Monday, 30 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Sofi Croft - Indigo's Dragon ( Bk1) - Book Review

Indigo lives in the Lake District, and spends his time exploring the mountains he loves. An unexpected parcel arrives containing a first aid kit inside his grandfather’s satchel. Indigo’s curiosity is raised as he looks through his grandfather’s notebook to discover drawings of mythical creatures. 

Strange things begin to happen and Indigo finds himself treating an injured magpie-cat, curing a cockatrice of its death-darting gaze, and defending a dragon. Indigo realises he must uncover the secrets his family have kept hidden, and travels alone to the Polish mountains to search for his grandfather and the truth. 

Danger looms as events spiral out of control, and Indigo needs to make choices that change him, his world, and his future forever…

Summer is around the corner and this is the best time, in my opinion, to get your fantasy socks on and read a good book involving a legendary mythical dragon. Fortunately you don't need to look any further with the book Indigo's Dragon, which is set in the beautiful landscape of the Lake District. It invites you to walk the tight rope of magical adventures which will captivate the wild imagination and the spirit of being young. This is the first pocket size instalment to land on the bookshelves with two further books planned to follow. Indigo's Demons will be the follow up and will be published early December 2016. Whilst the third book, Indigo's Deep will be published at some point in June 2017. 

Indigo's Dragon is a fast paced and free flowing fantasy book for young readers around the age of 8 years old and upwards. The book features a young boy Indigo who is 13 years old and loves roaming the crags and fells of the Lake District. However, one day he gets an unusual parcel from his mysterious Grandfather Opi. It contains a book of tales of mythical beasts and a strange first aid kit, but unfortunately it is quickly stolen by a strange hybrid creature that has been conjured up in the inventive land of fantasy. 

The search for Indigo's grandfather, Opi, is a dark and dangerous path. All of which leads to the uncovering of secrets, answers to some vital questions and some really breathtaking moments. The story features lots of amazing creatures that have their roots firmly planted in folklore and tradition. It will certainly make children want to explore more original folktales and the great outdoor settings featured in the plot. The story also zips to the atmospheric Polish mountains and soon the mysteries unravel in a dream-like quality with a timely twist that will keep readers on their hooked claws.

The book is a great family adventure that will transport the reader to a magical place. It is an action packed adventure set in the great outdoors where you can breath in the magical air. The more that you read, the more you can inhale the strangeness that unfolds through the original plot. It will certainly help you to escape to a place and world far from what you know. 

This is a great debut story that really reflects the author's love and passion for reading and storytelling. It helps the story to blossom into an engaging read which is slightly different from mainstream books at the moment. This is a book that all children will identify with, especially with Indigo's character as he faces family loyalty, friendship and hidden family secrets. So much energy, emotion and feelings, with some highs and lows along the way, are delivered through this story. It is a really enjoyable tale focusing on finding out the truth about who and what you really are. 

The only possible downside about this book involves the very short page count. However, don't be disappointed fas there is more to come dear readers through the publication of a further two books in the future. The world will stop when you turn the first page, so pick up a copy, read it and enjoy .....

Published by Accent Press Ltd (23 Jun. 2016)

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Teens/Children's Book Picks US Published - May 2016

Lauren Wolk - Wolf Hollow - Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers (May 3, 2016) - Age 10+

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience and strength help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.

“The honesty of Wolf Hollow will just about shred your heart, but Annabelle’s courage and compassion will restore it to you, fuller than before. This book matters.” —Sara Pennypacker, New York Times bestselling author of Pax“An evocative setting, memorable characters, a searing story: Wolf Hollow has stayed with me long after I closed the book. It has the feel of an instant classic." —Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medalist and New York Times bestselling author.

Lisa Graff - A Clatter of Jars - Published by Philomel Books (May 24, 2016) - Age 8+

One of the finest novelists of her generation, National Book Award nominee Lisa Graff returns readers to the world of A Tangle of Knots, where a camp for Talented kids just might be a recipe for disaster.

In this magical companion to the National Book Award nominee A Tangle of Knots, it's summertime and everyone is heading off to camp. For Talented kids, the place to be is Camp Atropos, where they can sing songs by the campfire, practice for the Talent show, and take some nice long dips in the lake. But what the kids don't know is that they've been gathered for a reason--one that the camp's director wants to keep hidden at all costs.
Joel Ross - The Lost Compass (Fog Diver) - Published by HarperCollins Children's (May 24, 2016) - Age 8+
In the high-stakes sequel to The Fog Diver, a Texas Bluebonnet selection, thirteen-year-old Chess and his crew must stop the deadly and mysterious Fog from enveloping the city of Port Oro and destroying their world.
Chess and his crew—Hazel, Swedish, Loretta, and Bea—may have escaped the slums, but they cannot escape the Fog that threatens to swallow the entire mountaintop city of Port Oro. Only one thing can stop the Fog: an ancient machine known as the Compass. And only one person can find it: Chess. With the help of his crew, Chess faces dangerous encounters and deadly driftsharks to unearth the hidden instrument. It’s a race against time to save this sanctuary in the sky.
With adventure at every turn, peril behind every corner, and a few determined slumkids who must save the day, Joel Ross presents a fantastic world in this fast-paced follow-up to The Fog Diver.

Matthew Jobin - The Skeleth (The Nethergrim) - Published by Philomel Books (May 10, 2016) Age 10+

Discover for yourself why reviewers are comparing The Nethergrim to Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Ranger's Apprentice! The next great epic fantasy is here . . .

For the lords of the north, land is power. The Nethergrim, now awoken and free to wreak its evil upon the world, offers the promise of victory to those ruthless enough to accept its foul bargain. One ambitious lord, eager for the chance to conquer and rule, succumbs to temptation and helps to free the Skeleth—eerie, otherworldly beings said to be unstoppable in battle. The Skeleth merge with the bodies of their victims, ruling their minds and turning them into remorseless killers. Worse yet, to kill the man inside the Skeleth only frees it to seize a new host, starting a cycle of violence that has no end.
Such chilling tales are not enough to stop young Edmund, innkeeper’s son and would-be wizard, from seeking for a way to turn back the oncoming tide of destruction. Along with his best friends—Katherine the trainer of war-horses and Tom the runaway slave—Edmund searches for a magical weakness in the Skeleth, something that might allow him to break their never-ending curse. The three friends join with the legendary hero Tristan in a battle of courage, wisdom, wits, and sacrifice to stop the Skeleth from ravaging their homeland and all they hold dear.

This adventurous tale that marries earthly greed to otherworldly evil is perfect for fans who enjoy the epic worlds of John Flanagan's Ranger’s Apprentice, Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones. Discover for yourself why so many are making the comparisons!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Robin Jarvis -The Power of Dark - Author Interview (The Whitby Witches Trilogy/The Deptford Mice)

It's really cool to have the opportunity to ask one of my all time favourite authors some questions about his latest book. Robin Jarvis is the author of the spectacularly amazing dark fantasy series known as "The Whitby Witches Trilogy" and the fantastic series "The Depthford Mice." In more recent times, he has written "The Dancing Jax Trilogy" which was superb and is definitely worth checking out, if you haven't done so already. His latest book,"The Power of Dark", will be published at the start of June 2016 and is fantastic. Please check out my book review here to find out more. 
I'm sure you'll find the interview fascinating as it is a personal look into the author's fantastic writing career.

Who do you think will love reading The Power of Dark?
 The reader I always try to entertain when I'm writing is my childhood self. I wasn't particularly happy from the age of 10 onwards, as that was when my 18 year old brother had a motorbike accident that left him brain damaged and I needed to escape the awfulness of how that devastated my family. So that's what my books are for, other spaces to slip into, if someone needs a respite from their surroundings. When reality lets you down, a good book won't.  

The Power of Dark is set in Whitby, North Yorkshire, what makes you visit this town again in your stories?

I can't help it. The place won't leave me alone, it compels stories out of me. It's such a perfect blend of every location you could want, with a fabulously rich history that stretches back over a thousand years. Whitby is a bit like author fly paper, so many have been enchanted by it: Lewis Carrol, Dickens, Stoker, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, A. S. Byatt, Robert Swindells - and don't forget Caedmon was inspired by a heavenly dream to become one of the earliest English poets. There must be some powerful kind of word magic there.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the world building within your book?
 The character of Cherry Cerise is a real person who lives here in Greenwich (Cherry isn't her real name). She's a local eccentric who came up to me one day out of the blue, we didn't know each other, and started talking for forty five minutes. Her language and subject matter were far more colourful than anything I could put in this series but I knew I had to use her, she was a writer's dream.  If readers like Cherry as a character, it's because I managed to capture something of the genuine person.
Have you ever used contemporary events or stories “ripped from the headlines” in your work? 
 Oh yes, the start of the book where the cliffside crumbles and graves spill out, was an actual event that occurred a few years ago in Whitby. Also there was a real tension between the steampunkers and the Goths, which I found fascinating and had to include somehow.

 What makes a good fantasy writer?
I think you just have to be able to create characters that the reader can care about, maybe not even identify with, but love in some wayIf you can do that, then the fantastical elements of the story will be so much more satisfying.
A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book?
The villains and monsters are always great fun for me. I just have to step into their shoes - or scales, and try to think like them. Appropriate music helps enormously. Sometimes it can be a bit alarming when heinous ideas pop in but it's always exciting to be taken by surprise by your own evil creations.
If you were running the 100 metre dash with a new writer, what writing and/or publishing wisdom would you bestow upon him/her before you reached the final line?
Oh gosh, that's difficult. At school I could run that in fourteen seconds but it'd take me an hour these days. I don't think I'm qualified to give advice to anyone, as it's such a personal passion and everyone finds their own unique voice.  All I would say is write something that you'd love to read yourself.
Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
I've met some great actors who read my books on audio, including childhood heroes like Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee, but my all time favourite celeb moment was when Felicity Kendal came up to me on a plane once and asked for my autograph for her son. You should have seen the faces of everyone else!

What can we expect in the next book in the series, and how many are there going to be?

The next book is called The Devil's Paintbox, and Whitby really suffers this time. There'll be a lot more peril and heartbreak for Lil and Verne, some familiar fiendish faces and new horrors to run away from. There's going to be four in this series.
Do you think book reviews are important?
 Oh absolutely. They're great for a reader who isn't familiar with an author's work to get an idea of what it's like and if it's something they might enjoy. What's fascinating for me is how different some of the reviews can be, which just shows how personal an experience reading a book is.

Last question, what five things would you take on a desert island and why?

If I can't take someone useful like Bear Grylls or Ray Mears, then four books on survival and DIY because I'm as practical as a rubber sword - and finally the soundtrack from the old tv serial of Robinson Crusoe that was always shown during the summer holidays when I was growing up. Although, to really immerse myself in the experience, I would have to lose my colour vision as that series was in black and white. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: #1 - Brian Wells - The League and the Lantern - Recommended Children's US Book - May 2016

AFTER A DISASTROUS SIXTH GRADE, Jake Herndon is anxiously awaiting his Big Do-Over, starting with his new school's notorious seventh grade sleepover. Awkward team-building games and forced fun quickly become the least of his problems, however, when a dangerous organization invades and the night takes a shocking turn. Jake and two new classmates, Lucy and TJ, barely escape, only to find themselves in a fight for survival on the streets of Chicago. Over the next 48 hours they unravel a mystery dating back to the Civil War and an incredible secret about Jake s family. 

Full of unforgettable characters and unexpected twists, The League and the Lantern is a jaw-dropping ride of mind-bending revelations and laugh-out-loud humor. If Jake and his new friends can make it through this weekend, they just might have a shot at seventh grade. 
In this debut novel, family television executive producer and dad Brian Wells has created an epic, rip-roaring comedy adventure that s also about courage, family and friendship. The result is an engaging mix of great characters, crackling wit and unexpected twists that 9- to 14-year-olds, entertainment executives and family groups are applauding. 
Wells works from the belief that great entertainment is driven by memorable characters and imaginative writing, and it shows. The League and The Lantern delivers all of this and more without objectionable language or inappropriate themes. Throw in a plot that traces back to real historical figures and you ve got what some are calling Percy Jackson meets National Treasure. 
As an extra bonus, the book also invisibly weaves in 140 of the top vocabulary words for middle grade pupils. 

Published by Republic Ink (May 16, 2016) Website:

Monday, 23 May 2016

David Solomons (Author) Laura Ellen Anderson (Illustrator) My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord - Book Review

Sequel to the bestselling My Brother is a Superhero - over 47,000 copies sold to date! David Solomons is a meteroic new voice in children's fiction - perfect for fans of Frank Cottrell Boyce Zack and Lara have superpowers. Luke has new school shoes and a burning sense of resentment. He KNOWS that aliens disguised as gym teachers are about to attack Earth but will anyone listen? No. So one dodgy pact with a self-styled supervillain later, and Luke is ready to save the world. He just needs to find his trainers...

David Solomon is back with his magic cape and hero superpowers with the eagerly anticipated sequel to "My Brother is a Superhero." This was one of the biggest success stories in children's publishing last year and was awarded the Children’s Book of the Year as well as the British Book Industry Awards 2016. It also scooped up the overall winner of the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2016 and was shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2016. It was a fantastic success and introduced a great new storytelling voice with a distinctive feel that is loaded with outlandish humour. 

Get ready to be a superhero once again. Hold onto your rocket boosters and maybe your pants as My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord will slip and flap discreetly onto the bookshelves across the galaxy on the 7th July 2016. Published by Nosy Crow, the publisher with avian expertise, this book is for everybody who loved the first book or those interested in comic fictional superheroes. You're going to giggle like a school kid falling out of a tree house which has just been set on fire by an Alien Overlord, but don't worry kids as Zack and Luke are on hand to save the day, or maybe not!

This book is a very clever work of fiction combining things that children will relate to in a big fantasy way. Computer games, movies with big action heroes, comics that always have a great moral ending etc. There are also some great references to other superheroes from Marvel or DC that make our perception of a superhero tie in with the characters in this crazy caper. 

The book makes references to school life, family and friendship troubles, which gives the story some grounding, as well as neatly integrating these into a thrilling plot of craziness and humour. The next esssential ingredient is one fiendish alien overlord and alongside an evil bunch of school gym teachers, who are about to attack earth and turn everyone into zombies who watch reality TV. You might be thinking that this sounds great and, yes, it really is. Regardless of your age, you will really enjoy this book. 

This is a book that you can sink into and relax. It is easy to read, emotionally charged and full of great one liners, which is pure fantasy escapism for the duration of the story. It is full of slapstick non-stop action to save the world, that is providing that Luke finds his trainers first.. and if Zack fights his epic bout of alien flu. However, with Laura in the wings everything is going to be OK, or is it? You will never know until the climatic ending and the last page has been turned. This is a great family read, as it is super funny and wildly inventive. Don't forget to check out the cool illustrations by the talented Laura Allen Anderson. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Favourite Book Picks: Children's/Teens - May 2016 - UK Post Three

Django Wexler - The Palace of Glass (The Forbidden Library) - Published by Corgi Children's (5 May 2016)

For Alice, danger threatens from inside the library as well as out. Having figured out the role her master and uncle, Geryon, played in her father's disappearance, Alice turns to Ending – the mysterious, magical giant feline and guardian of Geryon's library – for a spell to incapacitate Geryon.

But, like all cats, Ending is adept at keeping secrets and Alice doesn't know the whole story. Once she traps Geryon with Ending's spell, there's no one to stop the other Readers from sending their apprentices to pillage Geryon's library. 

As Alice prepares to face an impending attack from the combined might of the Readers, she gathers what forces she can – the apprentices she once thought might be her friends, the magical creatures imprisoned in Geryon's library – not knowing who, if anyone, she can trust.

Laura Martin - Edge of Extinction (Edge of Extinction, Book 1) - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (19 May 2016)

The beasts are back…
Dinosaurs have reclaimed the earth, driving humans underground and only a band of teens can save the world. JURASSIC PARK meets INDIANA JONES In this thrilling new action-adventure series.
Two hundred years ago, the first dinosaur was successfully cloned. Soon after, the human race realized they’d made a colossal mistake…
The dregs of humanity have been driven into hiding, living in underground Compounds.
Thirteen year old Sky Mundy’s father was part of the inner circle of Compound leaders until five years ago he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Sky to try and track him down. Along with her best friend Shawn, she steps out into the world above, a world of rampaging dinosaurs, but also a full of surprises, where Sky is about to learn that just about everything she’s been taught has been a lie, and the dinosaurs might not be the most dangerous predators out there
Now Sky not only has to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance – she also has to save the world.

William Sutcliffe (Author) David Tazzyman (Illustrator) - Circus of Thieves and the Comeback Caper (Circus of Thieves 3) - Published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK (19 May 2016)

Shank's Impossible Circus rolls back into town for this hilarious brand new adventure from Will Sutcliffe brought to life by wonderful illustrations from David Tazzyman!

And there's about to be double the trouble as dastardly ringmaster Armitage Shank comes face to face with his long lost twin! Urgh, how will the world cope with two Shanks?

Diana Hendry - Out of the Clouds - Published by Hodder Children's Books (5 May 2016)

The perfect book for fathers and sons to share - and for anyone who has ever been part of a crazy but loveable family.
Oliver Coggin lives with his chaotic family in Dizzy Perch, a crazy house on top of a mountain somewhere remote in Scotland. With Pa away - on mysterious but exciting scientific research - Oliver keeps the household going. Not that everyone always listens to what he has to say. Or appreciates him. But what does Oliver want himself? He'd like to escape the house sometimes. He'd like a friend, like the new boy he sees in the village. Most of all, he'd like to understand why his father went away. And where's he's gone. So Oliver sets out on a long journey to get Pa back.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Guest Post by Philip Caveney - (Edinburgh a Place for Inspiration)

The city of Edinburgh has proved to be a fertile source of inspiration for my fiction. It was a wonderful but entirely unexpected gift. 
I first visited in August 2010 for the Fringe Festival. I was amazed and invigorated by the buzz on the streets and the wealth of theatre and comedy that was on offer everywhere I turned. But the first real inspiration came when I visited Mary King’s Close. 

For those who don’t know, this is a 17th Century street underneath the Royal Mile, used as the foundations for the building of the Royal Exchange in the 1700s, effectively forgotten about for centuries and only opened up to the public in 2003. It is essentially a time capsule, preserved exactly as it was in the 1600s, the steeply sloping streets, the tall tenements and the empty rooms that seem to positively ooze with atmosphere. A guide explained about the summer of 1645 when bubonic plague ravished the community and nobody was safe from its deadly embrace. 

As he spoke, I suddenly realised that I wanted to set a story here. 
The resulting book is Crow Boy, a time-travel adventure in which Tom Afflick, a hapless youth from Manchester, finds himself hurled back across the centuries to the heart of Mary Kings Close, where he is forced to become the assistant to an evil plague doctor. Happily, MKC took the book to their heart, allowing us to launch it there and selling copies in their gift shop. Years later, it remains one of their best-selling items and because people from all over the world visit the place, it helps to disseminate copies around the globe. 

When it came time for a follow up, I chanced upon another powerful inspiration - the eight miniature coffins still on display in the National Museum of Scotland. They were found by some schoolboys in 1828, hidden on the slopes of Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano that overlooks the city. The boys had been hunting rabbits that day but instead made an amazing discovery. Each coffin contained a tiny dressed doll. There were seventeen of them originally but the rather stupid boys decided to throw them at each other, destroying more than half of them within minutes. Luckily, their history teacher overheard them talking of what they’d done and retraced their steps, finding eight of the coffins still intact. 

People have speculated for many years as to who hid them up there and why, so I enlisted Tom Afflick to whizz back in time in order to solve the mystery, linking the coffins to the exploits of two of Edinburgh’s most infamous villains – Burke and Hare. The book was called, appropriately enough, Seventeen Coffins. 

On the eve of publication, my wife and I climbed Arthur’s Seat at dawn and hid three carefully wrapped copies of the book up there. Two copies have so far been found, but there’s still one more hidden somewhere amidst the rocks… 
For the third and final story in the series, One For Sorrow, I decided to concentrate on a famous Edinburgh author – Robert Louis Stevenson. When I discovered that he had first published his seminal novel, Treasure Island in the weekly children’s magazine, Young Folks, I was intrigued, especially as he’d published the story under the pseudonym Captain George North. I quickly evolved my central premise – that Tom would have to persuade RLS to publish the story, as a book, under his own name - or the world might lose one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. I also had to find a convincing ending for Tom’s travels – one that, judging by many of the emails I received just after publication, caused more than a few tears amongst my readers. 

So, I had three stories all inspired by Edinburgh. What else could the city offer me? Well, over the years, I have always been impressed by the wonderful statues around the city. I have come to think of them as characters in their own right. One day, as I strolled past the monument to the Royal Scots greys on Princes Street, I found myself thinking, what if they are sentient? What if they can see and hear and feel as we mortals pass by them from day to day? What do they think of or stupid comments, the way we treat them as mere photo opportunities? And then I thought, what if there was one special day in the year, one incredible twenty four hour period when human time in Edinburgh comes to a stop and the statues are allowed to climb down from their plinths to enjoy each other’s company? 

The result is my latest novel, The Calling. 
In the book, a young boy wakes up on a train to Edinburgh. He is amazed to discover that he doesn’t know how he even came to be on the train… and worse still, he doesn’t know who he is! Things get even more confusing when he turns out to be the only human left awake at midnight, to witness the moment when every statue in the city comes to life. As a ‘softie’ he’s not very welcome. The king of the statues, Charles II is all for chopping off his head, but luckily, the boy soon finds a talented ally. The statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place is assigned to find out exactly who the boy (who the statues have nick-named Ed) is and to get him back where he came from. The statues, you see, embody all the attributes of the characters they are made to represent. As for the supporting cast, I was able to draw on some of Edinburgh’s most celebrated inhabitants – David Livingstone, Sir Walter Scott, William Wallace… even Greyfriar’s Bobbie gets to lend a paw in the proceedings. 

The book surprised me in some ways – as the story develops it becomes a crime novel, as it transpires that ‘Ed’ has been involved in a terrible ordeal. Things get quite dark but The Calling has garnered me some of the most positive reviews of my career. 

So… what next? Does Edinburgh have any more inspirations for me? Will it offer me another opportunity to delve into its illustrious past? At this stage, I can only utter those three time-honoured words. 
Watch this space.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: H. P. Wood - Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet - Adult Book Review

May 1904. Coney Island's newest amusement park, Dreamland, has just opened. Its many spectacles are expected to attract crowds by the thousands, paying back investors many times over.  
Kitty Hayward and her mother arrive by steamer from South Africa. When Kitty's mother takes ill, the hotel doctor sends Kitty to Manhattan to fetch some special medicine.  But when she returns, Kitty's mother has vanished. The desk clerk tells Kitty that she is at the wrong hotel.  The doctor says he's never seen her before, although Kitty notices he is unable to look her in the eye.
Alone in a strange country, Kitty meets the denizens of Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet. A relic of a darker, dirtier, era, Magruder's is home to a forlorn flea circus, a handful of disgruntled Unusuals, and a mad Uzbek scientist. Magruder's Unusuals take Kitty under their wing and resolve to find out what happened to her mother. 
But as a plague spreads, Coney Island is placed under quarantine.  The gang at Magruder's finds that a missing mother is the least of their problems, as the once-glamorous resort is abandoned to the freaks, anarchists, and madmen.

Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet is one big curiosity at the wrong end of Coney Island set around 1904. Opening the door only increases the likelihood that someone might actually come on in. However, only a fool like me would enter, but enter you should. Dust down those fantasy braincells and enter into the world that is breathtaking, amazing and very original.  

This is NOT a children's book even though the book cover might lead younger readers into believing that it is due to it's playful nature. However, this book has to be one of the best debut adult books that I have read for some time. The last book to make me feel like this was Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus' which does have some similarities, in my opinion. Both books have a magical and mysterious setting that will absorb you slowly and intellectually into the story; they are written and researched very well. Attention to detail is a key for books like this - trying to get the period details as accurate as you can. Getting the mood of the time and making it feel "real" and "believable" enables the writer, in this case, to draw you into a chaotic and vibrant world that is unique, enchanting and very, very strange.

Once you start on this journey and turn the pages, the plot will certainly fly by. You will not only read this story you will actually inhale it, feel it and almost touch it. You will walk the Boardwalk in the footsteps of an eclectic mix of characters known as the Unusuals or "freaks of nature". These are biological rarities that were exhibited to shock you and sometimes deceive you. In this case, they will charm you like a prize rattlesnake in full flight. You get to feel and uncover all of the characters emotions and back stories - not just the main ones. It's gripping stuff! You start out with Zep as he unlocks the heavy oak door of Theopilus P. As a result of Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet, like all of the other characters, you will soon find yourself gravitating to this special place of intrigue, mystery and science. You will really not want to leave. 

This book pulls no literary punches and hides behind no fairground ride. It is a book of death, violence, corruption and certainly greed. The inhabitants of Coney Island face a deadly coughing strand of the plague, which brings a world of chaos, mayhem, destruction and a rather unpleasant death. It will have you engrossed until the very end of the narrative and beyond.

This is a very special read that you will not forget in a hurry. It's a rollercoaster of weirdness and the extreme bizarre. It's full of sadness, happiness, action, friendship, murder, mystery and romance. It's a fantastically colourful insight into a lost world; around every corner you will marvel at the craziness such as the flea circus, mad scientists, con artists and disgruntled characters

It is all in there as it has been lifted out of the author's amazing imagination and put before your very eyes. Some people may not get everything behind this book, as it's an acquired taste for sure. However it's an incredible read that I really loved, and I really hope that you will too. I only wish that I'd visited Coney Island on my recent NYC holiday. I would love to see H.P Wood write another story around this setting; the characters certainly deserve this, in my opinion, and so do I as the reader. This book is due to be published in the US by Sourcebooks in June 2016.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Stewart Foster - The Bubble Boy - Author Q&A Interview

This is one of the best books that I've read this year, so check out my review here to find out what I thought. It was a fantastic opportunity and a great pleasure to ask some questions about Stewart's debut book which will be published by Simon & Schuster on the 19th May 2016.  Check out the interview below; we hope that you will enjoy it.   
Joe is 11 years, 2 months and 21 days old, what is he like as a character? 
Joe is the sort of kid that when you first meet him you think him very confident and mature, but that comes from being surrounded by adults. It's his conversations with Henry that reveal most about him, he's actually pretty insecure, a little na├»ve, and frightened but at the same time he's got the spirit not to just sit back and let the world float by his window.
What was the process like writing The Bubble Boy? Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I started with one idea, a kid unable to go outside because he was too ill. So in chapter 1 described his room and gave him a sister, the story grew from that, and I discovered new things, chapter by chapter. At around the half way mark, I knew the ending, in fact I wrote the final chapter at that point. Then it was just like firing a rocket at the moon. I had a point to aim for, I just had to work out how to get there.
What is the message within your book?
The main message is to always have hope no matter how bleak your situation my seem. It's not a flight of fantasy or a point of ridicule for a person to have dreams. I also wanted to write a book about good, and not evil. There's too many evil things around today. 
How much research did you do in preparation for writing this book?
All I can say is thank goodness we've got the internet because I was forever flicking between a word document and google. When I first put Joe in his room I didn't give him a specific disease. I wanted his story to come out first and not to be dictated by the parameters of his illness. What made it hard at times is that I'm pretty squeamish, just typing the word 'blood' made my fingers go weak, but in the end I realised that rather than limit the horizons, the research took the story to places I didn't imagine like when Joe discovers Staphylococcus.
What did you learn from writing your debut book that will help you to write future books?
The Bubble Boy is my debut children's novel after I wrote We used to be Kings. The biggest lesson I took from writing is not to be afraid of research. I always used to think to but research would hold up or block the writing where actually it opens it up.
Not all superheroes wear capes, tell us more? 
I love Spiderman and the reason he's my favourite is that he's a good person when he's Peter Parker as well as when he's wearing his suit. There's no bad side to him at all. I do hope, in this time when the movie makers are pitting Superheroes against each other that they don't do it with Spiderman. He's not meant to fight his peers, he's here to save the world. In The Bubble Boy I just wanted people to see that heroes come in all shapes and sizes, that doing good things can be cool and that you don't do them for reward or recognition, you do them to make other peoples lives better. Sometimes I feel like Bubble is a tribute to doctors and nurses in the NHS, I don't mind if it's seen as that.
The book is very poignant, do you recommend a box of tissues when you read the book?
Bubble is poignant, but overall I'd like people to see it as a happy story, one of hope. There are two scenes that upset me when I was writing, one of them is just one line about the Snooker Ball Kid. I couldn't believe how attached I got to a kid that we never actually get to meet. So okay, the story is upsetting at times but sad things happen in hospitals. I was talking to a London bookseller a couple of weeks back and she said she loved the way I didn't hold back, or sugar coat it and I agree, I didn't, but at the same time I didn't want to make it gratuitous or unrealistic. I don't think I could bare to write something unreal. 
What can a boy like Joe do in London in three hours?
Three hours? God such a short time and so many kids want so many different things. How about I tell you the perfect three hours for Joe? He'd go to watch Arsenal play Man United at the Emirates with his sister and Greg. He'd meet Theo Walcott before the game and half time Amir would do a fly pass with red smoke trailing from the tail like the Red Arrows. Aaaargh! We're running out of time...can you give him an extra two so he can watch Avengers Assemble on the big screen as he makes his way home?
One of my favourite characters is Amir, as he is fascinated about aliens. What does he think they will look like and where did that idea come from?
Amir doesn't have a picture of what Aliens look like, he's more interested in their souls and the feelings they bring with them. My god that sounds a bit deep. I guess I'm saying Amir is a very spiritual person, he doesn't have to see people or Aliens to know they are in the room. 
And where did the idea come from?....Well honestly, I put this mysterious person in the room with Joe and he didn't speak for ages, he just kept watching the planes out the window, and when he mutters 'Do you believe in Aliens?' I was as surprised as the reader, but looking back after developing his character, it's the only words he could have said.
Is there anything else that you would like to tell us, such as any new writing projects?
I'm not sure if this is the place to put this but I'd love to tell other writers, published or unpublished, not to give up. The Bubble Boy came out of a moment of being very down about writing. The publishing world can be a harsh place at times but when I idea springs you have to pick it up and run with it. I think most importantly, accept that agents and editors know what they are doing. You may love and be protective of your story but accept what you think is harsh criticism will actually push you to make your story better.
And what next? I've just finished a first draft of a story about bullying. It's upset me more than I could have imagined, but that usually a good thing. It my writing doesn't affect me I can't expect it to do the same to the reader.