Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Tim Hall - Earth Swarm - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Tim Hall's first novel for David Fickling Books was a dark and edgy retelling of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest called Shadow of the Wolf. I remember the amazing hardback cover as it was certainly striking and captured my full attention. Some years on, Tim's second book is due to buzz into existence on the 4th July 2019. It is very different in subject matter and writing style. 

Earth Swarm will be the first novel featuring teenage hero Hal Strider. In this pocket rocket adventure, the main character faces the world of advanced technology. Hal Strider is desperate to be involved in his father's business which develops drones for the military. This starts the narrative swarming from the very first page and builds into an epic battle between the human race and artificial intelligence.  The story is skillfully written as KILLER DRONES ATTACK London. The scene is visually brilliant and the author has captured the moment with a sense of mayhem and chaos. This has an impact on the small cast of characters as the plot dramatically unfolds above and below the streets of London. 

The drones, controlled by artificial intelligence, are terrifying as they adapt, replicate and build their strength in numbers. The ensuing war between the military is gripping, however, the only people who can save the city are Hal, his sister Jess and a stranger called Sky. The further you follow the characters, the more the emotions come to light as they take you on a thought-provoking, adrenalin-fueled ride.

The story is very cool and should engage young and old readers alike. It is very on trend through the use of drones and advanced machines. The story has a fast-paced narrative giving it a cinematic quality which stretches the pixelation of the fantasy mind. The book has many explosive and turbulent events that ramp up the tension in the face of a remorseless foe. 

THE MACHINES ARE COMING . . .  Life will never be the same again. This is a battle with mind-blowing destruction where a great many lives are lost. However, the story is fantastically written, well-developed and well thought out. We learn about the truth and the scary lengths people will go to in the name of furthering artificial intelligence. So, strap yourself in for a roller-coaster Sci-Fi adventure with some timely twists and turns that will make your head spin. Could this be a vision of the near future? ...  

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Mr. Ripley’s Enchanted Books: Author Interview with Ann-Marie Howell - The Garden of Lost Secrets

We have been spoilt for choice this month with so many fantastic children's books having been published. One of them is A. M. Howell's  - The Garden of Lost Secrets - which was published on the 13th June 2019 by Usborne Publishing. This is a magical middle-grade mystery and a book you will certainly want to explore and escape into. I thought it was a great opportunity to find out more about this book and get to know the debut author a little more. Hopefully, this Q&A style interview will pique your interest and make you want to pick up a copy very soon. Perhaps you could read it whilst hiding out in your own magical back garden. Please remember to follow the author on Twitter: @AMHowellwrites or visit her website: Thanks for reading and have a great day. 

The Garden of Lost Secrets is your first book, what is it about and why should we read it? 
The Garden of Lost Secrets is a historical mystery set in a real walled kitchen garden within the grand country estate of Ickworth Park in Suffolk, now managed by the National Trust. It’s centred around Clara who goes to stay with her aunt and uncle, who work on the estate, while her father recovers from gas poisoning during WW1. There are lots of strange goings on in the book – a locked door and a hidden key, a strange boy who appears in the walled gardens of the country house at night, and a scheming pineapple thief! I hope that anyone who likes multi-layered stories and unravelling secrets and mysteries will find this an enjoyable read. 

Every character has a secret to tell, especially Clara the main character of the story, so what would her secret be? 
Secrets are a key theme running through the book, and Clara brings with her a big secret from home when she goes to stay with her aunt and uncle, one she keeps hidden in the pockets of her apron. It’s about her brother who is away fighting in the war, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is as I don’t want to spoil any surprises! 

What makes a magical garden? 
For me, a magical garden is anywhere green I can sit in peace and quiet with a good book and a cup of tea with only the sounds of rustling leaves to keep me company. My own garden is very small and new and I’m working hard on making it green and magical with lots of different plants and shrubs, and pots with edible things like strawberries, raspberries, and tomatoes, apples and pears.

What research did you do for this book? 
I did do a lot of research, but much of it involved visiting places rather than reading! I visited the servants’ quarters of Ickworth House to find out what it would have been like to work ‘downstairs’ in a grand country house. The head gardener of Ickworth was also very generous with his time and shared his knowledge of how the gardens used to look and work. I also visited the Cambridge Botanical Gardens to sit in the hothouses so I could write authentic scenes when Clara and Will are staking out the hothouses trying to catch the pineapple thief. 

What songs does this book make you think of? 
I have to admit that sometimes I had the orchestral theme tune of Downton Abbey running through my head when I was writing, a programme I absolutely love! 

What do you think of the book cover? How well does it convey what the book is about? 
I absolutely adore the book cover! It was designed by Kath Millichope at Usborne and illustrated by the very talented Amy Grimes. I love seeing Clara through the keyhole at night which is surrounded by mandarins and blossom – which is very significant to the story. It’s almost as if we are seeing Clara from inside one of the hothouses which is just perfect, as this is where she spends a lot of time hunting for the thief. 

You were selected to take part in a Curtis Brown Creative Writing course for Children, what did you learn that helped you write this book? 
The course was excellent in that every few weeks I would be sent my fifteen course mates’ views on the latest 3000 words I had written. At first it was a bit overwhelming as the comments were all so varied, but I started looking for areas where a few people had given the same feedback and it all clicked into place and made me focus on the parts that needed changing. I had some friends and family, and of course my lovely agent, read early drafts of this book and because of this experience I was able to much more quickly spot problem areas which most people agreed needed addressing. 

You're hosting a literary dinner party, which authors/illustrators/famous people would you invite and why? 
This is a tough question! I would definitely invite Enid Blyton, as I used to devour her books when I was young, particularly The Famous Five and Adventure series. I would also invite Louisa May Alcott to have a chat about Little Women, which is one of my favourite books, and ask her why she decided to let Laurie marry Amy and not Jo! There would also be a place at the table for Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake and present-day authors Emma Carroll and Lucy Strange, as I haven’t met them yet and would love to sit down and have a good natter about historical fiction and children’s literature today.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

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

Laura Tucker - All the Greys on Greene Street - Published by Viking Books for Young Readers (June 4, 2019) -  ISBN-13: 978-0451479532 - Hardback - Age: 8+

SoHo, 1981. Twelve-year-old Olympia is an artist--and in her neighborhood, that's normal. Her dad and his business partner Apollo bring antique paintings back to life, while her mother makes intricate sculptures in a corner of their loft, leaving Ollie to roam the streets of New York with her best friends Richard and Alex, drawing everything that catches her eye.

Then everything falls apart. Ollie's dad disappears in the middle of the night, leaving her only a cryptic note and instructions to destroy it. Her mom has gone to bed, and she's not getting up. Apollo is hiding something, Alex is acting strange, and Richard has questions about the mysterious stranger he saw outside. And someone keeps calling, looking for a missing piece of art. . . .

Olympia knows her dad is the key--but first, she has to find him, and time is running out.

Chris Rylander - The Curse of Greg (An Epic Series of Failures) - Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (June 18, 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1524739751 - Hardback - Age: 8+ 

Magic and mayhem collide in this monstrously funny middle-grade sequel to Chris Rylander's The Legend of Greg

Greg Belmont longs for the days when he thought he was an ordinary thirteen-year-old, before he learned he's really a fantastical Dwarf in a world where the return of magic has reignited an ancient feud between the Dwarves and the Elves. But now that magic is spreading rapidly, calling forth mythical monsters that are wreaking total havoc on earth, he knows things will never go back to normal.

To make matters worse, rumors are growing that the Elves are planning a sinister attack--and their new leader might be none other than Greg's former best friend, Edwin. Before they can say "Galdervatn," Greg and his Dwarven friends find themselves up against perilous dangers that their training has barely prepared them for. Can Greg and his bloodthirsty talking ax keep them out of harm's way long enough to prevent all-out war? Or will epic failure find him yet again in this hilarious, action-packed sequel to The Legend of Greg?

Megan Frazer Blakemore - The Story Web - Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books (June 4, 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1681195254 - Hardback - Age: 7+ (

In this heartfelt, magical instant classic, Megan Frazer Blakemore shows how the truths we tell can change the world. 
When Alice was little, she found a gigantic spider web deep in the forest. Her dad called it the Story Web and told her how its strands were woven from the stories that hold our world together.
Years later, Alice's dad has gone away for reasons Alice is sure are her fault. Now she won't even talk about her dad and definitely no longer believes his farfetched stories. But when animals in town start acting strangely, she can't ignore them. The Story Web is in danger--and the fabric of our world is breaking. The only way to mend it is to tell honest tales from the heart, even if they are difficult to share. 
In this magical tale of truth and honesty perfect for fans of Katherine Applegate, Megan Frazer Blakemore deftly weaves fantasy into the real world.

K.G Campbell - A Small Zombie Problem (Zombie Problems) - Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers (June 4, 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-0553539554 - Hardback - Age: 8 (

In his fiction debut--and the start of a new series--celebrated illustrator K.G. Campbell brings a touch of Tim Burton to this singularly strange and wonderful story about a lonely boy whose life is about to get a whole lot more complicated when a zombie follows him home.

August DuPont has spent his whole life inside a dilapidated house with his aunt Hydrangea. His lonely existence ends abruptly with the arrival of an invitation to meet an aunt--and cousins--he didn't even know existed. When Aunt Orchid suggests that August attend school with his cousins, it's a dream come true. But August has scarcely begun to celebrate his reversal of fortune when he is confronted by a small problem on his way home. So begins an adventure filled with a wild child, a zombie, a fabled white alligator, and an unimaginable family secret.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Catherine Doyle - The Lost Tide Warriors - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Breaking onto the reading scene last year was the Irish author Catherine Doyle. Her debut book was showered with many lovely reviews and some super comments. The book has gathered momentum and recently been awarded the independent bookshops children's book choice which is a great accolade. She has now just written the anticipated sequel, The Lost Tide, which will make up book two in the Storm Keeper quartet series. The book will be launched on the 11th July by the good people at Bloomsbury Children's with another sparkling book cover illustration by Bill Bragg.  

Are we are ready for another epic adventure on the Island of Arranmore? Fionn Boyle has been Storm Keeper of Arranmore for less than six months. The clock is ticking and the fight for the island's survival is gradually becoming perilous once again. The book hits you with drama and suspense as thousands of terrifying empty-eye Soulstalkers arrive on the island in their boatloads. This starts the magic flowing and the web-spinning as the dreaded sorceress Morrigan is ready to rise up once again and destroy the storm keeper and his precious Island. What can they do to save it? 

Fionn and his best friends Shelby and Sam go in search of an ancient story that might help save the island. They search for the ferocious sea creatures (whom nobody believes exist) known as the Merrows. With their razor sharp teeth, they are deadly in combat and could be the answer to their prayers. As they go in search of the lost army, the other islanders prepare for invasion. The only problem is The Storm Keeper's magic has deserted him. Can his family or the islanders save the day? Let the battle begin and the pages turn; pull up the fantasy trousers and get stuck in. You will not be disappointed.

This is another fantastic installment building on the first book which explores a whole community, friends, and family coming together to save the day. The book takes you on a whimsical dream-like escapade full of magic and a cracking good plot. The book delivers on action and drama drawing on ancient myths and folklore that pull the threads neatly together. It is a brilliant read for everyone especially the targeted audience age 8 and upwards. The only feedback I have for this book is that I would have liked the characters to have reflected their Irish heritage colloquially. 

The narrative for me holds some surprises as the book has a lovely dark element that captures the reader's attention. I loved the concept of magic being used and displayed in a different way and not overly used in this story. However, the emotional side of the story was amazing. As the story rolls like gathering stones on a flat landscape, the tension distills and poignant moments spill out of the pages. Be warned: some tears may be shed. However, this helps the reader to get involved with the story that is full of bravery and courage. It is a rapid read that you will escape into and enjoy very much with much more to come. The next book is called The Storm Keeper's Island and is out in July 2020. 

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: New Children's Book Picks June 2019 - Post Two

A . M . Howell - The Garden of Lost Secrets - Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd (13 Jun. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1474959551 - Paperback 

It is 1916 and twelve-year-old Clara’s father has gone to Devon to recover from gas poisoning. Clara, and the terrible secret she keeps hidden in her pinafore pocket, are sent to stay with her formidable aunt and uncle at Gardener’s Cottage in the grounds of a country estate.

Clara soon discovers that her new surroundings hold secrets of their own: a locked room and a hidden key, a mysterious boy who only appears in the gardens at night, covert meetings on misty mornings, and a fruit thief who is stealing precious pineapples from the Earl’s exotic hothouses.

But for Clara to unravel the garden’s secrets, she will have to face up to a truth she can’t bring herself to acknowledge and a war she’s desperate to forget.

Ryan Andrews - This Was Our Pact - First Second (11 Jun. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1250196958 - Hardback 

Ryan Andrews's This Was Our Pact is an astonishing, magical-realist adventure story for middle-grade readers.
It's the night of the annual Autumn Equinox Festival, when the town gathers to float paper lanterns down the river. Legend has it that after drifting out of sight, they'll soar off to the Milky Way and turn into brilliant stars, but could that actually be true? This year, Ben and his classmates are determined to find out where those lanterns really go, and to ensure success in their mission, they've made a pact with two simple rules: No one turns for home. No one looks back.
The plan is to follow the river on their bikes for as long as it takes to learn the truth, but it isn't long before the pact is broken by all except for Ben and (much to Ben's disappointment) Nathaniel, the one kid who just doesn't seem to fit in.
Together, Nathaniel and Ben will travel farther than anyone has ever gone, down a winding road full of magic, wonder, and unexpected friendship*.
*And a talking bear.

Louie Stowell (Author), Davide Ortu (Ilustrator) - The Dragon in the Library - Published by Nosy Crow Ltd (6 Jun. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1788000260 - Paperback 

This is the first book in a brand new series by Louie Stowell. The Dragon in The Library, which will be published by Nosy Crow, will soon hit the bookshops and libraries near you. The book will have amazing Neon artwork which you will be able to see from Mars. Whilst the book cover image has been fabulously illustrated by the very talented and rising star Davide Ortu. His collaboration makes this book a little extra special. Below is one of the inside illustrations to show you just how wonderful and engaging his artwork and the story together really are.  Book Review Here

Jeff Norton - Dino Knights - Published by Awesome Reads (6 Jun. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1912892044 - Paperback 

How to Train Your Dragon with Dinosaurs.

Imagine medieval times where the dinosaurs never went extinct. When dinosaur stable boy Henry Fairchild stops a vicious T-Rex from attacking his master, he is invited to join the most elite group in Brecklan, the brave Knights of Panterra, the Dino Knights. But before he can prove himself, the enemies of Brecklan attack with a flock of pterodactyls and kidnap Lord Harding. Whether he's ready or not, Henry and the Dino Knights mount a daring rescue mission...but nothing is what it seems. Dino Knights is a fast-paced chapter book for readers who've enjoyed Beast Quest and How to Train Your Dragon.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Katherine Rundell - The Good Thieves - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Trotting out this summer is the latest installment by Katherine Rundell. The Good Thieves will hit the shops on the 13th of June 2019. The book will be published in a lovely hardback edition by Bloomsbury Publishing. I'm a very big fan of the amazing cover that has been produced by Matt Saunders. In the finished copy, which I have not yet seen, there are some exquisite black and white chapter headers by the illustrator as well. They not only add a little slice of detail but also transport you straight back to the 1920s in New York City

This is an example of one of the images that I've had permission from the illustrator to use from his Twitter feed. You can check out some of his others at: @msaunders_ink

The magic of adventure is here to see in this book. The opening lines of the first chapter are both poetic and captivating. Vita set her jaw and nodded at the city in greeting, as a boxer greets an opponent before a fight. That is probably one of my favourite opening lines to a book for some time. It feels like a quotation from the great boxer, Muhammad Ali.

The plot is focused around a group of children (all fantastically different) who come together to right a wrong. Vita is the main character. A born fighter, she arrives on the wind with her mother from England. Fresh off the boat in New York City, she admires the horizon: tall, grey, blue and beautiful. However, Vita Marlowe is there for a reason. She has a job to do. Her beloved grandfather (Jack) has been cheated out of his home and possessions by a notorious conman with Mafia connections. Seeing Jack's spirit is broken, Vita is desperate to make him happy again. So, she devises a plan to outwit his enemies and recover his home. However, will Vita and her newfound friends be up to the challenge?

The story slowly creeps inside you and grips you with a brilliant all-out action heist of a plot like no other. As the adventure slowly builds, the characters personalities seep through and pull you on a journey of friendship and crazy antics that entertain. It's a story of loyalty, bravery and clever thinking. There are some brilliant moments built in which make this book both an entertaining triumph and a joy to read. 

The author has done a fantastic job of capturing the time period - approximately five years after the First World War. The children in the book radiate the feeling of recovery and anticipation as they bring their talents together to overcome any obstacles in their way. It's a fantastic story to escape into; an acrobatic circus of delights and truly wonderful storytelling with nature and wildness running at its heart. 

This is a brilliant story full of heart-stopping moments, thrills, spills and many different smiles. It's a fantastic performance - a pickpocket delight to read - where two boys with unusual skills, two girls full of determination and a host of animals find themselves in a death-defying adventure. What more could you possibly want? 

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: New Children's Book Picks June 2019 - Post One

Taran Matharu - The Chosen: Book 1 (Contender) - Published by Hodder Children's Books (4 Jun. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1444938937 - Hardback - Age: 11+

In a world far from our own, where enemies come in many forms, the ultimate battle for survival is about to begin ... An epic new trilogy from the bestselling author of the Summoner series.
Convicted of a crime he didn't commit, Cade is facing a year in reform school when he finds himself suddenly transported to another realm.
Populated by bloodthirsty prehistoric creatures and fierce warriors, Cade's surroundings are full of danger. Along with his fellow students, Cade is forced to become a contender in a deadly game of the highest stakes, controlled by invisible overlords.
Who are these brutal rulers, and why did they choose Cade? Before he can find answers, Cade must get ready to fight ...

Julia Green - The House of Light - Published by OUP Oxford (6 Jun. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-0192771568 - Paperback - Age: 8+

Bonnie is scavenging on a beach when she finds a battered old rowboat. And under the boat, a bare-footed boy-cold, hungry, and in need of help.

The authorities have already been troubling Bonnie and Granda for breaking rules, but how can she leave this boy when he has no-one? 

Bonnie does her best to keep the boy hidden from the border guards, but as their suspicions grow, she wonders if it's time to escape the life she's always known. Under cover of darkness, they set sail to the 'house of light' in search of a new beginning, and a sense of hope.

David Solomons - My Cousin Is a Time Traveller (My Brother is a Superhero) - Published by Nosy Crow Ltd (27 Jun. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-0857639929 - Paperback - Age: 8

Luke is surprised to learn that his cousin is a time traveller. He s even more surprised when she tells him that the machines are becoming intelligent and he must help her stop them taking over the world. It couldn't come at a worse time Zack has decided to give up his superpowers and live life as a normal teenage nerd. So Luke must swallow his irritation and rise to the challenge yet again ...
My Cousin is a Time Traveller is the fifth installment of Luke's laugh-out-loud adventures. From the author of My Brother Is a Superherowinner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and the British Book Industry Awards Children's Book of the Year.

Alex Milway - Hotel Flamingo: Holiday Heatwave - Published by Piccadilly Press (13 Jun. 2019) - ISBN-13: 978-1848128057 - Paperback - Age:5+

An enchanting four-book series featuring the adventures of Anna and her array of animal friends
The temperature is rising, which can only mean one thing: it's summer! Bookings are up at Hotel Flamingo and the hotel is getting busy. Anna is excited to receive word from King Penguin royalty asking to holiday in their Royal Suite. But there's a lot to get done, and it's not easy to manage the needs of the penguins when there's a heatwave on and a huge ice shortage. Help! Can Anna get Hotel Flamingo back to its usual shining self and have happy guests all round?

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Julie Pike - The Last Spell Breather - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

This is a review of the debut book from superstar Julie Pike. The Last Spell Breather will be published this July 2019 by the lovely Oxford University Press. The beautiful book cover has been illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova. (I hope I've spelled that right?) It is absolutely stunning and will certainly attract many potential readers. This is a book that I've been looking forward to reading for some time now as it sounded magical. However, the proof is in the reading. As I hold my breath and turn the first page - what will I discover?

After the first chapter, the narrative slowly distills into a story full of spells and unique charm. Rayne and her best friend (Tom) lead you into a story packed with sparkling fantasy adventure. Every page of the book is effortlessly enjoyable. It is very easy to get lost in a magical realm that packs such a fantasy punch. It's a place that you'll just want to explore more and more, especially the GREAT LIBRARY. The imagination and the ideas used in this book are fantastic. Whilst, the magic system feels and is totally original - I loved the concept as it certainly drives the heart of the plot. However, I feel this could have been used more by extending the story to give it greater impact. 

This is a book where you can escape into an immersive world for all of the family. There is a lot for the reader to enjoy including fantastic characters and monsters: a talking fox and the very bizarre fish people. However, my personal favourites were the GROTESQUES 
with their bushy eyebrows which were brilliantly written and very amusing. There are also bouts of warm humour, smugness and a sparkling friendship full of bickering and falling out which slowly builds throughout the story. 

The more you read this story, the more the mystery unfolds. It nicely builds-up the tension with an increasing sense of danger and peril. Finally culminating with some heart-stopping, nightmarish moments that I'm sure will make you run for cover. When the last page is eventually turned and the final breath expelled, the magical fantasy encapsulates the reader forevermore. The positive ending will certainly make you want to join the characters and setting once more in another adventure. It would be lovely to see some illustrations in the next book - I feel these would really make the reading experience particularly special. A fantastic new fantasy voice in children's literature.  

Spell Breathing does not come naturally to Rayne – she loathes the hours of practice, the stacks of scrolls, and the snapping mud devils that cover her mother's precious spell book.
But it is spell breathing that keeps her village safe from the dreaded monster curse that plagues their world. It is ancient powerful magic, but as Rayne learns to her horror . . . it is also fragile.
In one clumsy move, the magic that keeps them safe is broken, her village is plunged into danger, and an incredible adventure begins . . .