Sunday, 29 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Book Review: Dawn Finch - Brotherhood of Shades


This is the debut book from Dawn Finch. Ever since she was a young girl, Dawn wanted to be a writer and librarian; her home was filled with books. She had a love for Edgar Allan Poe that soon turned from a small dream into a large vision once Dawn grew older. Her love of books and reading never went away; one day her dream turned into reality and the Brother of Shades was born.

I've wanted to read this book for quite some time now but, unfortunately, I've never seen this book in any bookshop to buy. I actually find this really hard to believe as it is a cracking read. I really do agree with the quote on the front of the book by Jonathan Stroud stating that this is "a wonderful new fantasy". I love the cover as it really does scream 'read me, pick me up, delve into my pages and read me word for word' - this is exactly what I did and I was not disappointed.

From the very first page, I was gripped by the opening of the story. I loved the feel of it and the excitement that was generated at the prospect of what was to come. I seemed to read this part of the story more slowly, as I was, perhaps, rather absorbed by the world and characters a little too much. However, the more that I read, the more I really loved this book. The author's love of reading oozed from every pore and helped to create a mental picture that held-fast like a good oil painting. Every detail was stored through the clever weaving of historical events, places and people which gave it a sense of reality as you zipped from the 1500's to the present time.

This is a great ghost story but with magical elements such as talking books, scary monsters and some very well-timed twist and turns. The plot is hinged around protecting the living from the world of the dead and mythical legends. The secret order was set up along time ago by a group of monks who named themselves Brotherhood of Shades. One of the first to be enlisted was enigmatic Toby D'Scover who is humorous, dapper and totally dead. He's a saviour of the world of the living - a protector of ancient books. This is an important role as one false move and this could lead to the dead rising again to bring havoc and chaos to the world. This is a dark fantasy, with some lip smacking moments, that will have you gripped and hooked to the point that you cannot put this book down.

The characters were convincing - not too many to get to grips with which really helped to keep the pace of the book flowing. The progressive complexity of the story and the realistic dialogue between the characters supported their role in travelling back in time/spectral realm. A great deal of research has gone into the plot, but the setting really comes to life as a result of this. The ending was an explosive triumph; the climatic battle really got you thinking. I think that both teenage boys and girls will love reading this book - it is a great reading experience full of action adventure, discovery and secrets.

When a book really is this good, it's always sad to get to the end. I do have a feeling that we will be seeing Adam, Toby, Edie and the Brotherhood of Shades again real ghostly soon. This is an author to watch and a series to get very excited about. Bring it on.....

Will you join the Brotherhood?

Published by Authonomy (26 Sep 2013)

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Book Review: Eoin Colfer - W.A.R.P BK 2 - The Hangman's Revolution


"The old maxim that every action has a reaction is true, but when you start messing with time travel, that reaction could take place in a whole different universe." —Professor Charles Smart 

This is the next instalment in the fantastic series 'W.A.R.P'  and what a sequel this book is. With an eye dropping cover, this is surely going to be snapped up by readers. I was incredibly pleased to receive this book in my mail box. It read incredibly well; I was not disappointed in any way. Well, only when it finally ended.

I warped with full speed into the story; my mental agility soon reached overload. From the very first page, the reader is flung straight into the action following young FBI agent Chevie bags-of-attitude Savano. Trapped in a nightmare future, she needs to return to 19th century London to change the course of history. Can she do it? Well, that you will have to find out.  Along the way she receives support and help from her 19th century friend Riley (boy magician) and the Victorian gangster Otto Malarkey (current leader of The Battering Ram's). All in all, these add up to a charming little gang of cutthroats, serial killers and petty theft merchants that you are ever likely to read about and follow.

Chevie becomes involved in a mission to save the world. The only problem with this is that she has to battle a group of crazy villains known as the Boxite Empire. These villains have brought the military technology of the future to the 19th century and want to use it to take over the world.  The storyline is full of explosive action. Rampaging all over Victorian London, tanks blow up historical buildings and important monuments. Never mind the couple of machine gun wielding warrior-nuns, known as the Thundercats, that  give the story a thumping great punch in the guts. It sounds very surreal, but it all adds up to a fantastic read.

I really loved the interaction of the characters: the ying and yang,  the villains and heroes, male and female partnerships. All of these elements bring about crashing twists and turns that will leave you on a knife edge. This book feels like an older read; looking back to the first book 'The Reluctant Assassin' this is told through the perspective of young characters and doesn't indulge in the same intellectual use of language. The humour is side splitting; it is almost slapstick in parts. You laugh once, you laugh twice and you'll easily laugh a third time as Eoin Colfer runs riot with the plot. The creative genius of this author is what only most of us can dream about writing.

This book is one of the best reads of this year. It might be crazy, but it is a joy to read. The reader's smile will grow stronger from start to finish. Although there is also a dark and bloody side to the story. Some scenes have so much energy and spirit that they will stay with you for some time, perhaps even into the next century!

This is a brilliantly written adventure - it is highly creative and a feast of fun. Houdini meets The Matrix with a Dickensian twist. Mr Ripley's Recommend read for June 2014.

"I knew a guy once who liked  to argue about time travel. He liked to line things up, consequences and so forth. This moron thought winning the argument made him right. The wormhole doesn't care about words. What happens, happens.  —Professor Charles Smart 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Children's/Teens Fantasy New Books - Post US Publication July 2014


Livia Blackburne - Midnight Thief - Published by Disney-Hyperion (July 8, 2014)
Growing up on Forge's streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that's not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she's not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he is persistent-and darkly attractive-and Kyra can't quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by the Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.
When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival-and vengeance-might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra's past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

In her arresting debut novel, Livia Blackburne creates a captivating world where intrigue prowls around every corner-and danger is a way of life.




Marianne Malone - The Secret of the Key: Sixty-Eight Rooms - Published by Random House Books  (July 22, 2014) 

Filled with magic, mystery, miniatures, and adventure, the Sixty-Eight Rooms is the perfect series for fans of Chasing Vermeer, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and The Dollpeople!
 Chicago sixth graders Ruthie and Jack think they’ve learned everything about the magic of the Art Institute’s Thorne Rooms. But the magic starts to act strangely when Ruthie and Jack discover two rings that are out of place—and out of time—and a portal that shouldn’t be open but somehow is. Ruthie and Jack follow the clues to seventeenth-century England and the Brownlow house, where they meet the Brownlow’s governess, Rebecca. But Rebecca has a few secrets of her own—and she might even be in the wrong century! Can Ruthie and Jack discover the truth about Rebecca’s mysterious past, or will they end up stuck in the wrong century themselves? Their quest for answers takes them from 1930s New York City and San Francisco to turn-of-the-century China. The only one who can truly answer their questions may be the woman who started it all: the room’s creator, Narcissa Thorne. But to talk to Mrs. Thorne, they’ll have to go back in time and find her!
 


Aprilynne Pike - Earthquake (Earthbound) - Published by Razorbill (July 8, 2014)
Tavia Michaels has discovered that she’s an Earthbound—a fallen goddess with the power to remake the Earth—and that a rival faction of Earthbounds, the Reduciata, has created a virus that is literally wiping swaths of the planet out of existence. 
 Tavia is captured and imprisoned before she can act on this information, along with her eternal lover, Logan. Huddled in a claustrophobic cell, they lose track of the days, their attempts to escape proving as ephemeral as Tavia’s newly gestating powers. But then Tavia and Logan are mysteriously rescued. 

They’re brought to the underground headquarters of the Curatoria, another group of Earthbounds that Tavia doesn’t fully trust. There, she’s told that she can save the Earth before it disappears. She agrees.
Tavia quickly realizes that she isn’t like other Earthbound, and as her abilities continue to awaken, they begin to threaten her centuries-long relationship with Logan. When Benson—Tavia’s former best friend and romantic interest—appears at Curatoria headquarters, Tavia will again have to make a choice about who to be with even as she tries to stop the virus that is destroying the world and uncover the truth about the two Earthbound organizations that have her tangled up in their webs.



Lex Thomas - Quarantine #2: The Saints - Published by Egmont USA (July 8, 2014)
New in paperback! A cross between the Gone series and Lord of the Flies, Quarantine #2: The Saints continues this frenetically paced and scary young adult series that illustrates just how deadly high school can be. Nothing was worse than being locked in--until they opened the door...

McKinley High has been a battleground for eighteen months since a virus outbreak led to a military quarantine of the school. When the doors finally open, Will and Lucy will think their nightmare is finished. But they are gravely mistaken.

As a new group of teens enters the school and gains popularity, Will and Lucy join new gangs. An epic party on the quad full of real food and drinks, where kids hook up and actually interact with members of other gangs seemed to signal a new, easier existence. Soon after, though, the world inside McKinley takes a startling turn for the worse, and Will and Lucy will have to fight harder than ever to survive.



Sunday, 22 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Book Review - Nick Cook - Cloud Riders - Three Hares Publishing


I really loved the look of this book; from the fantastic eye catching cover, designed by Jennie Rawlings, to the interesting synopsis that I did actually read. When I was asked if I wanted to review this book I did not hesitate - I was really happy to say yes and I am very glad that I did.

Cloud Riders is the first book in a new series that will power your mind as it takes you on a journey that will deeply immerse you in a Sci-Fi/Steampunk fantasy. The story is told from the perspective of Dom. Living with his mom in Tornado Alley, this is the setting for the frantic action that follows.  After a year of long droughts, the family diner is on the verge of going bust, but then the first twister in months appears and, from nowhere, an airship emerges from the spout.

I was really drawn to the initial idea of the story; the chasing after and filming of a deadly twister. A tornado consisting of a violent rotating column of air that is in contact with the surface of the earth. This is a really fascinating natural phenomena and a refreshing idea that drew me into the story. However it didn't stop there as another dimension soon appeared, literally, in the form of a new world. 

As well as a fantastic idea, there are also a host of characters to intrigue the reader. There is Dom's long time best friend Jules and a feisty mysterious character known as Angelique. Both have a history with Dom that soon becomes known to the reader and allows us to relate to the emotional state of each character. We encounter a love triangle, as well as a range of mysteries and secrets with some timely twist and turns. The author is certainly not afraid to tackle the theme of tragedy within this story.

This book was a bag of tricks; it had the personality and blend of some of my favourite books. It was a very enjoyable read as it still brought something new to the literary table. Energetic spaceship battles, steampunk gadgets, and out of this world voyages have been very creatively written. The ending was incredibly frantic and explosive, which I wasn't too sure about. Nevertheless it created a great start for the next book which, I have to say, I am really looking forward to reading.

I would recommend this book, especially to readers who loved Philip Reeve's 'Mortal Engines' and Garth Nix's 'A confusion of Princess'. The only problem that you may have is being able to track down a copy, but it is out now for you to try.

Also check out his guest post, to the Moon and Beyond HERE

Published by Three Hares Publishing - (6 May 2014)



Friday, 20 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Guest Post: Nick Cook - ‏To the Moon and Beyond!


I think I can probably blame growing up during the era of astronauts first landing on the moon, for how I’ve turned out today. I will never ever forget those grainy images of Neil Armstrong as the whole world watching held its breath, and he uttered those immortal words, before taking those first historical steps. And despite what the conspiracy theorists might want you to believe it was all some sort of elaborate hoax (don’t get me started – it wasn’t), we as a species achieved something incredible that day. We'd finally broken free of our cradle of birth, the Earth, to wander the face of our moon. And it was an incredible and inspiring moment to witness.

At the time there was a frenzy of science fiction, from movies to books about space exploration, all mapping out how the moon landings were just the stepping stones towards bigger adventures in space for us. Alas, history had other ideas – although I’m hopeful that in the long run our pioneering nature will get the better of us once more.

It was an intoxicating period to be growing up in, where great sci-fi collided with reality –  a heady mix for a kid back then. I dreamed of space, lapped up every bit of sci-fi I could, and of course like every other child, dreamed of becoming an astronaut one day. This all inspired my own flickering flame of creativity and I took my first fledging steps with writing my first book at the age of 13…from memory I think I got all the way to page 5, before giving up! 

It took many, many years for me to return to writing, the years in-between that included a fine art degree in sculpture – and over 20 years working as a graphic artist and art director in the computer games industry. I co-founded two award winning studios and got my my name in the credits of over 40 published games. I even had international number one best sellers. Call me fickle but that wasn’t enough for me!

The problem was that those early childhood experiences has stuffed my head with dreams. That, and my desire to write had never left me. I have journals, poems, short stories, scattered across those years, that helped to keep my writing passion smouldering. 

And then a moment arrives in your life when you reach a crossroads – and I did. One route would have have taken me forward in the world of computer games. But the other led towards the distant mountains of my imagination – in other words – my writing. You can probably guess which decision I made, and it’s one I’ve never ever regretted. One of my many, many personal mottos, is to not live life like it’s a dress rehearsal, but to do it, and do it now.

But writing, as anyone who does it will tell you, is not for the faint hearted. It’s a twisting path, where you have to face many challenges and overcome them. It has taken me over 7 years to get my first publishing contract. But every step on that long journey had to be taken, was part of my personal journey of discovery, as I proved myself as writer, honed my ability, and most importantly of all, discovered my author’s voice.


With the publication of my first book, Cloud Riders, a long cherished dream has finally come true. Those early sci-fi influences are in there, as are a period I had of flying light aircraft and microlights. As a writer you tap your whole life experience, all that you are, but there is something more than that…you learn to listen to your novel as you write it – something I call book whispering. Why whispering? Because sometimes your book whispers to you, so you better listen carefully what it wants you to do! I love that alchemy of story telling and as you’ll probably tell if you read my work, when I write I’m actually there, experiencing what my characters do. The strong visual style of my writing has a lot to do with the disciplines I learned as an art director.

Now today when I hold Cloud Riders in my hands, I hold the dreams of young lad who dared to believe, and although he didn’t become as astronaut, has gone to places just as incredible in his imagination. And without doubt being a writer is one of the best jobs in this, or any other world.


About the Author: Nick Cook is an author currently lost rambling somewhere along the twisted path of his imagination. Has been known to visit Earth for good company and great coffee.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Children's/Teens Book Picks - UK Post Two



Derek Landy - Armageddon Outta Here ( The World of Skulduggery Pleasant)  - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (3 July 2014) 
One AMAZING new novella.
Three GRIPPING new stories.
In the ULTIMATE story collection.
We all know that doors are for people with no imagination so smash the glass, climb through the window and enter the awesome world of Skulduggery Pleasant with this ultimate story collection.
For the first time, every Skulduggery Pleasant short story – plus The End of the World, the World Book Day novelette – is collected into one magnificent volume. But that's not all…
Written specially for this collection, there is an entirely new novella that will drag you into a nail-biting American horror story, Skulduggery-style, and three brand-spanking-new stories spanning the last 150 years. Join Gordon Edgley as he parties like it's 1985, watch Valkyrie Cain face a vampire in a fight to the death, and see the Dead Men as you've never seen them before. And then read the exclusive chapter from the final book…
Introduced by Derek, these are the hidden stories of the skeleton who saves the world… and the girl who's destined to destroy it.


Zoe Marriott - Darkness Hidden ( The name of the Blade) - Walker (3 July 2014)
Against all odds, Mio, Jack and Shinobu have defeated the terrifying Nekomata and got home alive. But Mio is still compelled to protect the katana, and now the Underworld has spawned a worse monster - one carrying a devastating plague that sweeps through London like wildfire. As Mio struggles to protect the city and control the sword's deadly powers, she realizes that this time there is no way she can keep everyone she loves out of the line of fire.


Charlie Fletcher - Dragon Shield Bk 1 - Published by Hodder Children's Books (3 July 2014)
The start of a thrilling, action-packed trilogy from Charlie Fletcher, set in a world where statues come to life and dragons and heroes battle.
Something dark has woken in the British Museum, and it has stopped time, literally freezing the city in its tracks. The people are there, but unmoving, unseeing - like statues. The statues, on the other hand, can move, and are astonished at what they see.
In the Great Ormond Street Hospital, Will and Jo are suddenly plunged into this world of statues - and find themselves pursued by murderous dragons. With help from a couple of friendly statues, Will and Jo must escape the evil that stalks them in the streets of London.
With beautiful illustrations by Nick Tankard.


Emily Carroll Through the Woods - Published by Faber & Faber (3 July 2014)
It came from the woods. Most strange things do.'
Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there...

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Random Children's and Teen Picks - July 2014 - UK Post


Amy McCulloch - The Shadow's Curse - Published by Corgi Children's - 3, July 2014
Raim is no closer to figuring out the meaning of the broken vow that sentenced him to exile for life. But with his former best friend now a tyrannical Khan who is holding the girl Raim loves captive, he finds it hard to care. Every day, he and Draikh learn more about their powers, but it quickly becomes clear that he will never be able to stop Khareh and free Wadi unless he can free himself from the ultimate taboo of his people. Reluctantly, Raim begins the long journey down to the dangerous South, to find the maker of his oath.

In Khareh's camp, Wadi is more than capable of devising her own escape plan, but she's gradually realizing she might not want to. The more she learns about Khareh, the more confused she becomes. He's done unquestionably bad things, horrific even, but he's got big dreams for Darhan that might improve their dire situation. What's more, rumours of a Southern king massing an army to invade Darhan are slowly gaining ground. Only if the Northern tribes can come together under a single ruler will they have the strength to fight the South - but what if that ruler is an impulsive (albeit brilliant) young man, barely able to control his ever-growing power, and missing the one part of him that might keep him sane? Whoever conquers the desert, wins the war. And the secret to desert survival lies in Lazar, which is set to become the heart of a great battle once again.


Polly Ho-Yen  - Boy in the Tower - Published by Doubleday Childrens 3, July 2014
When they first arrived, they came quietly and stealthily as if they tip-toed into the world when we were all looking the other way.
Ade loves living at the top of a tower block. From his window, he feels like he can see the whole world stretching out beneath him.
His mum doesn't really like looking outside - but it's going outside that she hates.
She's happier sleeping all day inside their tower, where it's safe.
But one day, other tower blocks on the estate start falling down around them and strange, menacing plants begin to appear.
Now their tower isn't safe anymore. Ade and his mum are trapped and there's no way out . . .


Simon Rae - Medusa's Butterfly - Published by Yearling 3, July 2014
A box is left on Marcus's doorstep in the rain. Fussy Aunt Hester has told Marcus not to open the front door under any circumstances. But she's out - and just this once can't hurt . . . can it?
Except the parcel isn't embroidery supplies for Aunt Hester. Or fishing tackle for Uncle Frank. Whatever is in there, it's alive. And it's ANGRY.


The thing in the box sends Marcus's life spinning horrifyingly out of control ­- controlling his mind and testing his will so that every moment is deadly. Can Marcus overcome the pull of the Gorgon's gaze, and use her power for good? Because he received that box for a reason ­- but he must find out what it is, before the terrible, beautiful Medusa turns everyone he holds dear to stone . . . and then comes for him.


John Flanagan - Brotherband: Slaves of Socorro - Published by Yearling 3, July 2014
When the Heron brotherband become the Skandian duty ship to the Kingdom of Araluen, they're excited at the challenges ahead. Hal, Stig, Thorn and the Herons eagerly set off for the trip - with an unexpected new crew member aboard. But an enemy from their past returns, causing the Herons to be thrown into a dangerous quest to free captured Araluans from the slave market in Socorro. Even with the help of an Araluan Ranger, the task may be too much.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Book Review: Seventeen Coffins - By Philip Caveney


We have just moved on from Crow Boy, the first book, to find that Tom has wasted no time falling head first into another nightmarish adventure in and around Mary King's Close, Edinburgh. It all starts off with that familiar feeling, where the world shudders around him; that horrible sensation as he finds himself lost and lonely once more. 

The book is loosely based on historical places, events and people just like the first book 'Crow Boy'. It isn't really necessary to read this book first, but it may help if you do so, in my opinion. Besides which it is a great book and well worth the read anyway. The narrative begins at the National Museum of Scotland. A place with so much mystery - what might Tom find? It all starts with the eight tiny coffins that were discovered at Arthur's Seat in 1836. There is a tiny figure in each one; they soon become a very significant part of the ongoing story. You'll find that your curiosity increases as you are flung into the world of the past.

Philip uses his creative imagination exceptionally well to weave many elements into a captivating story. The nineteenth century comes alive through three dimensional descriptions of sight, sound and smell. Each aspect enables you to really visualise the place and time of the story. Philip creates an intelligent and very interesting read. 

The magical time travelling adventure will suck you from modern day time into the nineteenth century within a blink of an eye. Tom finds himself running from his old nemesis, the bogus plague doctor, William McSweeny, as well as other unsavoury characters from the past. Without giving too much away, these are definitely my favourite characters from the book; they bring a dark and moody feeling to the story which is SO good. I really loved this section of the book.

I have nothing negative to say about this book; it is a great sequel to Crow Boy. Easy to follow, yet it also has a great historical insight to it. Fast-paced dialogue between the characters keeps the storyline flowing. Whilst the mysterious element and edge to the plot keeps you rooted to the end. The story is based around a dark world full of shady characters - it is a struggle for survival. Beware though . . . . there are some gruesome encounters that will have you running for cover.

A lighter and more playful side to the story also exists such as Tom teaching his new friends twentieth-century slang; this section is particularly well written and rather funny. This story has all of the right ingredients to entice anyone and everyone to read it. Interesting, educational and a ripping good adventure that will fill your head. Poor Tom finds that time is once more slipping away from him. Hopefully this will soon lead us to another adventure very soon.  

Published by Fledgling Press (22 April 2014)

Other books by Philip Caveney
Sebastian Darke Series:
About Philip Caveney
Philip Caveney was born in North Wales in 1951. The son of an RAF officer, he spent much of his childhood travelling the length and breadth of Britain and spent several years in Malaysia and Singapore.

He attended Kelsterton College Of Art in North Wales where he obtained a diploma in Graphic Design. Whilst there, he became drummer (and latterly vocalist) with rock band, Hieronymus Bosch.
After leaving college, he worked extensively in theatre both in London and Wales and wrote the lyrics for rock adaptations of The Workhouse Donkey and Oscar Wilde's Salome.
His first novel, The Sins Of Rachel Ellis, was published in 1977. Since then, he has published many novels for adults and since 2007, a series of children's books that have sold all over the world.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Guest Post: My Literary Hero Ray Bradbury by Philip Caveney



My Literary Hero by Philip Caveney

Picture this. 

I’m fourteen years old and I’m stuck in a boarding school in Peterborough, while my parents are on an airbase somewhere in Malaysia, where they’ll live and work for the next three years. The school is a horrible place. Put aside all that nonsense you read in Mallory Towers. This is a barbaric hellhole where corporal punishment is an everyday occurrence and where even the prefects have permission to slipper your backside for misdemeanours like slovenliness and tardiness and… well, just not looking quite right. I really shouldn’t name the place because that would be unprofessional but… it’s called The King’s School, Peterborough. We kids have other, more inventive names for it.

Naturally, I long to escape, but I can’t do that physically, not unless I want to be virtually caned insensible, so I’ve devised a method of freeing my mind. I simply go to the well-stocked library, select a book and promptly lose myself in it. Because a book can take you anywhere in the world and even, out of it.

One day I pick up a book that will change my life forever. It’s called Something Wicked This Way Comes and it’s by Ray Bradbury.

Now, I’m not a complete novice when it comes to Mr B. The very first thing I was given to read at ‘big school’ was The Fog Horn, from his short story collection, The Golden Apples of the Sun, so I already know he’s good. But this book… this book is different. This book blows me out of my little socks. This book is midnight carnivals and mirror mazes, blind witches and haunted carousels, it’s Mr Cooger and Mr Darke’s Pandemonium Shadow Show and it is every wonderful twisted thing that every teenage boy desires. I breathe it in like oxygen for the soul. It is genius. It is perfect. And when I have finished reading it, I think a very strange thought: this is what I want to do with my life. I want to be a writer!

I start, pretty much there and then. I start with short stories, which I read to my classmates after lights out (8 pm, no exceptions) with the aid of a contraband torch. I listen to their criticisms and then I write another story and another one, hoping that each time I’ll get more positive comments and after a while, I decide it’s time to have go at a novel. That doesn’t really work, not the first time, but I have the bit between my teeth now and I think, I’m going to keep doing this until I’m good enough to be published.

It takes me ten years.

Picture this. It’s 1983 and I’m working as a film critic for Piccadilly Radio. I’ve published a couple of books by now and they’ve done okay. I’m really excited because today I’m reviewing the long awaited film adaptation of Something Wicked This Way Comes, directed by Jack Clayton and starring Jonathan Pryce as Mr Darke. I’ve waited over twenty years for this moment.

And sadly, inevitably, it’s really disappointing. It’s disappointing mainly because it’s not the succession of images I’ve carried around in my head for so long. I knew how each scene should look. I had filmed it with my brain, over and over until I got it perfect. I feel so strongly about it that I go home and I write a letter to Ray Bradbury himself, courtesy of his publishers, expressing my dissatisfaction and telling him how important his book was to me. How dare somebody make a lacklustre version of his masterpiece? How dare they? 

Against all the odds, he writes back to me, a lovely long letter, warm and sincere, thanking me for taking the trouble to write and telling me that he agrees, the film hasn’t quite caught what he was trying to do, but that this is the best attempt yet to get one of his books into a movie theatre and maybe the best he can ever hope for. I still have that letter, it’s one of my most treasured objects.

Picture this. It’s 2013 and I’m on holiday in Spain. Glancing at Facebook on my phone, I notice that one of my friends has just said, ‘Phil Caveney is going to be so sad to hear this news.’ But because of a glitch in the system, I can’t find the original post my friend was referring to. What can possibly have happened? And then it dawns on me. It must be Uncle Ray. And sure enough, the news is soon confirmed. Ray Bradbury has died. He was 91 years old, so he had, what people call, ‘a good innings.’

It’s a bad day when your childhood hero dies. You somehow think they’ll live forever. And many will argue that Ray will do exactly that, because his books will always be around. But will they? I am constantly dismayed when I go into a school to do workshops only to discover that none of the kids have heard of him (in some schools, none of the teachers, either!) In every school I visit, I urge the pupils to read Something Wicked. I tell them what a wonderful work of imagination it is. And I tell them how that book changed my life.


And now, I suppose, I’m saying it to you, dear reader. If you haven’t caught up with this classic fantasy novel, why not give it a shot? Trust me. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Mr Ripley's New Fantasy Book Picks - July 2104 - Post One



Joe Abercrombie - Half a King ( Shattered Sea, Book One ) - Published by Harper Voyager (3 July 2014)
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…


Jon Robinson - Anywhere (Nowhere Book 2) Published by Penguin (3 July 2014
'We're miles from anywhere, and we don't have a clue where we're going' Deep in a snow-covered forest Alyn, Jes, Ryan and Elsa have escaped from prison. Now they're being hunted. They quickly realise they have a special talent - they can control the world around them.Now they must use this skill to stop themselves falling into greater danger. But can they master it before their deadly enemies close in - for good? This gripping sequel will leave you clamouring for the next instalment. Jon Robinson was born in Middlesex in 1983. When he's not writing, he works for a charity in central London.



Lindsey Barraclough - The Mark of Cain - Published by Bodley Head (3 July 2014)

1567

Aphra is not a normal child. Found abandoned as a baby among the reeds and rushes, the two outcast witches who raise her in their isolated cottage are never sure if she was born, or just pushed up through the foul, black mud for them to find. Little Aphra's gifts in the dark craft are clear, even as an infant, but soon even her guardians begin to fear her.

When a violent fire destroys their home, Aphra is left to fend for herself. Years of begging and stealing make her strong, but they also make her bitter, for she is shunned and feared by everyone she meets.

Until she reaches Bryers Guerdon and meets the man they call Long Lankin - the leper. Ostracized and tormented, he is the only person willing to help her.

And together, they plot their revenge.


1962

Four years have passed since the death of Ida Guerdon, and Cora is back in Bryers Guerdon in the manor house her aunt left to her. It is a cold, bitter winter, and the horrifying events of that sweltering summer in 1958 seem long past.

Until Cora's father arranges for some restoration work to take place at Guerdon Hall, and it seems that something hidden there long ago has been disturbed. The spirit of Aphra Rushes - intent on finishing what she began, four centuries ago.



Paul Durham - The Luck Uglies - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (3 July 2014) - See Review.
Luck Uglies was a name whispered around the docks and darkest taverns, places the law dare not tread…
Rye has grown up hearing the legend of the Luck Uglies – notorious deadly outlaws who once stalked the streets. Now they have faded to ghosts and rumours and Rye isn’t sure they ever existed. Then on the night of the Black Moon, a mysterious stranger known only as Harmless, steps from the shadows to save Rye’s life and Rye learns that sometimes it takes a villain to save you from the monsters…
Enter a thrilling world of secrets and fantastical adventure from a phenomenal new writing talent.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Book Review: Nigel McDowell - The Black North - Published by Hot Key Books



Book Review: After reading Nigel's debut novel last year, TALL TALES FROM PITCH END, I was very interested to see what the author would dream up next. I was not really expecting this latest story, to be honest, but what a fantastic read. Like the first novel, the author in my opinion delivers a unique insight into a fantasy world that captivates the reader on so many levels. This is an atmospheric dark tale that will sweep you off your feet in many different ways.

This is a fast paced, mystical adventure that is very surreal but, also at times, rather confusing as some of the characters that you thought were dead magically reappear! This might have been a trick of my own imagination, but nevertheless, this made for an explosive epic battle. 

One strength of the story was the author's overly wild imagination which is deployed to fantastic effect; lots of detailed backstory and a plot that hooked me from the very beginning.

The characters are absolutely brilliant. Many of them should have a stand-alone book written just for them. Bizarre creatures have been depicted within this book, such as the Briar-Witches, that really will scare the pants of you. I particularly liked the 'Master of the Big House' and his stone statue sister; they lifted the story for me. On a number of occasions, I found myself giggling in a mad and demonic sort of way. 

Nigel paints a picture of a complex world that is crumbling into nothingness; a powerful force of evil that the human race need to fight. All of which is told with some elements of folklore and dark magic but within a fairytale style. This blend reads like one big nightmare. Told from the point of Oona, a female heroine who is stubborn and strong - she is a match for anyone as she lead us through this fantastic tale. This is a story for every reader with a vivacious appetite for the unimaginable and the terrifying. It was a huge hit with me and one that I would thoroughly recommend. 

Book Synopsis:
The Divided Isle, once a place of peace and tranquillity, has been ravaged by war. Twins Oona and Morris live with their grandmother in a stone cottage in the quiet southern county of Drumbroken, but the threat of the Invaders of the Black North - the ravaged northern part of the island - is coming ever closer. When Morris, fighting against the Invaders, is kidnapped by one of the evil Briar Witches, Oona must journey to the unknown realms of the Black North in search of her brother. She is accompanied only by Merrigutt, a jackdaw with mysterious transformative powers, and a treasured secret possession: a small stone in the shape of a plum, but a stone that reveals truths and nightmares, and which the Invaders and their ruler, the King of the North, seek more than anything. Oona must keep the stone safe at all costs, and find her brother, before the King of the North extends his evil hold over the whole island and destroys it forever.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Book Cover Preview: Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull: Book 2 by Jonathan Stroud - UK/ US COVER and GERMAN


UK COVER - Published by Doubleday Children's (25 Sep 2014) -  This is to tie in with this summer (July) release of The Screaming Staircase in paperback in the UK and across the world. For the UK market, Random House has designed a new look – a striking image of Lockwood  himself slightly silhouetted with the moon behind him. This bold new look promises to attract a new sets of fans, and is sure to grab the eye of younger readers too.



Book Synopsis: 
When the dead return to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in.
A series of grisly thefts have been taking place across the capital: powerful supernatural artefacts have been stolen, and their warders murdered. In an atmosphere of mounting panic, a mysterious skull in an iron box is unearthed in Kensal Green Cemetery.
Witnesses hear it whispering urgently, but the words cannot be understood. Lockwood & Co. will have to use all their ingenuity and skill to uncover the secret of the whispering skull.



US COVER - Published by  Disney Press (16 Sep 2014) - So what do we think?  



German Cover - Published by cbj (27. Oktober 2014) - Another interesting book cover.

Wenn Londons Geisterwelt erwacht
Dank des spektakulären Erfolgs im Fall der seufzenden Wendeltreppe ist Lockwood & Co. nun eine der angesagtesten Geisteragenturen Londons. Doch inzwischen wird die Metropole bereits von einer Reihe neuer grausiger Ereignisse erschüttert: In einer beispiellosen Diebstahlserie werden mächtige magische Artefakte entwendet und deren Hüter grausam ermordet. Als dann auch noch auf einem Friedhof ein schauerlich eiserner Sarg geborgen wird, dessen Inhalt unter mysteriösen Umständen verschwindet, steht fest: Ein klarer Fall für Lockwood & Co.! Nur wenn das Team um Anthony Lockwood, Lucy und George ihre ganze Genialität im Umgang mit übernatürlichen Ereignissen in die Wagschale wirft, kann es ihnen gelingen, die Verschwörung, die hinter all dem steckt, aufzudecken.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Recommended Book Read: Jan Siegel - The Devil's Apprentice - Ravenstone



The Devil is retiring... but who’s taking over? When teenage Pen inherits the job of caretaker for a London building with no doors and only a secret entrance from the caretaker’s lodge – which she must never use – little does she know it will lead her into unbelievable danger. For Azmordis, also known as Satan, a spirit as old as time and as powerful as the Dark, Immortality is running out.

In the house with no front door, a group of teenagers are trapped in assorted dimensions of myth and history, undergoing the trials that will shape them to step into his cloven footwear – or destroy them. Assisted by only by an aspiring teenage chef called Gavin and Jinx, a young witch with more face-piercing than fae-power, Pen must try to stop the Devil’s deadly game plan – before it’s too late.

By turns very funny, very scary and always thrilling, this is an incredible return to YA for Siegel. Brilliant five star entertainment. 

Published by Ravenstone (10 Oct 2013)

About The Author: Jan Siegel is a pseudonym of Amanda Hemingway (born 1955 in London, UK). Jan Siegel has written in several different genres under several different pseudonyms, but fantastical realism remains her preferred form of fiction. She also works as a poet, journalist, freelance editor, and occasional teacher, her interests covering a wide range of subjects including horse riding, adventure travel and wildlife conservation. First published at an early age, she has spent her life accumulating assorted experiences and then not writing about them. It has been said that an academic is someone who knows a lot about a little, while a writer is someone who knows a little about a lot. Siegel claims she knows very little about a hell of a lot. An idealist, she is continuously surprised to find fact stranger than fiction and real human beings even more bizarre than any character in a book.

Other Books:
  1. Prospero's Children (1999)
  2. The Dragon-Charmer (2000)
  3. The Witch's Honour, published in US as The Witch Queen (2002)