Thursday, 17 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Eugene Lambert - The Sign of One (Sign of One 1) - Book Review

One for sorrow, two for death…
On Wrath, a dump-world for human outcasts, identical twins are feared. Only one will grow up human, while the other becomes a condemned monster with ‘twisted’ blood.
When sixteen-year-old Kyle is betrayed, he flees for his life with the help of Sky, a rebel pilot with trust issues. As the hunt intensifies, Kyle soon realises that he is no ordinary runaway – although he has no idea why he warrants this level of pursuit.

Here is the first book in an exciting new trilogy, THE SIGN OF ONE, which will be published on the 7th April 2016. Published by Egmont's Electric Monkey Imprint with book two, INTO THE NO-ZONE & and book three hopefully following 9-12 months apart. This is the first gallop into Eugene's fantasy mind; a dystopian adventure that will gravitate you towards a barbaric world known as the world of Wrath. So welcome one and all to the world of Wrath......

It's a place like no other in the fantasy universe. The setting is pitch perfect; a bleak scene of neglect and isolation, where the dregs of humanity were evacuated a long time ago. What adventures lie within this world when most things here are out to kill you, even the wildlife? As you move around and through this brilliant plot you may want to keep your whits about you, as you may get caught up in the deadly grasp of the longthorn trees, with deadly finger length barbs. I would always recommend you stay well away from the 'razor' grass - I'm sure you don't really need me to tell you why. 

The theme of this book is that twins are seen as evil. As Eugene (the author) is a twin, I'm not sure who is the evil one at home, but in this book you are sentenced to death. This brings about an interesting and thought provoking question with results that will surprise the readers, especially later on in the story. However, say no more "Mr Ripley" I hear you shout - we will have no spoilers here. The book does have a feeling of Mad Max which the press release identified and, for once, I agree with this comparison, but it is definitely not similar to Hunger Games, in my humble opinion.

The main character Kyle was not the best character for me in this book. I never really identified with him as well as I would have liked, maybe it was his weaker personality. However, the other characters were brilliant and Sky, a fiercely independent  glider pilot, has been written particularly well. I really wanted the best for her, as she was really likeable. I wanted to find out more about her and her past life. She is the great battler of the narrative with her own hidden agenda which swung their reluctant adventure along some great twists and turns. 

This book is basically a Sci-fi collision of all of Eugene's favourite films from his younger days which have been thrown into a fantasy melting pot and, to me, it really works. I really loved reading this wonky and not so perfect world of flying machines as well as robotic destructive machines. The characters have to survive the best that they can by foraging and scavenging though the industrial forgotten landscape which is all very atmospheric. Written with a very real like quality,  you will be really captivated to read the story for this reason alone. I believe that this is the best Young Adult read so far this year... It is a great start to a trilogy and probably the best that I have read in a long time, so well done Eugene, this book has lived up to my expectations. 

One for SORROW, Two for Death and Three for Readers JOY! 
Author's guest post will follow next week, make sure you check that out as well! 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Press Release: CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Shortlists Books 2016

In a shortlist of novels thick with secrets and lies, Patrick Ness vies to be the first ever author to win the Carnegie Medal three times. Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here follows the lives and loves of a group of teenagers and faces tough competition from Frances Hardinge’s Costa Book of the Year winnerThe Lie Tree, in which a young Victorian girl uses lies to find the truth behind her father’s murder, and Robin Talley’s debut, Lies We Tell Ourselves, which sees two teen girls fall in love across the race divide in 1950s America. Joining them on the shortlist are Nick Lake’s There Will Be Lies in which a teenage girl is forced to re-evaluate her identity, Jenny Valentine’s Fire Colour One which explores questions of authenticity and honesty, and Kate Saunders’s Five Children on the Western Front which looks at the reality of conflict and the impact of the First World War on a single family. Marcus Sedgwick’s The Ghosts of Heaven, four interlinking stories on the search for the true meaning of life, and Sarah Crossan’s One, a tale of conjoined twins which explores notions of individuality, complete the Carnegie shortlist for 2016.
The CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016 shortlist in full (alphabetically by author surname):

  • One by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)
  • The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)
  • There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
  • Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders (Faber)
  • The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick (Indigo)
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (MiraInk)
  • Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine (HarperCollins)
At the heart of the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist, awarded for outstanding illustration in a book for children, is a three-way face-off between former Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne, current Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell and Helen Oxenbury, all with two Medals already to their names. Oxenbury first won in 1969, nearly half a century ago, while Browne first won in 1983. Riddell, a relative newcomer, first won in 2001. Traditional picture book stories for younger readers make up the majority of the Kate Greenaway shortlist, following 2015’s more sombre list. 
Browne employs a wide range of colours and styles in Willy’s Stories, to celebrate the worlds within a library, while Oxenbury’s distinctive style is at the fore in Captain Jack and the Pirates, merging soft blacks and whites with muted colours. Riddell uses a limited but highly evocative palette of black, white and gold in The Sleeper and the Spindle and Sydney Smith’s visual storytelling in Footpath Flowers uses selective colour against stark black and white. Ross Collins’s There’s a Bear on My Chair uses size, scale and words to create humour and contrast whilst Jackie Morris’s Something About A Bearbrings the lives of the world’s bears to life with a true painterly quality, and in Once Upon an Alphabet, Oliver Jeffers creates a distinctive visual style with bright colours and strong lines bringing each letter’s tale to life. Finally, previous Kate Greenaway Medal winner Jon Klassen uses earthy colours and increasingly dark shades in Sam & Dave Dig a Hole.

The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2016 shortlist in full (alphabetically by illustrator surname):
  • Willy’s Stories illustrated and written by Anthony Browne (Walker Books)
  • There’s a Bear on My Chair illustrated and written by Ross Collins (Nosy Crow)
  • Once Upon an Alphabet illustrated and written by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins)
  • Sam & Dave Dig a Hole illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett (Walker Books)
  • Something About a Bear illustrated and written by Jackie Morris (Frances Lincoln)
  • Captain Jack and the Pirates illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, written by Peter Bently (Puffin)
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle illustrated by Chris Riddell, written by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury)
  • Footpath Flowers illustrated by Sydney Smith, written by JonArno Lawson (Walker Books)
Sioned Jacques, Chair of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel for 2016, said: “These exceptionally strong shortlists reflect the huge range of writing and illustrating talent in children’s publishing at the moment. The lists are a true celebration of the longevity of these wonderful talents, with Helen Oxenbury and Anthony Browne showing that they are still delivering incredible work decades after first winning a Medal. Questions of secrecy, lies, who we really are and how we identify ourselves are all explored in different, surprising and innovative ways. Our shortlisted writers and illustrators don’t shy away from difficult or big ideas but skilfully introduce them to young readers in ways that are gripping, moving, entertaining but always, without exception, page-turning.”
Dawn Finch, President of CILIP, said: “We are without doubt in a golden age of children’s books. From stories set in Victorian times and World War One to a modern day library, from fantasy worlds to the future, these shortlists showcase the enormous talent and unlimited imagination currently to be found in children’s storytelling. There are characters to fall in love and go on adventures with and journeys and discoveries to be made. Each and every one of the books on the shortlists could be a worthy winner and all of them are truly deserving of a global audience.”

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the oldest children’s book awards in the UK, with the first winners announced in 1936 and 1956 respectively. The titles on the shortlists are contenders for the highest accolades in children’s literature, with previous winners including legendary talents Arthur Ransome, C.S Lewis and Mary Norton for the Carnegie Medal and illustrators Quentin Blake, Shirley Hughes and Raymond Briggs for the Kate Greenaway Medal.
The winners for both the CILIP Carnegie Medal and the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal will be announced on Monday 20th June at a lunchtime ceremony at the British Library. The winners will each receive £500 worth of books to donate to their local library and a specially commissioned golden medal. Since 2000, the winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal has been awarded the £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize and, from 2016, the Carnegie Medal winner will also be awarded an equal amount of prize money from the same fund. At the ceremony in June, one title from each shortlist will also be named the recipient of the Amnesty CILIP Honour, a brand new commendation for a book that most distinctively illuminates, upholds or celebrates freedoms. The two titles receiving the commendation will be able to carry an Amnesty CILIP Honour logo. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Q&A Interview with Illustrator Jamie Littler

Hello! You may be wondering who on earth I am. Good question, my friend, good question.
Here are some things you may, or may not, know about me:
My name is Jamie Littler, and I am an author - illustrator, who lives in merry ol' England.I especially specially specialise in children's books and graphic novels, with the odd bit of fantasy art and vis-dev here and there for added flavour. 
How did you become interested in illustrating literature for children?
Perhaps it sounds incredibly clichéd, but I think I've always been interested in illustrating for children's literature. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by illustrated books from a young age, my parents reading to me every night, and I used to pour over the illustrations and love every second of it. When not doing important things like playing with action figures or climbing trees, I used to draw for hours, creating stories and comics, often completely ripped-off from books and films I had been watching that week, but it was all part of that sense of creating world and characters through illustration. I loved it, and I guess I never grew out of it. Telling stories and illustrating for all ages is something pretty special, but to illustrate literature for children: there's some kind of magic and wonder there that I don't think can be replicated.
Could you describe your journey to becoming an artist? 
It was mostly a case of just drawing, all the time, and enjoying it! When you're at school, there's that funny thing that happens when there's always a kid in class who is 'best' at something. The 'best' at football, the 'best' at maths, the 'best' at spinning round in circles. I had been, very kindly, I might add, labelled as 'best drawerer', and that really helped to egg me on, as well as the amazing support from my parents. I always thought I wanted to get into film and animation as a teenager, I used to draw out storyboard after storyboard for story ideas, but when it came to actually picking up a camera or making an animation: I seemed to lose interest. I realised, as I was deciding what to go on to after school, that it was the act of illustrating stories that I really loved and where all of my energy and effort went in to. I did an Art Foundation (which taught me a HUGE amount) and then went on to do a BA(Hons) in Illustration at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth, which I loved. Not only was it 3 years studying and creating illustration, they taught us a lot about how to make a career out of it too, which was pretty invaluable information. Then it was just the simple (hah!) case of getting my portfolio in front of as many publishers as I could. My agent, Jodie, was super important and helpful in this regard.
What were your original inspirations?
Ah, lots and lots! I am hugely influenced by animation (my dad is an animator so it was an ever-present thing in my house), so the movies of Disney, Don Bluth and Studio Ghibli had a huge impact on me, and also animated shows on TV, like the animated Batman series. I still love them all to this day! I think that always made me want to create a real sense of 'movement' and energy in my illustrations, and the process I go through when planning an illustration is usually to imagine it moving, like a film, in my head. I used to read lots and lots of comics too, things like Asterix and Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes (still one of my favourite artists and comic strips to this day), and a huge, massive interest in Japanese manga. As for books themselves, I have been hugely influenced by the free, scratchy line-work of Quentin Blake (surprise surprise! I don't think there's a UK illustrator alive who isn't influenced by him!), Arthur Rackham and Ronald Searle. I just loved the way their illustrations could looks so messy and full of humour and franticness, yet still be completely endearing and fitting in a book.
Do you think an illustrator needs a style? 
Ooo, tough question. 'Needs' is a strong word, but I believe it's very important. It's great to try out new and different things, with different mediums and in different ways, but I do think it really helps that no matter what you do, it still retains that signature 'you' about it. It helps you to make a name for yourself, for readers to recognise and hunt down your work, and for you to stand out from the crowd. Luckily, I think a personal style is quite a natural thing, like your own hand-writing. It tends to force its way through in anything you do, unless you actively try and suppress it. Then it's just a case of developing it and making it something entirely unique to you. Influences are great, important, inspiring and inevitable, but it's your own style that will leave a lasting mark, not something someone else probably does much better than you.
What is your favourite medium to draw/paint with?
I do a lot of my stuff digitally, using a Cintiq tablet. Not only does it allow you a lot of control over your drawings and compositions, I just really enjoy it! I can play around with things until I am really happy with them, and it enables a real ease to make changes and corrections, which are usually inevitable! I still love using ink pens and watercolours though. It's fast and messy, and makes a really nice change of pace and method compared to the slower, more methodical digital stuff. Thin, spidery, splatty pen lines and messy, textured watercolours – if I can include these in an illustration I will try and find a way!

What's the basic process to making a good book cover?
Trying to be bold, striking and getting the essence of the story across in the most dramatic way you can! It's quite hard, funnily enough! I think these are the main things, though. Often, the publisher will have a really clear idea of what they would like to see on the cover, and what colour it will be, and it will usually include all of those elements. For children's books, it's usually got to show the main character, and an element or two that really get across what the story is about, such as the monsters that will be the main baddies, or the vehicle the characters will make their epic journey with, or a location from the world the adventure is set in, stuff like that. I think the key seems to be all about composition, colour and excitement, as there are a lot of book covers in those book shops, so you want someone to see yours and think: 'Ooo, that looks cool! And intriguing! I think I'll buy it!'.
Do you remember which illustrated children's books were your favourites back when you were a young reader and why? 
Definitely Roald Dahl's books, illustrated by Quentin Blake. I don't know why, I just remember it so distinctly. Our teacher read us 'George's Marvellous Medicine' in year 2-3? I just remember loving it's edginess, it's hilariousness and, well, it's complete nastiness! I was really into ghosts and monsters and stuff like that as a kid (and adult), and even though there were no such things in that book, that grim, modern-fairytale feel it had really ticked all of my boxes. I rushed out to find and devour (in a literary sense, of course, I was quite a well-fed child) every other Roald Dahl book I could, after that! But yes, anything with ghosts and monsters in it, I was usually happy. I remember 'The Monster Bed' by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Susan Varley, very fondly, and when I found 'Goblins of the Labyrinth' by Brian Froud (basically the art book for the film: 'Labyrinth'), in my parent's book shelf, I felt like I had discovered a most mystical and ancient of magical tomes. I was obsessed with the creatures and world it showed (and I hadn't even seen the film at that point, so my imagination just went wild!).
What’s your favourite piece of art equipment?
Traditional artists will probably chase me with pitch-forks, but I'm going to say my Cintiq tablet. It's just so useful and fits perfectly with the way I work, mostly due to the amount of work I have to get finished before the ever-looming deadlines! Even when doing traditional illustrations, I really enjoy the way I can adjust and move my drawings around to be the way I want them, and then print it out and use a light-box to ink them from there. Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE using pencils in my sketchbook to relax or to design characters (and I always draw and colour my picture books with traditional tools to retain that 'hand-crafted' feel), and LOVE needle thin fine-liners (it's just the way it's so delicate and easy to make loose, scratchy line-work with), and really do enjoy the 'happy accidents' you get using drawing ink and watercolours, but for final artwork, I'd be amazed if my Cintiq isn't used in one way or another, even if it is just to tweak this colour or that line.
Could you tell us a bit about any of your upcoming projects?
Lots of exciting things! I shall be continuing to work on a few fiction titles which I really do love working on; the Hamish series by Danny Wallace (book 3!), the Wilf the Mighty Worrier series by Georgia Pritchett and the Jim Reaper series by Rachel Delahaye. I will also be starting a new National Trust-linked historical fiction/factual ('faction') series with author Philip Ardargh, plus hopefully beginning my new comic series with the Phoenix Comic, later this year. Busy times, and I feel incredibly lucky!
What do you read for pleasure?
Lots and lots, and I try my hardest to mix it up and go by recommendations, just for variety. But truth be told, I really have a soft spot for fantasy and always go back to it when I just want to relax and have fun. Fantasy series like His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve and books by Joe Abercrombie, a fantasy writer for grown-ups, are just a few of my favourites! Ooo, and historical fiction by Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden. I LOVE history, so to have exciting adventures set in researched histories, I really do love it. That, and loads and loads of comics. 


Twitter: @jamieillustrate 

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?