looking good, having millions of Instagram followers and the need for media attention is a huge topic at the moment. This book cuts through to reality and shows the high stakes involved. In the end, the story highlights that family and true friendship are actually more important than anything else. 

I really loved reading about the hotel and the inner workings of it. It really made you want to walk around and investigate the rooms and hotel-life, just like the characters in the book. It made you feel slightly dreamy which was rather cool. 

This is definitely a book that teenagers will relate to. It explores a vivid world of glamour that people will love to read about. It's funny in some parts and yet quite moving in others. There is a great cast of characters, all of which are easy to read. The story has a happy, feel-good ending which makes you want to read the next book in the series. For those of you interested, the next book is called Dramas of a Teenage Heiress and will be out at the end of this year. 
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Monday, 15 January 2018

Dan Smith - Below Zero - The Big Idea - UK Blog Tour (Chicken House Books)


It's a pleasure to be the fourth stop on the Dan Smith Below Zero blog tour. He will be visiting some great bloggers along the way, so make sure you check them all out. The blog tour list is in the top right-hand corner of the blog. 

Dan Smith's Below Zero was published by Chicken House books on the 4th of January 2018. I have also recently reviewed the book, please check that out here if you fancy doing so. 

All stories need a good idea to start the process of writing a book. When the book is finished that idea might not be the same path you thought the story might take. This is Dan's guest post how the idea for Below Zero was formed and involves food and Barry Cunningham. Enjoy people. Bon appétit!

Some time ago, I was having dinner with my publisher and he mentioned that he’d been reading about the Mars One project. I hadn’t heard of it until then, but he told me just enough to spark my interest. ‘Could be a story in there somewhere,’ he said. Or, that’s how I remember it anyway. And when Barry Cunningham says there might be a story in it, it’s a good idea to take note!


So, Mars One is all about sending people to live on Mars. People from all over the world have applied to be in with the chance of travelling in groups of four on a one-way mission to colonise the red planet. It would take about a year to get there, and the plan is that they will never return to earth.


I’ll let you think about that for a moment. They will NEVER. Return to Earth. 


Sounds completely crazy-bonkers, but Mars One claims that over 200,000 people have applied. That’s 200,000 people who want to leave earth and never come back. 


Yep, there had to be a story in there somewhere. People leaving families behind, maybe? Someone running from something and getting as far away from it as possible? Survival in space? It needed investigation. 


It turned out that these crazy-bonkers people would train in Antarctica, where conditions are the closest we have living on Mars. It’s tough there. Harsh. Isolated. Cold. Temperatures can drop as low as -90C, which is cold enough to freeze fuel and prevent planes from flying. At the coldest time of year, there’s no getting in or out, and most research bases are evacuated. There are abnormal day and night cycles, extremely dry air (did you know that Antarctica is our planet’s largest desert?) low oxygen levels, limited supplies, no variation in the environment, and parts of Antarctica are in continuous darkness for months on end. 


Scary. Maybe even scarier than going into space? 


Then I read about a 200km crack in the ice - ice that can be as thick as 4km in places - and I started wondering what might be down there. Waiting for us. And how long has it been there? Millions of years? Billions? So I began writing. I put my characters - Zak Reeves, his sister May, and his mum and dad - in a small plane, in the middle of the worst storm to hit Antarctica in years. When they finally reach Outpost Zero in one piece – a base where 32 people are training for a mission to live on Mars – they find it empty. Everybody has disappeared. The electricity is out, the communications are gone, and they face the prospect of being stuck there for six months in the cold darkness. As they search for the missing 32 people, strange things begin to happen with the machinery in the base; some of it seems to have a life of its own. And Zak begins to get visions, as if something out there, below the ice, is trying to contact him, trying to get inside his head. Something OLD. Something that has been waiting 
. . . 


BELOW ZERO by Dan Smith out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House). Find out more at chickenhousebooks.com and connect with Dan Smith @DanSmithAuthor


About Dan Smith

Growing up, Dan Smith lived three lives: the day-to-day humdrum of boarding school, finding adventure in the padi fields of Asia and the jungles of Brazil, and in a world of his own, making up stories.
Dan's Chicken House novels include My Friend the EnemyMy Brother's Secret and Big Game, the latter of which is now a major movie starring Samuel L. Jackson. His fourth novel for Chicken House, Boy X, published in 2016, and his newest novel Below Zero is publishing January 2018.

Dan lives in Newcastle with his wife and two children.
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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle Grade Book Picks (9-12yrs) January 2018 - US Post Two

Michael Dante DiMartino - Warrior Genius (Rebel Geniuses) - Published by Roaring Brook Press (January 2, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1626723375

In Warrior Genius, author Michael Dante DiMartino delivers rich settings, memorable characters, and edge-of-your-seat action, just as he did in his hit animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender. Fans will be thrilled with this new adventure!
For years, Supreme Creator Nerezza has used fear and violence to rule her empire, seeking to eradicate anyone with a Genius. Then, twelve-year-old Giacomo emerged from hiding and joined a young generation of fellow artists paired with Geniuses. Together, they began a rebellion against her.
Now, Giacomo has something Nerezza desperately wants―the Compass, one of three powerful objects known as the Sacred Tools. Possessing all three would allow Nerezza to spread her tyranny worldwide.
After a near-fatal showdown, Giacomo and his friends escape to the empire of Rachana, a society long feared for its mighty warriors and their horse-Geniuses. But a dark and ancient force threatens the horse-Geniuses with extinction, and Giacomo discovers he is the only one who can stop it.
With the help of his Genius and great friends, Giacomo struggles to keep the Sacred Tools from falling into the wrong hands and find a way to protect the Rachanan people―before Nerezza finds him.

MarcyKate Connolly - Shadow Weaver - Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (January 2, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1492649953

Fans of Serafina and the Black Cloak and The Night Gardener will devour Shadow Weaver, the first in a dark middle-grade fantasy duology that's filled with shadows, danger, magic, and has the feel of a new classic. 
Emmeline's gift of controlling shadows has isolated her from the rest of the world, but she's grown to be content, hidden away in her mansion with Dar, her own shadow, as her only company. 
Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal: Dar will change the noble's mind, if Emmeline will help her become flesh as she once was. Emmeline agrees but the next morning the man in charge is in a coma and all that the witness saw was a long shadow with no one nearby to cast it. Scared to face punishment, Emmeline and Dar run away. 
With the noble's guards on her trail, Emmeline's only hope of clearing her name is to escape capture and perform the ritual that will set Dar free. But Emmeline's not sure she can trust Dar anymore, and it's hard to keep secrets from someone who can never leave your side.

Frank L. Cole - The Eternity Elixir (Potion Masters)  - Published by Shadow Mountain (January 2, 2018) -  ISBN-13: 978-1629723587

Twelve-year-old Gordy Stitser is one of the few people who knows the truth about the secret society of potion masters, because not only is Gordy's mom on the Board of Ruling Elixirists Worldwide (B.R.E.W.), but she has also been training Gordy in the art of potion-making.

Gordy is a natural, and every day he sneaks down to the basement lab to invent new potions using exotic ingredients like fire ant eggs, porcupine quills, and Bosnian tickling juice.

One afternoon, Gordy receives a mysterious package containing an extremely rare potion known as ''The Eternity Elixir.'' In the right hands, the Elixir continues to protect society. But in the wrong hands, it could destroy the world as we know it.

Now, sinister potion masters are on the hunt to steal the Eternity Elixir. It's up to Gordy, his parents, and his best friends, Max and Adeline, to prevent an all-out potion war.
Abby Rosser - Believe - Published by WordCrafts Press (January 3, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-0999647530

Always travel SE.
Never touch the ground.
And above all,
Do Not Forget!


Dooley Creed was a nobody in Boston. He’s even more of a nobody now that his family has moved to Peacock Valley, Minnesota.

Dooley Creed is no genius. Dooley Creed is no hero. There is absolutely nothing special about Dooley Creed. At least, that’s what Dooley Creed believes.

Then he meets his next-door neighbors, the Mulligans – the weirdest family in Peacock Valley - and embarks on the strangest adventure of all time. Hybrid creatures, ancient curses, Vikings and Valkyries? It’s up to Dooley Creed to save the day!

But first Dooley must learn to...Believe.


Thursday, 11 January 2018

Philip Caveney - The Slithers - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - Book Review (Fledgling Press)


After the death of his mother and the end of his father s high-powered career, Zach and his Dad have come to the north of Scotland to live rent-free in Grandfather Alistair s cliff-top cottage. Dad asks Zach to clean out the old garden pond, a rotting nightmare where not even a tadpole can survive. But when he drains the pond, he unearths something unexpected a trapdoor leading down into darkness... He ventures down there and discovers something amazing a glowing egg-shaped stone. Once brought back to the surface, Zach s run of bad luck seems to change entirely. Suddenly, he can't seem to stop winning and even Dad s career is unexpectedly back on track. But good luck can't last forever... The stone belongs to a race of ancient creatures that dwell deep beneath the ground - and they want it back. Pretty soon, unspeakable things begin to claw their way to the surface in search of the stone and for Zach and his new friend, Pepper, there's one all-important question. Can they stay alive until morning?

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books will be ten years young this year. When I started blogging many years ago, Philip Caveney was the standout author for me in 2008. I absolutely loved all of his books, especially the Sebastian Darke series which particularly made me laugh. Every book since, I have absolutely loved and enjoyed with equal measure. So Danny Weston, watch your self. 

On a recent trip to Edinburgh, I tracked down a copy of his recent book "The Slithers" which is published by an independent Edinburgh publisher called Fledgling Press. This is the sixth, fully-fledged book, by this publisher excluding e-books. It certainly has one of the most memorable book covers which has been fantastically illustrated by Kylie Tesdale. The big red glowing eye helps you find it very easily on the bookshelves which is just what you want in a world full of books.

Beyond the book cover, you'll find a fantastic story waiting to be unleashed by the reader. The story starts with Zach and his Dad's background history. It's a sad one, but for some people in this world, it might be a shared reality. The connection between the main characters, Zach and Pepper, is brilliantly written - it really helps to explain both of the characters past. The further you dip into the fantasy sweety jar the more the story unwraps itself. The chocolate coating soon dissolves into a genuine scary nightmare for both the characters and readers alike. 

Everyone should be able to relate to one or more of the characters in this book. There will be a character in this book with similar traits to yourself that you will be able to relate to, regardless of age. The fantastic mix of personalities brings out conflicting interests between the characters which will keep readers hooked. These include the feelings and inner personal workings of Grandad Alistair or Jerry, Beefy or even the funny misfortunes of Cheryl.

Set in Scotland, the landscape is a big feature of the story. It is bleak and desolate which heightens the Gothic horror element of the story really well. Philip uses his surroundings, local tradition, Norse mythology, and a big dollop of reality to carve out his stories. It leaves little ripples of fantasy magic inside your fantasy brain. This book becomes a horror montage, at times, but it also provided an element of pleasure to read. It has a pacey plotline, no-nonsense character dialogue and just the right amount of ingredients to eat with your haggis on a Sunday afternoon.

This has to be one of my favourite books by Philip Caveney. If I had read it last year, then it would have slithered into my top ten reads of the year. I loved every page of this book. It was very atmospheric, which gave it a great classical B movie feel. I loved the depiction of Scottish coastal village-life with a strange past and a great mind-blowing secret. I also loved the scenes that centered around the arcade and, subsequently, Tazer (the arcade owner), who has a delightful and very engaging end. This is a brilliant book, an effortless read and one that I would urgently recommend that you track down.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Anna Day - The Fandom - UK Blog Tour 2018 (Book Extract + Book Covers) Chicken House Books


(Chicken House - UK Book Cover)

Hello Everybody! Welcome to Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books and the Anna Day with The Fandom UK blog tour. To celebrate the publication of this book, which was published by Chicken House Books (4th Jan, 2018), Anna Day is taking us on an internet travelling experience. We accompany here through the week visiting some fantastic bloggers and websites. This should really give you a comprehensive insight into this brilliant book and the author. Please check out all the #jointhefandom stops, which are shown in the right-hand corner of my blog, to join this amazing journey. 

This is a brilliant Young Adult (YA) read. To find out more then read my book review Here. My post, as part of this tour, is to share an extract of the book, so there is a little taster for you to sample at the bottom of this post. 

I thought I would also add a little bit of fun and some interaction to this post by sharing some of the book cover examples from around the world. I have installed a poll so that you can vote for your personal favourite in the top right-hand corner of the blog.


German Book Cover 
It's fantastic to see the different translations from around the world for the same book. All four book covers are so different that you might actually think you were looking at a different book.


Italian Book Cover - I think that this is my least favourite book cover. It doesn't engage me as a male reader, even though it's a fantastic book which will appeal to and engage all readers. That's my opinion anyway. 


This is the US Book Cover which is very eye-catching. I love the butterfly. 

Which one do you like?  If YOU fancy voting at the top of the blog then why not do so. It's very easy - you just need one click. I am very interested to hear your thoughts and to see which cover you vote for. 

Here is the book extract for you to read. A little taster to the Start of The Fandom.



Portugal Book Cover - New one for today!



About Anna Day
Anna grew up and still lives in the North East of England. She was raised by a guitar-obsessed father and a mother with amazing cooking skills, and she still loves all things music and food related. She studied Psychology at university and worked for several years as an Assistant Psychologist. She then gained a doctorate in Clinical Psychology in 2009 and has since worked as a Clinical Psychologist with people with disabilities. She has always loved creative writing; even as a little girl she would staple pieces of paper together and write stories for her parents to read. However, she only started writing seriously a few years ago and was noticed by the Chicken House team when she was shortlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition in 2015. Her greatest love is her children -- a little girl and a little boy, who provide her with constant entertainment and inspiration. You can find her on twitter: @annadayauthor 



Monday, 8 January 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle Grade Book Picks (9-12yrs) January 2018 - US Post One


Paul Durham - The Last Gargoyle - Published by Crown Books for Young Readers (9 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1524700201

Fans of Jonathan Auxier's The Night Gardener and Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book will tremble with delight for this haunting tale about a lonely gargoyle who isn't alone at all.
Penhallow is the last of his kind. The stone gargoyle--he'd prefer you call him a grotesque--fearlessly protects his Boston building from the spirits who haunt the night. But even he is outmatched when Hetty, his newest ward, nearly falls victim to the Boneless King, the ruler of the underworld.

Then there's Viola, the mysterious girl who keeps turning up at the most unlikely times. In a world where nightmares come to life, Viola could be just the ally Penhallow needs. But can he trust her when every shadow hides another secret? Can he afford not to?

Kate Davies - The Crims - Published by HarperCollins (25 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-0062494092

The Addams Family meets Despicable Me in the first book of this new trilogy, perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket and Pseudonymous Bosch!

The Crim family is full of notorious criminals. Notoriously inept, that is. Uncle Knuckles once tried to steal a carnival. Great-Uncle Bernard held himself hostage by accident. Aunt Drusilla died slipping on a banana peel. But Imogen is different. She was born with a skill for scandal. A knack for the nefarious. A mastery of misdemeanors.
Despite her natural talent for all things unlawful, Imogen got out of the family business years ago. But when the rest of the Crims are accused of pulling off a major heist—which seems doubtful, to say the least—Imogen is forced to step in to clear their names. Because only a truly skilled criminal can prove the bumbling family’s innocence….

Ben Guterson (Author) Chloe Bristol (Illustrator) -  Winterhouse - Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (January 2, 2018) - 

  • ISBN-13: 978-1250123886
Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms―most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to car for, and even Winterhouse itself? 
Mystery, adventure, and beautiful writing combine in this exciting debut richly set in a hotel full of secrets.

Melissa Albert - The Hazel Wood: A Novel - Published by Flatiron Books (January 30, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1250147905

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Dan Smith - Below Zero - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - Book Review (Chicken House)

When Zak's plane crash-lands on Outpost Zero, a small Antarctic research base in one of the most isolated places on Earth, he discovers a cold, dark nightmare. The power's out and the people who live there have disappeared. Worse, as he searches for answers, bizarre visions suggest a link to something else - deep beneath the ice - which only he can understand. 

Published by Chicken House, 4 January 2018, Paperback, £6.99, Ages 10 +

Why do we read for pleasure? The main reason for me is to escape into another world that is so far removed from my own. The Best books and the books I love do that for me - they stop time and transport the readers into the story and beyond. Dan Smith, for me, is an author who does just that in so many ways. He makes ME into an armchair adventurer and a fantasy warrior. In this story, he brings the outdoor Antarctic to Life and creates an imaginative and believable setting that will make you want to read every page from the start to the end.     

You will plough through the white wilderness with an eerie pace that will leave you on the seat of your thermal pants. This is a seasonal adventure full of horrors, mayhem and, madness. One moment you are running from creepy mechanical spiders (tick-tack, tick-tack) as they scuttle across Outpost Zero. The next moment you uncover events that challenge the characters' perspectives Which make you think about our existence on Earth. This will deliver a creative and thought-provoking punch that drives an unexpected narrative that will leave you exploring and thinking in equal measure. 

This is a clever, imaginative story that twists the perspective of the characters as they uncover trapped creatures deep underneath the arctic ice. The mystery unfurls in a vortex of bugs and insects that will leave the reader filled with dread and wonder. The book explores artificial intelligence in a world of technology and the possibilities of what a future might look like in years to come. There is also a Zombie element to this book without giving too much away, which I really loved. 

This book has everything you would Expect from Dan Smith. EXCITEMENT - it is a high octane thriller that will leave you exhilarated and satisfied. It is a book that boys and girls will love for different reasons. Nevertheless, everyone will be able to Relate to the characters and the ending. So put on some warm clothes, grab a hot drink and turn the pages if you dare. This is a distinctive read that will have you chilled to the fantasy core. JOIN US, JOIN US....


About the Author

Growing up, Dan Smith led three lives. In one he survived the day-to-day humdrum of boarding school, while in another he travelled the world, finding adventure in the padi fields of Asia and the jungles of Brazil. But the third life he lived in a world of his own, making up stories . . . Which is where some people say he still lives most of the time.

Now settled in Newcastle with his wife and two children, Dan writes books to share with both adults and children.

Read AN EXTRACT OF THE BOOK HERE
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Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle Grade Book Picks (9-12yrs) January 2018 - UK Post


Ross Welford - The 1,000-year-old Boy - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (11 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-0008256944


The astonishing, beautiful new story for all readers of 10 and over from the bestselling and Costa-shortlisted author of TIME TRAVELLING WITH A HAMSTER.
There are stories about people who want to live forever.
This is not one of those stories.
This is a story about someone who wants to stop…
Alfie Monk is like any other nearly teenage boy – except he’s 1,000 years old and can remember the last Viking invasion of England.
Obviously no one believes him.
So when everything Alfie knows and loves is destroyed in a fire, and the modern world comes crashing in, Alfie embarks on a mission to find friendship, acceptance, and a different way to live…
… which means finding a way to make sure he will eventually die.



Amy Wilson - A Far Away Magic- Published by Macmillan Children's Books (25 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1509837755


A Far Away Magic is the second stunning novel full of magic and friendship from Amy Wilson, author of A Girl Called Owl.

When Angel moves to a new school after the death of her parents, she isn’t interested in making friends. Until she meets Bavar - a strange boy, tall, awkward and desperate to remain unseen, but who seems to have a kind of magic about him. Everyone and everything within Bavar's enchanted house is urging him to step up and protect the world from a magical rift through which monsters are traveling, the same monsters that killed Angel's parents. 
But Bavar doesn’t want to follow the path that's been chosen for him - he wants to be normal; to disappear. Fighting one another as well as their fears, Angel and Bavar must find a way to repair the rift between the worlds, and themselves, before it's too late . . . https://amywilsonbooks.com

Nigel Quinlan - The Cloak of Feathers - Published by Orion Children's Books (11 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1444014181 - Book Cover by Black Sheep Studios


Every hundred years, in the magical town of Knowmealldown, fairies known as the Good Folk join the villagers for a Great Festival. It's a raucous, beautiful, enchanted celebration.
Well, it's supposed to be.
Except every time Brian helps to organise the Great Festival it's a disappointment. Worse, this time the Folk Princess has been stolen. Can Brian thwart the Princess's evil captor in time to avoid the wrath of the Folk King and Queen, and finally deliver a Festival to remember?


Julian Sedgwick - Return to the City of Ghosts: Book 3 (Ghosts of Shanghai) - Hodder Children's Books (11 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1444924510

'The thing about ghosts is sometimes we create our own. And sometimes they find us, no matter what we do.' 
The thrilling conclusion to the Ghosts of Shanghai by the award-winning author of the Mysterium trilogy, for fans of Philip Pullman, Susan Hill and Robin Stevens.
Ruby is on a mission to rescue the boy she loves: Charlie has been swept away in the powerful waters of the River Yangtze. But the world she loves is now broken by danger and fear, and Ruby is lost and surrounded by ghosts. 
Can Ruby trust herself, and those around her, to find Charlie and return to Shanghai? Or has she ventured too deep into the realm of spirits?
On an amazing journey down the Yangtze, crossing from one world to the other, Ruby must follow the 'red thread of destiny' to find Charlie and home, before she loses herself . . . http://www.juliansedgwick.co.uk

Monday, 1 January 2018

Emma Carroll - Sky Chasers - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books (Chicken House)


A encounter with a boy dangling from the sky changes pickpocket Magpie's life forever. Like her, the boy dreams of flying over the rooftops of Paris. His family, the Montgolfiers, are desperate to be first to discover the secret of flight. Together with Pierre, Magpie is soon caught up in a world of inflatable bloomers, spies and a trio of unruly animals in a race to be the first to fly a hot air balloon - in front of the King and Queen of France.


Orphan Magpie can’t believe her eyes when she sees a boy swept off his feet by a kite … or something that twists and dances in the wind. She goes to his rescue only to find herself dangling in the sky. The world looks so different from on high and suddenly Magpie knows what she wants – to be the first to fly in a balloon above the King and Queen of France ...

Welcome, 2018. What literary delights will it have in store for you? My last post highlighted Chicken House Books and the handful of wonderful titles that have been produced by the golden chicken for the start of this year. Emma Carroll's 'Sky Chaser' is an example of one of these books. Hatching into magical existence, it will appeal to the middle-grade fantasy audience or lovers of historically inspired fiction.

This book is based on the winning idea submitted by Neal Jackson as part of the annual The Big Idea Competition. The story takes flight through the expert hands of Emma Carroll, a fantastic author of some really brilliant books in my opinion. The fantastic book cover has been produced by David Litchfield, whom I recently highlighted as my favourite illustrator of 2017. 

The story is based on the true story of the first hot air balloon flight over Paris in the eighteenth century. Most of the facts are in keeping with historical records of this time. The story swoops and seamlessly blends into a fantasy world that fits with this time period. It is well-researched and fantastically balanced with the background story. The setting, some of the characters and the time period are also factual and make for a hidden educational journey.

Emma Carroll has a lovely way of blending the narrative to fit the occasion. She wrote the story from the perspective of the French, which I really appreciated and felt that it made the story so much better. You will encounter many colourful characters through this family adventure full of scrapes and bumps as well as the occasional animal scrape, which will make you laugh. It is a story fuelled by friendship, hopes and everlasting dreams.

It is a great race against time in this all-out action adventure. It will transport readers back in time to when balloon flights were a mystical idea that held so many people captivated. I would truly recommend this book - an easy read in just one sitting. It really is a breath of fresh air that will have you soaring through the fantasy thermals of history and beyond. A great start to the new year.
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Thursday, 28 December 2017

Chicken House New Children's Book Picks - January 2018 - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books


Guy Jones - The Ice Garden -  (4 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1911490043

Jess is allergic to the sun. She lives in a world of shadows and hospitals, peeking at the other children in the playground from behind curtains. Her only friend is a boy in a coma, to whom she tells stories. One night she sneaks out to explore the empty playground she's longed to visit, where she discovers a beautiful impossibility: a magical garden wrought of ice. But Jess isn't alone in this fragile, in-between place ...


Kieran Larwood - The Peculiars - (4 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1911490210

The Peculiars are a band of misfits, trapped in a nightly Victorian sideshow. There's Wolfgirl, Sheba; Sister Moon, who can move at the speed of light; and Monkey Boy, ace climber and human stink bomb. But during the day, in a world of childsnatchers, grave robbers and dastardly doctors, they solve the mysteries no one else cares about - including why London's poorest children are being snatched from the banks of the Thames ...  

Read Extract Here


Emma Carroll - Sky Chasers -  (4 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1910655535 - Book Review to Follow.

A encounter with a boy dangling from the sky changes pickpocket Magpie's life forever. Like her, the boy dreams of flying over the rooftops of Paris. His family, the Montgolfiers, are desperate to be first to discover the secret of flight. Together with Pierre, Magpie is soon caught up in a world of inflatable bloomers, spies and a trio of unruly animals in a race to be the first to fly a hot air balloon - in front of the King and Queen of France.


Dan Smith - Below Zero - (4 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1910655924

When Zak's plane crash-lands on Outpost Zero, a small Antarctic research base in one of the most isolated places on Earth, he discovers a cold, dark nightmare. The power's out and the people who live there have disappeared. Worse, as he searches for answers, bizarre visions suggest a link to something else - deep beneath the ice - which only he can understand ...

Blog tour to follow in Jan 2018. 


Anna Day - The Fandom - (4 Jan. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1910655672 

Violet and her friends love being part of the fandom for The Gallows Dance. But at Comic-Con, they’re somehow catapulted into the story itself – for real. Trapped in a twisted world where they’ve accidentally killed the original hero, Rose, there’s only one way to survive: Violet must fill Rose’s shoes and put the plot back on track. No story is worth dying for … is it? 



Chicken House is a small, highly individual children’s book publishing company with an enthusiasm for new fiction. Chicken House books have found huge popularity with children, parents, teachers and librarians around the world. Website:https://www.chickenhousebooks.com