Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Yaba Badoe - Wolf Light - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Yaba Badoe is an award-winning Ghanaian-British documentary filmmaker and writer. Her first acclaimed children's novel was A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2019. Wolf Light is her second children's book and will be released in paperback this Jan 2020 by Zephyr. It has an absolutely fantastic book cover which has been illustrated by Leo Nickolls. I think it is amazing and just love it. 

After a brief flicker and a flutter of the pages, you are instantly transported into a place of pure fantasy and magical realism. There are three sacred places of sanctuary in this book, each with its own narrative that goes straight to the human heart. It starts with three spiritual sisters: Zula, Adoma, and Linet who are connected by their destiny from the day they were born. Even though they all live in a different part of the world, they share a special spiritual connection. As a result, they have to harness the magic of the elements and protect their sacred spaces by watching over the respective lands where they live. 

This journey enables us to dance through the tropical forests of Ghana as well as sing with the harsh stormy moors of Cornwall. It is a very powerful story that considers the relationships we have with the world around us and the consequences of the damage we cause to this planet every day. A voice is calling on the elemental spirits and, thus, planting the seed of a plot before showering us with a beautiful and extraordinary tale. 

You will embark upon a brilliant story of both light and darkness which pulses with loss, love and the eternal destruction of the planet. The tale takes us on a whirlwind of an adventure as the leopard dances and leaps under the moon and a wolf howls in the distance. This poetic vision of colour rustles through the trees and shimmers on the lakeshore. This is a great topical read that is very thought-provoking. It covers some important themes such as feminism, family, relationships, and environmental damage. All of which are told as a brilliant narrative, they are certainly as good as any you will read for some time. This is a book to savour and contemplate as the earth lives and breathes around us. 

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books: Young Adult/Teens Book Picks US - January 2020

Scott Reintgen - Ashlords - Published by Crown Books for Young Readers (January 21, 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-0593119174 - Hardback - Age: 11+

Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders--skilled at alchemy--who must compete at The Races--the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.

Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they've raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.

Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That's all legal and encouraged. 

In this year's Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest--a champion's daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary's son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?

Matt Killeen - Devil Darling Spy - Published by Viking Books for Young Readers (January 21, 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-0451479259 - Hardback - Age: 11+

In this utterly gripping thriller, Sarah, the fearless heroine of indie bestseller Orphan Monster Spy, hunts a rogue German doctor in Central Africa who might be a serial murderer.

It's 1940, and Sarah Goldstein is hiding in plain sight as Ursula Haller, the Shirley Temple of Nazi high society. She helps the resistance by spying on Nazi generals at cocktail parties in Berlin, but she yearns to do more. Then the spy she works for, the Captain, gets word of a German doctor who's gone rogue in Central Africa. Rumors say the doctor is experimenting with a weapon of germ warfare so deadly it could wipe out entire cities. It's up to the Captain and Sarah to reach the doctor and seize this weapon--known as "the Bleeding"--before the Nazis can use it to murder thousands. Joining them on their journey, in of the guise of a servant, is Clementine, a half-German, half-Senegalese girl, whose wit and ferocity are a perfect match for Sarah's. As they travel through the areas now known as the Republic of the Congo and Gabon, Clementine's astute observations force Sarah to face a hard truth: that mass extermination didn't start with the Nazis. 

This unbearably high-stakes thriller pushes Sarah to face the worst that humanity is capable of--and challenges her to find reasons to keep fighting.

Francesca Flores - Diamond City: A Novel - Published by Wednesday Books (January 28, 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-1250220448 - Hardback - Age: 11+

Good things don't happen to girls who come from nothing...unless they risk everything.
Fierce and ambitious, Aina SolĂ­s as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten. 
Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.
DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies. 
To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn't want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy―and risk losing everything. 
Full of action, romance, and dark magic, book one of Francesca Flores' breathtaking fantasy duology will leave readers eager for more!

Kiersten White - Chosen (2) (Slayer) - Published by Simon Pulse (January 7, 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-1534404984 - Hardback - Age: 10+


Nina continues to learn how to use her slayer powers against enemies old and new in this second novel in the New York Times bestselling series from Kiersten White, set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now that Nina has turned the Watcher’s Castle into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons, she’s still waiting for the utopia part to kick in. With her sister Artemis gone and only a few people remaining at the castle—including her still-distant mother—Nina has her hands full. Plus, though she gained back her Slayer powers from Leo, they’re not feeling quite right after being held by the seriously evil succubus Eve, a.k.a. fake Watcher’s Council member and Leo’s mom.

And while Nina is dealing with the darkness inside, there’s also a new threat on the outside, portended by an odd triangle symbol that seems to be popping up everywhere, in connection with Sean’s demon drug ring as well as someone a bit closer to home. Because one near-apocalypse just isn’t enough, right? 

The darkness always finds you. And once again, it’s coming for the Slayer.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Guest Post by By Emma Read - The Pen is Mightier than the Sword (or – What’s the Deal with Children’s Writing Competitions?)

By Emma Read 

It may seem anathema to some to consider writing a competitive sport, but as someone who was a committed comp-addict (and now handles the FOMO by reading and judging comps), I’m here to share some insights from both sides of that gleaming, shiny trophy.

Why enter?

Why indeed? The 2018 Bath Children’s Novel Award received 791 entries, from all over the globe. It’s not the best odds.

Then again, someone has to win –right?

For me, it was never about coming first. It was the hope of listing – gaining something useful to add to my somewhat thin query letter (smashing that mask-making competition at the library, age five, wasn’t cutting it). If your goal is making the longlist, or even getting a notable mention, the odds are vastly improved, especially if you’ve got a well-polished manuscript.

But still – odds are you will fail ... and that’s also a really good reason to enter.

Wait ... what?

I have failed to list in plenty of competitions and it hurts. Especially when you’ve done the homework, determined that your work is precisely what the judges are looking for, polished your manuscript to a high shine, and still the answer is a resounding NO. It’s the same sort of no you get when your dream agent doesn’t make a full request, or when you don’t sell on submission, or when your book isn’t on the tables in Waterstones, or listed in any of the annual awards. This is the writer’s life and for me, it helped to get used to it right from the start.

Failing in competitions is practice. Practice at moving on, practice at failing again.

Being a competition enthusiast comes with other benefits too (more fun than being rejected, I promise), especially if you have a supportive writing group to share the fun with. 

(Top Tip: find a supportive writing group!)

Entering comps for us was a team sport. We carried each other come victory or defeat and boosted one another on to the next. Success for an individual felt like a success for the team and there were plenty of vicarious celebrations.
Competitions also provide meaningful deadlines, reasons to improve and sometimes even feedback. And perhaps, most importantly for me, it was a push to get my work ‘out there’. To get over my squeamishness at the thought of someone else reading my words. To normalise the fear of being judged. 

On the other hand...

Being hooked on competitions can have its downsides – the most obvious being the cost. Most (but not all) competitions come with a serious entry fee, which pays for the prizes, admin, and the colossal number of hours required to read/judge/provide feedback on the entries (791 is feeling like a REALLY BIG number now!) Multiple fees across the year can quickly add up and even the cheapest entry requirements can prohibit writers from entering. (If this sounds familiar, do look out for sponsored entries for low-income writers, which many of the competitions offer).

It’s also important to remember that a competition listing, or even a win, doesn’t guarantee success. Whilst many on a longlist go on to find agents and subsequent publishing deals, many don’t – even winners. It’s a rollercoaster, just like the rest of publishing.

But forewarned is forearmed (with that mighty pen), so if you’re still keen ...  

Sign me up!

In no particular order, here are some of the competitions available to writers of children’s literature:

Twitter pitch contests: #revpit #Pitmad #DVpit #Pitdark #queryswap #querykombat #tellAMH #PitchCB

So if you do decide to enter, have fun, learn what you can and understand that any judging of creative art is subjective. 

Good Luck! 

Emma is the author of Milton the Mighty (Chicken House) and the upcoming sequel, Milton the Megastar. Under its working title, Milton was shortlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award and Emma has had success in a number of other writing competitions, including flash fiction and Twitter pitching.
She is now a reader and longlist judge for the Bath Novel and Bath Children’s Novel Awards, and for the WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award. She is also a mentor and tutor for WriteMentor 

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Book Picks Jan 2020

Ross Welford - The Kid Who Came from Space - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (9 Jan. 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-0008333782 - Paperback 
The stunning new 10+ story from the bestselling and award-winning author of TIME TRAVELLING WITH A HAMSTER, for anyone who loved the humour of WALL-E, the action of STAR WARS and the deeply touching emotion of ET.
A small village in the wilds of Northumberland is rocked by the disappearance of twelve-year-old Tammy. Only her twin brother, Ethan, knows she is safe – and the extraordinary truth of where she is. It is a secret he must keep, or risk never seeing her again.
But that doesn’t mean he’s going to give up.
Together with his friend Iggy and the mysterious (and very hairy) Hellyann, Ethan teams up with a spaceship called Philip, and Suzy the trained chicken, for a nail-biting chase to get his sister back… that will take him further than anyone has ever been before.

Tom McLaughlin - The Day I Started a Mega Robot Invasion - Walker Books (2 Jan. 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-1406389647 - Paperback - Age: 7+
A nine-year-old inventor is about to have her worst day ever in this laugh-a-minute mega-robot adventure!
Molly should be doing her homework, but instead, she builds a robot to do it for her. The robot is pretty clever ... so clever that it decides to make another robot. Then that robot makes another one. Before long, an army of slightly-too-clever-for-their-own-good robots are running around town causing chaos. But when robot number one gets wind of Molly’s plan to shut them down, the mechanical army set out to get rid of the humanoid once and for all. Now, Molly must race against time to stop the mega-robot invasion … and hand in her homework!

Anna Hoghton -  The Mask of Aribella - Published by Chicken House (2 Jan. 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-1912626106 - Paperback - Age: 9+

Perfect for fans of The Thief Lord!

Aribella lives in Venice, the daughter of an impoverished lace-maker. But she has a deadly secret: when angered, sparks shoot from her fingertips. Unable to keep her power hidden, she flees - but when dark spectres rise from the lagoon, the fire in her hands saves her life. A stranger witnesses the attack - and through him, Aribella leaves her old life behind and discovers the world of the Cannovacci, magical warriors sworn to defeat the strange spectres menacing the city ...

Nick East - Agent Weasel and the Abominable Dr Snow: Book 2 - Published by Hodder Children's Books (23 Jan. 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-1444945300 - Paperback - Age: 7+
Meet Agent Weasel: woodland super-spy. Can he save the Big Freeze winter games from disaster? And will there be enough marshmallows for another hot chocolate? Perfect for reading alone or sharing together, for fans of The Bolds and Toto the Ninja Cat.
It's the opening night of the Winter Whopper Games, but all is not well in the United Woodlands. Top animal athletes are disappearing, and there are whispers of a silent snow beast on the prowl. 
It's time to call Agent Weasel, woodland super-spy. Can he and his trusty dormouse friend Doorkins find out the secrets of Blanche, their mysterious team-mate? Will Weasel be able to compete for a golden fir cone without falling over his own feet? Will there be enough marshmallows and sprinkles for another hot chocolate? Who knows? 
But rest assured: even on the darkest and snowiest of nights, Agent Weasel always gets his animal. 
This is the second in the rib-ticklingly funny Agent Weasel series, with glorious illustrations throughout. Check out book one: Agent Weasel and the Fiendish Fox Gang.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Alastair Chisholm - Orion Lost - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

The first book not to be missed this year is Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm. This story is a brilliant blend of Sci-Fi goodness which is perfect for fans of both Star Wars and Star Trek. The book will be published this week (9th January 2020) by Nosy Crow. Therefore, it's time to grab your boarding pass and take your first journey into a fantasy world that will have you booked and hooked. It's a middle-grade adventure that will have you rocketing out of the orbit in minutes.

Earth is a distant spot on the horizon, millions of miles from home. The Colony ship ORION is four months out of Earth on the way to EOS FIVE when a sudden and unexpected turn of events occurs.  This plunges the plot into MYSTERY as you hurtle into a non-stop action-packed ride. Thirteen-year-old Beth and her friends have to navigate the heavily damaged ship, without the help of an adult crew, as they spin out into uncharted territory. Fortunately, the children pull together using their strengths and skills to try and help them get back home. 

Many of the concepts and ideas in this book I particularly loved. For example, the crew making jumps through space which required all the passengers to be put to sleep. This really gave a fresh angle to the story. The characters were brilliantly written; some of them were gutsy and resourceful as they created a realistic approach to situations. However, there were also lots of fun moments to be had. 

This is definitely one of the best books, within this genre, that I have read for some time. It is a much-needed read that allows you to easily escape and be transported into another world and time. The atmospheric story is full of energy, space pirates, alien encounters and friendships. It's a life-changing adventure which is a million miles from home and it's all awaiting you, the reader, to engage in it from your comfy armchair. So, why not give it a try today - fun impacters on and full-throttle away!