Friday, 20 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Guest Post: Nick Cook - ‏To the Moon and Beyond!

I think I can probably blame growing up during the era of astronauts first landing on the moon, for how I’ve turned out today. I will never ever forget those grainy images of Neil Armstrong as the whole world watching held its breath, and he uttered those immortal words, before taking those first historical steps. And despite what the conspiracy theorists might want you to believe it was all some sort of elaborate hoax (don’t get me started – it wasn’t), we as a species achieved something incredible that day. We'd finally broken free of our cradle of birth, the Earth, to wander the face of our moon. And it was an incredible and inspiring moment to witness.

At the time there was a frenzy of science fiction, from movies to books about space exploration, all mapping out how the moon landings were just the stepping stones towards bigger adventures in space for us. Alas, history had other ideas – although I’m hopeful that in the long run our pioneering nature will get the better of us once more.

It was an intoxicating period to be growing up in, where great sci-fi collided with reality –  a heady mix for a kid back then. I dreamed of space, lapped up every bit of sci-fi I could, and of course like every other child, dreamed of becoming an astronaut one day. This all inspired my own flickering flame of creativity and I took my first fledging steps with writing my first book at the age of 13…from memory I think I got all the way to page 5, before giving up! 

It took many, many years for me to return to writing, the years in-between that included a fine art degree in sculpture – and over 20 years working as a graphic artist and art director in the computer games industry. I co-founded two award winning studios and got my my name in the credits of over 40 published games. I even had international number one best sellers. Call me fickle but that wasn’t enough for me!

The problem was that those early childhood experiences has stuffed my head with dreams. That, and my desire to write had never left me. I have journals, poems, short stories, scattered across those years, that helped to keep my writing passion smouldering. 

And then a moment arrives in your life when you reach a crossroads – and I did. One route would have have taken me forward in the world of computer games. But the other led towards the distant mountains of my imagination – in other words – my writing. You can probably guess which decision I made, and it’s one I’ve never ever regretted. One of my many, many personal mottos, is to not live life like it’s a dress rehearsal, but to do it, and do it now.

But writing, as anyone who does it will tell you, is not for the faint hearted. It’s a twisting path, where you have to face many challenges and overcome them. It has taken me over 7 years to get my first publishing contract. But every step on that long journey had to be taken, was part of my personal journey of discovery, as I proved myself as writer, honed my ability, and most importantly of all, discovered my author’s voice.

With the publication of my first book, Cloud Riders, a long cherished dream has finally come true. Those early sci-fi influences are in there, as are a period I had of flying light aircraft and microlights. As a writer you tap your whole life experience, all that you are, but there is something more than that…you learn to listen to your novel as you write it – something I call book whispering. Why whispering? Because sometimes your book whispers to you, so you better listen carefully what it wants you to do! I love that alchemy of story telling and as you’ll probably tell if you read my work, when I write I’m actually there, experiencing what my characters do. The strong visual style of my writing has a lot to do with the disciplines I learned as an art director.

Now today when I hold Cloud Riders in my hands, I hold the dreams of young lad who dared to believe, and although he didn’t become as astronaut, has gone to places just as incredible in his imagination. And without doubt being a writer is one of the best jobs in this, or any other world.

About the Author: Nick Cook is an author currently lost rambling somewhere along the twisted path of his imagination. Has been known to visit Earth for good company and great coffee.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Children's/Teens Book Picks - UK Post Two

Derek Landy - Armageddon Outta Here ( The World of Skulduggery Pleasant)  - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (3 July 2014) 
One AMAZING new novella.
Three GRIPPING new stories.
In the ULTIMATE story collection.
We all know that doors are for people with no imagination so smash the glass, climb through the window and enter the awesome world of Skulduggery Pleasant with this ultimate story collection.
For the first time, every Skulduggery Pleasant short story – plus The End of the World, the World Book Day novelette – is collected into one magnificent volume. But that's not all…
Written specially for this collection, there is an entirely new novella that will drag you into a nail-biting American horror story, Skulduggery-style, and three brand-spanking-new stories spanning the last 150 years. Join Gordon Edgley as he parties like it's 1985, watch Valkyrie Cain face a vampire in a fight to the death, and see the Dead Men as you've never seen them before. And then read the exclusive chapter from the final book…
Introduced by Derek, these are the hidden stories of the skeleton who saves the world… and the girl who's destined to destroy it.

Zoe Marriott - Darkness Hidden ( The name of the Blade) - Walker (3 July 2014)
Against all odds, Mio, Jack and Shinobu have defeated the terrifying Nekomata and got home alive. But Mio is still compelled to protect the katana, and now the Underworld has spawned a worse monster - one carrying a devastating plague that sweeps through London like wildfire. As Mio struggles to protect the city and control the sword's deadly powers, she realizes that this time there is no way she can keep everyone she loves out of the line of fire.

Charlie Fletcher - Dragon Shield Bk 1 - Published by Hodder Children's Books (3 July 2014)
The start of a thrilling, action-packed trilogy from Charlie Fletcher, set in a world where statues come to life and dragons and heroes battle.
Something dark has woken in the British Museum, and it has stopped time, literally freezing the city in its tracks. The people are there, but unmoving, unseeing - like statues. The statues, on the other hand, can move, and are astonished at what they see.
In the Great Ormond Street Hospital, Will and Jo are suddenly plunged into this world of statues - and find themselves pursued by murderous dragons. With help from a couple of friendly statues, Will and Jo must escape the evil that stalks them in the streets of London.
With beautiful illustrations by Nick Tankard.

Emily Carroll Through the Woods - Published by Faber & Faber (3 July 2014)
It came from the woods. Most strange things do.'
Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there...

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Random Children's and Teen Picks - July 2014 - UK Post

Amy McCulloch - The Shadow's Curse - Published by Corgi Children's - 3, July 2014
Raim is no closer to figuring out the meaning of the broken vow that sentenced him to exile for life. But with his former best friend now a tyrannical Khan who is holding the girl Raim loves captive, he finds it hard to care. Every day, he and Draikh learn more about their powers, but it quickly becomes clear that he will never be able to stop Khareh and free Wadi unless he can free himself from the ultimate taboo of his people. Reluctantly, Raim begins the long journey down to the dangerous South, to find the maker of his oath.

In Khareh's camp, Wadi is more than capable of devising her own escape plan, but she's gradually realizing she might not want to. The more she learns about Khareh, the more confused she becomes. He's done unquestionably bad things, horrific even, but he's got big dreams for Darhan that might improve their dire situation. What's more, rumours of a Southern king massing an army to invade Darhan are slowly gaining ground. Only if the Northern tribes can come together under a single ruler will they have the strength to fight the South - but what if that ruler is an impulsive (albeit brilliant) young man, barely able to control his ever-growing power, and missing the one part of him that might keep him sane? Whoever conquers the desert, wins the war. And the secret to desert survival lies in Lazar, which is set to become the heart of a great battle once again.

Polly Ho-Yen  - Boy in the Tower - Published by Doubleday Childrens 3, July 2014
When they first arrived, they came quietly and stealthily as if they tip-toed into the world when we were all looking the other way.
Ade loves living at the top of a tower block. From his window, he feels like he can see the whole world stretching out beneath him.
His mum doesn't really like looking outside - but it's going outside that she hates.
She's happier sleeping all day inside their tower, where it's safe.
But one day, other tower blocks on the estate start falling down around them and strange, menacing plants begin to appear.
Now their tower isn't safe anymore. Ade and his mum are trapped and there's no way out . . .

Simon Rae - Medusa's Butterfly - Published by Yearling 3, July 2014
A box is left on Marcus's doorstep in the rain. Fussy Aunt Hester has told Marcus not to open the front door under any circumstances. But she's out - and just this once can't hurt . . . can it?
Except the parcel isn't embroidery supplies for Aunt Hester. Or fishing tackle for Uncle Frank. Whatever is in there, it's alive. And it's ANGRY.

The thing in the box sends Marcus's life spinning horrifyingly out of control ­- controlling his mind and testing his will so that every moment is deadly. Can Marcus overcome the pull of the Gorgon's gaze, and use her power for good? Because he received that box for a reason ­- but he must find out what it is, before the terrible, beautiful Medusa turns everyone he holds dear to stone . . . and then comes for him.

John Flanagan - Brotherband: Slaves of Socorro - Published by Yearling 3, July 2014
When the Heron brotherband become the Skandian duty ship to the Kingdom of Araluen, they're excited at the challenges ahead. Hal, Stig, Thorn and the Herons eagerly set off for the trip - with an unexpected new crew member aboard. But an enemy from their past returns, causing the Herons to be thrown into a dangerous quest to free captured Araluans from the slave market in Socorro. Even with the help of an Araluan Ranger, the task may be too much.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Book Review: Seventeen Coffins - By Philip Caveney

We have just moved on from Crow Boy, the first book, to find that Tom has wasted no time falling head first into another nightmarish adventure in and around Mary King's Close, Edinburgh. It all starts off with that familiar feeling, where the world shudders around him; that horrible sensation as he finds himself lost and lonely once more. 

The book is loosely based on historical places, events and people just like the first book 'Crow Boy'. It isn't really necessary to read this book first, but it may help if you do so, in my opinion. Besides which it is a great book and well worth the read anyway. The narrative begins at the National Museum of Scotland. A place with so much mystery - what might Tom find? It all starts with the eight tiny coffins that were discovered at Arthur's Seat in 1836. There is a tiny figure in each one; they soon become a very significant part of the ongoing story. You'll find that your curiosity increases as you are flung into the world of the past.

Philip uses his creative imagination exceptionally well to weave many elements into a captivating story. The nineteenth century comes alive through three dimensional descriptions of sight, sound and smell. Each aspect enables you to really visualise the place and time of the story. Philip creates an intelligent and very interesting read. 

The magical time travelling adventure will suck you from modern day time into the nineteenth century within a blink of an eye. Tom finds himself running from his old nemesis, the bogus plague doctor, William McSweeny, as well as other unsavoury characters from the past. Without giving too much away, these are definitely my favourite characters from the book; they bring a dark and moody feeling to the story which is SO good. I really loved this section of the book.

I have nothing negative to say about this book; it is a great sequel to Crow Boy. Easy to follow, yet it also has a great historical insight to it. Fast-paced dialogue between the characters keeps the storyline flowing. Whilst the mysterious element and edge to the plot keeps you rooted to the end. The story is based around a dark world full of shady characters - it is a struggle for survival. Beware though . . . . there are some gruesome encounters that will have you running for cover.

A lighter and more playful side to the story also exists such as Tom teaching his new friends twentieth-century slang; this section is particularly well written and rather funny. This story has all of the right ingredients to entice anyone and everyone to read it. Interesting, educational and a ripping good adventure that will fill your head. Poor Tom finds that time is once more slipping away from him. Hopefully this will soon lead us to another adventure very soon.  

Published by Fledgling Press (22 April 2014)

Other books by Philip Caveney
Sebastian Darke Series:
About Philip Caveney
Philip Caveney was born in North Wales in 1951. The son of an RAF officer, he spent much of his childhood travelling the length and breadth of Britain and spent several years in Malaysia and Singapore.

He attended Kelsterton College Of Art in North Wales where he obtained a diploma in Graphic Design. Whilst there, he became drummer (and latterly vocalist) with rock band, Hieronymus Bosch.
After leaving college, he worked extensively in theatre both in London and Wales and wrote the lyrics for rock adaptations of The Workhouse Donkey and Oscar Wilde's Salome.
His first novel, The Sins Of Rachel Ellis, was published in 1977. Since then, he has published many novels for adults and since 2007, a series of children's books that have sold all over the world.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Guest Post: My Literary Hero Ray Bradbury by Philip Caveney

My Literary Hero by Philip Caveney

Picture this. 

I’m fourteen years old and I’m stuck in a boarding school in Peterborough, while my parents are on an airbase somewhere in Malaysia, where they’ll live and work for the next three years. The school is a horrible place. Put aside all that nonsense you read in Mallory Towers. This is a barbaric hellhole where corporal punishment is an everyday occurrence and where even the prefects have permission to slipper your backside for misdemeanours like slovenliness and tardiness and… well, just not looking quite right. I really shouldn’t name the place because that would be unprofessional but… it’s called The King’s School, Peterborough. We kids have other, more inventive names for it.

Naturally, I long to escape, but I can’t do that physically, not unless I want to be virtually caned insensible, so I’ve devised a method of freeing my mind. I simply go to the well-stocked library, select a book and promptly lose myself in it. Because a book can take you anywhere in the world and even, out of it.

One day I pick up a book that will change my life forever. It’s called Something Wicked This Way Comes and it’s by Ray Bradbury.

Now, I’m not a complete novice when it comes to Mr B. The very first thing I was given to read at ‘big school’ was The Fog Horn, from his short story collection, The Golden Apples of the Sun, so I already know he’s good. But this book… this book is different. This book blows me out of my little socks. This book is midnight carnivals and mirror mazes, blind witches and haunted carousels, it’s Mr Cooger and Mr Darke’s Pandemonium Shadow Show and it is every wonderful twisted thing that every teenage boy desires. I breathe it in like oxygen for the soul. It is genius. It is perfect. And when I have finished reading it, I think a very strange thought: this is what I want to do with my life. I want to be a writer!

I start, pretty much there and then. I start with short stories, which I read to my classmates after lights out (8 pm, no exceptions) with the aid of a contraband torch. I listen to their criticisms and then I write another story and another one, hoping that each time I’ll get more positive comments and after a while, I decide it’s time to have go at a novel. That doesn’t really work, not the first time, but I have the bit between my teeth now and I think, I’m going to keep doing this until I’m good enough to be published.

It takes me ten years.

Picture this. It’s 1983 and I’m working as a film critic for Piccadilly Radio. I’ve published a couple of books by now and they’ve done okay. I’m really excited because today I’m reviewing the long awaited film adaptation of Something Wicked This Way Comes, directed by Jack Clayton and starring Jonathan Pryce as Mr Darke. I’ve waited over twenty years for this moment.

And sadly, inevitably, it’s really disappointing. It’s disappointing mainly because it’s not the succession of images I’ve carried around in my head for so long. I knew how each scene should look. I had filmed it with my brain, over and over until I got it perfect. I feel so strongly about it that I go home and I write a letter to Ray Bradbury himself, courtesy of his publishers, expressing my dissatisfaction and telling him how important his book was to me. How dare somebody make a lacklustre version of his masterpiece? How dare they? 

Against all the odds, he writes back to me, a lovely long letter, warm and sincere, thanking me for taking the trouble to write and telling me that he agrees, the film hasn’t quite caught what he was trying to do, but that this is the best attempt yet to get one of his books into a movie theatre and maybe the best he can ever hope for. I still have that letter, it’s one of my most treasured objects.

Picture this. It’s 2013 and I’m on holiday in Spain. Glancing at Facebook on my phone, I notice that one of my friends has just said, ‘Phil Caveney is going to be so sad to hear this news.’ But because of a glitch in the system, I can’t find the original post my friend was referring to. What can possibly have happened? And then it dawns on me. It must be Uncle Ray. And sure enough, the news is soon confirmed. Ray Bradbury has died. He was 91 years old, so he had, what people call, ‘a good innings.’

It’s a bad day when your childhood hero dies. You somehow think they’ll live forever. And many will argue that Ray will do exactly that, because his books will always be around. But will they? I am constantly dismayed when I go into a school to do workshops only to discover that none of the kids have heard of him (in some schools, none of the teachers, either!) In every school I visit, I urge the pupils to read Something Wicked. I tell them what a wonderful work of imagination it is. And I tell them how that book changed my life.

And now, I suppose, I’m saying it to you, dear reader. If you haven’t caught up with this classic fantasy novel, why not give it a shot? Trust me. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Mr Ripley's New Fantasy Book Picks - July 2104 - Post One

Joe Abercrombie - Half a King ( Shattered Sea, Book One ) - Published by Harper Voyager (3 July 2014)
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…

Jon Robinson - Anywhere (Nowhere Book 2) Published by Penguin (3 July 2014
'We're miles from anywhere, and we don't have a clue where we're going' Deep in a snow-covered forest Alyn, Jes, Ryan and Elsa have escaped from prison. Now they're being hunted. They quickly realise they have a special talent - they can control the world around them.Now they must use this skill to stop themselves falling into greater danger. But can they master it before their deadly enemies close in - for good? This gripping sequel will leave you clamouring for the next instalment. Jon Robinson was born in Middlesex in 1983. When he's not writing, he works for a charity in central London.

Lindsey Barraclough - The Mark of Cain - Published by Bodley Head (3 July 2014)


Aphra is not a normal child. Found abandoned as a baby among the reeds and rushes, the two outcast witches who raise her in their isolated cottage are never sure if she was born, or just pushed up through the foul, black mud for them to find. Little Aphra's gifts in the dark craft are clear, even as an infant, but soon even her guardians begin to fear her.

When a violent fire destroys their home, Aphra is left to fend for herself. Years of begging and stealing make her strong, but they also make her bitter, for she is shunned and feared by everyone she meets.

Until she reaches Bryers Guerdon and meets the man they call Long Lankin - the leper. Ostracized and tormented, he is the only person willing to help her.

And together, they plot their revenge.


Four years have passed since the death of Ida Guerdon, and Cora is back in Bryers Guerdon in the manor house her aunt left to her. It is a cold, bitter winter, and the horrifying events of that sweltering summer in 1958 seem long past.

Until Cora's father arranges for some restoration work to take place at Guerdon Hall, and it seems that something hidden there long ago has been disturbed. The spirit of Aphra Rushes - intent on finishing what she began, four centuries ago.

Paul Durham - The Luck Uglies - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (3 July 2014) - See Review.
Luck Uglies was a name whispered around the docks and darkest taverns, places the law dare not tread…
Rye has grown up hearing the legend of the Luck Uglies – notorious deadly outlaws who once stalked the streets. Now they have faded to ghosts and rumours and Rye isn’t sure they ever existed. Then on the night of the Black Moon, a mysterious stranger known only as Harmless, steps from the shadows to save Rye’s life and Rye learns that sometimes it takes a villain to save you from the monsters…
Enter a thrilling world of secrets and fantastical adventure from a phenomenal new writing talent.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Book Review: Nigel McDowell - The Black North - Published by Hot Key Books

Book Review: After reading Nigel's debut novel last year, TALL TALES FROM PITCH END, I was very interested to see what the author would dream up next. I was not really expecting this latest story, to be honest, but what a fantastic read. Like the first novel, the author in my opinion delivers a unique insight into a fantasy world that captivates the reader on so many levels. This is an atmospheric dark tale that will sweep you off your feet in many different ways.

This is a fast paced, mystical adventure that is very surreal but, also at times, rather confusing as some of the characters that you thought were dead magically reappear! This might have been a trick of my own imagination, but nevertheless, this made for an explosive epic battle. 

One strength of the story was the author's overly wild imagination which is deployed to fantastic effect; lots of detailed backstory and a plot that hooked me from the very beginning.

The characters are absolutely brilliant. Many of them should have a stand-alone book written just for them. Bizarre creatures have been depicted within this book, such as the Briar-Witches, that really will scare the pants of you. I particularly liked the 'Master of the Big House' and his stone statue sister; they lifted the story for me. On a number of occasions, I found myself giggling in a mad and demonic sort of way. 

Nigel paints a picture of a complex world that is crumbling into nothingness; a powerful force of evil that the human race need to fight. All of which is told with some elements of folklore and dark magic but within a fairytale style. This blend reads like one big nightmare. Told from the point of Oona, a female heroine who is stubborn and strong - she is a match for anyone as she lead us through this fantastic tale. This is a story for every reader with a vivacious appetite for the unimaginable and the terrifying. It was a huge hit with me and one that I would thoroughly recommend. 

Book Synopsis:
The Divided Isle, once a place of peace and tranquillity, has been ravaged by war. Twins Oona and Morris live with their grandmother in a stone cottage in the quiet southern county of Drumbroken, but the threat of the Invaders of the Black North - the ravaged northern part of the island - is coming ever closer. When Morris, fighting against the Invaders, is kidnapped by one of the evil Briar Witches, Oona must journey to the unknown realms of the Black North in search of her brother. She is accompanied only by Merrigutt, a jackdaw with mysterious transformative powers, and a treasured secret possession: a small stone in the shape of a plum, but a stone that reveals truths and nightmares, and which the Invaders and their ruler, the King of the North, seek more than anything. Oona must keep the stone safe at all costs, and find her brother, before the King of the North extends his evil hold over the whole island and destroys it forever.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Book Cover Preview: Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull: Book 2 by Jonathan Stroud - UK/ US COVER and GERMAN

UK COVER - Published by Doubleday Children's (25 Sep 2014) -  This is to tie in with this summer (July) release of The Screaming Staircase in paperback in the UK and across the world. For the UK market, Random House has designed a new look – a striking image of Lockwood  himself slightly silhouetted with the moon behind him. This bold new look promises to attract a new sets of fans, and is sure to grab the eye of younger readers too.

Book Synopsis: 
When the dead return to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in.
A series of grisly thefts have been taking place across the capital: powerful supernatural artefacts have been stolen, and their warders murdered. In an atmosphere of mounting panic, a mysterious skull in an iron box is unearthed in Kensal Green Cemetery.
Witnesses hear it whispering urgently, but the words cannot be understood. Lockwood & Co. will have to use all their ingenuity and skill to uncover the secret of the whispering skull.

US COVER - Published by  Disney Press (16 Sep 2014) - So what do we think?  

German Cover - Published by cbj (27. Oktober 2014) - Another interesting book cover.

Wenn Londons Geisterwelt erwacht
Dank des spektakulären Erfolgs im Fall der seufzenden Wendeltreppe ist Lockwood & Co. nun eine der angesagtesten Geisteragenturen Londons. Doch inzwischen wird die Metropole bereits von einer Reihe neuer grausiger Ereignisse erschüttert: In einer beispiellosen Diebstahlserie werden mächtige magische Artefakte entwendet und deren Hüter grausam ermordet. Als dann auch noch auf einem Friedhof ein schauerlich eiserner Sarg geborgen wird, dessen Inhalt unter mysteriösen Umständen verschwindet, steht fest: Ein klarer Fall für Lockwood & Co.! Nur wenn das Team um Anthony Lockwood, Lucy und George ihre ganze Genialität im Umgang mit übernatürlichen Ereignissen in die Wagschale wirft, kann es ihnen gelingen, die Verschwörung, die hinter all dem steckt, aufzudecken.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Mr Ripley's Recommended Book Read: Jan Siegel - The Devil's Apprentice - Ravenstone

The Devil is retiring... but who’s taking over? When teenage Pen inherits the job of caretaker for a London building with no doors and only a secret entrance from the caretaker’s lodge – which she must never use – little does she know it will lead her into unbelievable danger. For Azmordis, also known as Satan, a spirit as old as time and as powerful as the Dark, Immortality is running out.

In the house with no front door, a group of teenagers are trapped in assorted dimensions of myth and history, undergoing the trials that will shape them to step into his cloven footwear – or destroy them. Assisted by only by an aspiring teenage chef called Gavin and Jinx, a young witch with more face-piercing than fae-power, Pen must try to stop the Devil’s deadly game plan – before it’s too late.

By turns very funny, very scary and always thrilling, this is an incredible return to YA for Siegel. Brilliant five star entertainment. 

Published by Ravenstone (10 Oct 2013)

About The Author: Jan Siegel is a pseudonym of Amanda Hemingway (born 1955 in London, UK). Jan Siegel has written in several different genres under several different pseudonyms, but fantastical realism remains her preferred form of fiction. She also works as a poet, journalist, freelance editor, and occasional teacher, her interests covering a wide range of subjects including horse riding, adventure travel and wildlife conservation. First published at an early age, she has spent her life accumulating assorted experiences and then not writing about them. It has been said that an academic is someone who knows a lot about a little, while a writer is someone who knows a little about a lot. Siegel claims she knows very little about a hell of a lot. An idealist, she is continuously surprised to find fact stranger than fiction and real human beings even more bizarre than any character in a book.

Other Books:
  1. Prospero's Children (1999)
  2. The Dragon-Charmer (2000)
  3. The Witch's Honour, published in US as The Witch Queen (2002)

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Guest Post by Lisa Glass - Blue - Published by Quercus Children’s Books

Writing and surfing: basically the same thing.
Writing, I decided one night, after consuming two Stellas, is a lot like surfing. Nonsense, you might say, writing is nothing like surfing, but you would be wrong. In fact, I would go even further and say that writing is like pro-surfing.
For a start, your friends will be watching your career with great scepticism. Being a pro-surfer, just like being a writer, seems to many people a ludicrous dream. The first time you state your intention of making a living in either of these fields, you will be discouraged and possibly even laughed at. And with good reason: it is very hard to make money out of surfing or writing; lots of people enjoy doing these things, but as a hobby rather than a career, and just who the hell do you think you are? There might be some opportunities to teach these things (surf coach, creative writing tutor) if you’re good enough or know the right people, but the available jobs are few and far between and competition for them is fierce. 

If you do happen to get sponsored/a book deal you will find that there are many critics in the world. Lots of them will be lovely and make excellent points, which you will take on board, but others will make cutting (often hilarious) remarks about your surfing/writing technique, call you all sorts of unpleasant names and beseech you to stop, for the sake of their eyes, which will be bleeding.
You will attend events where the order of business is to promote your brand and sometimes you will be asked to sign books/posters and on a good day you’ll make new friends who will enrich your life and you might even be offered complimentary wine.

In the back of my book, I thank my family for ‘helping me to the surface so many times when I was drowning in the impact zone of modern publishing’. The impact zone in surfing is where the waves break and it can be almost impossible to push through those turbulent waters to the calm of the line-up, which is where surfers wait to catch waves. For a time you have to put up with wave after wave breaking on your head and pushing you backwards, which is sort of how it feels to receive agent and publisher rejections. But, eventually, you’ll either give up and retreat back to shore or reach the line-up where you might just surf the most amazing wave of your life. Or, uh, something.

Lisa Glass is the author of Blue, a YA surf romance published by Quercus Children’s Books, 5 June 2014. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Book Review: Dan Smith - My Brother's Secret - Published by Chicken House

The first book that I read by Dan Smith was 'My Friend the Enemy'. At large it showed the developments and the perspective of what it was like to be living in Britain in World War Two. The hardships and the reality of death; a strong sense of communities pulling together and friendships developing but war always has two sides to it. What if you flipped that on it's head and showed the same reality living in Germany in 1941? Would there still be the same problems, questions and opinions, not everyone shares the same beliefs and opinions of Adolf Hitler?

In my humble opinion, this books explores the theme of war in a sensitive and understanding nature. The story takes inspiration from the original Edelweiss Pirates, a loosely organised youth movement, where groups arose in response to the strict paramilitary of Hitler Youth and initially rebelled against the government's control of leisure time. It is based on real Second World War events; the author has weaved in both fact and fiction to deliver a narrative that will provoke deep thoughts, feelings and give the reader a greater understanding as to how the fight for freedom was one of the hardest times that Europe went through.

Told through the eyes of a twelve year old boy from Germany, Karl wants his country to win the war. His father has gone away to fight, but will he ever return to his family? The book is full of family love and conversations that reflect the difficult and testing time. I really did enjoy following Karl and learning about his views, opinions and feelings throughout the book. I thought these were beautifully portrayed in the story. I could visualise the narrative and see what was happening through the character's eyes.

I did feel that the book was slightly too short, but nevertheless I really did enjoy the reading experience of what it was like to be a child gripped in the face of evil and conflict in war.  I really loved the start of the first chapter which is entitled War Games. From that moment, I saw the rapid change in Karl's mindset which to me was the highlight of the book. I would really love for more people to read this type of book, especially as you can discuss the issues faced by the characters and begin to understand and recognise the historical events of that time in 1941.

From the words of Barry Cunningham, 'fighting for our freedom - who knows if it may be something we have to choose again one day!' To me that sums up the book, so take a copy off the bookshelves to read as you will not be disappointed.

Published by  Chicken House; 1 edition (1 May 2014)

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Guest Post by Sarah Sky - Code Red Lipstick - Published by Scholastic

JESSICA Cole’s an average teenager, except when she’s modelling and helping out her private investigator dad on surveillance jobs.
When the former MI6 spy vanishes mysteriously, the 14-year-old takes matters into her own hands.
Following her dad’s trail to Paris, her investigation leads her to AKSC, the beauty headquarters of former supermodel, Allegra Knight, and a conspiracy involving an MI6 double agent.
Jessica needs her wits about her - as well as lots of gadgets to give her the upper hand against dangerous adversaries.

But what gadgets do spies really use? I’d asked a “security expert” friend for advice while researching Code Red Lipstick.  Without skipping a beat, he replied: "If you can imagine it, so can MI6 and every other security service. In fact they're probably already using it."
In fact, nothing is too implausible in the real world from lipstick guns designed by the KGB at the height of the Cold War to tiny, insect-sized spy drones already being developed by the US army.
What about a “Cheetah” robot that could outrun the fastest man on Earth? Check. It’s under development in America and will be able to sprint, zigzag and be precise enough to stop on a dime.

How about enabling a spy or a soldier to run at Olympic speeds and go for days without food or sleep? 
Again, that's taken care of if new research into gene manipulation is successful in the US. Injured operatives and soldiers could eventually be able to grow back limbs blown apart by bombs.
The truth is that governments across the world are conducting jaw-dropping research, which sounds like science fiction but could mean the difference between life and death in espionage, as well as wars.
Even the Ministry of Defence's own think-tank, the Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre, predicts that by 2045, advances in medical technology could create a class of genetically superior humans – similar to characters like Wolverine from X Men.

It believes that brain implants may be developed that 'either augment or enhance vision, language, auditory and memory capabilities'.  With all this in mind, I've twice ventured to a West London annual security conference - heavily vetted, never widely advertised and visited by 'spooks' - as research for my Jessica Cole: Model Spy series, being launched by Scholastic. I've experimented with the latest tactical ladders used in hostage situations and the high-tech grapnels used to scale submarines as well as encrypted mobile phones and facial recognition technology, which can spot even the partly obscured face of a target in a crowd. 

I've been taught how to use the hidden gadgets in high-tech armoured car to disable or even destroy a vehicle in pursuit. I'd be long gone before a villain in one of my books managed to catch up.
I’ve learnt that surveillance robots and mini-helicopters are a vital tool on covert missions and that electro-magnetic pulses will kill an engine instantly if a target attempts to escape by car or speed boat.
What has my research taught me? That the gadgets Jessica uses can never be too far-fetched or unrealistic.

The teenager could quite easily wear taser trainers, designed by MI6, and have a powder compact that enables her to see through walls. After all, she wouldn't be a very good spy, if she wasn't well-equipped and ready for the equally well-equipped baddies she encounters.  I'll be back at the conference again next year, looking out for the latest mind-blowing gadgets.  But it’s the top secret ones which will never be on display that interest me most. Fact, as they say, will always be stranger than fiction.

* Code Red Lipstick by Sarah Sky is published by Scholastic on 5 June 2014

Twitter @sarahsky23

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Guest Publication Day Post: Matt Brown - Compton Valance: The Most Powerful Boy In The Universe

I like to welcome Matt Brown to Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. Thank you for taking the time to write this insightful blog post. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you and your book a Happy Publication Day... 

How It Feels To See Your Book On A Shelf

When I first tried my hand at writing and getting a book published, the signs were not good.  Bad, even.  The first story I wrote and sent to agents came back with letters that began with “we are sorry to say” and “at the moment we have a large number of works on file” and “how dare you send me this putrid effluent you hideous waste of a pair of trousers” (I may have been reading between the lines here.) That was in 2004, so it has taken ten years to finally get to the day that I sometimes thought would never come. Drumroll please.  Today is PUBLICATION DAY! 

Compton Valance: The Most Powerful Boy In The Universe is a story about two ordinary boys who accidentally create a time machine.  Ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated with the idea of time travel and the kind of possibilities that would stretch out before you if you had a time machine.  I loved books about time travel like Tom’s Midnight garden and Stig of the Dump.  I loved TV shows about time travel like Dr Who and Sapphire and Steel.  And I loved Back To The Future more than just about anything else in the whole world.  After spending three quarters of my life thinking about where and when I would visit if I could travel through time it seemed only fitting that my first book be about that very notion. 

So, how does it feel to finally have a book in the shops?  It feels AWESOME!  Like a gold badger surfing a twenty-foot high wave whilst he’s high-fiving a hedgehog.  Only better!  My days at the moment are spent doing one of three things.  

  • Signing books in bookshops with wonderful, enthusiastic booksellers.
  • Chatting in schools about where I would go to if I had a time machine.
  • Frantically checking my author rating on Amazon. 

Now I just need to write the next book so I can keep doing this forever.  Or perhaps I just need to create my own time machine.  Hmmmmm, now there’s a thought.

Book Synopsis: When Compton Valance and his best friend Bryan Nylon discover the world's first TIME MACHINE (aka a mouldy, thirteen-week-old-cheese-and-pickled-egg sandwich), they become the most powerful boys in the universe. But how will Compton and Bryan decide to use their incredible new time-travelling powers? Will they use them for good? Will they use them for evil? Or will they just focus their efforts on perfecting a formula for the world's first pair of custard trousers? Things are about to get totally scrambled for Compton Valance.

Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd (1 Jun 2014)