Monday, 23 May 2016

David Solomons (Author) Laura Ellen Anderson (Illustrator) My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord - Book Review

Sequel to the bestselling My Brother is a Superhero - over 47,000 copies sold to date! David Solomons is a meteroic new voice in children's fiction - perfect for fans of Frank Cottrell Boyce Zack and Lara have superpowers. Luke has new school shoes and a burning sense of resentment. He KNOWS that aliens disguised as gym teachers are about to attack Earth but will anyone listen? No. So one dodgy pact with a self-styled supervillain later, and Luke is ready to save the world. He just needs to find his trainers...

David Solomon is back with his magic cape and hero superpowers with the eagerly anticipated sequel to "My Brother is a Superhero." This was one of the biggest success stories in children's publishing last year and was awarded the Children’s Book of the Year as well as the British Book Industry Awards 2016. It also scooped up the overall winner of the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2016 and was shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2016. It was a fantastic success and introduced a great new storytelling voice with a distinctive feel that is loaded with outlandish humour. 

Get ready to be a superhero once again. Hold onto your rocket boosters and maybe your pants as My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord will slip and flap discreetly onto the bookshelves across the galaxy on the 7th July 2016. Published by Nosy Crow, the publisher with avian expertise, this book is for everybody who loved the first book or those interested in comic fictional superheroes. You're going to giggle like a school kid falling out of a tree house which has just been set on fire by an Alien Overlord, but don't worry kids as Zack and Luke are on hand to save the day, or maybe not!

This book is a very clever work of fiction combining things that children will relate to in a big fantasy way. Computer games, movies with big action heroes, comics that always have a great moral ending etc. There are also some great references to other superheroes from Marvel or DC that make our perception of a superhero tie in with the characters in this crazy caper. 

The book makes references to school life, family and friendship troubles, which gives the story some grounding, as well as neatly integrating these into a thrilling plot of craziness and humour. The next esssential ingredient is one fiendish alien overlord and alongside an evil bunch of school gym teachers, who are about to attack earth and turn everyone into zombies who watch reality TV. You might be thinking that this sounds great and, yes, it really is. Regardless of your age, you will really enjoy this book. 

This is a book that you can sink into and relax. It is easy to read, emotionally charged and full of great one liners, which is pure fantasy escapism for the duration of the story. It is full of slapstick non-stop action to save the world, that is providing that Luke finds his trainers first.. and if Zack fights his epic bout of alien flu. However, with Laura in the wings everything is going to be OK, or is it? You will never know until the climatic ending and the last page has been turned. This is a great family read, as it is super funny and wildly inventive. Don't forget to check out the cool illustrations by the talented Laura Allen Anderson. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

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

Django Wexler - The Palace of Glass (The Forbidden Library) - Published by Corgi Children's (5 May 2016)

For Alice, danger threatens from inside the library as well as out. Having figured out the role her master and uncle, Geryon, played in her father's disappearance, Alice turns to Ending – the mysterious, magical giant feline and guardian of Geryon's library – for a spell to incapacitate Geryon.

But, like all cats, Ending is adept at keeping secrets and Alice doesn't know the whole story. Once she traps Geryon with Ending's spell, there's no one to stop the other Readers from sending their apprentices to pillage Geryon's library. 

As Alice prepares to face an impending attack from the combined might of the Readers, she gathers what forces she can – the apprentices she once thought might be her friends, the magical creatures imprisoned in Geryon's library – not knowing who, if anyone, she can trust.

Laura Martin - Edge of Extinction (Edge of Extinction, Book 1) - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (19 May 2016)

The beasts are back…
Dinosaurs have reclaimed the earth, driving humans underground and only a band of teens can save the world. JURASSIC PARK meets INDIANA JONES In this thrilling new action-adventure series.
Two hundred years ago, the first dinosaur was successfully cloned. Soon after, the human race realized they’d made a colossal mistake…
The dregs of humanity have been driven into hiding, living in underground Compounds.
Thirteen year old Sky Mundy’s father was part of the inner circle of Compound leaders until five years ago he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Sky to try and track him down. Along with her best friend Shawn, she steps out into the world above, a world of rampaging dinosaurs, but also a full of surprises, where Sky is about to learn that just about everything she’s been taught has been a lie, and the dinosaurs might not be the most dangerous predators out there
Now Sky not only has to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance – she also has to save the world.

William Sutcliffe (Author) David Tazzyman (Illustrator) - Circus of Thieves and the Comeback Caper (Circus of Thieves 3) - Published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK (19 May 2016)

Shank's Impossible Circus rolls back into town for this hilarious brand new adventure from Will Sutcliffe brought to life by wonderful illustrations from David Tazzyman!

And there's about to be double the trouble as dastardly ringmaster Armitage Shank comes face to face with his long lost twin! Urgh, how will the world cope with two Shanks?

Diana Hendry - Out of the Clouds - Published by Hodder Children's Books (5 May 2016)

The perfect book for fathers and sons to share - and for anyone who has ever been part of a crazy but loveable family.
Oliver Coggin lives with his chaotic family in Dizzy Perch, a crazy house on top of a mountain somewhere remote in Scotland. With Pa away - on mysterious but exciting scientific research - Oliver keeps the household going. Not that everyone always listens to what he has to say. Or appreciates him. But what does Oliver want himself? He'd like to escape the house sometimes. He'd like a friend, like the new boy he sees in the village. Most of all, he'd like to understand why his father went away. And where's he's gone. So Oliver sets out on a long journey to get Pa back.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Guest Post by Philip Caveney - (Edinburgh a Place for Inspiration)

The city of Edinburgh has proved to be a fertile source of inspiration for my fiction. It was a wonderful but entirely unexpected gift. 
I first visited in August 2010 for the Fringe Festival. I was amazed and invigorated by the buzz on the streets and the wealth of theatre and comedy that was on offer everywhere I turned. But the first real inspiration came when I visited Mary King’s Close. 

For those who don’t know, this is a 17th Century street underneath the Royal Mile, used as the foundations for the building of the Royal Exchange in the 1700s, effectively forgotten about for centuries and only opened up to the public in 2003. It is essentially a time capsule, preserved exactly as it was in the 1600s, the steeply sloping streets, the tall tenements and the empty rooms that seem to positively ooze with atmosphere. A guide explained about the summer of 1645 when bubonic plague ravished the community and nobody was safe from its deadly embrace. 

As he spoke, I suddenly realised that I wanted to set a story here. 
The resulting book is Crow Boy, a time-travel adventure in which Tom Afflick, a hapless youth from Manchester, finds himself hurled back across the centuries to the heart of Mary Kings Close, where he is forced to become the assistant to an evil plague doctor. Happily, MKC took the book to their heart, allowing us to launch it there and selling copies in their gift shop. Years later, it remains one of their best-selling items and because people from all over the world visit the place, it helps to disseminate copies around the globe. 

When it came time for a follow up, I chanced upon another powerful inspiration - the eight miniature coffins still on display in the National Museum of Scotland. They were found by some schoolboys in 1828, hidden on the slopes of Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano that overlooks the city. The boys had been hunting rabbits that day but instead made an amazing discovery. Each coffin contained a tiny dressed doll. There were seventeen of them originally but the rather stupid boys decided to throw them at each other, destroying more than half of them within minutes. Luckily, their history teacher overheard them talking of what they’d done and retraced their steps, finding eight of the coffins still intact. 

People have speculated for many years as to who hid them up there and why, so I enlisted Tom Afflick to whizz back in time in order to solve the mystery, linking the coffins to the exploits of two of Edinburgh’s most infamous villains – Burke and Hare. The book was called, appropriately enough, Seventeen Coffins. 

On the eve of publication, my wife and I climbed Arthur’s Seat at dawn and hid three carefully wrapped copies of the book up there. Two copies have so far been found, but there’s still one more hidden somewhere amidst the rocks… 
For the third and final story in the series, One For Sorrow, I decided to concentrate on a famous Edinburgh author – Robert Louis Stevenson. When I discovered that he had first published his seminal novel, Treasure Island in the weekly children’s magazine, Young Folks, I was intrigued, especially as he’d published the story under the pseudonym Captain George North. I quickly evolved my central premise – that Tom would have to persuade RLS to publish the story, as a book, under his own name - or the world might lose one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. I also had to find a convincing ending for Tom’s travels – one that, judging by many of the emails I received just after publication, caused more than a few tears amongst my readers. 

So, I had three stories all inspired by Edinburgh. What else could the city offer me? Well, over the years, I have always been impressed by the wonderful statues around the city. I have come to think of them as characters in their own right. One day, as I strolled past the monument to the Royal Scots greys on Princes Street, I found myself thinking, what if they are sentient? What if they can see and hear and feel as we mortals pass by them from day to day? What do they think of or stupid comments, the way we treat them as mere photo opportunities? And then I thought, what if there was one special day in the year, one incredible twenty four hour period when human time in Edinburgh comes to a stop and the statues are allowed to climb down from their plinths to enjoy each other’s company? 

The result is my latest novel, The Calling. 
In the book, a young boy wakes up on a train to Edinburgh. He is amazed to discover that he doesn’t know how he even came to be on the train… and worse still, he doesn’t know who he is! Things get even more confusing when he turns out to be the only human left awake at midnight, to witness the moment when every statue in the city comes to life. As a ‘softie’ he’s not very welcome. The king of the statues, Charles II is all for chopping off his head, but luckily, the boy soon finds a talented ally. The statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place is assigned to find out exactly who the boy (who the statues have nick-named Ed) is and to get him back where he came from. The statues, you see, embody all the attributes of the characters they are made to represent. As for the supporting cast, I was able to draw on some of Edinburgh’s most celebrated inhabitants – David Livingstone, Sir Walter Scott, William Wallace… even Greyfriar’s Bobbie gets to lend a paw in the proceedings. 

The book surprised me in some ways – as the story develops it becomes a crime novel, as it transpires that ‘Ed’ has been involved in a terrible ordeal. Things get quite dark but The Calling has garnered me some of the most positive reviews of my career. 

So… what next? Does Edinburgh have any more inspirations for me? Will it offer me another opportunity to delve into its illustrious past? At this stage, I can only utter those three time-honoured words. 
Watch this space.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: H. P. Wood - Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet - Adult Book Review

May 1904. Coney Island's newest amusement park, Dreamland, has just opened. Its many spectacles are expected to attract crowds by the thousands, paying back investors many times over.  
Kitty Hayward and her mother arrive by steamer from South Africa. When Kitty's mother takes ill, the hotel doctor sends Kitty to Manhattan to fetch some special medicine.  But when she returns, Kitty's mother has vanished. The desk clerk tells Kitty that she is at the wrong hotel.  The doctor says he's never seen her before, although Kitty notices he is unable to look her in the eye.
Alone in a strange country, Kitty meets the denizens of Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet. A relic of a darker, dirtier, era, Magruder's is home to a forlorn flea circus, a handful of disgruntled Unusuals, and a mad Uzbek scientist. Magruder's Unusuals take Kitty under their wing and resolve to find out what happened to her mother. 
But as a plague spreads, Coney Island is placed under quarantine.  The gang at Magruder's finds that a missing mother is the least of their problems, as the once-glamorous resort is abandoned to the freaks, anarchists, and madmen.

Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet is one big curiosity at the wrong end of Coney Island set around 1904. Opening the door only increases the likelihood that someone might actually come on in. However, only a fool like me would enter, but enter you should. Dust down those fantasy braincells and enter into the world that is breathtaking, amazing and very original.  

This is NOT a children's book even though the book cover might lead younger readers into believing that it is due to it's playful nature. However, this book has to be one of the best debut adult books that I have read for some time. The last book to make me feel like this was Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus' which does have some similarities, in my opinion. Both books have a magical and mysterious setting that will absorb you slowly and intellectually into the story; they are written and researched very well. Attention to detail is a key for books like this - trying to get the period details as accurate as you can. Getting the mood of the time and making it feel "real" and "believable" enables the writer, in this case, to draw you into a chaotic and vibrant world that is unique, enchanting and very, very strange.

Once you start on this journey and turn the pages, the plot will certainly fly by. You will not only read this story you will actually inhale it, feel it and almost touch it. You will walk the Boardwalk in the footsteps of an eclectic mix of characters known as the Unusuals or "freaks of nature". These are biological rarities that were exhibited to shock you and sometimes deceive you. In this case, they will charm you like a prize rattlesnake in full flight. You get to feel and uncover all of the characters emotions and back stories - not just the main ones. It's gripping stuff! You start out with Zep as he unlocks the heavy oak door of Theopilus P. As a result of Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet, like all of the other characters, you will soon find yourself gravitating to this special place of intrigue, mystery and science. You will really not want to leave. 

This book pulls no literary punches and hides behind no fairground ride. It is a book of death, violence, corruption and certainly greed. The inhabitants of Coney Island face a deadly coughing strand of the plague, which brings a world of chaos, mayhem, destruction and a rather unpleasant death. It will have you engrossed until the very end of the narrative and beyond.

This is a very special read that you will not forget in a hurry. It's a rollercoaster of weirdness and the extreme bizarre. It's full of sadness, happiness, action, friendship, murder, mystery and romance. It's a fantastically colourful insight into a lost world; around every corner you will marvel at the craziness such as the flea circus, mad scientists, con artists and disgruntled characters

It is all in there as it has been lifted out of the author's amazing imagination and put before your very eyes. Some people may not get everything behind this book, as it's an acquired taste for sure. However it's an incredible read that I really loved, and I really hope that you will too. I only wish that I'd visited Coney Island on my recent NYC holiday. I would love to see H.P Wood write another story around this setting; the characters certainly deserve this, in my opinion, and so do I as the reader. This book is due to be published in the US by Sourcebooks in June 2016.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Stewart Foster - The Bubble Boy - Author Q&A Interview

This is one of the best books that I've read this year, so check out my review here to find out what I thought. It was a fantastic opportunity and a great pleasure to ask some questions about Stewart's debut book which will be published by Simon & Schuster on the 19th May 2016.  Check out the interview below; we hope that you will enjoy it.   
Joe is 11 years, 2 months and 21 days old, what is he like as a character? 
Joe is the sort of kid that when you first meet him you think him very confident and mature, but that comes from being surrounded by adults. It's his conversations with Henry that reveal most about him, he's actually pretty insecure, a little naïve, and frightened but at the same time he's got the spirit not to just sit back and let the world float by his window.
What was the process like writing The Bubble Boy? Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I started with one idea, a kid unable to go outside because he was too ill. So in chapter 1 described his room and gave him a sister, the story grew from that, and I discovered new things, chapter by chapter. At around the half way mark, I knew the ending, in fact I wrote the final chapter at that point. Then it was just like firing a rocket at the moon. I had a point to aim for, I just had to work out how to get there.
What is the message within your book?
The main message is to always have hope no matter how bleak your situation my seem. It's not a flight of fantasy or a point of ridicule for a person to have dreams. I also wanted to write a book about good, and not evil. There's too many evil things around today. 
How much research did you do in preparation for writing this book?
All I can say is thank goodness we've got the internet because I was forever flicking between a word document and google. When I first put Joe in his room I didn't give him a specific disease. I wanted his story to come out first and not to be dictated by the parameters of his illness. What made it hard at times is that I'm pretty squeamish, just typing the word 'blood' made my fingers go weak, but in the end I realised that rather than limit the horizons, the research took the story to places I didn't imagine like when Joe discovers Staphylococcus.
What did you learn from writing your debut book that will help you to write future books?
The Bubble Boy is my debut children's novel after I wrote We used to be Kings. The biggest lesson I took from writing is not to be afraid of research. I always used to think to but research would hold up or block the writing where actually it opens it up.
Not all superheroes wear capes, tell us more? 
I love Spiderman and the reason he's my favourite is that he's a good person when he's Peter Parker as well as when he's wearing his suit. There's no bad side to him at all. I do hope, in this time when the movie makers are pitting Superheroes against each other that they don't do it with Spiderman. He's not meant to fight his peers, he's here to save the world. In The Bubble Boy I just wanted people to see that heroes come in all shapes and sizes, that doing good things can be cool and that you don't do them for reward or recognition, you do them to make other peoples lives better. Sometimes I feel like Bubble is a tribute to doctors and nurses in the NHS, I don't mind if it's seen as that.
The book is very poignant, do you recommend a box of tissues when you read the book?
Bubble is poignant, but overall I'd like people to see it as a happy story, one of hope. There are two scenes that upset me when I was writing, one of them is just one line about the Snooker Ball Kid. I couldn't believe how attached I got to a kid that we never actually get to meet. So okay, the story is upsetting at times but sad things happen in hospitals. I was talking to a London bookseller a couple of weeks back and she said she loved the way I didn't hold back, or sugar coat it and I agree, I didn't, but at the same time I didn't want to make it gratuitous or unrealistic. I don't think I could bare to write something unreal. 
What can a boy like Joe do in London in three hours?
Three hours? God such a short time and so many kids want so many different things. How about I tell you the perfect three hours for Joe? He'd go to watch Arsenal play Man United at the Emirates with his sister and Greg. He'd meet Theo Walcott before the game and half time Amir would do a fly pass with red smoke trailing from the tail like the Red Arrows. Aaaargh! We're running out of time...can you give him an extra two so he can watch Avengers Assemble on the big screen as he makes his way home?
One of my favourite characters is Amir, as he is fascinated about aliens. What does he think they will look like and where did that idea come from?
Amir doesn't have a picture of what Aliens look like, he's more interested in their souls and the feelings they bring with them. My god that sounds a bit deep. I guess I'm saying Amir is a very spiritual person, he doesn't have to see people or Aliens to know they are in the room. 
And where did the idea come from?....Well honestly, I put this mysterious person in the room with Joe and he didn't speak for ages, he just kept watching the planes out the window, and when he mutters 'Do you believe in Aliens?' I was as surprised as the reader, but looking back after developing his character, it's the only words he could have said.
Is there anything else that you would like to tell us, such as any new writing projects?
I'm not sure if this is the place to put this but I'd love to tell other writers, published or unpublished, not to give up. The Bubble Boy came out of a moment of being very down about writing. The publishing world can be a harsh place at times but when I idea springs you have to pick it up and run with it. I think most importantly, accept that agents and editors know what they are doing. You may love and be protective of your story but accept what you think is harsh criticism will actually push you to make your story better.
And what next? I've just finished a first draft of a story about bullying. It's upset me more than I could have imagined, but that usually a good thing. It my writing doesn't affect me I can't expect it to do the same to the reader.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

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

Stewart Foster - The Bubble Boy - Published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK (19 May 2016) - Book Review Here
Amir is mad. He’s crazy. But the hospital wouldn’t let a crazy person in. They must have interviewed him and checked his qualifications. But maybe he didn’t even meet them? Maybe he hasn’t even come from India. He might have arrived on an alien spaceship and snuck in here in the middle of the night. 

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-style bravery, curiosity and hope - to a future without limits. Expect superheroes, super nurses and a few tears from this truly unique story.

Curtis Jobling - Monster Hunter (Max Helsing) - Published by Orchard Books (5 May 2016)
Slaying.... and playing. All part of a day's work for Max Helsing.
Descended from a long line of monster hunters, Max Helsing does a pretty good job of being an eighth grader by day and keeping his town safe from demons, ghouls and the occasional mummy by night. That is, until he turns thirteen and discovers he's been cursed by an ancient vampire who wants him dead - at any cost. To save the world - and his life - Max must rely on his wise-cracking best friend, cantankerous mentor, computer genius neighbour, and brand-new puppy. He'll need all their help and more to break the Thirteenth Curse!

Mike Revell - Stormwalker - Published by Quercus Children's Books (19 May 2016)
Something strange is happening to Owen.
One minute, he's living a perfectly ordinary life: school, football, video games, hanging out with best friend Danny.
The next, he finds himself sucked into a terrifying dream world, a wasteland where a terrible Darkness plagues his hometown, threatening the lives of everyone in it.
Owen can't control when he enters this world, or when he gets to leave. All he knows is that he has to help fight this terrible Darkness.
But what is this world?
Kiran Millwood Hargrave - The Girl of Ink & Stars - Published by Chicken House Ltd (5 May 2016) - Book Review Here
Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella dreams of the faraway lands her cartographer father once mapped. When her friend disappears, she volunteers to guide the search. The world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland - and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Amber Lee Dodd - We Are Giants - Author Q&A Interview

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books is really pleased to be sharing with you the following Q&A with Amber Lee Dodd. Her latest book, We Are Giants, was published on the 7th April 2016 by Quercus Children's Books. The book deals with topics that will be familiar to a lot of 9-12 year olds. It is a refreshing and a heartwarming story, and very sensitively written.  I hope that this interview piques your interest and encourages you to purchase a copy and read it. Thank you Amber. 

Tell us a little bit about We Are Giants? 
It’s about love, family and being proud of who you are. 
It’s the story of Sydney, her sister Jade and her mother Amy who has dwarfism. When the family are forced to leave home and move to a new city, Sydney worries she will forget her Dad (who died a few years before) without the memories of home around her. To add to that, her new home is barely a home, it’s more of a shoe box and her new school is clearly run by mad teachers. With everything changing around her Sydney is determined to keep some things the same. Namely she wants to stay little, just like her Mum. 

Who would love reading We Are Giants, and why? 

Anyone who’s ever wanted to be different.

We all need a hero! Tell us about your protagonist(s)? Was there a real-life inspiration behind him or her? 
Sydney is shy and thoughtful and has a huge imagination. But she also has a fierce side she call ‘The Wild Thing’. Jade is brave and bold and is never more than five minutes away from throwing a wobbly. And Amy is creative and stubborn and force to be reckoned with. 

I think all the characters where inspired by the children and teens I worked with, or people I knew. 
In the book Sydney and Jade have to deal with bullies. 

How much research did you do into this subject? 

I used to tell people I hardly did any research, but that’s not true! I researched everything; it just never felt like work because all the things I found out where so interesting. Most of the research went into Amy’s dwarfism and Sydney’s fairytales. Things like place, school and the bullies are all drawn from my own childhood. 

What tips can you share in writing a believable world/background? 

I think in creating a world you have to give a voice to it as much as you would a character. Even in the craziest fantasy you have to ground your story in a place that feels real. 

For me writing about Portsmouth, where We are Giants is set, was easy as I grew up here. It’s largely a working class city with a strong, proud identity and was the perfect setting for a family struggling in post recession Britain. 
Do you have any strange writing habits? 
I write in bed because I don’t have a desk I can use. I’m also a very messy writer. I once walked out the house with several sticky notes stuck to the back of my leg! 

What do you think makes a good story? 

Oh gosh, this is such a hard one. I think great stories have their own voice. They couldn’t have been written by anyone else but that person. 

What genre of books do you like to read? do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself? 

I read everything! From plays to memoir, to short stories and literary fiction. My favourite books are Olive Kittredge by Elizabeth Strout, Matilda by Roald Dahl, The play The Memory of Water by Shelia Stevenson and the short story collection How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer. I come back to these books again and again. 
At the moment I have a tbr pile that includes the biographies of some lady adventures, a couple of crime novels (I love an Agatha Christie) and some smashing Middle grade books. 
If you were to look for me in a bookshop you would find me by the picture books. It is pretty much impossible to be unhappy flicking through a good picture book. 

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? 
The first thing I desperately want to do was be a surgeon. I like to think it was because I wanted to help people, but I think it might have been more to do with the fact that I loved blood and guts. But sadly I wasn’t very good at science or maths. However, I was very good at telling stories. So that’s what I decided to do instead. 

Is there anything else that you would like to tell us, like new writing projects? 
I’m working on some more short stories. You should hopefully get to listen to my story The Love Songs of Foxes on BBC radio 4 again soon. And I’m also working on a new children’s book, staring lady adventurers, Scottish islands and a dyslexic hero with a very unusual gift. But Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Book News: #1 New York Times Bestselling Veronica Roth's New Book, Carve the Mark Out January 17th 2017

Announcing Carve the Markby #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
Veronica Roth

Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in internationally bestselling author Veronica Roth's stunning new series.

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others' control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra's currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother's hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra's world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

Carve the Mark is on sale January 17th, 2017—pre-order your copy now!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

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

Taran Matharu - The Inquisition (Summoner BK2) - Published by Hodder Children's Books (5 May 2016)

More demons, epic battles, and fights to the death: introducing the unmissable next instalment in the Summoner Trilogy...
On trial for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must face the Inquisition who will decide his future - the process is gruelling, lead by those who will do anything to see him suffer and haunted by ghosts from the past with clues to Fletcher's tragic origins. 
But Fletcher has little time to dwell on these new revelations when the king announces a deadly challenge to the graduating students at Vocans. One that involves entering Orc territory to complete a risky mission. With loyal demons by their sides, commoners and nobles, dwarves and elves must overcome barriers of class and race and work together to triumph. The reward: a fortune in gold, the safety of an empire and PEACE.
With the entire empire watching, Fletcher has much to prove, but there are those out to get him and it soon becomes clear that there's a traitor in their midst, trying to thwart the mission and create unrest within the Empire. 
With everything stacked against him, Fletcher must use everything in his power to fight his way to victory.

Sophie Cleverly - The Lost Twin (Scarlet and Ivy, Book 1) - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (5 May 2016)

This is the story of how I became my sister…
A spine-tingling mystery set in a creepily atmospheric boarding school. Ivy must uncover the secrets behind her twin sister Scarlet’s disappearance before it’s too late.
When troublesome Scarlet mysteriously disappears from Rookwood School, terrifying Miss Fox invites her quiet twin sister Ivy to ‘take her place’.
Ivy reluctantly agrees in the hopes of finding out what happened to her missing sister. For only at Rookwood will Ivy be able to unlock the secrets of Scarlet’s disappearance, through a scattered trail of diary pages carefully hidden all over the school.
Can Ivy solve the mystery before Miss Fox suspects? Or before an even greater danger presents itself?

Caleb Krisp - Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket (Ivy Pocket 2) - Published by Bloomsbury Children's (5 May 2016)

Ivy is now the beloved daughter of Ezra and Mother Snagbsy, coffin makers, even if she does have to work rather like a maid. Their trade is roaring, and Ivy is as happy as a pig in clover. Especially when she escapes to the library to talk to the devastatingly sympathetic Miss Carnage. 
But then Ivy guesses that all is not as it seems with her new parents, and discovers that she can pass into the world of the Clock Diamond. There, she sees her friend Rebecca, horribly sad and desperate. 
Can Ivy save Rebecca, and what do a missing aristocrat, a forbidden love affair and a bullfrog have to do with her mission?
Illustrated in humorous gothic detail by John Kelly, Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket is the second tale in Ivy's deadly comic journey to discover who she really is ... Perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket. 

Claire Legrand - Some Kind of Happiness - Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (17 May 2016)

Reality and fantasy collide in this heartfelt and mysterious novel for fans of "Counting by 7s" and "Bridge to Terabithia," about a girl who must save a magical make-believe world in order to save herself. 
Things Finley Hart doesn t want to talk about: 
-Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they re not.)

-Being sent to her grandparents house for the summer.

-Never having met said grandparents.

-Her blue days when life feels overwhelming, and it s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.) 

Finley s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents house and realizes the Everwood is "real" and holds more mysteries than she d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones. 

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she ll first have to save herself."

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Philip Caveney - The Calling - Book Review

A boy wakes up on a train to Edinburgh. He is shocked to discover that no idea who he is or how he came to be on the train - and once off it, he finds himself immersed in the chaos of the Edinburgh Fringe. After a day of wandering the crowded streets, he falls asleep and is woken by the sound of bells tolling midnight - only to discover that is the night of The Calling - a magical yearly event when all the statues of the city come alive. He is the only human ever to witness it. He quickly makes a couple of allies - the Colonel, the bronze cavalryman of the Scots Grey's monument, and the intrepid explorer David Livingstone. They christen the boy 'Ed Fest' and take him to Parliament Square to meet Charles II, the king of the statues, who isn't particularly fond of 'Softies' (humans).He assigns Sherlock Holmes to investigate the boy's case, to discover his real identity and to get back to his home and family. But as the bronze detective begins to decipher the clues, he discovers that 'Ed' is on the run from a sequence of terrible events; ones that could threaten his very existence.The Calling is a magical story set during Edinburgh's most exciting event - and nearly all of its characters can be observed, standing on plinths in the heart of the city, waiting for next year's Calling.

The Calling is a magical story that you are all going to love. Yes, you really are dear readers. The story to me is a nostalgic look at one of the best cities in the UK. Can you guess where that might be? From the veery first pages that you turn, you are soon asking questions about the mysterious character. You can not help follow the character with wide eyes and a buzzing mind as he leaves Waverley train station into the chaotic streets of Edinburgh. The Fringe is in full swing and performers are strutting their stuff on the streets. A rocked-up Scottish folk tune leaks from the pages as Philip sets up the backdrop and atmosphere like a seasoned pro. 

When day time moves over to night time, Edinburgh comes alive with a secret past. The bells toll midnight and the streets secrets soon come to light. Ed discovers something amazing as the statues come to life for twenty-four hours (
known as the Calling) and he is the only human to witness the event. It's a great concept and Philip takes this idea and runs with it. He brings many famous dead characters to life; those who normally stand so silently and are sometimes forgotten when walking around the city.  

This is a brilliant adventure loaded with historical characters. It is a fantastic introduction to the city for young readers and a fantastic advert for Edinburgh, in my opinion.  He weaves a story within a story as Ed struggles to find out who and where he comes from. The statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle comes to his aid, in the form of Sherlock Holmes, with the help from James Clerk Maxwell 
(scientist). There is also an unlikely Scottish hero as well as a terrier called Bobby.

The narrative gets very interesting and the plot thickens as the detective works his elementary sleuthing magic in true style. It's a cracking epic adventure full of period detail. One minute you're munching on Starbuck's treats and the next minute you're travelling through a portal to a pub in Manchester. It's a fantastic eclectic hit of ideas and history with some great witty banter between the characters which will definitely make you chuckle. 

This is the fourth book set in the city of Edinburgh and one of the best that Philip has written for Fledgling Press to date, in my opinion. I really think that there is scope to develop this idea into further books which would be a fantastic delight.

This is a brilliant five star entertaining read that will make you look at the city of Edinburgh in a new and different light.... 

Sunday, 1 May 2016


Are you a writer with an original and exciting story for 7-to-18-year-olds? If so, we  the Times/Chicken House run an annual competition. Every entry will be read by our team of experienced readers in order to draw up a longlist of the very best submissions. Barry Cunningham and the Chicken House editorial team will then narrow these down to a shortlist of five.

Here is this years shortlist:
ASTERIX CLEMENTINE by Janine Barnett-Phillips (@smithereens69)
A gritty love story between two teens with an unexpected twist. A contemporary YA tale about having the courage to live what you believe.

THE FIREFLY CAGE by Nicki Thornton (@nicki_thornton)
A middle-grade murder mystery with a magical twist: kitchen boy Seth must solve a murder at a convention of magicians in order to prove himself innocent.

FROSTSLIVER by Jamie Smith (@jamiehbsmith)
The story of one girl’s extraordinary survival when caught in a mountainside avalanche atop a sentient glacier. A highly original, wintry fantasy for ages 12+.

MILO AND OPERATION STEPDAD by Tracy Darnton (@tracydarnton)
Suitable for ages 7+, and follows Milo’s funny and heart-warming quest to find a partner for his single mum.

PROJECT CAT'S AWAY by Julie Mee (@meejuliemee)
Follows 12-year-old junior CIA agent, Emma, who struggles to maintain her work-life balance when a friend discovers her secret. Action and hilarity for middle-grade readers.
We're very excited to have such a stellar shortlist - look out for the winner announcement, coming in June. A huge congratulations to all our shortlisted authors!

Twitter: @chickenhsebooks