Saturday, 12 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Bryony Pearce - Phoenix Burning Blog Tour 2016 (Book Cover Design Process)

I am really pleased to be apart of this blog tour for Bryony Pearce’s second book in the "Phoenix" young adult novel series, which was recently published on 10th March 2016. I really enjoyed reading this book, so why not find out more by reading my review HERE. 

I swear my allegiance to the #BansheeCrew!  We are feared and fearless!  Come and join the crew and find out more about the process of book cover design. 

I was very excited when I was given the brief to design the cover of Phoenix Burning by Bryony Pearce. After really enjoying working on Phoenix Rising, I couldn't wait to start work on the sequel. 

I was asked to create a strong cover which would sit well next to the first title. Ruth, the editor, explained the main themes of the book – the importance of the sun, in particular – and explained how Toby and Ayla's relationship develops. I then went on to read the manuscript. It was a thrilling read, so I knew I also had to express this tension and suspense on the cover. 

As a starting point, I revisited the cover of Phoenix Burning. This cover design also focuses on three main elements – Toby, Ayla & the skull and crossbones. These were integrated in a clever way and the cover also fitted the YA genre. 

I then progressed to researching sun icons and experimenting with these, working out how best to show Toby and Ayla. I found that Ayla looking straight ahead was really effective, and contrasting this with the figure of Toby running also worked well. It was at this stage that I started adding more elements to the design – I chose to focus on the monks, who are a crucial and sinister element of the plot. 

My next step was to share my design with the rest of the Stripes team and with Bryony Pearce, the author. I wanted to make sure that the cover design fitted with their expectations, and that Bryony felt it was true to her story. I was also interested to find out which of the design elements caught their attention first. Some people were drawn to Toby running, others picked out Ayla's face first and others saw the monks’ faces within the sun's flames. From this, I made the decision to emphasise the sun itself, making it much clearer. This refining stage was key – once the sun was clearer, everything seemed to fall in to place. 

Once you read the book, the relevance of each of the elements becomes clear. However, without any knowledge of the story, they work together to convey the book’s energy and excitement. I hope you agree!

Bryony Pearce was born in 1976 and has two young children. She completed an English Literature degree at Corpus Christi College Cambridge in 1998 and was a winner of the SCBWI anthology 'Undiscovered Voices' in 2008.

Twitter: @BryonyPearce 

Friday, 11 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's/Teenage US Published Book Picks For March 2016 - Post One

Raymond Arroyo - Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls - Published by Crown Books for Young Readers (March 8, 2016)
Fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Peter Lerangis’s Seven Wondersseries will embrace this first epic adventure in a rollicking new series by a New York Times bestselling author.

Will Wilder is a mischievous, headstrong twelve-year-old with an otherworldly gift—he alone can see the nefarious creatures encroaching on Perilous Falls. For nearly a century, a sacred relic has protected his hometown from the raging waters surrounding it. But when Will “borrows” the relic for his own purposes, he accidentally unleashes an ancient evil.

Jaleigh Johnson - The  Secrets of Solace - Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (March 8, 2016)
From Jaleigh Johnson, the acclaimed author of The Mark of the Dragonfly, comes another thrilling adventure in the magical world of Solace.
    Lina Winterbock lives in the mountain strongholds of Solace. She’s an apprentice to the archivists, the wise men and women whose lives are dedicated to cataloging, studying, and preserving the objects that mysteriously fall from the sky in the scrap towns.
    Lina should be spending her days with books, but the Iron War has changed everything. The strongholds are now a refuge, and the people Lina once counted on no longer have time for her, so she spends her days exploring the hidden tunnels and passages of her home. The strongholds are vast and old, with twisting paths, forgotten rooms, and collapsed chambers, some of them containing objects that have been lost and forgotten even by the archivists.
    And in one of the forgotten chambers, Lina discovers a secret.
    Hidden deep in a cavern is a half-buried airship like nothing she has ever seen before. She’s determined to dig it out and restore it. But Lina needs help, and she doesn’t know anyone she can trust with her secret.
    Then she meets Ozben, a mysterious boy who has a secret of his own—a secret that’s so dangerous it could change the course of the Iron War and the world of Solace forever. 

Janet Fox - The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle - Published by Viking Books for Young Readers (March 15, 2016)
That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do:  when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.
But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse.  What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night?  Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own?  And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Linda Sue Park (Author) & Jim Madsen (Illustrator) - Forest of Wonders (Wing and Claw) Published by HarperCollins (March 1, 2016) 
Raffa Santana has always loved the mysterious Forest of Wonders. For a gifted young apothecary like him, every leaf could unleash a kind of magic. When an injured bat crashes into his life, Raffa invents a cure from a rare crimson vine that he finds deep in the Forest. His remedy saves the animal but also transforms it into something much more than an ordinary bat, with far-reaching consequences. Raffa’s experiments lead him away from home to the forbidding city of Gilden, where troubling discoveries make him question whether exciting botanical inventions—including his own—might actually threaten the very creatures of the Forest he wants to protect.
The first book in an enchanting trilogy, Forest of Wonders richly explores the links between magic and botany, family and duty, environment and home.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Bryony Pearce - Phoenix Burning (Phoenix Series) Book Review

Toby and Ayla have to infiltrate a sect of sun worshippers to steal the equipment their ships need. They enter a trial to be chosen as the Sun and the Moon, a position of great honour for the sect. As the trial commences, Toby and Ayla discover the true cost of failure. But there are other young couples who are equally desperate to win...Can Toby and Ayla survive days without sleep, hours sitting in the blistering sun and a deadly maze? They'll need to work together to win - their mission depends on it...

This is the second book in the anticipated Phoenix series by Bryony Pearce, which will be published by Stripes Publishing early March 2016. We set sail once again, a month later, on another perlious voyage with Toby and the Phoenix crew, as they set course cross the junk-filled high seas into the unknown. The mission is to find an island where they can settle, but life is never that easy for the Phoenix crew, as their ship has a missing crucial component. They also have to decipher a map which reads like bizarre poetry, what could possibly go wrong?

The fun and games rise again in another action adventure romp that will superglue your fantasy imagination to every page that you read. The Banshee crew are still lurking, offering to cut a deal with the feisty Alya at the centre of the mischievous plan to steal the equipment their ships need. All of this leads to a crazy encounter on land with the sun worshippers, which is so far removed from the first book, that it feels like you are reading a standalone novel, which might be good if you fancy popping head first into this book first. 

The plot has a very brutal and dark side as the trial commences. Toby and Ayla cannot fail, as there are deadly consequences, but all the young couples are equally desperate to win ..... what will happen then? This part of the story is so captivating to read; the cruelty and the challenges that lie ahead are very creative and enjoyable to read. You will be sucked into the adventure with a keenness of an olympic swimmer where only the best couple will survive. They need to survive days without sleep, sit in the blistering sun without water and endure days without food. Never mind the daily gruelling tasks which are a battle of the mind and strength.

It was nice to dip my toes back into a good Young Adult read, as most of the books that I've recently been reading and enjoying have been middle grade stories. This filled a nice gap between the ages with a clear creative plot, quick easy dialogue and just the right amount of world building and description to get your imagination working. Once you get past the first few chapters, this is a great book to escape into. It has an exotic location and dystopian/junkpunk setting which is full of action; a high sea pirate adventure with an eco twist.  

The cryptic puzzles to solve are very cool, so much so that they might even just get your brain going. Check some of them out at the back of the book. The ending will have you hooked with the surprise twists and turns which will lead you nicely into the third book. This is a great series that I'm really enjoying reading; it is something slightly different from other mainstream books that are being published at the moment. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Favourite Book Picks: Children's/Teens - March 2016 - UK Post Three

Ross Montgomery - Perijee & Me - Published by Faber & Faber (3 Mar. 2016)
When 11-year-old Caitlin discovers a shrimp-like alien creature on the shores of her island home, she takes responsibility for teaching it about the world. Mostly, this just involved stopping little Perijee from eating everything! Caitlin becomes increasingly close to her alien friend, treating him like a brother. 
There's only one problem - Perijee won't stop growing. 
Then the authorities try to hunt him down and through his fear, Perijee disappears and starts causing trouble. Caitlin must leave home and travel across the country to try and convince Perijee to stop destroying everything before it's too late.

Tania Unsworth - The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn - Orion Children's Books (10 Mar. 2016)
11 year old Daisy has never seen the outside world. 
She has lived with her mother in their family home, the splendid but crumbling Brightwood Hall. But when one day her mother doesn't come home and a strange man arrives at the house, Daisy must use her wits to survive.
This enthralling story of a young girl's physical and mental journey is beautifully imagined by Tania Unsworth, and readers will be completely transported by the unique magic of Daisy's world.

Benjamin J. Myers - The Grindle Witch - Published by Orion Children's Books (10 Mar. 2016)
When Jack Jolly moves from the city to the tiny Northern village of Grindle, he thinks his life's just become a lot more boring. But then he finds himself plunged into the middle of a terrifying mystery, and confronting an ancient evil - the Grindle Witch.
But when Jack and his new friends, Paddy and Leila, take drastic measures to stop the Grindle Witch, they realise that they may have unleashed more than they bargained for.
A creepy supernatural tale that will have readers on the edge of their seats.

M G. Leonard - Beetle Boy (The Battle of the Beetles) - Published Chicken House Ltd (3 Mar. 2016)

Darkus is miserable. His dad has disappeared, and now he is living next door to the most disgusting neighbours ever. A giant beetle called Baxter comes to his rescue. But can the two solve the mystery of his dad's disappearance, especially when links emerge to cruel Lucretia Cutter and her penchant for beetle jewellery? A coffee-mug mountain, home to a million insects, could provide the answer if Darkus and Baxter are brave enough to find it.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Sara Pennypacker (Author), Jon Klassen (Illustrator) - Pax - Book Review

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed and he was rescued by ‘his boy’, Peter. Now the country is at war and when his father enlists, Peter has no choice but to move in with his grandfather. Far worse than leaving home is the fact that he has to leave Pax behind. But before Peter spends even one night under his grandfather’s roof he sneaks out into the night, determined to find his beloved friend. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their journeys back to each other as war rampages throughout the country.
A profound and moving story with stunning illustrations by award-winning illustrator, Jon Klassen, ‘Pax’ is destined to become a classic in the vein of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ and ‘Watership Down’.

A moving story of the extraordinary friendship between a boy and his fox, and their epic journey to be reunited. Beautifully illustrated by multi-award winner, Jon Klassen.

Pax is written by the bestselling author, Sara Pennypacker, and illustrated by the multi-talented artist, Jon Klassen. You only have to look at the brilliant book cover, and you get a real sense of the story that is inside. Within the pages you will find some truely delightful and atmospheric pen and ink drawings, especially the centre page spread that has been skilfully drawn. Each illustration really enhances the story. The mood and work harmonises amazingly well with the words and the plot; it is a great pairing of talents.  

This is another stunning read and a beautiful story about the friendship between a boy named Peter and his fox Pax, who find themselves endangered by the devastating war conflict. Set in a vague country during war time, Pax serves to remind readers that war, conflict and destruction can affect anyone, or anything. Twelve-year old Peter has cared for his pet fox, Pax, for many years. Orphaned as a kit, Pax is now as domesticated as any wild animal can be as he has never had to survive in the wild. 

The book is written through a dual narrative alternating between Pax and Peter by highlighting the on going developments between the relationship of the characters. I really loved the plot surrounding “Pax” as he learns what it is to be a fox. His first footsteps into the wild and unknown, as well as his naivety. The thought process behind this story was wonderful and thought provoking. You will amble along a breathtaking adventure with padded feet as you explore a new, sad and lonely world for the fox. You will explore a path of learning of how to be wild and free for the first time. 

Empathy strongly radiates out of this story and will seriously pull on the heart strings; you might even shed a tear or two. The war element of the book, in my opinion, felt quite vague and some what unrealistic. It perhaps needed to have some more background detail, but nevertheless it still raised important feelings and questions required to make this book tick. What are true costs of war? Is it even worth it? Can you strike a balance between wild and tame ?

You will really fall in love with this book; it was a true labour of love for the author. It took four years to write and another year to work out which animal would work particularly well within the story. I personally feel that it was time definitely well spent. This is another great middle grade read (8-12) depicting the unbreakable bond between a boy and his fox. It is filled with love, sacrifice and friendship and is a timeless classic. A dazzling and inspiring book, this is a read that I would thoroughly recommend. Out Now. 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Guest Book Review by M - The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

Katherine Woodfine's bestselling debut novel. A fast-paced historical mystery adventure for readers aged 9+, with gorgeous Edwardian period detail. Perfect for fans of Enid Blyton, Chris Riddell's Goth Girl and Robin Stevens' Murder Most Unladylike series. 

You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of Sinclair’s department store!
Enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and MYSTERIES around every corner. WONDER at the daring theft of the priceless CLOCKWORK SPARROW! TREMBLE as the most DASTARDLY criminals in London enact their wicked plans! GASP as our bold heroines, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose, CRACK CODES, DEVOUR ICED BUNS and vow to bring the villains to justice… 
Left penniless when her father dies, Sophie is pleased to find a job in the millinery department of Sinclair’s, soon to be London’s largest and most glamorous department store. There, she makes friends with Billy a junior porter and beautiful Lil, who is one of the department store “manikins” by day and an aspiring actress by night.
Just before the store is due to open, there is a daring burglary, including the theft of the priceless Clockwork Sparrow. When Sophie herself becomes a suspect, the only solution is to solve the mystery of the clockwork sparrow. Her friend's Lil and Billy help her to solve the crime.

I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend that you read it, especially if you are looking for strong female role models. Sophie Turner has had quite a life in regards to fate and fortune but she never gives up and is an intelligent and resourceful heroine who goes against social norms to do the right thing. She is aided by her friend, society beauty Lilian Rose, who exudes a passion for life and who also bucks the social expectations of others. Both do this with great grace and style. 

They are supported in this tale by a range of well developed characters, from true friends, colleagues, police and villains, all who play their part in moving the mystery along at a good pace with great attention to detail. The descriptions of the grandeur of Sinclair's department store to the cold, dark horrors of its basement really do draw you in. The plot has a few well chosen twists and turns, some unexpected and the story has a particularly positive, empowering ending that leaves the reader wondering as to what path Sophie will take next.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

New Brand Release: Tom Percival - The Spell Thief /The Great Troll Rescue (Little Legends) - Mini Review

Welcome to Tale Town, a faraway kingdom, full of extraordinary children that you might literally recognise. Pop all of the fairytale characters you know and love, and whisk them together slowly to make new epic adventures. This is a wondrous world full of dragons, fairies and talking trolls, where magic and mayhem and mystery crackles through the air. It is a fantastic new series by the multi-talented Tom Percival. 

The first two books have already been published and are aimed at a younger audience for age 5+. The third book, Genies Curse, will hit the shops in fairytale land on the 28th July, 2016. These are fantastically written, exciting stories that have a classic fairytale feel style and wonderful eye-catching illustrations by Tom.

The idea for Little Legends was developed by Tom Percival and Made in Me, a digital creative studio exploring new ways for technology and storytelling, to inspire the next generation. The brand will launch simultaneously a physical paperback and ebook, and a interactive game for children available from the App Store.  It is a great  family entertainment package, ready and waiting for you all to access! Check them out Here!

Jack (of the beanstalk fame) and his magical talking chicken, Betsy, have always been great at making new friends. But when Jack spots Anansi, the new kid in town, talking to a troll in the Deep Dark Woods, everything changes. Everyone knows that trolls mean trouble, and Jack will do anything to prove to the rest of his friends that Anansi is a troll spy. Even if that means using stolen magic!

What starts as an adventure ends in disaster when Rapunzel, Anansi and Jack and his talking chicken, Betsy, are captured by a wicked witch and locked up in a tower! It's up to Red (the sustainable woodcutter's daughter) to save the day. With the help of the witch's servant, Ella, and her magical fairy god-brother, can Red save her friends and all the other magical creatures the witch has kidnapped - including a fearsome troll?

Monday, 29 February 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Favourite Book Picks: Children's/Teens - March 2016 - UK Post Two

Robin Stevens - Jolly Foul Play: A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery - Published by Puffin (24 Mar. 2016)
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have returned to Deepdean for a new school term, but nothing is the same. There's a new Head Girl, Elizabeth Hurst, and a team of Prefects - and these bullying Big Girls are certainly not good eggs.
Then, after the fireworks display on Bonfire Night, Elizabeth is found - murdered.
Many girls at Deepdean had reason to hate Elizabeth, but who might have committed such foul play? Could the murder be linked to the secrets and scandals, scribbled on scraps of paper, that are suddenly appearing around the school? And with their own friendship falling to pieces, how will Daisy and Hazel solve this mystery?

Ali Benjamin - The Thing about Jellyfish - Macmillan Children's Books (10 Mar. 2016)
Suzy is 12 when her best friend, Franny, drowns one summer at the beach. It takes two days for the news to reach Suzy, and it's not something that she can accept: Franny has always been a strong swimmer, from the day they met in swim class when they were just 5. How can someone all of a sudden, just no longer be there?
Suzy realizes that they must have got it wrong: Franny didn't just drown - she was stung by a poisonous jellyfish. This makes a lot more sense to Suzy's logical mind than a random drowning - cause: a jellyfish sting; effect: death. 
Suzy's journey to acceptance is quiet - she resolves to either say something important, or say nothing at all. But it's also bursting with bittersweet humour, heart-breaking honesty, big ideas and small details.

Julian Clary (Author), David Roberts (Illustrator) - The Bolds to the Rescue - Published by Andersen Press (3 Mar. 2016)
More wildly funny animal madness from dream team Julian Clary and David Roberts!
The Bolds are a family of hyenas living as humans in a suburban house. But now their kindness to animal waifs and strays has become legendary, and more and more animals keep turning up to stay! Roger the sheep flocks to their house, and Fifi the poodle turns up to learn some new tricks, whilst Sheila the crocodile decides to stay for a while.
But when the Bolds take in a couple of race horses who are on the run, they worry their animal magnetism is getting to be too much. Have these hyenas bitten off more than they can chew?

Lucy Coats - Chosen (Cleo) - Published by Orchard Books (10 Mar. 2016)
Continuing the story of Cleopatra before she became the legendary figure we think we know, this fast-paced adventure story is perfect for teen girls. Will Cleo - marked and chosen at birth by the goddess Isis - prevail against the evil forces who would gain power? 
Meticulously researched, Lucy Coats's CLEO books vividly evoke the drama and intrigue of Ancient Egypt.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Stewart Foster - The Bubble Boy - Book Review (Simon & Schuster)

They call it a crash when the blood goes from my head to my feet, pours out into the room and drains through a hole in the middle of the floor. They call it a crash when the walls start spinning and the pictures blur. Then the ceiling turns black and the floor turns black and I don't know which way I'm facing any more.

Eleven-year-old Joe can't remember a life outside of his hospital room, with its beeping machines and view of London's rooftops. His condition means he's not allowed outside, not even for a moment, and his few visitors risk bringing life-threatening germs inside his 'bubble'. But then someone new enters his world and changes it for ever.

THE BUBBLE BOY is the story of how Joe spends his days, copes with his loneliness and frustrations, and looks - with superhero-syle bravery, curiosity and hope - to a future without limits. Expect superheroes, super nurses and a few tears from this truly unique story.

If you're going to blow bubbles today, then it would be best for you to do it before you read this book. Behind the bold sky blue cover, there is a fantastic story waiting for every reader to discover. So blow some superhero bubbles for Joe and get ready to ride a fantastically inspirational story that you will want to visit again and again. This book will make you think who the real superheroes are, and it's not the ones who wear capes, have superpowers or fight bad guys in Marvel or DC comics. No, it's people like Joe, who have to fight an everyday battle but they do so with a smile on their face, and hope in their hearts. 

All Joe wants is to be normal, but his condition means that he's not allowed outside, not even for a moment. Even the few visitors that he is allowed, risk bringing life-threatening germs inside his "bubble" - otherwise known as the hospital bedroom. He faces life with courage and curiosity. He has never been outside of his hospital bubble, but he is fearless and really inspirational. He has science lessons on his computer, laughs and jokes with his friend via Skype and watches films with his sister. He wants to be normal, but he never will be unless they can find a cure.

Joe's life soon changes when someone new enters his world and the story elevates slowly like a bubble rising into the big blue sky. Opportunities that he had previously dreamt of might now be possible, but will it be worth the risk? You will need to read the book to find out and I hope you do, as it will change your outlook on life for sure!

I loved every single minute of this book. One of my favourite parts (without spoiling it) is the introduction to the mysterious character, Amir. He is so brilliantly written, and yet, he only made the story by a chance encounter. A tormented stranger came to sit next to Stewart on a park bench, whilst he was eating his lunch in Soho Square, and made a big impression on him. I'm sure that he will leave an even bigger impression on you after reading this story. Amir is the little golden nugget that sealed the narrative together; he's the little ray of sunshine that pushed Joe through the swirling thick clouds of fog and towards a life of hope and possibilities.

It will be very hard to read this moving story without shedding a tear or two, so you'll need to get some tissues ready. In one breath it's very sad and might break your heart strings, but in the next breath it can be very up-lifting. It's an emotionally fuelled rollercoaster of events with a clever and unique narrative that will stay with you for sometime. So much so, that weeks after you have read it, you will still reflect on the journey you had with the characters and think fondly back to it. I understand that some readers might have an issue with some of the supporting characters, perhaps they could be described as being a little too bland and vague, but to me that did not matter. The story resonates very much in the heart and made me feel very fortunate to be able to do the things that 'normal' people can do, such as going out everyday and seeing the sunrise early or looking at the stars and the moon in the night sky. These are all the things Joe wanted to do and things that we often take for granted. 

This is a fantastic debut young read for the 10+ reading age. It really is one of my favourite books that I have read so far this year. Unfortunately, I loved this book so much that I got rather carried away and wrote this book review a little earlier than usual. Therefore, you will have to wait sometime before you are able to read it. Call it a reviewers curse, but I have just noticed that it is not published until May 2015 by Simon & Schuster, which is really rather a long time to wait. Please make a mental note to purchase a copy as I would highly recommend this book. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Guest Post by Stephen Bennett - Writing App Goes Free as Survey Shows Internet Leading Distraction for Writers‏!

A survey of 1000 US writers has found that the Internet is the biggest distraction preventing them from writing.
The survey undertaken by Stop Procrastinating, the website blocker and productivity tool, found that 42% of writers claimed to have turned to browsing the internet for inspiration only to be lose hours reading articles or watching YouTube videos.
The survey found that digital distractions such as emails, social media and the Internet were also most likely to prevent them from writing.
Most interesting is what they were viewing. Most writers didn’t turn to the great works for inspiration, but were more likely to watch YouTube videos of comedy acts or cats and other animals doing funny things. 45% of those who said they were distracted by the internet from writing said they had watched a funny animal video at least once to help get them through a creative block.
32% of respondents claimed the level at which the internet distracted them from writing was significant and worrying.
Of all respondents 42% said they had tried to concentrate on writing for more than a week only to be distracted at some point by the internet.
45% said they had lost their chain of thought because they checked and responded to an email or social media alert while they were trying to write.
Some 33% said visiting distracting websites or social media cost them at least an hour a day in lost productivity or writing time.

Tim Rollins, Stop Procrastinating director, said: "We have made Stop Procrastinating free today in order help writers beat their Internet distractions and get more writing done. The Internet, social media, emails are pervasive and eating into our quality time. We need urgently to put ourselves back in control. 
"Writers have always had distractions, but they have never had to deal with a technology that is everywhere at once and influences every part of our lives. It is unprecedented the level of intrusion and distraction that today's writers have to cope with," he said. 
About Stop Procrastinating:
Stop Procrastinating is an Internet blocking and productivity application. It is compatible with Mac OS and Windows. It allows users the option to block the Internet for a period of time in three ways, depending on how much self-discipline they have.
Option 1 allows users to block the Internet for a set amount of time, but they can get back online if they reboot their computer.
Option 2 allows users to block the Internet for a set amount of time, but prevents access to the internet even if they restart their computer. They have to wait until their chosen time is up to reconnect.
Option 3 allows users to input into a black list specific websites they wish to block, such as Facebook or Twitter, and to stay connected to the Internet.
Stop Procrastinating also gives users the option to write down their works goals before disconnecting from the Internet. Research has shown this to be a powerful aid to motivation. It also allows users to chart their progress over time, which helps users see how much more work they are getting done.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Abi Elphinstone - Top 10 Shadow Keeper Doodles - (The Shadow Keeper blog tour Day 2)

Top 10 Shadow Keeper Doodles
By Abi Elphinstone

At school I was branded ‘unteachable’ and ‘prone to spasmodic outbursts of tiredsomeness.’ Yes, I was a bit naughty (I see, in hindsight, that setting traps for your French teacher is unacceptable and stealing out of Maths lessons to run wild in the forest is unwise) but at the heart of this wayward behaviour was another issue, one that didn’t get ‘detected’ at school and that I only found out about in my first job after university. And while I can’t pin all of my childhood misdemeanors on my dyslexia, it does explain A LOT of the problems I had with processing, organising material, concentrating in class and reading aloud.

I write letters backwards and numbers upside down, I stutter on words when I read them aloud and I struggle with even the most basic arithmetic – and out of that scrambled mess I try to write stories. I untangle settings by sketching them, I make sense of plots by drawing graphs and I go absolutely mental in notebooks as I create characters. Everything is visualized before I write. In short, I am a ferocious doodler, and I wanted to share my Top 10 Shadow Keeper Doodles with you:

Little Hollows Cove. Moll and her Tribe are living as outlaws in a secret cove down by the sea. There are hidden tunnels, diving rocks, old rowing boats and smugglers next door – all the finest ingredients for a sea adventure.

Little Hollows. The cave Moll and her Tribe are hiding in, complete with secret tunnel and alcove hammocks.

A house that must not be named (for spoiler reasons). 

A room Moll, Gryff and Sid find themselves in on their journey to find the Amulet of Truth. I even drew a dog and a book on the side table – that’s how specific I have to be before I write!

  1. Behind Devil’s Drop. Inspired by the Waitomo caves in New Zealand.

Oracle Bone script. These are the letters Moll carves into the Oracle Bones with her penknife before she throws them to find the second Amulet of Truth.

My map of the Shadow Keeper world. Complete with smuggler caves, raging waterfalls and wild horses.

Mapping a chase scene across Inchgrundle. Involving dastardly smugglers and a very fierce storm. The photo deliberately chops off the edges as I don’t want you to see what happens there…

Mood board for the book. Witch doctors, wildcats, kelpies and lots and lots of unsolved codes.

Teaser for Book 3. I can’t take credit for this – my dear friend, Thierry, painted it. But inside this feather you’ll find some hints about the final book in the series.

PS: I couldn’t share the plot graphs with you because that would be one too many spoilers

Moll Pecksniff and her friends are living as outlaws in a secret cave by the sea, desperate to stay hidden from the Shadowmasks. But further along the coast lies the Amulet of Truth, the only thing powerful enough to force the Shadowmasks back and contain their dark magic. So, together with Gryff, the wildcat that’s always by her side, and her best friends Alfie and Sid, Moll must sneak past smugglers, outwit mer creatures and crack secret codes to save the Old Magic. With more at stake than ever before and the dark magic rising fast, can Moll and her friends stop the Shadowmasks before it’s too late? Perfect for fans of J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Michelle Paver and Eva Ibbotson.

Author Bio: 
Abi Elphinstone grew up in Scotland where she spent most of her childhood building dens, hiding in tree houses and running wild across highland glens. After being coaxed out of her tree house, she studied English at Bristol University and then worked as a teacher. THE DREAMSNATCHER was her debut novel for 8-12 years and is followed by THE SHADOW KEEPER this year. When she's not writing, Abi volunteers for Beanstalk, teaches creative writing workshops in schools and travels the world looking for her next story. Her latest adventure involved living with the Kazakh Eagle Hunters in Mongolia…

Twitter: @moontrug
Instagram: @moontrugger 

Make sure you check out all the other stops on this cracking book tour!
Book Review HERE

Monday, 22 February 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Favourite Book Picks: Children's/Teens - March 2016 - UK Post One

Paul Durham - The Luck Uglies #3: Rise of the Ragged Clover - Published by HarperCollins Children's (Mar. 2016)
The exhilarating conclusion to the critically acclaimed THE LUCK UGLIES series.
“The Luck Uglies has it all: a feisty heroine, monstrous creatures, and a brimful of humor, and horror, to keep the readers turning the pages.” Joseph Delaney, Author of the Spook’s Apprentice series
Rye feared her father, Harmless, might be lost forever after he was driven into the forest Beyond the Shale by his deadly enemy Slinister Varlet. Now Slinister is making moves to claim leadership over the Luck Uglies. Can Rye find her father, save her village and put an end to the fighting for good?

Anna Wilson - The Parent Problem - Published by Macmillan Children's Books (24 Mar. 2016)
Skye Green's mum is driving her insane! When she's not posting EMBARRASSING pictures of Skye online or experimenting with BIZARRE clothing, she's forever taking up new hobbies - and her latest obsession is ballroom dancing! It's only a matter of time until she waltzes down the street in spandex and sequins - and to make matters worse, Skye's younger brother is wildly (and irritatingly) enthusiastic about Mum's new hobby, and about wearing Mum's sparkly new outfits!
As if this wasn't HORRIFIC enough, Skye's mum has also enlisted the new neighbour's son to come and 'babysit' when she's at dance class, and he's only a year older than Skye! Talk about MORTIFYING in the EXTREME! At least Skye's best friend, Aubrey is there to help Skye cope with her family's madness. They've been friends since before they can remember, and nothing will ever, EVER change that . . . right?

Curtis Jobling - The Tower of Trials (World of Warriors Bk 2) - Published by Puffin (3 Mar. 2016)
The second book in a new fiction series by Curtis Jobling, based on bestselling global game sensation, World of Warriors!
After the events of A New Hero, Trick and his team of warriors must continue their quest to bring down Boneshaker. The journey resumes through the mystical Wildlands, a place where the greatest warriors throughout history have been summoned to fight in a battle for survival - from Romans and Vikings to Knights and Samurai!
They pass a village terrorised by an evil necromancer - the heroes jump in to the rescue, but Mungo is badly wounded. To save his friend, Trick must fight through the Tower of Trials and defeat the mysterious Gatekeeper.
But there's more at stake than they realised. The Gatekeeper holds a key with the power to travel between realms. A key that Boneshaker wants. 
And if it falls into Boneshaker's hands, his reign of terror could spread far beyond the Wildlands...

Wesley King - Dragons vs Drones - Published by Razorbill (15 Mar. 2016)

A young computer genius is chased by sleek, high-tech drones into a land populated by Godzilla-size dragons, setting off a war that only he can stop. Part Eragon, part Transformers, with a magical beating heart at its centre.
Marcus Brimley was just four years old when his CIA analyst father went missing and the world branded him a traitor. Eight years later, searching for clues to find his father and prove his innocence, Marcus breaks a complex code that sends him shooting through a storm into an alternate realm . . . but he didn't travel alone. When Marcus lands in this new world, Dracone, he finds that he has been followed by government drones. And they're out to destroy Marcus and all of Dracone. 
While fleeing the drones, Marcus meets Dree, a 12-year-old Draconian girl who comes from a family of dragon riders. Dree explains to Marcus that while humans and dragons used to be friends, Dracone's new prime minister has turned them into enemies, with humans hunting dragons for sport and dragon-riding families like Dree's pushed to the poorer outskirts of the city. 

But the drones are firing on both the dragons and the people of Dracone. Soon, Marcus and Dree discover that they must get help from the dragons if they want to stop an all-out war that will leave the incredible realm of Dracone decimated.