Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Lindsey Whitlock - The Collective - Book Review


This is the debut book by American author Lindsey Whitlock. The Collective will be published by Pushkin Children's Books on the 29th of August 2019. The book supports an interesting book cover but, in my opinion, this does not really reflect the story inside. Nevertheless, after reading the synopsis I was subtly intrigued about the plot. This book is not something that I would normally choose to pick up and read for pleasure, however, I'm very glad the publisher sent me a copy to review - thank you. 

The book is set in America after a civil war in which the country becomes very much divided. The narrative is evocative and set in the traditional community of Badfish Creek. It is a coming of age novel centered around a young boy (Elwyn) who longs for change and the chance to leave his a rural background behind him. When his uncle offers him the chance to leave his rural roots behind, he jumps at the opportunity as he is eager to move to Liberty to gain an education and become part of a flourishing world. 

I loved the historical snapshot from a time period so far removed from our very own. It really depicted the differences and traditions between urban and rural life at this time. For me, it captured the essence really well which trickled over me like droplets of freshwater over the tongue. It quenched the fantasy thirst whilst hurtling along the climatic journey of Elwyn - dazzled by the promise of a bright future. The book really tackles the important issues of responsibility, belonging and growing up in a world where things do not always go according to plan. 

This is a fantastically engaging and thought-provoking novel; it's very different from traditional books published in the UK. The book is emotionally charged and will easily suck you in with its charming setting and naive outlook on life. Has Elwyn been blinded by his new future as events threaten the world and the people he has left behind? The story soon becomes a great fight for survival against the powerful and the rich highlighting the true meaning of home, family, and loyalty.

This is a great teenage read; deep and meaningful that will leave a residue of feelings and emotions behind. It's a book that raises a lot of topical questions in a world of displacement. A highly recommended read if you are looking for something different and interesting.  

Monday, 15 July 2019

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books: US Kids/Young Adult Book Picks - August 2019 - Post One



Katherine Arden - Dead Voices - Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (August 27, 2019) -  ISBN-13: 978-0525515050 - Hardback - Age: 10+

Bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie's watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.

With Mr. Voland's help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help--or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.

Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.



K. A. Reynolds - The Spinner of Dreams - Published by HarperCollins (August 27, 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-0062673954 - Hardback - Age: 8+

Inventive, empathetic, and strange in all the best ways, The Spinner of Dreams draws from the author’s own experiences to create a story that feels timeless and universal. As she did in her debut The Land of Yesterday, K. A. Reynolds thoughtfully explores mental health and crafts an adventure that fits right alongside middle-grade classics like The Phantom Tollbooth.

Annalise Meriwether—though kind, smart, and curious—is terribly lonely.
Cursed at birth by the devious Fate Spinner, Annalise has always lived a solitary life with her loving parents. She does her best to ignore the cruel townsfolk of her desolate town—but the black mark on her hand won’t be ignored.
Not when the monster living within it, which seems to have an agenda of its own, grows more unpredictable each day. 
There’s only one way for Annalise to rid herself of her curse: to enter the Labyrinth of Fate and Dreams and defeat the Fate Spinner. So despite her anxiety, Annalise sets out to undo the curse that’s defined her—and to show the world, and herself, exactly who she is inside.

Kate Hannigan (Author), Patrick Spaziante (Illustrator) - Cape (The League of Secret Heroes: Bk 1) - Published by Aladdin (August 6, 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1534439115 - Hardback - Age: 8

Hidden Figures meets Wonder Woman in this action-packed, comic-inspired adventure about a brilliant girl puzzler who discovers she’s part of a superhero team!

Josie O’Malley does a lot to help out Mam after her father goes off to fight the Nazis, but she wishes she could do more—like all those caped heroes who now seem to have disappeared. If Josie can’t fly and control weather like her idol, Zenobia, maybe she can put her math smarts to use cracking puzzles for the government.


After an official tosses out her puzzler test because she’s a girl, it soon becomes clear that an even more top-secret agency has its eye on Josie, along with two other applicants: Akiko and Mae. The trio bonds over their shared love of female superhero celebrities, from Fantomah to Zenobia to the Black Cat. But during one extraordinary afternoon, they find themselves transformed into the newest (and youngest!) superheroes in town. As the girls’ abilities slowly begin to emerge, they learn that their skills will be crucial in thwarting a shapeshifting henchman of Hitler, and, just maybe, in solving an even larger mystery about the superheroes who’ve recently gone missing.

Inspired by remarkable real-life women from World War II—the human computers and earliest programmers called “the ENIAC Six”—this pulse-pounding adventure features bold action, brave thinking, and an empowering belief that each one of us has the stuff it takes to be a superhero.

Heather Kassner (Author), Matt Saunders (Illustrator) - The Bone Garden - Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (August 6, 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1250296894 - Hardback - Age: 9+

"This magical story―and the brave girl in its pages―will haunt you in the best way." ―Natalie Lloyd, New York Times bestselling author of Over the Moon
“Remember, my dear, you do not really and truly exist.” 
Irréelle fears she’s not quite real. Only the finest magical thread tethers her to life―and to Miss Vesper. But for all her efforts to please her cruel creator, the thread is unraveling. Irréelle is forgetful as she gathers bone dust. She is slow returning from the dark passages beneath the cemetery. Worst of all, she is unmindful of her crooked bones.
When Irréelle makes one final, unforgivable mistake by destroying a frightful creature just brought to life, Miss Vesper threatens to imagine her away once and for all. Defying her creator for the very first time, Irréelle flees to the underside of the graveyard and embarks on an adventure to unearth the mysterious magic that breathes bones to life, even if it means she will return to dust and be no more.
A spooky and adventurous debut illustrated fantasy novel about a girl made of dust and bone and imagination who seeks the truth about the magic that brought her to life. 
Featuring illustrations by Matt Saunders!

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Susie Day - Max Kowalski Didn't Mean It - Book Review (Puffin)


As I was delving further into the 'to be read' pile, I came across the latest book by Susie Day. Max Kowalski Didn't Mean It will be published in paperback this coming September (2019). The story idea was formed after the author attended a Mental Health First Aid course where a frightening statistic was shared revealing that suicide is the number one cause of death among men aged 20-49. This led to the author writing a middle-grade book that covers mental empathy with great skill. 

The book from the first page is very compelling to read. Max Kowalski is an 11-year old boy who is always in trouble. He wants to be just like his dad: fun, loud, strong and dependable. However, with three younger siblings and a family coping with the loss of their mother the story takes you on a turbulent path that will pull on the emotional heartstrings. Overnight, everything changes when mysterious boxes and even more mysterious bundles of cash start turning up at their house.  The story takes another twist when Max's dad goes missing and Max has to 'step up' and look after his three little sisters: Ripley (a great name!) and twins Thelma and Louise. 

The magic for me in this story starts when Max takes them away to hide in a remote village in Wales. Here they learn about the legend of the golden dragon who guards a hoard of gold on the top of Snowdonia. However, is the legend real? Max wants to be a big hero, so he sets off on a quest to 'do battle'. The story highlights the naivety of the children and the idyllic brilliant setting of the Welsh mountains. The plot breaths fresh air and a dash of fantasy magic throughout it. 

The book explores all of the different forms of masculinity whilst keeping the story upbeat and very uplifting. The three sisters will make you laugh and the interaction between them in this story feels whimsical - filling the story with moments of sorrow and laughter. The characters are brilliantly written and will help young readers relate to many of the situations they are also faced with. Hopefully, this should start to help start and open up conversations about grief and not being the stereotypical family in a world that is ever changing. 

This is a book that will be loved by all. It's a fast-paced family adventure filled with drama, heart, human magic and lots of emotion. Look out for this when it is published as you will not be disappointed. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Book Picks - August 2019 - Post Two


Ted Hughes (Author), Chris Mould (Illustrator) - The Iron Man - Published by Faber & Faber (1 Aug. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-0571348862 - Hardback 
The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff.
Where had he come from? Nobody knows.
How was he made? Nobody knows.
Mankind must put a stop to the dreadful destruction by the Iron Man and set a trap for him, but he cannot be kept down. Then, when a terrible monster from outer space threatens to lay waste to the planet, it is the Iron Man who finds a way to save the world.

Marie Basting - Princess BMX - Published by Chicken House (1 Aug. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1911490944 - Paperback


Enchanted meets BMX in this hilarious, spellbinding adventure!
Trust me, the fairy tales have it so wrong. Dingy towers and wicked step-mums are the least of my worries: it's the boredom that will kill me. Honestly, apart from the endless supply of cupcakes, being a princess is pretty rubbish. I used to think about locking myself in a tower and throwing away the key. Thank the good goblin I discovered BMX. If it wasn't for BMX, nothing would have changed ...

Damaris Young - The Switching Hour - Published by Scholastic (1 Aug. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1407195049 - Paperback 


Never stay out after the Switching Hour... never let the outside in... Amaya lives with her grandmother, her small brother Kaleb and her pet goat Tao in a land suffering a terrible drought. Every night, the doors must be locked after twilight, the Switching Hour, because the drought has awoken Badoko, a creature that snatches people away to eat their dreams. Three days later, the memory that they existed is gone from those that knew them, and those that are left are afflicted with The Sorrow Sickness - grief which consumes a person without them knowing why. When Kaleb is taken by Badoko, Amaya must journey into the terrifying forest to find her brother before she forgets him.

T C Shelly - The Monster Who Wasn't - Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books (8 Aug. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1526600837 - Paperback 

A brilliantly rich and strange fantasy adventure that will make us all believe in monsters - be they good, bad or somewhere in between.

It is a well-known fact that fairies are born from a baby's first laugh. What is not as well documented is how monsters come into being.
This is the story of a creature who is both strange and unique. When he hatches down in the vast underground lair where monsters dwell, he looks just like a human boy - much to the disgust of everyone watching. Even the grumpy gargoyles who adopt him and nickname him 'Imp' only want him to steal chocolate for them from the nearby shops. He's a child with feet in both worlds, and he doesn't know where he fits.
But little does Imp realise that Thunderguts, king of the ogres, has a great and dangerous destiny in mind for him, and he'll stop at nothing to see it come to pass.

Garth  Jennings - The Good, the Bad and the Deadly 7 - Macmillan Children's Books (8 Aug. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1509887651 - Paperback

The Good, the Bad and the Deadly 7 is a funny, action-packed, exciting monster adventure by the director of Sing Garth Jennings.
Having seven invisible monsters to hang out with during the summer holidays is pretty great, but now it's time to go back to school, and if Nelson's not careful, the Deadly 7 are going to get him into serious trouble. The monsters agree to stay away (and hang out in London Zoo), but there's one problem: something huge and invisible has started rampaging through the French countryside and it looks like Nelson and his monsters might be the only ones who can help. 
Who better to stop one enormous terrifying monster than seven little angry, sneaky, greedy, vain, adorable, thieving, farting monsters? That's right, Stan, Puff, Nosh, Miser, Hoot, Crush and Spike are here to save the day!

Monday, 8 July 2019

Julie Pike - The Last Spell Breather - Blog Tour (Stories that Inspired)

Welcome to the second week celebrating the brilliant publication of Julie Pike's debut book. we're delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Last Spell Breather which is a fantastic read. I wholeheartedly recommend you spare the time to read it. This post is about the stories that might have led to inspiring this book.

If you were to write a book, blog readers, what stories might influence the novel you would write today? Have a think, it's an interesting question. If you have any thoughts and you would like to share them on Twitter then use #TheLastSpellBreather. 

I would like to thank Julie and Oxford University Press for letting Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books host a stop on this wonderful blog tour. You are always welcome here at any time. 

I hope you enjoy the post. 

I am delighted the Spell Breather blog tour has swung by Mr. Ripley’s Enchanted Books. As you’re reading this web page, you already know that for brilliant books you can’t beat a ‘word of mouth’ recommendation. Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books is a place I have discovered many great books over the years. 

The first person to recommend a book to me was my mother. She introduced me to Enid Blyton when I was six, and happily watched as I devoured as many of her magical adventures as my pocket money would allow. I wrote a sequel to Enid Blyton’s Book of Brownies, because I enjoyed the story so much I wanted to carry on the adventure. I remember writing it with a blue ballpoint pen, on lined A4 paper. When it was done, I tied the pages with grey wool, ‘borrowed’ from my mother’s knitting bag. 

When I was a young teen, Mam introduced me to Georgette Heyer. Her adventure stories were thrilling! One of my favourites is The Masqueraders, where a brother and sister, fleeing from the Jacobite rising, swap clothes and have dangerous adventures in Regency London. I adore her character Prudence, who dresses as a young buck, brazening it out, drinking and duelling. It may seem tame today, but it was written in the 1920s, and I first read it in the 1980s. I love this story. So much so I have written Georgette Heyer fanfiction. 

As an older teen, my brother introduced me to the wonderful Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. Looking back, it’s no surprise that my first novel should feature a fantasy version of a medieval healer. I didn’t realise at the time, but it’s clear to me now that all the stories I love have found their way into my ‘writer’s cauldron’. I’m sure you know what I mean. My cauldron is the place where all the stories swirl together, synthesising themselves into different shapes, ready for me to ladle out when I’m thinking up new ideas. 

Peering into my cauldron today, I can clearly see three stories that wormed their way into my imagination and wove themselves into The Last Spell Breather.



The first is a The Abhorsen Trilogy, by Garth Nix. I love everything about this story. I love its characters, its large-scale world building, and its unique ‘charter magic’. Reading this story was the first time I’d encountered a cast of creatures and characters perfectly set within their own myths and magic systems, and it lit my imagination like a firework. When I turned the last page, I wanted to carry on the adventure. 



The second is Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. When I was writing an early draft of Spell Breather, my friend Jacqui recommended this brilliant story. It reminded me that books are powerful objects. The words inside have a life of their own, and bad things happen when they’re not looked after properly. 



Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney tells a magical and medieval tale of a boy training to protect his home from witches. Witches so powerful they can outwit his every move. I love a good apprentice story. This one particularly resonates because his Mam has a dark secret. 

Putting these stories together, I can see they share a common theme. A warning about what happens when magic breaks or falls out of balance. This theme is something I wanted to explore in The Last Spell Breather and now I can see what drew me to it. 

Looking into my cauldron again, I’m wondering if every ‘original’ idea in my tale has come from other much-loved stories? Stories like, Magyk by Angie Sage, Sylvester by Georgette Heyer, Labyrinth, Dr Who, A Matter of Life and Death, and Sapphire & Steal. 

I think I’ll give my cauldron a good stir, so I can’t see the ingredients anymore. I prefer my idea ladles brimming with mixed magic. 

Writers often get asked: Where do your ideas come from? I’ve been wondering how I would answer that question. Writing this blog has given me my answer. Ideas come from all the stories that have gone before. We writers pass them on to each other in a glorious story continuum, from one cauldron to another.

If you’d like to write stories, then my advice is to ‘fill your story cauldron’. Fill it with Books, and TV and Films and Video Games – and keep stirring. That way, when you settle to write, the synthesis of all your favourite stories is guaranteed to deliver a ‘unique’ adventure, one that you want to follow and read yourself.

And then one day, YOUR story will be recommended to others. It will go on to fill their writer’s cauldron and take its place in the great continuum. 
Happy reading. Happy writing.



Julie Pike – Biography 
Julie grew up on a council estate, nestled between the forests and foothills of the Welsh Valleys. She is passionate about adventure stories, and volunteers in local schools and libraries in Dorset, helping children find stories that excite them. She is passionate about real-life adventures too, and has crawled inside the great pyramid of Giza, travelled to the peak of Kilimanjaro, and camped on the Great Wall of China in a lightning storm. Twitter: @juliepike


(The Last Spell Breather – Book Cover – illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova)

The Last Spell Breather – Synopsis 
Enter the unique world of the Spell Breathers! Spell Breathing does not come naturally to Rayne - she loathes the hours of practice, the stacks of scrolls, and the snapping mud grotesques that cover her mother’s precious spell book. When she holds the spell book over a fire, it is only meant as an empty threat – until she feels the grotesque’s tiny teeth biting into her finger and lets go. In one clumsy move, her mother’s spells are broken, her village is plunged into danger, and an incredible adventure begins . . . 

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books Book Review is HERE

Friday, 5 July 2019

Liz Flanagan (Dragon Daughter Blog Tour) - Top 5 Dragon Books - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books


Good morning. All this week we are celebrating the paperback book release of Liz Flanagan's DRAGON DAUGHTER. There is a lot to get excited about as Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books is the fifth stop on this blog tour (please see the list for the other stops at the bottom of the page). All posts explore the ideas and inspiration behind this brilliant story. However, this particular post is focused around the authors top five dragon books and school visits. 

What would your favourite dragon books be? Please share your favourite on Twitter using #DragonDaughter. For me, the Eragon series by Christopher Paolini and Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke would be in my top five list. However, check out this fascinating post below. Hopefully, it will inspire you to pick up this amazing book or invite the author to your school for an author event. Enjoy the post.

Writers are often told to ‘write what you know’, but how do you write about mythical creatures like dragonsunless you do actually have a secret dragon at your house? Partly, my dragons are a combination of many different real animals I’ve known, and partly they’ reinspired by the dragons from books and films I’ve loved. 

In my school visits, we always have long chats about why we love dragons so muchwhy they hold an enduring fascination for us, in so many different times and cultures, and why people have imagined dragons in many varied ways. I really enjoy hearing all the different ideas children have on this subject!

Personally, was drawn to the contrast between a tiny fragile scaly creature that’s just tapped its way out of an egg, and the massive, powerful firebreather with the capacity to destroy whole cities. I love the idea of an animal who can fly anywhere, but who chooses to seek out people. And I loved the idea of a unique bond between a dragon and a particular child, a bond that would last a lifetime and define both of them. My dragons can’t speak, but they can communicate via their calls and their gestures, and they can read the thoughts of people around them. 

In the past, I’ve loved the way different authors describe dragons include the great Ursula Le Guin and Anne McCaffrey. But there are also some more recent middle-grade novels that are full of memorable dragons, so I’ve made a list of five that I’ve loved recently. 

All these authors have imagined dragons in different ways, but here are just a few of my middle-grade favourites. Some are very new; some are old friends:




  • The Secret Dragonby Ed Clarke (Puffin) Eleven-year-old Mari Jones is a fossil-hunter, inspired by her hero Mary Anning, and she longs to be a real scientist. She thinks she’s found an amazing fossil on the beach one day and is shocked to realise it’s alive and is, in fact, a real Welsh dragon. I loved Mari, and her friendship with Dylan, the new boy at school. This story is so beautifully written, with deeper themes of loss and finding your courage and self-belief. The soft, sweet interior illustrations are by Simone Krüger.




  • The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie (Piccadilly Press) At the heart of this book is a beautiful relationship between the main character Tomas and his grandad. Helping Grandad in the garden, Tomas discovers an incredible plant that actually grows dragons. Tomas bonds with a little dragon called Flicker, but soon learns that young dragons cause chaos and that he is likely to be blamed for their destructive habits and incendiary poos. There's so much humour and fun, as well as real warmth and tenderness, in this book, and the illustrations by Sara Ogilvie are full of life and energy.

  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (Hodder Children’s Books) One of the most popular dragons of all! I’ve loved the film adaptations of this series tooalthough I find the books have more mud and snot and humour. I really love the relationship between Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third and his undersized dragon Toothless. The pair save all the Vikings on their island with their quick thinking and skill at speaking Dragonese.
 

  • Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons by Dugald A. Steer, illustrated by Wayne Anderson, Douglas Carrel and Helen Ward (Templar) This book is like an encyclopedia of dragons! It covers many different species, habitats, and life-cycles. It also includes magical elements, offering some useful spells and charms. Stunningly illustrated, it blendreal history and science with mythology in a truly bewitching way. For those who like their dragons grounded in lots of gorgeously presented ‘information’.
  • The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (Bloomsbury) Adventurine the young dragon is so impatient to start exploring that she ignores her family’s warnings about the danger of the outside world and those alarming creatures out there. food-mage wizard turnsAdventurine into a girl and she must learn to survive in the human world. The book features friendship and chocolate, two of life’s most delightful things, and I couldn’t help falling in love with this charming story.


Dragon Daughter is published by David Fickling Books.
ISBN: 978-1-78845-021-8 - Priced £6.99
Cover art by Angelo Rinaldi
Interior art by Paul Duffield