Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Middle Grade Children's Book Picks - July 2015 - US Post One

Robert Beatty - Serafina and the Black Cloak - Published by Disney-Hyperion - Hardcover (July 14, 2015)
"Never go into the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul."

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There's plenty to explore in her grand home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate's maintenance man, have lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. She has learned to sneak and hide.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore's corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore's owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak's true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.
Serafina's hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

Jessica Day George - Silver in the Blood - Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's, Hardcover (July 7, 2015)
As spoiled society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about their mysterious Romanian relatives, the Florescus. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their family, find proper husbands, and-most terrifyingly-learn the secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. 
The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, bound by a centuries-old tradition to do the bidding of the royal Dracula family and it is time for Dacia and Lou to take their place among the ranks. But when the devilish heir, Mihai Dracula sets his sights on Dacia as part of his plan to secure power over all of Europe, the girls choose to fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might. Only the dashing Lord Johnny Hardcastle and the mysterious Theophilus Arkady- members of a secret society charged with ridding the world of monsters-can help Dacia and Lou, but breaking the shackles of their upbringing will require more courage than the girls ever imagined.
The thrilling start to a richly drawn, romance-filled series, this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives will have readers coming back for more.

Guillermo Del Toro & Daniel Kraus - Trollhunters -  Published by Disney-Hyperion, Hardcover (July 7, 2015)
"You are food. Those muscles you flex to walk, lift, and talk? They're patties of meat topped with chewy tendon. That skin you've paid so much attention to in mirrors? It's delicious to the right tongues, a casserole of succulent tissue. And those bones that give you the strength to make your way in the world? They rattle between teeth as the marrow is sucked down slobbering throats. These facts are unpleasant but useful. There are things out there, you see, that don't cower in holes to be captured by us and cooked over our fires. These things have their own ways of trapping their kills, their own fires, their own appetites."

Jim Sturges is your typical teen in suburban San Bernardino-one with an embarrassingly overprotective dad, a best friend named "Tubby" who shares his hatred of all things torturous (like gym class), and a crush on a girl who doesn't know he exists. But everything changes for Jim when a 45-year old mystery resurfaces, threatening the lives of everyone in his seemingly sleepy town. Soon Jim has to team up with a band of unlikely (and some un-human) heroes to battle the monsters he never knew existed.

From the minds of Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus comes a new illustrated novel about the fears that move in unseen places.

Mark Alpert - The Six - Published by Sourcebooks Fire, Hardcover (July 7, 2015)
To save humanity, they must give up their own.
Adam's muscular dystrophy has stolen his mobility, his friends, and in a few short years, it will take his life. Virtual reality games are Adam's only escape from his wheelchair. In his alternate world, he can defeat anyone. Running, jumping, scoring touchdowns: Adam is always the hero.
Then an artificial intelligence program, Sigma, hacks into Adam's game. Created by Adam's computer-genius father, Sigma has gone rogue, threatening Adam's life-and world domination. Their one chance to stop Sigma is using technology Adam's dad developed to digitally preserve the mind of his dying son.
Along with a select group of other terminally ill teens, Adam becomes one of the Six who have forfeited their bodies to inhabit weaponized robots. But with time running short, the Six must learn to manipulate their new mechanical forms and work together to train for epic combat...before Sigma destroys humanity.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Chris D'Lacey - The Unicorne Files: Alexander's Army - Book Review (Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books)

I really enjoyed reading the first installment of The Unicorne Files back in August 2014. Since then I've been eager to read the next book in the series (Alexander's Army) and finally, here it is. 

The book starts off with Michael's recent success from his first assignment. With the arrival of the crows in his back garden, fourteen-year old Michael Malone sets out on another unexplained mystery for the secretive organisation UNICORNE. Due to the brilliant start, I was fully immersed in the dark world from the very first page of the book; it was truly engaging. I was really excited by the cauldron of darkness and magic that got my imagination buzzing.   

Michael sets out on a deadly mission to the local comic store. You may think that comic stores are tame, but on this occasion you would be wrong. Secret agents have detected unusual activity, which will test Michael's innate superhuman ability to the max. The comic store scenario was fantastically delicious; it exhumed malice and the supernatural. I felt like a little kid walking and exploring the racks of comics, with spooky action figures watching my every move.

The other part of the story that I really enjoyed reading about was Alexander's invisible army. When they came to life, the plot and action increased a notch. Chris D'Lacey used some mind bending imagination in this story; these are some of the best scenes that he has written to date, in my opinion. This book is even better than the first book in the series and that is a rare thing for me to say. 

Every nine year old boy will love this book; it's a whirlpool of events colliding with non-stop action and dark forces. This story is a fantastic and eclectic mix of characters that you will want to know more about. Crow Girl is one of my favourites and would make a good comic action hero; dark, feisty, mysterious and totally unpredictable - always expect the unexpected.  

The narrative is full of non-stop action; a full on fantasy adventure with a good mix of twist and turns. It's not predictable. It's full of mayhem and thrilling danger and actually reads like a comic - compact, neat and very well written.  

This is a really engaging read. The book doesn't answer all of the mysteries that surround UNICORNE and Michael's missing father. However, it does explore Michael's extraordinary power a little bit further and brings about more unanswered questions. Once the book comes to a climatic end, you will need to steady yourself for the next book. The final book in the series, 'A CROWN OF DRAGONS' will be out early 2016. I'm really looking forward to that....

Monday, 22 June 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Recommended Children's Books - July 2015

Sophie McKenzie - All My Secrets - Published by Simon & Schuster Childrens Books (2 July 2015)
A brand new title from bestselling, award-winning author, Sophie McKenzie. The shocking reality behind a GBP10 million inheritance turns Evie Brown's world on its head. Unable to find out the truth from her parents, Evie ends up on the mysterious island of Lightsea, where her desire for answers leads her towards a series of revelations that threaten everything she holds dear ...including her life.

Huw Powell - The Lost Sword (SpaceJackers) - Published by Bloomsbury Children's (2 July 2015)
Star Wars meets Pirates of the Caribbean in this second swashbuckling quest for Jake Cutler and friends!
Jake Cutler - 13-year-old ruler of the secret planet Altus - is on the run from the Interstellar Navy. He and the crew of the pirate spaceship, the Dark Horse, are wanted over the disappearance of the ISS Colossus, the most powerful ship in the Navy's fleet.
But that's not the only reason Jake's being hunted. If he's found, he'll be forced to reveal the location of Altus, home to a fortune in crystals. With that much wealth, the Interstellar Navy plans to start an intergalactic war bigger than any seen before. It's up to Jake to stop them, but how will a teenager convince the rulers of the universe that they're in terrible danger?

Elen Caldecott - Crowns and Codebreakers (The Marsh Road Mysteries 2) - Published by Bloomsbury Children's (2 July 2015)
Meet Piotr, Minnie, Andrew, Flora and Sylvie - true friends and even better mystery-solvers!
When Minnie's gran comes to stay, all the way from Nigeria, Minnie KNOWS there will be trouble. And straight away Gran notices she's picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport. This one is full of boy's clothes, and she's not at all happy about it! But when their house is burgled and the only thing taken is the suitcase, Minnie realises there'll be much more trouble than she bargained for. Can the gang solve the crime or will the mystery of the little lost boy be forever unsolved?
The second in a fantastic new series filled with friendship, adventure and mystery!

Gillian Philip - Mysteries of Ravenstorm Island: The Ship of Ghosts - Published by Orchard Books (2 July 2015) 
Unlock the secrets of Ravenstorm Island...
Molly and Arthur already know that Ravenstorm Island is alive with magical secrets.
So they soon suspect that the appearance of a ghostly pirate ship might have something to do with the terrifying storms battering the island. What is the story behind the grudge between the pirates and Ravenstorm's gargoyle guardians?
And can the children break an ancient curse in time to save the island? 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Thomas Taylor - Dan and the Shard of Ice - Book Review (Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books)

Some people might know Thomas Taylor for the great work that he did on the illustrations for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling. He got his big break whilst hanging around publishing houses in his spare time trying to get a job. According to Thomas, he still does this now! Seriously though, he now writes and illustrates many children's picture books as well as writing fiction for older readers with Chicken House and Bloomsbury.

This is the third book in a fantastic series aimed at readers, especially reluctant readers aged 10+. The books are based on short bursts of non-stop thrilling action. Each chapter starts with a fantastic black and white illustrated header - just like the one below. Each has been brilliantly illustrated by Thomas, as well as the book cover itself. He's certainly a very talented man.

This is one of my favourite series for encouraging boy readers to pick up books and really enjoy them. In my opinion, we need more books like this. All of the books have a great sense of fun and excitement; the plots flow with ease and have an imaginative gothic feel to them. They are great for reading under the bed covers or late at night, if you dare! The books are fast paced and have an abundance of plotted action. Great explosions and plot bursts bring the story to life.

Dan, the spook-busting, psychic detective and his spectral sidekick, Si, are back investigating psychic phenomenons. The book, as you might have already guessed, is centered around the Shard in London. I've never been to the Shard myself, but I do get a great sense that Thomas has done his research and probably visited it once or twice himself. His depiction and attention to detail makes it feel authentic. The disturbing feeling of heights that the reader feels creates an edge of tension that transpires further as you read on.

The book retains a number of wacky characters including the mystical and zany bag lady, whom I really loved. There is also the poltergeist with a big grudge, who is so powerful that she could blow the hair off your head and leave your mind swaying in the flashing lightning. She is very scary. Finally, there's the
celebrity medium called Venn Specter. His big ego will leave you chuckling to yourself all day long. 

I can not think of any reason why you would not want to read this book; it's a great ambassador for this genre. It is very cool, witty and hooks you in from the start. The 400-hundred-year old super-powered ghost, who is determined to steal a body so that she may live again, will keep you on a fantasy edge, even when you have turned the last page.

Grab this book or any of the other books in the series such as Dan and the Dead or Dan and the Caverns of Bone. They will truly make your day, as they did mine. All books are out now, so happy reading...... 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's/Teens Book Picks - July 2015 - UK Post Two

Chris Wooding - Velocity - Published by Scholastic Press (2 July 2015)

Cassica and Shiara have grown up in an outback settlement far from anywhere. Life's hard where they live, but these two girls have a dream. They want to take on the Widowmaker: an off-road rally through some of the most dangerous places on Earth. It's their ticket to fame and fortune. But it just might be the death of them...

Kevin Brooks - The Snake Trap ( Travis Delaney Investigates ) Published by Macmillan Children's Books (2 July 2015)
Following a death-defying escape from the hands of a criminal overlord, young PI Travis Delaney thinks he might finally be getting closer to finding out who killed his parents, and why. But things are about to get a whole lot more deadly . . .
One moment Travis is trapped in an armed face-off in the offices of Delaney & Co, private investigators. The next terrorists have stormed the building and he's been abducted. Kept captive alongside Winston, the rogue security officer who Travis believes is responsible for his parents' death, Travis is quickly plagued by more questions than answers.
As the truth begins to emerge, Travis is faced with the ultimate dilemma: how do you choose between saving your own life or saving the life of someone you love?

Lu Hersey - Deep Water - Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd (1 July 2015)

When her mum vanishes, Danni moves to a tiny Cornish fishing village with Dad - where the locals treat her like a monster. As the village's dark, disturbing past bubbles to the surface, Danni discovers that she's not who - or what - she thought she was. And the only way to save her family from a bitter curse is to embrace her incredible new gift.

David Hofmeyr - Stone Rider - Published by Penguin (16 July 2015)

Adam Stone wants freedom and peace. 
He wants a chance to escape Blackwater, the dust-bowl desert town he grew up in. Most of all, he wants the beautiful Sadie Blood.
Alongside Sadie and the dangerous outsider, Kane, Adam will ride the Blackwater Trail in a brutal race that will test them all, body and soul. Only the strongest will survive.
The prize? A one-way ticket to Sky-Base and unimaginable luxury.
And for a chance at this new life, Adam will risk everything . 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Interview with Gabrielle Kent - Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle

Welcome all. Today, I am very lucky to be interviewing Gabrielle Kent, author of Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle. This book has already been published by Scholastic Press on the 4th June 2015. I'd like to thank Gabrielle for agreeing to this interview as I have heard so many good things about Alfie Bloom. One review that I read described it as having 'lovely Potter-esque touches'. It sounds like my kind of read so I've added it to my reading list ... 

I hope that this interview inspires you to read Alfie on his first outing, I think it should. 
How would you describe your debut book Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle to potential readers?
The book falls into the category of magical realism, which is the area that has always interested me most as a reader. I love to imagine that magical happenings are possible in our world. The story is about a young boy who inherits a castle full of wonders that has been sealed for centuries. The age range is middle grade, but I like to think that it would appeal to anyone with a love of magic and mystery.

Give us an insight into the main character. What does he do that is so special?
Alfie soon discovers that he was born in the very castle he inherits, but over six hundred years ago during a magical timeslip. There, Orin Hopcraft, the last of the great druids, hid an ancient magic inside him which others seek, but which should never be used. Alfie must learn to control the magic inside him, as well as protecting a dark secret hidden deep below the castle. Orin Hopcraft has also left Alfie a talisman with a magical lens which allows him to unlock some of the secrets of Hexbridge Castle. Apart from that, he’s a perfectly ordinary boy.
I love red hair, I have dyed mine copper since I was sixteen. There are no books I can think of with a redheaded boy as a main character and I wanted to share my love of this hair colour.

As a game development lecturer, has this role influenced any part of the story?
As a game developer I can’t help seeing my writing through those eyes. While I was writing I was imagining how the castle would work as game levels and what mysteries and puzzles players would solve. I even had ideas for potion mixing and hidden object games. Several students of mine worked on a lovely little game based on the book. Alfie falls asleep in his library and his talisman is stolen by books that have come to life. It will be up my site or Scholastic’s own soon, I’d love to know what people think.

Through organising the Animex festival I have a good insight into the worlds of animation and visual effects. While I was writing I felt as though I had a film camera on my shoulder. I was imagining how certain scenes would be shot, and even how the VFX could be achieved. The big showdown and the scene on the barn roof are my favourite visual scenes.

Are there any particular authors that have influenced your writing?
Too many to mention, but Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl always had a special place in my heart as a child, and I was surprised at how much of an influence they seemed to have on me as was writing.
I adore the work of Neil Gaiman and particularly Terry Pratchett. I would love to be able to write like them, but I think that I am starting to evolve my own style and I’m excited to see how it develops.

Did anything surprise you during the writing process?
While writing can be a really hard slog at times, it’s interesting to see how your brain sometimes throws you solutions to problems that really surprise you. It’s like having a little helper on your shoulder. I was amazed at some of the clever little ideas it gave me, they really felt as though they were coming from a different person.

The biggest surprise was when I decided to change Alfie’s best mate from a boy called Danny Chapman into a girl called Amy Siu. I pinched the name Siu from a friend and suddenly realised that she had gone from a Caucasian boy to a mixed race girl. And it changed hardly anything in the story! I’d recommend everyone try flipping the gender of their characters, it really challenges your preconceptions. I even left Madeleine’s little crush on Danny in there. It became a bit of a girl crush she has on Amy, she really wants to be just like her. And who wouldn’t?

What do you think makes a good story? 
I like stories that don’t answer all of the questions they raise and leave you wondering about characters and hints long after you have read the book. There are a few mysteries in the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle that are not answered just yet, and I love hearing people’s theories on what they think will happen. I think folks will be surprised, particularly by Ashford’s big secret, which is answered in book two! I have also planted a few seeds that probably won’t be spotted just yet, but they will definitely grow.

Are you currently involved in any writing projects that you can tell us about?
I have just finished book two in the Alfie Bloom series and am now at the planning stage for book three. When I thought Alfie might not make it to print, I started work on another project about a Mauritian girl who goes on a very strange journey. Her name is Ashwina Flynn and I hope to finish her story at some point. I also have an idea for a book for adults that is knocking on my skull, trying to get out. I really love the idea and will definitely let it out at some point, perhaps even as a short story.

Can you pass on any tips regarding the writing process to other budding writers?
Structure your book before you even start to write! When I started writing this book I had so many ideas and tried to cram everything in with only a rough idea of where the story was going. As a result it took me years to edit it into something publishable. I had some great scenes in there, but some of them just didn’t advance the plot in any way. With book two I sat down and typed up a rough summary of each chapter. Of course some of these things changed once I started writing, but it was so much easier to have the skeleton of my book sitting in front of me.

I would also tell first time writers DO NOT EDIT AS YOU WRITE! It wastes so much time. Just trust your future self to pick up errors and issues and correct them later. With book two I left myself lots of little notes such as ‘make this bit less rubbish’ and ‘more drama in this scene’.
My husband, Satish, did something very cool with an excel spreadsheet. He rated all of my chapters out of 10 for interest, intrigue and drama, then turned the figures into a graph. It was amazing to see as it highlighted the fact that the book flatlined for a little while after chapter three. Many agents and publishers had loved my writing, but had lost interest after three chapters. Now I knew why! After a couple of drastic cuts, the first publisher to see it snapped it up!

Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the buying process?
I think it does. I started reading Terry Pratchett because of the amazing covers by Josh Kirby - I kept reading them because of the
brilliant writing. I wasn’t too sure about the suitability of the cover for Alfie Bloom when I first saw it, but the reaction from children has been amazing, they really seem to love it. It taught me to always trust my publisher’s marketing decisions!

What are your thoughts about how to encourage more children to read?
I know a lot of children who have started reading after discovering books based on their favourite games, such as Minecraft. Storytelling in games is getting much better and now spins off into tie-in books and comics. These are a great way to encourage children to discover the joy of reading. I’ve seen children read these and then discover that they want to read books of different genres.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Reading, making art, playing computer games, and visiting castles! I have so many castles left to visit. I’d love to explore some of the wonderful ones over in Germany.

As writing is the job I do in my spare time, much of the rest of my life is taken up with the day job, teaching computer games development to university students, and organising Animex, an international festival of computer games and animation. I love teaching, working in the games industry and writing, so I count myself very lucky that I get to do all three.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Three New "Star Wars" Books - The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy.

Star Wars: A New Hope the Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy (Star Wars, Episode IV) Hardcover – 22 Sep 2015 by Alexandra Bracken, (Author) Iain McCaig (Illustrator) 
We have a trio of new books inspired by the original Star Wars trilogy is heading for publication by Disney Lucasfilm Press (22 Sept. 2015) The three new books will feature a familiar storyline, but from a brand new perspectives. Each of the novels will tell the same story told in the original Star Wars movie trilogy.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back So You Want to Be a Jedi? Hardcover – 22 Sep 2015 by Adam Gidwitz (Author), Iain McCaig (Illustrator)
Fans will experience the original trilogy in an entirely different way, with Star Wars: A New Hope — The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back — So You Want to Be a Jedi by Adam Gidwitz (A Tale Dark & Grimm series), and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi — Beware the Power of the Dark Side!by Tom Angleberger (the Origami Yoda series). 
Sound fantastic, what do you think?

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Beware the Power of the Dark Side! Hardcover – 22 Sep 2015 by Tom Angleberger (Author), Iain McCaig (Author, Illustrator)
But these are more than just mere retellings from this top authors; these are fresh interpretations — true to the films but filtered through each author’s vision. In each novel, the authors get inside the characters’ heads, tell us about the scenes between the scenes, and even teach us how to be a Jedi, what more could you want. Great for all Star Wars fans.... 

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's/Teens Book Picks - July 2015 - UK Post One

Robin Stevens - First Class Murder: A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery - Published by Corgi Children's (30 July 2015)
This book is from the author of Murder Most Unladylike. Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are taking a holiday on the world-famous Orient Express. From the moment the girls step aboard, it's clear that each of their fellow first-class passengers has something to hide. Even more intriguing: rumour has it that there is a spy in their midst. Then, during dinner, there is a scream from inside one of the cabins. When the door is broken down, a passenger is found murdered, her stunning ruby necklace gone. But the killer is nowhere to be seen - as if they had vanished into thin air. Daisy and Hazel are faced with their first ever locked-room mystery - and with competition from several other sleuths, who are just as determined to crack the case.

Shane Hegarty - Worlds Explode: Darkmouth BK 2 - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (30 July 2015)
The second book in the monstrously funny and action-packed new series: Darkmouth. It’s going to be legendary. The adventures of the most unfortunate Legend Hunter ever to don fighting armour and pick up a Dessicator continue…
On a list of things Finn never thought he'd wish for, a gateway bursting open in Darkmouth was right up there. But that's about his only hope for finding his missing father. He's searched for a map, he's followed Steve into dead ends, but found nothing. And he's still got homework to do.
But soon Finn and Emmie must face bizarre Legends, a ravenous world and a face from the past as they go where no Legend Hunter has gone before. Or, at least, where no legend Hunter has gone before and returned with their limbs in the correct order.

Emma Carroll - In Darkling Wood - Published by Faber & Faber (2 July 2015)
'You're telling me there are fairies in this wood?'
When Alice's brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother's house. There's nothing good about staying with Nell, except for the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of her garden - but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace, and even finds a friend, Flo. But Flo doesn't seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to wonder, what is real? And can she find out in time to save the wood from destruction?

Leo Hunt - 13 Days of Midnight - Published by Orchard Books (2 July 2015)
When Luke Manchett's estranged father dies suddenly, he leaves his son a dark inheritance. Luke has been left in charge of his father's ghost collection: eight restless spirits. They want revenge for their long enslavement, and in the absence of the father, they're more than happy to take his son. It isn't fair, but you try and reason with the vengeful dead.
Halloween, the night when the ghosts reach the height of their power, is fast approaching. With the help of school witchlet Elza Moss, and his cowardly dog Ham, Luke has just thirteen days to uncover the closely guarded secrets of black magic, and send the unquiet spirits to their eternal rest. The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

John Grisham - Theodore Boone: The Fugitive - Book Review (Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books)

We are hurtling at full speed with book five in the Theodore Boone series; the latest book is called The Fugitive. The whole series has steadily turned into one of my personal favourites. All of the books have been gripping, enjoyable and unputdownable. 

John Grisham, a former lawyer, initially turned his hand to writing adult legal thrillers. He has had great success with over 275 million books sold worldwide and nine novels adapted to become major films. Quite clearly he is a recognisable and well loved household name. More recently he has been inspired by his daughter Shea, a teacher in North Carolina, to write the Theodore Bone series for a younger audience - perhaps even his daughter's class! 

The words on the front cover state that "you don't need to have superpowers to be a hero" and, in this book, you really don't. Instead, all you need is down-to-earth Theodore Boone, who is a teenage lawyer and a courtroom hero. In this book, Theo embarks on a school trip to Washington to see the sights and attractions. No danger there then you would think, but don't be easily fooled!

Theodore soon finds himself embarking on an adventure full of danger and intrigue after meeting the most wanted man in the history of his home town (Strattenberg). He soon becomes caught in the hunt for an accused murderer, alongside the talented and professional FBI. Pete Duffy (major criminal) finds himself back in court, which creates some nail biting tension, whilst Theo plays detective and lawyer with his Uncle Ike. This part of the plot delivers an action adventure written in a classic, but simplistic style with just enough detail and dialogue to keep the reader hooked. 

What really lifts this book, and the series, is the insight that we receive into the legal system. The courtroom drama, which is played out dramatically and with intelligence, feels very realistic to me. It gives the narrative authenticity which is really down to the author's extensive knowledge. It's very interesting to read from this perspective and creates originality within this genre.

The only potential drawback to this book is the length; it is very short on content and contains little backstory for any reader not familiar with the series. In my opinion, to really enjoy this book in its entirety, I would recommend reading the previous book "The Activist" or starting with the first book in the series. Nevertheless, this is a great book to get young people engaged in reading and to inspire them in becoming a lawyer. 

The Fugitive is a great topical book that can be discussed as a class or as a book group. As part of my book, which looks stunning with eye-catching blue endpapers, I had three discussion topics to consider, but these could easily be debated with students and friends. There is also an interrogation challenge to test your keen eye for detail and a quick Q&A session to keep you further entertained. 

This is a great detective mystery that dances to the song of the legal system. It is an adventure that will lead you down the path of justice, or perhaps NOT! Will the criminal allies be out for revenge . . . . . . ?

This is a series that I would have loved to have had the opportunity to read as a child. I will certainly be watching out for the next crazy case!

 Published by Hodder & Stoughton (21 May 2015)

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Bryony Pearce - Phoenix Rising Blog Tour 2015 (Good and Evil in Phoenix Rising)

I am really pleased to be apart of the blog tour for Bryony Pearce’s new YA novel, Phoenix Rising, which was published on 1st June 2015, published by Stripes Publishing.  This will be followed by the exciting sequel Phoenix Burning in 2016 which I can not wait to read! 

But first who will you pledge your allegiance to?
Are you #PhoenixCrew or #BansheeCrew?

I swear my allegiance to the #BansheeCrew!  We are feared and fearless!  We are merciless and amoral!  We believe in the ideals of strict hierarchy.  We are mercenary and we will not show weakness!  We will survive at all costs!

Today I have an awesome guest post by Bryony Pearce which is about Good and Evil in Phoenix Rising. 

One the themes I always explore in my writing is the capacity of man for evil. My books are always populated with monsters, but not the dripping, green, sharp-clawed kind; they contain people who have committed great evil and characters with the potential to commit even greater evil.

I investigate the ways that good people could be turned to bad and try to make the reader understand the decisions they make.

I like to think that my main characters sit firmly in the grey areas. Toby has a good moral grounding and an innate sense of right and wrong, but he is also a pirate, who robs the port-master and is always willing to fight.

When I was researching my first book, I came across the Milgram experiment which was conducted in Yale after the war. This experiment has always fascinated me. One of the questions the scientists wanted to answer was whether or not ordinary Americans would have done the same as ordinary Germans were known to have done, during the war, or if the German personality was somehow intrinsically, more evil.

During the Milgram experiment students had to give an actor (who they thought was another student) electric shocks. Almost two thirds kept going until they thought the other ‘student’ was unconscious or dead. They were not coerced or forced in any way; in fact the only prompting was from the researchers who, dressed in white lab coats, would periodically say “the research requires that you continue” when the students faltered.

The answer, it seemed, was that given the same situation, Americans would have done just the same as the Germans.

The experiment has proved of enduring appeal. Last year a game show was held in France. There, 80% of people (who thought they were contestants) continued to shock the other ‘contestant’ way beyond the point of humane behaviour – to the point that the victim stopped screaming and fell silent.

It is both fascinating and terrifying to me, the idea that 80% of us, people who might lend you a tenner, or smile indulgently at your baby as they pass you in the street, would blindly follow authority to the extent of hurting or even killing another human being.

Another experiment followed the Yale one - it was done with Chimpanzees. One was starved if he did not shock the other. The chimpanzee preferred to starve himself rather than injure a fellow.

Are chimpanzees really more empathetic than people? What is it about man that enables him to treat his fellows with ‘inhumanity’?
In the Phoenix Rising books I have characters who are set up as ‘baddies’ who the reader should come to understand and even love. I have characters set up as ‘goodies’ but who have made mistakes and have dark pasts. No one character in my book is the real ‘baddie’ every action can be seen from multiple points of view.

I write according to the adage, ‘everyone is the hero of their own story’. Even the bad guys.

Phoenix Rising has been described as a swashbuckling adventure, and it is. I also hope that is makes the reader think, how would we behave if put in the same situations, a post apocalyptic world, where resources are at a premium and piracy is the only way to survive.

To find out more about Bryony or her work, please visit her website: www.bryonypearce.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @BryonyPearce.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the brilliant blog tour! 

Also check out my book review: This story was like a breath of salty fresh air rolling on the briny sea. I have been waiting for a book like this all year and finally it landed. This is a swashbuckling adventure with both swagger and attitude. It was so easy to get immersed in this junk-fuelled, dystopian vision. Based around a near future setting, the story takes a look at environmental issues in a candid way. In a world full of political collapse, where fossil fuels have run out and democracy is a distant memory, the main characters set out on a quest to find renewable energy sources. More Here...

Friday, 5 June 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Middle Grade Children's Book Picks (US Published) June 2015

S.E. Grove - The Glass Sentence - Published by Viking Books for Young Readers (June 12, 2014)
Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods.  Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.

Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.

J. D. Rinehart - Crown of Three - Published by Aladdin (June 2, 2015)
Family secrets combine with fantasy in this epic tale of battle, magic, strange creature's, power, and fate—a Game of Thrones for a younger audience.

Toronia, a kingdom composed of three realms, is wracked with civil war. King Brutan rules with an iron fist. Cruelty and suffering abound. The kingdom’s only hope comes in the form of Brutan’s illegitimate triplets, prophesied to kill the king and rule together in peace. But the road to the throne is long and bloody. Separated at birth and scattered throughout the realms, the triplets face a desperate fight to secure their destiny. Will they survive long enough to rule?

Rose Cooper - I Text Dead People - Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (June 9, 2015)

Annabel Craven hopes she’ll fit in—maybe even be popular—at the Academy. She’s worried she’ll stay friendless and phoneless (it’s true). But when she finds a mysterious phone in the woods near the cemetery, one of her problems is solved . . . and another one is just beginning. 

Someone won’t stop texting her. And that someone seems . . . dead. How is Annabel supposed to make friends when her phone keeps blowing up with messages from the afterlife? And what will happen if she doesn't text back? 

Christine Hayes - Mothman's Curse - Published by Roaring Brook Press (June 16, 2015)
When Josie and her brothers uncover a haunted camera, the Mothman legend becomes a terrifying reality that threatens their entire town in this spooky and action-filled novel.
Josie may live in the most haunted town in America, but the only strange thing she ever sees is the parade of oddball customers that comes through her family's auction house each week. But when she and her brothers discover a Polaroid camera that prints pictures of the ghost of local recluse John Goodrich, they are drawn into a mystery dating back over a hundred years. A desperate spirit, cursed jewelry, natural disasters, and the horrible specter of Mothman all weave in and out of the puzzle that Josie must solve to break the curse and save her own life.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Stephen Davies - Blood & Ink - Book Review (Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books)

Diversity in children's books is a great thing, and much needed, as it often takes the reader out of their comfort zone. I don't always enjoy books like this one. Recently, I've not been able to finish a couple of books based on similar themes. Once I'd read the first chapter, I thought that this book was destined to end in the same way. However, I'm very glad that I persevered with this story as it really challenged me, both in my learning and understanding of a different culture.  

Tonight, the Islamist rebels are coming for Timbuktu.....

The plot is set in Timbuktu, a city in the West African nation, which is situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The book really depicts the remoteness and the challenging landscape particularly well, in my opinion. The setting is linked to the historical events that happened in 2012; the capture of the city by the Malian military known as the Tuareg rebels.   

Historically, this book chimes with a defiant beat and gives the story a feeling of authenticity. Some of this is down to the author's understanding of events and his personal time spent living amongst the Fulani herders in Burkina Faso. 

The more that you read, the more that you are aware of the focus of the story on the troubled world of extremism and violence on West African Muslims. This makes you face up to the real issue of what is happening in the world - a regime of law that tears apart a peaceful world including a ban on television, football, radios and even music, everything that we take for granted and may hold dear to our lives.  

This is a very topical read, but with a light-hearted centre that pushes some of the seriousness and the darkness to one side to create a balance. The two main characters are brought to life; they are full of life and feeling. Kadijia is the music-loving daughter of the guardian of the sacred manuscripts. Ali is a former shepherd boy, but is now a trained warrior for Allah. Part of the story has a romantic summer step to it and lifts the book to magical heights. The harsh regime sets the two main characters apart as Kadijia's defiance draws Ali to her. It's a modern day romance that transcends religious beliefs. 

This book has everything to offer the reader; action-packed adventure, historical events and thrilling real-life danger pumped with emotions and feelings. A great infusion of religious culture will leave you thinking, even after the last page has been turned. It is fantastically plotted with many twists and turns that will keep the reader on their toes. I can see this book being a great read for GCSE students as well as readers 12 years and older. It is really enjoyable, very interesting and full of educational content - recommended 100%.  

Published by Andersen Press, June 04, 2015      

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Press Release: Curtis Jobling New UK Deal - Max Helsing and the Thirteenth Curse Published by Orchard 2016

Exciting news Orchard Books has acquired two titles in the Max Helsing and the Thirteenth Curse series by Curtis Jobling.
The series is about Max Helsing, the descendent of the original Van Helsing vampire-killer, as he battles modern-day monsters in between schoolwork and monster-slaying training.

Homework by day… Monster-hunting by night.
 Descended from a long line of monster hunters, Max Helsing does a pretty good job of being an eighth grader by day and keeping his town safe from demons, ghouls, and the occasional mummy by night.  That is, until he turns thirteen and discovers he’s been cursed by an ancient vampire who wants him dead – at any cost. To save the world – and his life – Max must rely on his wise-cracking best friend, cantankerous mentor, computer genius neighbor, and brand-new puppy. He’ll need all their help and more to break the Thirteenth Curse!

Jobling is the British author of several books for children, including the Wereworld series (Puffin) and Frankenstein’s Cat (Hodder). He also designed the BBC’s children’s TV show Bob the Builder.
Orchard is planning to publish summer 2016. 

Random House will publish in the US in November 2015.  Cracking book cover by Jake Wyatt. 
About Curtis Jobling:
Curtis Jobling (www.curtisjobling.com and www.badablingthing.com) is the author of the acclaimed Wereworld series, published by Puffin. He’s also known for being the designer of the BAFTA-winning BBC show Bob the Builder. 

Curtis is based in Cheshire and visits up to 90 schools a year promoting his books – as well as being a regular on the festival circuit, speaking at Hay, Bath and Edinburgh. He is very active on Twitter (2.6K followers) and Facebook.