Thursday, 30 March 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Interview With Author Amy Ephron - The Castle In the Mist



Welcome, Amy Ephron, to Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. Amy is an American author and her first novel for children The Castle in the Mist was published back in February 2017 by Philomel, Penguin Kids. The international bestselling author has kindly taken the time to answer some questions about her first children's novel and her writing. Castle in the Mist is an enchanting book that takes you on a fantastical journey into the realms of magic and beyond. Come and have a read to find out what it's all about and to inspire you to pick up a copy and give it a read. 

How would you sum up The Castle in the Mist to potential readers? 

I call “The Castle in the Mist” a modern-day mash-up of an old-fashioned children’s novel. It has one foot in the real world and another foot in… 
Call it magic or fantasy (or might they have imagined it, after all?) When I was little, I thought of books as magical places I could get lost in and I also thought that the characters and the places were real. (I still do sort of think this.)

I wanted to try to do a modern-day version, like Oz or Half Magic, all of which mix the real world with one that may be magical or fantastic two American kids, Tess & Max are sent to stay with their Aunt Evie in Hampshire, England. Tess discovers a key that lets her into the garden of a castle where she meets a young boy, just her age, also eleven, who is just as lonely as she is. 


A lot of magical things happen at the castle. Wishes sometimes do come true. And William warns her, and rightly so, to stay away from the hawthorn trees. And, also, tells her to keep the key because you never know when you might need it. 


One magical night, when there’s a blue moon, a blood moon, and a super moon all at once, strange things start to happen in the sky. Tess’s brother Max is mesmerised by the eclipse of the full moon and, by mistake, he steps into the hawthorn trees and simply disappears. And William runs after him, and he, too, disappears, and Tess has to figure out how to save them as the castle starts to disappear in the mist…. 


And I can’t tell you what happens after that… 


What would the main character in your book have to say about you? 

I would hope that Tess would want me to invite her to stay with me for the summer!! And that she would think that magical things might happen. 

What is important to you, when you write a good story? 

Place, tone, character, voice, that all of them seem real. I do believe that some of the books I love are real, the Oz really exists, that The Secret Garden is almost a work of non-fiction, that Mary Poppins was real and the Banks’ kids never grew up. 
I think the most important thing to me though is voice – how you choose to tell a story. “The Castle in the Mist” is told by a narrator, third person omniscient, which means that the narrator can sometimes see into the character’s heads. It, too, is a little old-fashioned. But some of my favorite books, like Stendahl’s The Red and the Black, are told by a third person narrator. And in the case of “The Castle in the Mist,” it allows for an amazing overview of all of the character’s lives, fears, strengths, and points of view. 

What does magic look like to you? 

Wishing for something and having it come true; coincidences that cannot be easily explained; the mere existence of love; a classroom of kids excited about learning and reading. I think it’s also a magical fact that Mr. Ripley, who I believe lives in England, thinks that I could successfully construct and craft a book set in England. (I have been to England and Hampshire a number of times though and it is a somewhat magical place.) I think Mr. Ripley believes in magic, too.


Does your book have a lesson or a moral behind it? 

Many. Believing in yourself; believing wishes can come true; trusting your instincts; paying attention to past lessons you might have learned (from your parents, teachers, your own experience) and realizing that those lessons can help you/guide you when you may have a problem. Also, believing that the best results occur when we work together. And a funny mantra for me, hash-tagged for modernity 
#believeinmagic.




What did you edit out of this book? 
There were a few flashbacks to Tess and Max’s) earlier semester at boarding school in Switzerland. My editor, Jill Santopolo, and publisher, Michael Green, both felt that the book read better, adventured better, without them. I do deeply miss Mr. Matheson, Tess’s history teacher in Switzerland, and am trying to figure out if he can make a guest appearance if I ever were to write another one… 

Have you written any other books that have not been published? 

I have written a number of novels that have been published – “A Cup of Tea,” based on a Katherine Mansfield short story (which I bought the rights to.); White Rose/una rosa blanca, set in Cuba in 1897, a novel based on a true story; One Sunday Morning, also period, set in New York City in the twenties; a book of essays, “Loose Diamonds,” some of which originally appeared in The New York Times’ and Vogue. I do have a couple of unfinished, not quite half-done manuscripts that may or may not ever go back to. I have a secret book of poetry that I’ve never shown anyone, at all. 

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process? 

I can’t really speak to that. I know when a cover is just perfect for a book. “A Wrinkle in Time” comes to mind. For me, the hard copy cover of “A Cup of Tea” was simply gorgeous and perfect. I love the cover of “The Castle in the Mist” and the interior maps. I was incredibly touched – I had to do a mock-up of the map for the artist and I hand-lettered it, so he could see the castle was a castle, Aunt Evie’s house was Aunt Evie’s house, the invisible wall, the hawthorn trees... And he liked my handwriting so much that he recreated it for the map. And then Philomel created a downloadable font so that’s actually my handwriting in the chapter headings in the book, which I think is very fun and I’m very touched by it! 

What are you working on at the moment? 

That’s a secret. But I promise you, as soon as I can tell, I will!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Middle-Grade Book Picks March 2017 - US Published Post Two

Karuna Riazi - The Gauntlet - Published by Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (March 28, 2017) ISBN-13: 978-1481486965

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

Gordon Korman - Masterminds: Payback - Published by Balzer + Bray (March 7, 2017) ISBN-13: 978-0062300058

The thrilling finale to the New York Times-bestselling Masterminds series from middle grade star author Gordon Korman. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and James Patterson. 
After a serious betrayal from one of their former friends, the clones of Project Osiris are on the run again. Now separated into pairs, Eli and Tori and Amber and Malik are fighting to survive in the real world.
Amber and Malik track down the one person they think can help them prove the existence of Project Osiris, notorious mob boss Gus Alabaster, also known as Malik’s DNA donor. But as Malik gets pulled into the criminal world—tantalized by hints of a real family—his actions put him and Amber into greater danger.
Eli and Tori get sucked into even bigger conspiracies as they hunt down Project Osiris’s most closely guarded secrets—who does Eli’s DNA come from? With a surprising new ally and another cross-country adventure, the four will have to work together to overcome the worst parts of themselves if they are going to end Project Osiris once and for all.

T . Ariyanna - The Mage's Son (Of Magic) - Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 17, 2017)  ISBN-13: 978-1543295627


Harry Potter clashes with Beauty and the Beast in T. Ariyanna’s stunning steampunk debut... 

Arion was born different. After enduring years of torment at the hands of his abusive father, the arrival of his thirteenth birthday reveals a shocking secret... he has magic. Arion discovers he’s a Mage, a magical person able to craft intricate pieces of technology and do incredible things.

Arion is hopeful that maybe, his newfound abilities will help him fit in for the first time in his life. 
Then a rouge spell goes awry, and Arion is unable to contain its consequences. Arion finds himself scarred with the face of a beast and fighting to contain a malicious, wisecracking demon, who’s taken up refuge inside his head. Declared a devil by the townspeople, Arion flees to an enchanted castle hidden within a dark forest. He continues to practice magic, while attempting to win the heart of Kaitlyn, the kindly maiden who has befriended him. But can Kaitlyn’s beauty tame the evil inside? After all, who could ever love a monster? 

Carol Goodman - The Metropolitans - Published by Viking Books for Young Readers (March 14, 2017) ISBN-13: 978-1101997666

The day Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, four thirteen-year-olds converge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where an eccentric curator is seeking four uncommonly brave souls to track down the hidden pages of the Kelmsbury Manuscript, an ancient book of Arthurian legends that lies scattered within the museum's collection, and that holds the key to preventing a second attack on American soil.  


When Madge, Joe, Kiku, and Walt agree to help, they have no idea that the Kelmsbury is already working its magic on them. But they begin to develop extraordinary powers and experience the feelings of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, and Lancelot: courage, friendship, love...and betrayal.  Are they playing out a legend that's already been lived, over and over, across the ages?  Or can the Metropolitans forge their own story?

Monday, 27 March 2017

STEFAN MOHAMED - STANLY'S GHOST BLOG TOUR - DAY ONE GUEST POST - WRITING WITH SUPERPOWERS

Cynical and solitary Stanly Bird used to be a fairly typical teenager – unless you count the fact that his best friend was a talking beagle named Daryl. Then came the superpowers and the superpowered allies as well as the mysterious enemies and the terrifying monsters. 
Stanley's Ghost is book three in the Bitter Sixteen series, which hit the superpower charged world on the 15 March 2017, and is published by the mighty Salt Publishing. Get your capes on and follow us on a super powered fuelled journey of words and wisdom with the #STANLYSGHOST blog tour.


The UK blog tour has the first stop here with a cracking post by Stefan on writing with Superpowers.
One of the most common criticisms levelled at the character of Superman is that he’s just too powerful. He’s the strongest, the fastest, the eye laser-est, he’s functionally invulnerable – where’s the drama? There are only so many times you can have Lex Luthor trick him into eating Kryptonite porridge. Surely if a character can immediately overcome anything using his superpowers, it just sucks the tension and excitement from the story? This is also an oft-cited reason for why it’s so hard to write decent stories for the Man of Steel.

To be sure, introducing powers into a story, whether those are magical powers, Gamma radiation powers or solar-assisted eye laser powers, complicates things. While supernatural abilities open up whole new vistas of opportunity for creativity, they also create headaches. What are the rules? What are the limits? Are there limits? If there are, how do you define them without getting bogged down in minutiae, and how do you ensure that you don’t break your own rules? If there aren’t, how do you create tension? 
In Bitter Sixteen, the first book in my superhero trilogy, dysfunctional Welsh teenager Stanly is the recipient of superpowers on his sixteenth birthday, specifically the powers of flight and telekinesis. His progress through the story, mastering his new abilities and discovering their scope, is slow and bumpy. By the time of the newly released final installment, Stanly’s Ghost, his powers have grown to a fearsome level. Arguably, at this point, few could stand against him. 
So how do you maintain drama with a protagonist that strong? Well, while the practical aspects of superpowers are of course important – a story needs to have internal consistency, especially when one is already asking readers to suspend their disbelief – they cannot be the be-all and end-all. There are only so many structural obstacles, i.e. the Kryptonite stopping Superman from doing the thing, that can be thrown up before our attention starts to wander. And while conflict between two superpowered people that is based purely on how much stronger one is than the other, and how much hotter one dude’s eye lasers are, can certainly be exciting and visceral and make for a stunning set piece, drama rooted in emotional conflict, moral dilemmas and thematic concerns is always going to be more compelling, and leave a more lasting impression. That, to me, is how you tell a good story with a superpowered, even overpowered protagonist – by making sure that it remains emotionally resonant. 

So with this in mind, throughout the writing process, I always tried to focus on Stanly’s feelings. The question of what he can do with his powers, what he’s capable of, should always go hand-in-hand with the question of what he should be doing, whether he should push his powers to their limit or perhaps impose limits on himself. To me, someone deliberately limiting themselves for moral reasons is inherently more compelling than someone being limited by outside forces. Which problems can Stanly solve with his powers? Which problems should he solve? Which should he avoid? Who is an acceptable target? Who isn’t? If a character is torn about whether or not they should act, that immediately creates interest. Of course, someone who decides to crack on regardless, perhaps on dubious ethical grounds (see the juxtaposition of Buffy and Faith’s rather different approaches to their work in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) can also be compelling, but again it should be rooted in emotion and moral choices. 

That being said, a story does still require external obstacles. As Stanly’s abilities have developed, the world around him has grown more complicated, and problems have arisen that can’t easily be solved with superpowers. In fact, when you stop to think about it, how many of the daily challenges we face could simply be solved with superpowers, without us having to in some way reject the moral consensus and laws that govern a civilised society? Yes, we could simply fly away from our problems, but that doesn’t solve them. Yes, we could choose to psychically punch everybody who gets in our way, but it’s kind of difficult to call ourselves ‘good’ if we do that. A straightforward smashy smashy monster fighting actioner is certainly worthwhile. I loves me some big set pieces and splash page action. But in order to be truly indelible, to touch us emotionally, to be one of those stories that remains a touchstone, the monster, and the powers used to defeat it, should mean more to us. The monster needs to be a consequence of something, a manifestation of something, a symptom of a bigger problem, an element of a larger question. 

By all means, give your character huge, crazy powers. Good drama, good stories, can be found anywhere. Superman is not intrinsically compelling because he can punch asteroids. More interesting, surely, is the question of why he chooses to punch the asteroid.

What is at stake? 
What will happen if he decides not to act? 
What does he have to lose?


Day 2 - 28 March 2017 - http://thepewterwolf.blogspot.co.uk

Day 3 - 29 March 2017 - http://www.bartsbookshelf.co.uk

Day 4 - 30 March 2017 - https://ifthesebookscouldtalk.com

Day 5 - 31 March 2017 - http://www.talesofyesterday.co.uk

Stefan Mohamed is an author, poet and sometime journalist. He graduated 
from Kingston University in 2010 with a first class degree in creative 
writing and film studies, and later that year won the inaugural Sony 
Reader Award, a category of the Dylan Thomas Prize, for his novel Bitter 
Sixteen. He lives in Bristol.

Author Website: http://stefmo.co.uk
Publisher Website: https://www.saltpublishing.com

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Middle-Grade Book Picks March 2017 - US Published Post One

Raymond Arroyo - Will Wilder #2: The Lost Staff of Wonders - Published by Crown Books for Young Readers (March 7, 2017)

Twelve-year-old Will Wilder is back to protect the town of Perilous Falls from another ancient evil—the fearsome demon, Amon.
 
When the storied Staff of Moses—responsible for summoning the plagues of ancient Egypt—vanishes from the museum in Perilous Falls, Will Wilder is suspect number one. Desperate to prove his innocence and stop the thief from unleashing terrors upon the town of Perilous Falls, Will must use his supernatural gift to locate the beast—but it’s nowhere to be found.
 
As the river runs with blood, sharp-toothed frogs surround his home, and clouds of swarming gnats choke the streets, Will must rely on his supernatural ability, everything he learned from his training, and help from his friends, siblings, and Great-Aunt Lucille to find the missing staff and unmask the hidden evil before time runs out for all of them. 

Scott Westerfeld - Horizon (Horizon, Book 1) - Published by Scholastic, (March 28, 2017) 

This harrowing tale of supernatural suspense kicks off a new series from the visionary mind of #1 New York Times bestselling author Scott Westerfeld.

When a plane crash-lands in the arctic, eight young survivors step from the wreckage expecting to see nothing but ice and snow. Instead they find themselves lost in a strange jungle with no way to get home and little hope of rescue.

Food is running out. Water is scarce. And the jungle is full of threats unlike anything the survivors have ever seen before -- from razor-beaked shredder birds to carnivorous vines and much, much worse.

With danger at every turn, these eight kids must learn to work together to survive. But cliques and rivalries threaten to tear them apart. And not everyone will make it out of the jungle alive.

BONUS! In the Horizon multi platform experience, you're not just reading about the castaways, you're one of them. Join the race for survival in the FREE game, available on your browser and as an app.

Adrianne Strickland & Michael Miller - Shadow Run - Published by Delacorte Press (March 21, 2017)

Firefly meets Dune in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can't resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he's a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they're more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev's mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she'll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power--and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew. 


Tania Del Rio (Author) Will Staehle (Illustrator) - Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods: A Novel - Published by Quirk Books (March 21, 2017)

Warren the 13th is back in another lushly illustrated middle grade adventure.
In the spirit of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, this fast-paced and beautifully-designed sequel to Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye is packed with nonstop action, adventure, and mystery for middle-grade readers. Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his belove

d hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends—and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles, all accompanied by stunning illustrations and gorgeous design from Will Staehle on every page.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle Grade Book Picks (9-12yrs) March 2017 - UK Post Two

Janine Beacham - Black Cats and Butlers: Book 1 (Rose Raventhorpe Investigates) - Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (9 Mar. 2017)

The Clockwork Sparrow meets Downton Abbey
When Rose Raventhorpe's beloved butler is found (gasp!) murdered in the hallway of her own house, she's determined to uncover the culprit. Especially since he's the third butler to die in a week! 
Rose's investigation leads her on a journey into a hidden world of grave robbers and duelling butlers, flamboyant magicians and the city's ancient feline guardians. 
Knives aren't just for cutting cucumber sandwiches, you know . . .

Guy Bass (Author) Lee Robinson (Illustrator) Goldenclaw (Spynosaur) - Published by Stripes Publishing (9 Mar. 2017)

From a land before time comes a hero for today … Spynosaur - he’s going to make crime extinct! 

A hilarious new series from award-winning author Guy Bass, perfect for fans of My Brother is a SuperheroThe Astounding Broccoli BoyDarkmouth and Hamish and the Worldstoppers

When Spynosaur locks up the last of the world’s worst criminal masterminds, all that’s left are a string of disappointingly undemanding novelty villains. With no one worthy of his super-spy skills, Amber’s worried that Spynosaur might give up spying altogether. Even Goldentoe, their last hope of a dastardly villain, admits to only pretending to be evil to win the heart of Shady Lady. Frantic that her dad has lost the will to spy, Amber convinces Goldentoe to make himself a more desirably dangerous suitor. With the help of the Science Ray and a sample of Spynosaur’s DNA, Goldentoe transforms himself into Goldenclaw, a formidable half-man, half dinosaur far more powerful than Spynosaur, and intent on a spot of world-ending asteroid flinging...

Christopher Edge - The Jamie Drake Equation - Published by Nosy Crow Ltd (2 Mar. 2017) - Book Cover by Matt Saunders  - Check out my book review HERE AND Worldday Guest post HERE


How amazing would it be to have a dad who's an astronaut? Rocket launches, zero gravity, and flying through space like a superhero! Jamie Drake's dad is orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station and Jamie ought to think it's cool but he just really misses him...Hanging out at his local observatory, Jamie picks up a strange signal on his phone. It looks like alien life is getting closer to home. But space is a dangerous place and when his dad's mission goes wrong, can Jamie prove that he's a hero too? A cosmic adventure for anyone who's ever looked at the stars, from the author of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright. Cover illustration by Matt Saunders.

Justine Windsor - Goodly and Grave in A Bad Case of Kidnap - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (9 Mar. 2017)

An archly funny, classic mystery adventure with a magic twist!
Lucy Goodly is the new boot girl at Grave Hall, working for the cold, aloof Lord Grave. The other staff – Vonk the Butler, Mrs Crawley the cook and Violet the scullery maid – all seem friendly but Lucy soon notices that strange things are afoot in her new home – and not just Mrs Crawley’s experimental anchovy omelettes. There are moving statues, magical books and Lord Grave has a secret. Meanwhile, all over the country, children are vanishing. Could the mystery of the missing children be linked to the strange goings-on? Lucy is determined to find out…

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Abi Elphinstone - The Night Spinner (Dreamsnatcher 3) - Book Review


In a ruined monastery in the northern wilderness, a Shadowmask called Wormhook sits in front of a spinning wheel. He is spinning a quilt of darkness known as the Veil. A masked figure then carries the Veil across the lands, slipping it through the windows of children’s bedrooms to poison their minds...

Meanwhile deep within Tanglefern Forest, Moll and her wildcat, Gryff, are waiting for a sign from the Old Magic before they continue their quest to find the last Amulet of Truth and free their world from the Shadowmasks’ terrible magic.
 
Still missing fellow Tribe member, Alfie, and armed only with a mysterious set of clues, Moll sets out on an adventure across the northern wilderness with Gryff and her friend Siddy at her side. They must brave the Lost Isles, scale the Barbed Peaks and face witches, goblins and giants who lurk at every turn . . . while the Shadowmasks draw ever closer.
 
Can Moll, Siddy and Gryff find the friend they think they have lost? And do the Tribe have what it takes to defeat the Dark magic once and for all?


We started out this little adventure back in book one, "The Dreamsnatcher", where we fell in love with the charming and endearing characters instantly. We followed them on a course of action and adventure; through a babbling brook of time towards a path of dark magic which ended in a cascading waterfall of evil mayhem and destruction. In book two, "The Shadow Keeper", we experienced an amazing flight of fantasy and imagination. We soared and dipped amongst the dizzy heights before finally ending up in an all-out action finale full of twists, turns and heart-stopping moments.

The path we undertook in this enduring story continues into the very last book with a breath of fresh Scottish air. As soon as you turn the first page, you will be instantly transported back to Tanglefern Forest, the safe place called home. Moll and her wildcat, Gryff, will need to set out once again in an all-out race against time in an epic battle to defeat the perils of dark magic. 

Instantly, you will travel the narrative to the rugged wind-swept landscape of Scotland, which was inspired by Abi's visits as a young child. You will smell the peaty bogs, shake your hands with the veil of evil and meet extraordinary characters like Frank (the ferret) who will make you laugh at every given opportunity. 

However, beware as the light might not be enduring for long as the swirling darkness consumes you in a brooding storm. It will eat your soul up in a piano chord of witches tinkling full of malice whilst shaking the cobwebs of your mind. You will journey upon a Kraken that will awake from slumber by an evil presence and the mountain gods who will roar and shake the senses in this non-stop action flight of fantasy. All of this is told with the great skill of a storyteller. It is very descriptive, deliciously imaginative and borne out of a combination of childhood dreams and sparkling fizz. 

You will be introduced to more supporting characters in this book. Some are particularly well written such as Bruce. With his mixed up dialogue and quirky mannerisms, you will be drawn to his great character and personality. However, some of the other characters are a bit vague in description, but perhaps this is due to the shortness of page count and story life. 

This is a fantastic but sad conclusion to a brilliant trilogy. Every page is a joy and a pleasure to read. Expect some thrills, spills, and sadness along the way, so get ready to hold your breath and experience the final episode of this fantastic series unfold. I am looking forward to new journeys and adventures ahead from this great author.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

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

Danny Wallace (Author) Jamie Littler (Illustrator) - Hamish and the GravityBurp (Hamish 3) - Published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK (9 Mar. 2017)

Another hilarious adventure from bestselling author Danny Wallace, perfect for fans of David Walliams, Roald Dahl, David Baddiel and David Solomons! 

This may look like just a completely and utterly ordinary book. But it’s not. This book knows something terrifying: that the people of Earth face their gravest, grimmest threat yet!
 
When Hamish arrives home to find his mum and his brother lying flat on their backs ON THE CEILING, he knows there’s something seriously wrong (again) in the town of Starkley. What is the strange burping noise he keeps hearing? Why are weird seeds suddenly falling from the sky? And should he be worried about the odd woman with a cone around her neck?
 
All Hamish and his gang the PDF can be sure of is that an adventure is coming. And that means two things:

  1. You have to be prepared
  2. You have to prepare a sandwich

Jack Cheng - See You in the Cosmos - Published by Puffin (2 Mar. 2017) (See book review here)

 

All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like.
But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions. 
Where do I come from? Who's out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?
Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down . . .
For fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jack Cheng's debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.

Ali Sparkes - Thunderstruck - Published by OUP Oxford (2 Mar. 2017) 

What if your new best friend was a ghost?  
Getting struck by lightning whilst huddling under a tree isn't exactly the way Alisha and Theo would have chosen to get out of sports day . . .  
Surviving the strike makes them see life differently. It also makes them notice Doug and Lizzie. Struck by lightning under that same tree on the common in 1975, the two teenagers have been hanging out there ever since. 
Doug and Lizzie are funny, clever, brave - and quite happy about making friends with a pair of ten-year-olds. OK, fair point, they are dead, and Doug's trousers are worryingly flared. But you can't have everything. 
But something sinister is going on at school - although only Theo and Alisha seem to be able to see it. What can it mean when ragged faceless entities keep staring in through the windows? Not all ghosts are friendly like Doug and Lizzie . . . but are these phantoms really the harbingers of doom for all the kids at Beechwood Junior? 

Robin Jarvis - The Devil's Paintbox (The Witching Legacy) - Published by Egmont (9 Mar. 2017)

Legend of supernatural fantasy Robin Jarvis is back with his spellbinding sequel to The Power of Dark. 
Lil and Verne may think they have quelled the Dark forces that tried to destroy Whitby, but they have no idea that the powers they’ve been meddling with are about to turn on them. Despite Lil’s crucial role in saving her home from destruction, she notices that the townsfolk have become wary of her – even fear her. More than ever she needs the support of best friend Verne and the witch Cherry Cerise, but they are preoccupied by their attempts to uncover more secrets of the golden Nimius.
When Lil finds an antique box of watercolour paints she welcomes the diversion, little realising that every time she uses it something nasty escapes. But it is while they are distracted an old enemy finds a path to their door . . .

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Guest Post by Oliver Thiermann - What Changes Await Self-Published Authors in 2017?

What Changes Await Self-Published Authors in 2017? 

It seems like everyone has a story to tell these days, doesn’t it? It’s great for the art, don't get me wrong, but with all the crazy competition out there, getting published has become a literal nightmare. With the traditional route of securing a book deal almost out of the question, self-publishing has become a great option. This tends to be especially true, for new and upcoming authors. Also, the whole self-publishing process is getting easier and easier, with the passing of each year. We are at the point now where there is so much help out there, that it’s become almost counterproductive not to give self-publishing a try. 

Just look at the success some indie sci-fi and fantasy authors have had in recent years. Andy Weir's “The Martian” hit it out of the park with his movie adaptation. Recently, Ridley Scott also bought the rights to the self-published sci-fi novel, Wool, by Hugh C. Howey. And how could I miss Amanda Hocking, who made millions from her self-published fantasy series? Trust me there are a lot of stories like these. I guess the point I’m trying to make, is that self-publishing can end up being a great option for indie authors. 

Some will say the picture might not as pretty as the one I’ve painted for you however. According to Nielsen, e-book sales dropped by almost 16% last year. Also, over the last two years, we’ve seen some big players in the self-publishing arena such as Oyster, close their doors. 

And yet, there’s some good news. Many established self-publishing trends continued their rise. The line between traditional and self-publishing keeps getting thinner and thinner. Last year saw tremendous growth in the numbers of 'hybrid' authors who explored both sides. Not only that, but many writers who took publishing deals returned to self-publishing. Hybrid authors tend to earn the most money as well. According to a survey by Digital Book world, the median income of a hybrid author was between $7,500 to $9,999. (£6,200 to £8.200). This was better than both traditional or indie authors. Hence, the notion that traditional publishing is only way to make significant sales, continues to lose ground. 


                                        Predictions for 2017 

There were a lot of new things that happened in the self-publishing industry during the last year, however the formula for success seems to have remained mostly unchanged. One strategy that continues to effective, is the pre-order strategy. Although most authors fail to take advantage of this, it continues to be effective. 

Another trend that is predicted to be robust, is the popularity of targeted subgenres. Average ebook prices are also expected to hold steady with many of the top self-published titles costing between 2.50 – 5.00. Additionally, quite a few authors, especially in the fantasy genre, continue build their respective audiences by giving out the first book in a series for free.

Most people these days also read on their phones or tablets, where short pieces tend to work better. Data from Wattpad confirmed this trend. They found that almost 90% of their users engaged with the site, via their mobile phones. 

Amazon's Kindle Unlimited will also probably continue to expand in the coming year. It’s value to authors however is questionable, and many bestselling titles will continue not to enroll in the program. 

One very big change that could prove to be a boon for self-published authors is Amazon’s decision to move into the traditional brick and mortar space. The effect that this will have on the self-publishing space however, has yet to be seen. Many of Amazon’s brick and mortar stores have yet to integrate any kind indie presence in their catalog of physical titles (excluding of course big name authors who have gone the hybrid route). That being said, these stores could become a godsend for indie authors, if Amazon ever does decide to dedicate shelf space to self-published writers. Amazon opened its first store in Seattle, in November of 2015 and many stores are expected to follow.


Getting exposure will continue to be a big challenge for indie authors. 

Let’s face it, while the self-publishing business is full of opportunity, it is also becoming a very crowded space. As a result, exposure, and audience development are going to be the some of the biggest challenges to confront new and emerging authors. Now more than ever, authors will have to start connecting with their readership early on. In addition to this, authors will also need to continue to go out of their way to engage with their readers. Expect to see polls, forums and newsletters, become key elements in the modern author's arsenal. But keep in mind with these challenges, come new opportunities. Polls and forums can just as easily be used to validate key story ideas and book cover decisions. Also by giving their audience the opportunity to shape or influence a story arc, authors can drive up reader loyalty, and keep their audience engaged during the writing process. 

One thing’s for sure, while self-publishing is filled with its fair share of pitfalls, it also comes with its rewards. It’s because of those rewards, that many experts believe the industry is going to grow in the coming years. Some of the effects of this growth can already be seen. Every day, self-published indie authors continue to win over skeptics, and the legitimacy of self-publishing will continue to be recognized by more readers as time goes on.

Thank you for a great post, this is a very interesting and inciteful read. Oliver Thiermann is the founder and CEO at theArcShapeR. Team leader by day and content creator by night, he always keeps an eye out for innovative ways to bring readers and writers together. Ollie is also an epic nerd, who hungers for all things Fantasy and Sci-Fi related.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Robert J. Harris - Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club (Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries) - Book Review

One day Arthur Conan Doyle will create the greatest detective of all -- Sherlock Holmes. But right now Artie Conan Doyle is a twelve-year-old Edinburgh schoolboy with a mystery of his own to solve. While sneaking out to explore Greyfriars Kirkyard by night, Artie and his best friend Ham spot a ghostly lady in grey and discover the footprints of a gigantic hound. Could the two mysteries be connected? These strange clues lead them to a series of robberies carried out the sinister Gravediggers' Club and soon they find themselves pitted against the villainous Colonel Braxton Dash. Will Artie survive his encounters with graveyards and ghosts in the foggy streets of nineteenth century Edinburgh -- or will his first case be his last?

Robert J. Harris, author of the brilliant The World Goes Loki series, has now exploded onto the middle-grade fantasy scene with another new series entitled Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries. The first book in the series is "The Gravediggers' Club" which was published by Floris books on the 16th February 2017. As soon as you turn the page, you find yourself instantly transported back to 19th century Edinburgh, where it is swirling with fog, danger and a slight hint of bagpipes playing in the background. 


Welcome Artie Conan Doyle onto the stage with his friend and sidekick in tow, Ham.You will love Ham's laid back character and the way he deals with the danger and on-going adventure. He would rather be somewhere else where it is warm, safe and allows him to eat cakes, rather than a spooky graveyard late at night with a howling beast or a spooky apparition scaring him witless! As you'll be able to tell, he is very reluctant to engage in the mystery that suddenly smacks them in the face. 

The adventure follows Artie's suspicions around the young trainee doctor lodging at their house who is up to no good. It's a very easy-going story to follow with a mystery to solve. It is full of action and brings together an eclectic cast of characters to give it some Scottish charm. It reflects the time and period very well through the reality of sickness/poverty and the hardships family faced at that period in time. The setting and backdrop are very well written. They enable you to recognise aspects of the city as well as get a brilliant feel for the story. 


The villain of the story, Colonel Braxton Dash, has a great name but he did not quite live up to his reputation. In my opinion, he needed more dark deeds to heighten the tension and develop his character. A little extra side story would have turned this into a dark macabre story and made the reader sit up a little more and take notice. 


This is a very enjoyable detective story consisting of some brilliant dialogue. It has a fantastic ending which makes a good impression for the rest of the series.  


Thursday, 2 March 2017

Christopher Edge: Guest Post - Top 3 Inspirations Behind The Jamie Drake Equation - #WorldBookDay Post

Happy World Book Day everybody. Today will also see the publication of Christopher Edge's latest novel The Jamie Drake Equation. It will spread its wings and fly off, courtesy of Nosy Crow, and can be found in all good book shops today. I recently read and reviewed this book and really loved it, so see what I had to say about this book in my review HERE. Anyway, I would like to welcome Christopher to Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books blog to talk about the inspiration behind his book. 

No book tumbles from the mind of its author without a spark of inspiration to send it on its way. Here are the top 3 inspirations behind my new book, The Jamie Drake Equation. 


E.T. 

The Jamie Drake Equation is about a ten-year-old boy called Jamie whose dad is an astronaut on the International Space Station getting ready to launch humanity’s first interstellar mission in search of alien life. Perhaps the most-famous fictional alien ever created is Steven Spielberg’s E.T. I remember my older brother taking me to watch this movie at our local cinema and craning my neck from our front-row seats as this spellbinding film of first contact unfolded on the screen. But more than being just a film about aliens, E.T. is a story about friendship, family and the impact of his parents’ divorce on Elliot. And in The Jamie Drake Equation, Jamie’s encounter with a strange message from the stars is the start of his realisation that his family life isn’t as perfect as he thought.

Astronauts 

Last year I had the honour of hearing the Canadian astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield, speak at the Emirates Festival of Literature in Dubai. He spoke about his childhood dreams, of humanity’s greatest achievements, the wonders of the universe and the power of inspiration. “It begins with the spark of an idea,” he said, “It begins with literature.” Powerful words for any author to hear!

I saw for myself the inspiration that space exploration can spark when my son and daughter both rushed home from primary school, buzzing with excitement after taking part in the Cosmic Classroom live link with Commander Tim Peake onboard the International Space Station. And as we sat together to watch the ISS soar through the night sky, the story of The Jamie Drake Equation started to take shape in my mind. 


David Bowie 

I first heard David Bowie’s music on a mixtape that a friend made for me when I was seventeen, ‘Life on Mars’ nestling between Syd Barrett and the Smiths. And from the moment the piano intro played and Bowie started singing of the girl with the mousy hair, I was entranced. Working as a Saturday boy in Our Price Music, I quickly schooled myself in David Bowie’s back catalogue: Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Low, Let’s Dance... until the record-buying public of Bolton rose up in protest and demanded I started playing Right Said Fred instead. 

From Space Oddity to Blackstar, David Bowie’s music has always been written in the stars, his lyrics slipping free from Earth’s gravity to explore science fiction themes, loving the alien and giving a voice to the alienated. David Bowie died while I was writing The Jamie Drake Equation, but in my mind his music was the soundtrack for key scenes in the story. I talked about the book soundtrack I created for The Jamie Drake Equation with Chris Hawkins on BBC 6 Music and you can listen to the interview Here. And if you’d like to see which scenes Bowie’s songs soundtracked, you can listen to the chapter-by-chapter soundtrack Here. 


So these are a few of the inspirations behind The Jamie Drake Equation: aliens, astronauts and a singer made of stardust.




Synopsis: How amazing would it be to have a dad who's an astronaut? Rocket launches, zero gravity, and flying through space like a superhero! Jamie Drake's dad is orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station and Jamie ought to think it's cool but he just really misses him...Hanging out at his local observatory, Jamie picks up a strange signal on his phone. It looks like alien life is getting closer to home. But space is a dangerous place and when his dad's mission goes wrong, can Jamie prove that he's a hero too? A cosmic adventure for anyone who's ever looked at the stars, from the author of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright. Cover illustration by Matt Saunders.






Website:www.christopheredge.co.uk