Monday, 30 April 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Interview with Sara Mulvanny Illustrator (Q&A)

It's fantastic to have the very talented illustrator, Sara Mulvannyon, on Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books today. It's always fascinating to uncover the inside life of an illustrator, their work and background. I love Sara Mulvanny's work, especially her brilliant book covers for children and adult books. This post has been a wonderful opportunity to ask her questions about her career and life. I hope this little interview has piqued your interest in her work. If so, then why not pop over to her website and take a look at her other projects at 

Have a great day and happy reading.

How did you become an illustrator? 
I grew up painting and drawing and I knew from an early age that I wanted to be an artist. Although I was quite academic at school and excelled at maths and physics, my favourite subject was art. It was something I loved doing so it never felt like a chore. At college, I realised that it was the commercial application of art that I found really fascinating rather than fine art. I loved collecting old posters, adverts and beautiful ephemera. I studied Illustration at Kingston University and graduated with a BA (Hons) in 2010 after which I moved back to my Hampshire studio to pursue a career as a freelance illustrator. I was thrilled to receive my first commission a few days after I graduated, it was a book cover for Random House. Since then I’ve created illustrations for books, magazines, packaging, restaurant/museum interiors, and posters. In 2013 I joined Agency Rush and each year gets better and better and therefore busier and busier! 

What is your favourite medium to draw/paint with? 
All my Illustrations start as rough sketches to work out ideas and composition. I use a Staedtler Mars Micro Mechanical Pencil on cartridge paper, my favourite being Daler Rowney Smooth Heavyweight paper which is great for line work. When I am happy with the rough I will effectively pull it apart so that I can re-draw each element separately using pen and ink. My favourite finer liners are Uni PIN Drawing Pens, but I also use a Rotring Artpen and a Pentel brush pen as well. Those separate line drawings are then scanned into my Apple iMac and the final illustration is digitally composed on Adobe Photoshop using colour and texture. My final illustrations exist as digital files and are composed of sometimes hundreds of layers which gives me freedom to adjust colours and layout easily. I absolutely love my Wacom pen tablet which I use for Photoshop work and I don’t know how I ever survived without it. 

Describe your typical working week? 
Every week is different and I love the variation in my working life, you never know what challenges you will face from each day to the next. I’m the most productive and creative in the mornings so I tend to get up early if I’m very busy with commissions. I’m disciplined about taking tea/coffee/yoga breaks otherwise I become sluggish and lose motivation during the afternoon. When I have a lot of deadlines I will draw all day. I find that allocating a certain amount of time for each project prevents me from falling behind. I dislike working late at night because I’m not very productive when I’m tired. When I have a respite from deadlines I catch-up on more menial tasks such as organising paperwork and accounts. I also try to go to the gym every evening to do an exercise class in an attempt to stop myself from becoming a hermit. Trying to keep a good work/life balance can be difficult, they can easily amalgamate into one and the same thing which isn’t particularly healthy. I’m lucky enough to be part of Agency Rush who are a great bunch of people, they are really supportive and they definitely help me feel less isolated when I’m working on my own. Occasionally I get the chance to go to London to visit a client, or Brighton to visit Agency Rush, these days a rare luxury now but it’s always good to get out of my quiet studio and see the hustle and bustle of the city. 

What kind of illustration projects are you most interested in? 
I’m very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects over the years; My illustrations have been featured in a variety of media from books to packaging, restaurant interiors to posters. It’s this variety that makes life as an illustrator so exciting, rather than a particular type of commission. I’m often juggling a few commissions at once, and it’s their differences which make them enjoyable, rather than their similarities. I’m currently working on a large commission for a museum, a book about plants, a map for a magazine cover, a science book, and an editorial piece about wedding cakes! 

Could you tell us a bit about any of your upcoming projects? 
I’ve been working on a large commission over the last few months for the Museum of Royal Worcester which is having a complete redesign by the very talented Studio Savage. My illustrations are being used on each floor of the museum in a manner of different scenarios which is really exciting. The largest part of the project is the life-size kitchen installation. The kitchen is split down the middle, with a 1920’s design on one side and a 1970’s design on the other. I’ve illustrated everything from the floor patterns and wallpaper to the kitchen cupboards, food, china, life-size oven, microwave, table and the posters adorning the walls. I also created a large 18th century map of England and a smattering of other illustrations throughout the museum. It’s currently being printed and I can’t wait for the launch, it’s the largest commission I’ve worked on and it will be great to see my work in such an immersive setting. 

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received from someone within the industry? 
There’s plenty of great advice out there for new illustrators, fledgling designers should definitely pick up a copy of The Fundamentals of Illustration by Lawrence Zeegen: it’s packed full great tips and advice I found useful when starting out. But often the best lessons are the hard ones you learn yourself. You can’t avoid making mistakes, it’s a natural part of progress. However, when you make mistakes you learn from them and (hopefully!) you don’t make them again. 

A quote that I found helpful over the years is: 

‘Admire someone else’s beauty without questioning your own’ 

As an illustrator you will have moments in life when you compare your work to other people’s with the result being that you end up feeling inferior. An important skill is being able to admire other people’s work without doubting your own abilities. There are so many great illustrators out there it can be daunting pursuing a career in such a competitive market. But we all have insecurities as an artist, days when we feel like what we do isn’t good enough, and there are some commissions which just don’t work out as well as others for whatever reason. However, I’ve found that there are far more good days than bad, and there are some really great days as well. Perseverance pays off and the great days make all the hard work worthwhile. 

What is a favourite piece of work that you have produced? 
One of my favourite book cover commissions is still ‘Chasing the Dram’ by Rachel McCormack. The brief itself was quite open: the publisher wanted the cover to feel ‘really fun’ and if I made sure the whisky and travelogue aspects were clear, I had a free reign so to speak. That kind of brief either works out really well or can be a bit of struggle if the client is unsure of what they want. In this case it was the former and it’s one of my favourite commissions as I got to combine my love of hand-drawn typography with some humour and narrative elements, a limited muted colour palette and the creation of a map for the end papers. 

Who are your favourite illustrators and why? 
I love the strong, bold designs of Noma Bar: his clever use of negative space and humour is unapparelled, it’s essentially the definition of great design. Being able to communicate an idea with minimal shapes takes maximum skill. On the other side of the spectrum I’m always in awe of the lavish wallpaper patterns by William Morris, the beauty of the sinuous flora is mesmerising. I love patterns and it’s something I would like to do more of in the future. 

Tell us a secret? 
I’m a massive Harry Potter geek, I queued up for the books at midnight and my sister and I have been on the studio tour 4 times so far… I also listen to the Harry Potter audio books read by Stephen Fry when I’m getting stressed because they keep me calm. In truth, my family and friends would say my Harry Potter obsession is less of a secret and more of a well-known fact.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

John Clewarth - Firestorm Rising - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

Raingate Cemetery is the spooky playground of Tom Allerton, Daniel 'Doc' Studd and Jasmine 'Jazz' Baxter, and provides a great opportunity for them to play a practical Halloween joke on their schoolmates. Events take an unexpected turn when a freak storm occurs and lightning strikes an ancient and crumbling tomb. The children flee in terror, all except for Jazz who decides to investigate. Peering into the smoking rubble of the sepulchre, she is strangely drawn towards a weird pendant which unleashes a chain of terrifying and supernatural events. As the unearthly owner of the pendant endeavours to get it back, the friendship of the central characters is put to the toughest test, and they discover the true meanings of friendship, loyalty, truthfulness and fear. The children learn that there are far more things in the universe than they ever learned at school, as a terrifying monster is awakened from a long hot sleep. . .

When I was a child, I loved being scared. I'm not quite sure why? But I did. I loved to watch old creepy movies late at night and hide behind my pillows. One of my favourite places to go was the local graveyard. I pretended that there were monsters, ghosts and zombies roaming about in the dark, ready to jump out and grab me! Reading 'Firestorm Rising' by John Clewarth definitely took me back to my childhood. The atmospheric tale kept me reading late into the night and searching for a secure cover. 

The book has an interesting and intriguing open sentence "The meteor sizzles through the vastness of space like a giant, blazing phoenix". This certainly grabs and pulls you into a dark vortex of mystery. The story captures your imaganation but without revealing too much in the way of infomation. It helps each fantasy brain to fill in the gaps and provides every reader with their own interpretation and perspective of the story. Nevertheless, you'll find yourself hurtling along a roller-coaster of an adventure into a plot of spookiness, friendship and a terrifying monster. The story gains power and momentum, feeding off the fear from the characters and readers alike. 

This is a great story for the Halloween-period as it is fast-paced, easy to read and very relatable. The author has written a great story distilling the dark elements of the story and contrasting these with the friendships and playfulness in which the story is told. The individual character personalities shine through and enable the reader to develop an emotional attachment with at least one or more of the characters. 

A great recommended read that has its feet set in reality. It slowly sucks the reading into an unconventional and absorbing spooky fantasy that you will want to read quickly. This should be a great hit with every age - young and old, but especially reluctant readers. If this sounds like your type of book then you might want to read an extract of the book or visit the author's website to buy a copy now. Equally, I understand you can purchase this from Silver Quill Publishing/Amazon very shortly. In the meantime, why not pop over and say hello at 

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle-Grade Book Picks April 2018 - US Post Two

Vera Brosgol - Be Prepared - Published by First Second (April 24, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1626724457 - Paperback 

"Beautifully drawn, brutally funny, brilliantly honest. Vera is such a good cartoonist I almost can’t stand it.” ―Raina Telgemeier, author of Smile
All Vera wants to do is fit in―but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there's one summer camp in her price range―Russian summer camp.
Vera is sure she's found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the "cool girl" drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

Ellen Potter & Felicita Sala - Big Foot and Little Foot (Book #1 Published by Harry N. Abrams (April 10, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1419728594 - Hardback

Hugo is a young Sasquatch who longs for adventure. Boone is young boy who longs to see a Sasquatch. When their worlds collide, they become the unlikeliest pair of best friends.
At the Academy for Curious Squidges, Hugo learns all manner of Sneaking—after all, the most important part of being a Sasquatch is staying hidden from humans. But Hugo dreams of roaming free in the Big Wide World rather than staying cooped up in caves. When he has an unexpected run-in with a young human boy, Hugo seizes the opportunity for a grand adventure. Soon, the two team up to search high and low for mythical beasts, like Ogopogos and Snoot-Nosed Gints. Through discovering these new creatures, together, Big Foot and Little Foot explore the ins and outs of each other’s very different worlds but learn that, deep down, maybe they’re not so different after all.

Jordan Stratford (Author) Kelly Murphy (Illustrator) - The Case of the Perilous Palace (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, Book 4) - Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers (April 17, 2018) - 

  • ISBN-13: 978-0553536447 - Hardback 

The history-mystery-science series concludes as the Wollstonecraft Detectives--Ada Byron Lovelace and Mary Shelley--take on a case by royal request.

Ada's imperious grandmother has absolutely shut the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency down--until they get a case from a princess, that is.

The princess Alexandrina Victoria, age 9 (who will grow up to be Queeen Victoria), is the most closely watched girl in England. She is never alone. Every morsel she eats is catalogued. Every visitor overseen. Every move noted down. She has but one thing of her own--a sketchbook she uses as a secret diary, where she records her private thoughts in code. But now, somehow, that sketchbook has disappeared.

And so the princess enlists Ada and Mary to figure out what has happened to the sketchbook without arousing the suspicions of her minders. A most clandestine case indeed! One that will involve breaking into Kensington Palace and uncovering a host of surprising royal secrets...

This funny, Christmas-time romp of a caper will delight history and mystery fans alike.

Lauren Abbey Greenberg - The Battle of Junk Mountain - Published by Running Press Kids (April 17, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-0762462957 - Hardback 

Twelve-year-old Shayne Whittaker has always spent summers on the Maine coast, visiting her grandmother Bea and playing with her BFF Poppy. Both Shayne and Bea are collectors, in their own ways: Shayne revels in golden memories of searching for sea glass and weaving friendship bracelets with Poppy, while Bea scours flea markets for valuable finds, much of which she adds to a growing pile in her house that Shayne jokingly calls Junk Mountain.

This summer, though, everything has changed. Poppy would rather talk about boys than bracelets, and Bea's collecting mania has morphed into hoarding. Only Linc, the weird Civil War-obsessed kid next door, pays attention to her. Turns out Linc's collected a secret of his own, one that could enrage the meanest lobsterman on the planet, his grandpa. What begins as the worst summer of Shayne's life becomes the most meaningful, as she wages an all-out battle to save her friendships, rescue her grandmother, and protect the memories she loves the most.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Ewa Jozefkowicz - The Mystery of the Colour Thief - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

First the accident, then the nightmares. The shadowy thief steals all the colours from Izzy's world leaving her feeling empty and hopeless. Will her new neighbour and a nest full of cygnets save Izzy and solve the mystery of the colour thief? A heartwarming story about families, friendships, school, nature, hope and self-confidence. 
After a frightening car accident, Izzy's mum is in a coma. Her family is in pieces. Her best friend at school has dumped her. And her nightmares are haunted by a shadowy man stealing all the colours from her world. She's trying so hard to be brave, but Izzy thinks everything is her fault. Then she meets her new neighbour, Toby, paralyzed after a skateboarding accident, and together they find a nest of cygnets who need rescuing. Particularly the odd one out, called Spike. Will saving Spike save Izzy? Will she and Toby solve the mystery of the colour thief and bring hope and happiness back to Izzy's life? Written with insight, compassion and empathy – an authentic story about real life and how to survive it.

What is on the review table this week? 

Well, it is a brilliant debut book by Polish author, Ewa Jozefkowicz. The Mystery of the Colour Thief will hit the shops, with a resounding bundle of emotions, on 3rd May 2018. It has been published by Zephyr and is aimed at 9-12 year old readers. However, I believe that it will be especially loved by adults. 

This is a very thought provoking book; deeply moving with a very tragic story which could happen to anybody in real-life. The book is emotionally and sensitively written. It shows how perspectives differ depending on the feelings of the character. The main character is a young girl called Izzy, who is trying to deal with the fact that her mother is in hospital. Unfortunately, she is in an induced coma after a car accident. 

You might think this book sounds rather depressing with such a theme. However, the author has achieved an excellent balance displaying the vulnerability of the characters and actions whilst still delivering an upbeat narrative filled with a fantasy edge. Everything is told through her daily life in school, but especially through her nightmares. This creates a dramatic and inspirational story that gives the reader a shiny beacon of hope, even in the bleakest of times. I thought the situation the characters found themselves in were particularly well written. They displayed great understanding and provided a true representation of what people might be going through as part of their everyday life. 

The book features two young and brilliantly written central characters that you will warm to in a big way.  It was really interesting viewing the perspective through childrens' eyes and seeing the world in a fresh light. The importance of making friends in an instant and sharing what the world has to offer from an early age. I have never read a book containing two such resilient characters like Izzy and Toby. Toby is definitely an inspiration to us all. He is a wheelchair user who really shines as a character and encourages a positive outlook on life despite overcoming many difficulties. He helps Izzy to solve the puzzle in the story.

I loved the idea of Spike, a vulnerable cygnet, which tied in with the theme of the book and brought a kindred spirited feeling. It made you really think about the plot. This is a fantastic story inspired by life. It's a book that I would recommend that you read with your heart and maybe a tissue or two. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle-Grade Book Picks April 2018 - US Post

Kwame Alexander - Rebound - Published by  HMH Books for Young Readers (April 2, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-0544868137

From the New York Times, bestselling author Kwame Alexander comes Rebound, a dynamic novel in verse and companion to his Newbery Award-winner, The Crossover, illustrated with striking graphic novel panels.

Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshiping, basketball star his sons look up to.   

A novel in verse with all the impact and rhythm readers have come to expect from Kwame Alexander, Rebound will go back in time to visit the childhood of Chuck "Da Man" Bell during one pivotal summer when young Charlie is sent to stay with his grandparents where he discovers basketball and learns more about his family's past.  

Erin Entrada Kelly - You Go First - Published by Greenwillow Books (April 10, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-0062414182

Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly’s You Go First is an engaging exploration of family, bullying, spelling, art, and the ever-complicated world of middle school friendships. Her perfectly pitched tween voice will resonate with fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale.
Twelve-year-old Charlotte Lockard and eleven-year-old Ben Boxer are separated by more than a thousand miles. On the surface, their lives seem vastly different—Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Ben is in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana. Charlotte wants to be a geologist and keeps a rock collection in her room. Ben is obsessed with Harry Potter, presidential history, and recycling. But the two have more in common than they think. They’re both highly gifted. They’re both experiencing family turmoil. And they both sit alone at lunch.
Over the course of a week, Charlotte and Ben—online friends connected only by a Scrabble game—will intersect in unexpected ways, as they struggle to navigate the turmoil of middle school. This engaging story about growing up and finding your place in the world by the Newbery Medal-winning author of Hello, Universe and the winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature will appeal to fans of Rebecca Stead and Rita Williams-Garcia.

Dave Eggers - The Lifters - Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers (April 24, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1524764166

Journey to an underground world where adventure awaits and heroes are made in this middle-grade novel from the bestselling, Pulitzer-nominated author of The Monk of Mokhaand Her Right Foot.

When Gran and his family move to Carousel, he has no idea that the town is built atop a secret. Little does he suspect, as he walks his sister to school or casually eats a banana, that mysterious forces lurk mere inches beneath his feet, tearing up the earth like mini-hurricanes and causing the town to slowly but surely sink.

When Gran's friend, the difficult-to-impress Catalina Catalan, presses a silver handle into a hillside and opens a doorway to an underground, he knows that she is extraordinary and brave and that he will have no choice but to follow wherever she leads. With luck on their side, and some discarded hockey sticks for good measure, Gran and Catalina might just find a way to lift their town--and the known world--out of danger.

In The Lifters, critically acclaimed author Dave Eggers establishes himself as a storyteller who can entertain and inspire readers of any age.

Joshua Khan - Burning Magic (A Shadow Magic Novel) - Published by Disney-Hyperion (April 10, 2018) - ISBN-10: 1368008429

In Book 3 of a three-book series, when Lily, aka the "witch queen" and bat-rider extraordinaire Thorn travel to Sultanate of Fire, things go terribly wrong. Instead of celebrating a reunion with their old friend K'leef, they are thrust into royal murder, an epic quest, and a deadly battle for the throne.
While investigating the murder, Lily learns shocking truths about her life that could destroy all she has achieved. Yet, among the ruins of her old life, she has the opportunity to become someone greater . . . and more terrifying.
Thorn and the magnificent bat, Hades, join the timid K'leef and the idiotic Gabriel Solar in a quest to find a phoenix. These fire birds are the key to saving the sultanate, but they nest within the Shardlands. The boys must defeat not only the monsters of that magical wilderness but also rivals eager to claim the throne for themselves. Rivals that include a renegade from House Shadow . . .
Chilling surprises, ghostly encounters, and belly laughs are just some of the treats in store for readers of this burning-hot desert adventure.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Harriet Whitehorn - The Company of Eight - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

Cass has always wanted to audition as an acrobat for the famous Circus Boat that sails the warm seas of the Longest World. But when her chance is snatched away, she comes up with a new plan. Soon she has secured a job on the Palace Boat, following the circus around the islands. Yet Cass has been invited on the boat for a very different reason – and it’s not long before she is embroiled with thieves, sword fighters and a mysterious group of women called The Company of Eight… 

Are you ready to set sail on a perilous voyage? Here we have a marvelous rumbunctious tale from Harriet Whitehorn the author of the Violet books. The Company of Eight will dock in the harbour on the 3rd May 2018 by Stripes Publishing. Exploring this book from page one was an absolute delight and really enjoyable to read. Here we have a fast-paced and spectacularly delivered story from the perspective of Cass, a plucky and courageous young female. It will warm the hearts of the readers as she set sails into a world of peril and self-discovery.

You will hurtle into a swashbuckling affair that will take you to the far-flung corners of the world. Visiting an impressive landscape full of ice bound cities and tropical Islands you will be led into a world full of enchanted magic. It is a creatively imaginative story fuelled by strong-lead female characters. They find themselves facing danger and leaping into a wild and abundant action full of pirates, swordfighters, thieves and slave traders. 

It's a brilliant and easy going read that everybody will love and enjoy, regardless of age or reading ability. It is a book that explores the dreams and ambitions of Cass whilst searching for a life as an acrobat in a circus and travelling the world.  The young female heroin chases her goal and takes some big risks by running away from home. When things don't go to plan, the story unfolds in a dramatic and thrilling way which will captivate your imagination on so many levels.

The narrative will leave the readers asking questions and even challenging their own perceptions. It's a brilliant escape into fantasy which is brimming with peril. It delivers intrigue, fantastic twists and plot-turns with copious amounts of action both on land and sea. However, there is also a sprinkling of old-fashioned magic that gives this book another dimension, which I really liked. 

This is an epic start to a new series with so much more to explore. Especially after the explosive and brilliant ending. So are you ready to join the company? 


Thursday, 12 April 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Book Picks for April 2018 - UK Post Two

John Matthews - The Sword of Ice and Fire (Red Dragon Rising) - Published by The Greystones Press (5 April 2018) ISBN-13: 978-1911122173 - Paperback

This is an exciting re-imagining of the early years of the boy who would become King Arthur. John Matthews has imagined a quartet of books under the title Red Dragon Rising, of which this is the first volume. We meet Arthur, Merlin, the Questing Beast, the Green Knight and the mysterious Nine women who rule the castle of Avalon, with its ever-shifting rooms and prophetic bronze mirror. There are horrific enemies such as Amangons and the hideous Fir Bolg. And stalwart companions in the shape of the four Eldest: the shape-shifting Salmon, Stag, Eagle and, Blackbird. And there is Mabon, the shining golden boy-god, whom Arthur and his companions must rescue from an underground dungeon which quenches his powers. He must also achieve the four Hallows of Albion, of which gaining the Sword of Ice and Fire is the first quest. 



Em Lynas (Author), Jamie Littler (Illustrator)  - Get Me Out of Witch School! - Published by Nosy Crow Ltd (5 April 2018) ISBN-13: 978-1788000383 - Paperback 

Daisy Wart is now Twinkle Toadspit, the witchiest witch of all, AND she is still an amazing actress! How can she do all her school stuff AND tour her play? By doing all the magic spells really, really fast and without practising first, that's how! Even if it means CHAOS and DISASTER, the show MUST go on! The second in the spellbinding, spine-tingling school series in which Twinkle Toadspit tests out her new powers with MAGICAL results! Look out for Twinkle's first adventure, "You Can't Make Me Go To Witch School!"

Victoria Williamson - The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle - Published by Kelpies (19 April 2018) ISBN-13: 978-1782504900 - Paperback

Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she's lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and, without her brother. But she isn't the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out. When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn't a place, it's the people you love. Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson's stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked 'where do I belong?'

Rowena House - The Goose Road - Published by Walker Books (5 April 2018) ISBN-13: 978-1406371673 - Paperback

France 1916. Angélique Lacroix is haymaking when the postman delivers the news: her father is dead, killed on a distant battlefield. She makes herself a promise: the farm will remain exactly the same until her beloved older brother comes home from the Front. "I think of it like a magical spell. If I can stop time, if nothing ever changes, then maybe he won't change either." But a storm ruins the harvest, her mother falls ill and then the requisition appears... In a last-ditch attempt to save the farm from bankruptcy, Angélique embarks on a journey across France with her brother's flock of magnificent Toulouse geese.

Christopher Edge - The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day - Published by Nosy Crow Ltd (5 April 2018) ISBN-13: 978-1788000291 - Paperback -  

(Book Review Here)

How do you know you really exist? It's Maisie's birthday and she can't wait to open her presents. She's hoping for the things she needs to build her own nuclear reactor. But she wakes to an empty house and outside the front door is nothing but a terrifying, all-consuming blackness. Trapped in an ever-shifting reality, Maisie knows that she will have to use the laws of the universe and the love of her family to survive. And even that might not be enough... A mind-bending mystery for anyone who's ever asked questions.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Favourite Self-Published Children's Books

Have you ever thought about self-publishing? 
There are so many things to think about when you remove the traditional  publishing house from the equation. As a self-published writer, you take on the conventional and additional roles of editor, designer, salesperson and marketeer. You have the opportunity to make every decision regarding the publishing process and juggle all of these aspects until, finally, the book is ready to be published. You have full control and responsibility for everything but you also have to get it printed, market, promote, distribute and sell the book. It sounds like a daunting task but it also can be very rewarding. 

Here are some of my favourite self-published reads that managed to create, not only a brilliant story, but also establish and promote themselves effectively as a self-published writer. It set the foundations for most of these authors to then land a traditional publishing deal and go on to have a brilliant writing career. Here are some of my favourites. If you haven't read or heard of some of these then I would recommend that you check them out - you won't be disappointed.

Christopher Paolini - Eragon - Paolini International, 2001.

One boy . . . 
One dragon . . .
 A world of adventure.
When Eragon finds a polished stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself. 

Overnight his simple life is shattered and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands...

* G. P. Taylor - Shadowmancer - Published by Mount Publishing Ltd, 2002.
Shadowmancer takes you into a world of superstition, magic and witchcraft, where the ultimate sacrifice might even be life itself.
Obadiah Demurral is a sorcerer who is seeking to control the highest power in the Universe. He will stop at nothing. The only people in his way are Raphah, Kate, Thomas and the mysterious Jacob Crane.
Packed full of history, folklore and smuggling, Shadowmancer is a tale of an epic battle that will grip both young and old. The thrills, suspense and danger are guaranteed to grab the attention and stretch imaginations to the limit.

Charmian Hussey, and illustrated by Christopher Crump - The Valley of Secrets - Published by Saint Piran Press, 2003.
Abandoned as a baby, Stephen had nearly given up hope of ever finding his family. This epic adventure follows his change in fortunes as he receives an unexpected letter from a strange source and sets off on an unforgettable journey. From a drab room in London, where the rain comfirms the greyness of his life, Stephen travels to a Cornish Valley; remote, exquisitely beautiful and heavy with secrets.

* Mark Lamb and illustrated by Matthew Armstrong - Farperoo - Published by Madriax Press, 2005.
Dare to enter a fabulous tale of angelic magick, dark ritual and strange, inedible food. Thirteen year old Lucy Blake is an orphan with a talent for telling lies, or as she prefers to call them, inventions. Our heroine has the power to move between worlds and can conjure changes in reality simply by telling stories. Not that her life isn’t interesting enough already. Before her fourteenth birthday comes round she’s going to steal a priceless work of art and find herself pitched in combat with the winged hordes of heaven. An evil angel has kidnapped Lucy’s friend Fenny, but the mistress-of-lies has a few problems of her own. Her wafer-thin stepmother wants the family boarding house, and is prepared to have her lying stepdaughter committed to an insane asylum in order to get it. And the despicable Doctor Veraciter is only too willing to help, because he’s noticed something interesting about Lucy’s lies. Bentley Priory, a penniless private detective, thinks the talent might be linked to Lucy’s real mother, who vanished from a locked room years ago and has never been seen since. In a move that soon has the police on her trail, Lucy comes into possession of a manuscript that existed before the world was created. Raziel, the angel reputed to have written the book, is prepared to do anything to get it back, and Lucy and her friends are forced to flee into a sinister world known as Assiah, where even the handbags aren't quite what they seem. Surrounded by tales of lost rivers, fabled dragons and mythical cities, they explore a strange world of shew stones, talking maps, and truth cabinets. What exactly is the ‘Light’ and where did it come from? Will we ever discover the identity of the Grand Architect of the Universe? And who are equally mysterious Sisters of Perpetual Mercy? Why are they so interested in Lucy that they're willing to destroy an entire world in order to get their hands on her?

* Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams - The Highfield Mole: The Circle in the Spiral - Published by Mathew and Son Limited, 2005.
The Highfield Mole - The Circle in the Spiral is the first volume in a series of Highfield Mole books to be published. It is a story of discovery and adventure in which Will Burrows embarks on a quest to find his father, an archaeologist, who has inexplicably disappeared. Will’s investigations lead to a deadly conflict with the sinister forces that have abducted his father, and a dark and tyrannical world from which he may never return.

* Panama Oxridge - Justin Thyme (Tartan of Thyme ) Published by Interrobang, 2006. 
Justin Thyme is a self-made billionaire living in a castle overlooking Loch Ness. The day he turns thirteen, he receives an anonymous gift: a fabulous watch with a puzzling message hidden on it. When he tells his father of his plans to build a time machine, the Laird of Thyme reveals tantalising fragments of past espionage and warns his son of a ruthless enemy keeping him under constant surveillance. At first, Justin fails to take Sir Willoughby seriously, but when a stranger arrives claiming to be his long-lost grandfather, Justin is wary – especially after his beloved Nanny insists the old man is an impostor.

*Marcus Alexander - Who is Charlie Keeper? - Published by Marcus Alexander Publishing, 2008.
'Who is Charlie Keeper?' tells the tale of Charlie, an iron-willed, twelve-year-old girl suffering an unjust and unhappy fate. Forced to flee her home in the gloomy, rain-drenched landscape of London by a bloodthirsty and terrifying new foe, she escapes to the vibrant, parallel land of Bellania with nothing more than her common sense and razor-sharp wits to keep her safe. Bellania, a land of myth, magic and marauding giants with bad attitudes and poor anger management. With the fate of a world resting squarely upon her shoulders, Charlie must learn about her destiny in order to defeat Bane, the Stoman Lord. And even with all the unspeakable betrayals, vicious enemies and terrible odds that are stacked against her, Charlie could probably succeed... ...if only she could learn to keep her big mouth shut and her opinions to herself. Who is Charlie Keeper? is the first installment in the Charlie Keeper Trilogy. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Marcus Alexander - Keeper Of The Realms - Self-Publishing (Yay or Nay)

There is no better person to ask about the road to self-publishing than my good friend Marcus Alexander. In my opinion, he is a super "five" star person and a fantastic ambassador for children's books. No other person comes near to him in motivating and enthusing a classroom of children. Armed with his big sonic-boom personality, his cheeky smile and a range of nifty acrobatics. 

Check out his vlog it's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! It should help you if you are thinking about the road to self-publishing. 

This post will be followed by my favourite self-published children's books article so make sure that you check it. It is coming out very soon. There are some brilliant reads. Check it out HERE

Monday, 9 April 2018

Robert J. Harris - Artie Conan Doyle and the Vanishing Dragon (Kelpies) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Book 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. 

Artie and his friend Ham are hired to investigate a series of suspicious accidents that have befallen world-famous magician, the Great Wizard of the North. It seems someone is determined to sabotage his spectacular new illusion. 

When the huge mechanical dragon created for the show vanishes, the theft appears to be completely impossible. Artie must reveal the trick and unmask the villain or face the deadly consequences. 

The cards have been dealt, the spell has been cast, and the game is afoot once more! 

Artie Conan Doyle and the Vanishing Dragon is the second book in the series by Robert J. Harris. The book swooped into bookshops on the 22nd March 2018 just in time for the Easter Holidays. The book has been published by Kelpies, which is a small but perfectly formed children's independent publisher in Scotland. To celebrate this brilliant publication I hosted a stop on the blog tour which you can read HERE. The post talks about a new generation of mystery adventures for the young. 

This series is definitely a mystery series that I would choose to read. It is definitely worth tracking down if you want a jolly good read. Fast-paced and full of action, it follows two absolutely brilliant characters. Artie and his sidekick Ham are a loveable and perfectly crazy pairing. They solve mysteries across Edinburgh's Victorian landscape - Ham follows the crumb trails whilst Artie follows the clues. Where there is danger and a crime to solve, Artie and Ham will find themselves in the thick of it. 

In this book, there is a theatrical feel to the story as it starts with a mysterious invitation to an evening with magic. To be exact it is a performance by the Great Wizard of the North. This sets the plot in a shroud of mystery as the duo, armed with humour, will have you chuckling to yourself as they set off on another detecting spree. It is a brilliant adventure full of complex puzzles to solve that will leave you captivated.

This story is full of thrills, chills and excitement around every corner. It is a  brilliant and well-imagined story that will leave you feeling very satisfied as the adventure unravels. It's a story borne from the author's childhood reading based on the theme of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his most famous character, Sherlock Holmes. This is a great book for the reluctant reader as it is easy to follow, packed with great imagination and no unnecessary dialogue.  

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's and Young Adult Book Picks - April 2018 - UK Post

Jess Butterworth - When the Mountains Roared - Published by Orion Children's Books (5 April 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1510102118 - Paperback

I thought we'd live here forever ... but then, I thought Mum would be here forever too.
When Ruby's dad uproots her from Australia to set up a hotel in the mountains of India, Ruby is devastated. Not only are they living in a run-down building in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by scorpions, bears and leopards, but Ruby is sure that India will never truly feel like home - not without her mum there.
Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up. 
But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes. Ruby vows to do all she can to protect them - if she can only overcome her fears...

Scarlett Thomas - The Chosen Ones (Worldquake, Book 2) - Published by  Canongate Books (5 April 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1782119302 - Hardback 

EFFIE TRUELOVE has learned to travel through magical books to the Otherworld.
MAXIMILIAN UNDERWOOD, Effie's classmate, is more interested in the dark and forbidden Underworld.
When Effie and Maximilian both mysteriously vanish, their friends Raven, Lexy and Wolf don't know where to turn for help. Raven is a witch and her horse, Echo, has revealed that Effie is in deep danger and time is running out.
To make things worse, Raven's mother, the author Laurel Wilde, is caught up in a plot with the ruthless billionaire Albion Freake, who, it seems, will stop at nothing to become invincible . . .
Where are Effie and Maximilian? Are their disappearances connected?
And can Albion Freake's deadly plan be stopped?

Andrew Zurcher - Twelve Nights - Published by Puffin (5 April 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-0141385549 - Hardback

Kay and her little sister, Eloise, never imagined that their standard icy Christmas Eve in Cambridge would be the start of a twelve-night odyssey . . .
Kay's father is working late - as usual. Fed up, her mother bundles her daughters into the car and drives to her husband's Cambridge college to collect him herself. But when they arrive, the staff claim that nobody by his name has ever worked there . . .
Kay is puzzled by her mother's reaction - silent tears, not anger and confusion. And what is even more puzzling is the card on her pillow when they return home:
Will O. de Wisp, Gent. F.H.S.P. and Phillip R. T. Gibbet, Gent. F.H.S.P. K.Bith. REMOVALS. 
That night, Kay is woken by voices at her window: the voices of Will and Phillip, the Removers. But they are not human. And Kay shouldn't be able to see them. Except she can . . .

David O'Connell (Author) Claire Powell (Illustrator) - The Chocolate Factory Ghost (The Dundoodle Mysteries) - Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books (5 April 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1408887066 - Paperback  

Archie McBudge knows his lucky underpants must really work because when he and his mum are summoned to Honeystone Hall in the remote Scottish village of Dundoodle, they find Archie has inherited not only the enormous hall, but the whole of the world-famous McBudge Confectionery Company from Great-Uncle Archibald. That's a new home, a fortune and a lifetime's supply of treats rolled into one!

(See Book Review HERE)