Friday, 16 February 2018

Celine Kiernan - Begone the Raggedy Witches - Q&A Interview with Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

    To celebrate the release of the fantastic "Begone the Raggedy Witches", Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books has taken the opportunity to ask some questions about the up and coming trilogy by Walker Books. It's a rich and fantastically dark story that will have you gripped. Here are the questions that we asked Celine about her recently published book. We hope they peak your interest to read this book. 

    Thank you Celine and welcome to Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. 
    • Tell us a little bit about your latest book Begone the Raggedy Witches? 

    Begone the Raggedy Witches is my first book for younger readers. The main character is a girl called Mup who must cross over into Witches Borough to rescue her Dad from the clutches of the grandmother she's never met. On the way, Mup finds a brave, if cranky, new best friend in a creature called Crow, discovers that her brother prefers life as a dog, explores powers she never thought she'd be allowed use, and faces up to a whole mess of complicated family history. 

    • The book features a variety of animals. How do you go about writing them as convincing characters?
    Well... I guess they're just real to me! All the characters in 'Raggedy Witches' have their own long histories stretching behind them, and their own deep-rooted reasons for behaving the way they do. Most of them have been alive much longer than Mup, and they've been shaped by their experiences living under her grandmother's less-than-gentle reign. It's hard for Mup to understand or forgive how hard the residents of Witches Borough are sometimes, but I think the reader might find a thread of sympathy or understanding for each of them. As for Crow, he's had no-one to listen to him for so long that he's become sour and abrasive as a consequence. There's a caring, kind and affectionate heart under those glossy feathers - just don't expect it to show itself too often or on anything but Crow's own terms. 

    • The book has a lovely dark edginess about it, what was your inspiration and has your Irish heritage contributed to this?
    I suspect every writer's heritage influences them in subtle ways. I know that Ireland's uneasy relationship with personal freedoms and self-expression has led to my exploring ideas of repressed memory and hidden histories quite a lot. Especially the poison leaked into innocent lives from the undealt-with fallout of previous generation's (often undisclosed) actions. These themes are quite prominent in Raggedy, I think. 
    I had fun playing with the old Irish witch-lore of the hare too, specifically that witches can change into hares in order to cross to and fro across invisible borders and follow paths which others may be incapable of seeing.

    • What do you think makes a good story and why?
    When it comes to my own reading, I like a story that challenges my perception - something that presents new perspectives or philosophies that may broaden my thinking or enrich my horizons. I also like stories that inform me about ways of life I may never get to experience for myself. I like thoughtful meat on the bones of a good adventure or fantasy. A little depth lurking beneath the surface of the entertainment. Heart.

    In my writing I try not to think about whether or not people might like the story. All my stories start out as explorations of something - me unknotting whatever philosophical conundrum is fascinating me at the time, or chewing whatever piece of social gristle I have the need to break down for myself. It's only later, when I go to edit, that I try to make the narrative enjoyable for the unknown reader (to make the pace bearable, to make the characters breath, to smooth out the writing to a readable level) But the story itself? That's always just for me - I write what I want to read at that time. To do otherwise would not work for me, as the process and the output would feel hollow.

    • Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc come from?
    I've been reading since the age of three. My mother said she couldn't get my head out of a book. She had to root me out from behind the sofa at my sixth birthday party because I'd been given a present of a book and I couldn't wait until everyone went home to read it. Stories were just a way of finding things out, of sharing other people's experiences, of seeing places I'd never yet been. And when I couldn't find one to satisfy me, I wrote my own.

    • I love the book cover. Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the buying process? 
    I love it too. The Walker design team are amazing, and Victoria Semykina's artwork is astonishing. I do think a good cover makes a difference. It's the nature of the publishing beast. There are so many books to choose from and often it takes a really smashing visual for one to stand out from the rest. A good cover can't make up for a weak story though. The true test is when you start reading.

    • What can we expect in book two?
    Well, the residents of Witches Borough have a lot of work to do. Mup and her family move across the border and into her grandmother's castle, hoping to lend a hand. But - much and all as some folk would like to think it possible - people can't just start from scratch after a lifetime of fear and hatred. You can't always dust off the past and shake hands with your memories and move on. There are some ghosts that can't be forgotten - some ghosts that won't be forgotten. And unless Witches Borough faces up to its past, it may not be possible for anyone to survive let alone to move on. 

    • Do you read much and, if so, who are your favourite authors?
    I read a lot, yes, despite having a very busy schedule. I tend to read biographies and history books a lot, and to have favorite books rather than favorite authors. But there are some writers I find myself returning to again and again. Sebastian Barry is one, Shirley Jackson, Jennifer Egan, Stephen King, Edith Wharton, Louis de Bernieres. I've just discovered Geraldine McCaughrean and Michelle Paver and I will be hungrily eating up their work as soon as edits to Raggedy Two are done!

    • What are your thoughts about how to encourage more children/teenagers to read?
    Trust young readers, be honest with them, and stop worrying about what stories you think they want to read. Create stories about the things that motivate, inspire and entertain you. Produce books that are meaningful in a genuine, non-pandering way. The audience will follow. 

    Monday, 12 February 2018

    Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle-Grade Book Picks February 2018 - US Post Two

    Russell Ginns - Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans - Published by Delacorte Press (27 Feb. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1524720001

    For fans of Mr. Lemoncello's Library and the Secret series, and classics like Holes and The Westing Game, the first book in a hilarious new series about a girl, her brother, and some super-big globe-trotting adventures.

    Samantha Spinner's Uncle Paul disappeared, and here's what he left:
    * Samantha's sister got a check for $2,400,000,000.
    * Samantha's brother got the New York Yankees.
    * And Samantha got a rusty red umbrella with a tag hanging off its worn handle. The tag says "Watch out for the RAIN." 
    Thanks a lot, Uncle Paul.
    After all the strawberry waffles, stories, and puzzles they've shared, how could he just leave without saying goodbye? And what is the meaning of that mysterious message? 
    The answer is simple. Sam knows in her heart that Uncle Paul is in danger. And if he taught her anything, it's that not everything is exactly what it seems. Which is why we should pay close attention to that rusty red umbrella. 
    The RAIN is coming and Samantha Spinner is about to find herself mixed up in some super-important, super-dangerous, super-secret plans. 
    And don't miss what happens next to Samantha, Nipper, and Dennis in Samantha Spinner and the Spectacular Specs!

    Eliot Schrefer - The Lost Rainforest: Mez's Magic - Published by Katherine Tegen Books (8 Feb. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-0062491077

    An action-packed and hilarious animal fantasy adventure from New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer, “this new series stunner” (Kirkus starred review) will thrill fans of Warriors and Spirit Animals.

    Caldera has forever been divided into the animals who walk by night and those who walk by day. Nightwalker panthers, like young Mez and her sister, have always feared daywalkers as creatures of myth and legend. 
    Then Mez discovers that she can enter the daylight world, and she rushes to discover what it means to cross the Veil—and the extent of her newly uncovered magical powers—before a reawakened evil threatens everything she’s ever known.
    Now, with an unlikely group of animal friends—including a courageous bat, a scholarly tree frog, and an anxious monkey—Mez must unravel an ancient mystery and face her greatest fears, if they are to have any hope of saving their endangered rainforest home.

    E. Latimer - The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray - Published by Tundra Books (NY) (13 Feb. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1101919286

    Lemony Snicket meets Oscar Wilde meets Edgar Allan Poe in this exciting and scary middle-grade novel inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray -- a family curse is unleashed!
    Bryony Gray is becoming famous as a painter in London art circles. But life isn't so grand. Her uncle keeps her locked in the attic, forcing her to paint for his rich clients . . . and now her paintings are taking on a life of their own, and customers are going missing under mysterious circumstances. 
    When her newest painting escapes the canvas and rampages through the streets of London, Bryony digs into her family history, discovering some rather scandalous secrets her uncle has been keeping, including a deadly curse she's inherited from her missing father. Bryony has accidentally unleashed the Gray family curse, and it's spreading fast. 
    With a little help from the strange-but-beautiful girl next door and her paranoid brother, Bryony sets out to break the curse, dodging bloodthirsty paintings, angry mobs and her wicked uncle along the way.

    Abie Longstaff (Author) James Brown (Illustrator) - The Trapdoor Mysteries: A Sticky Situation: Book 1 - Published by  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (8 Feb. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1510201774


    The first book in The Trapdoor Mysteries, a series about Tally, a code-breaking, animal-loving servant girl and her best friend, a squirrel named Squill, who solve mysteries with the help of a secret library...
    Ten-year-old Tally is a servant girl at Mollett Manor. She sleeps in the scullery sink, and spends her days scrubbing, polishing and ironing (when she's not secretly reading books). Then Tally and her squirrel friend, Squill, find a secret library hidden under the manor - a magical library where the books come to life! When Mollett Manor is burgled, can Tally use the knowledge she finds in the books to catch the criminals? Can they even help her solve the mystery of her missing mother?

    Arthur Slade (Author) Christopher Steininger (Illustrator) Modo: Ember's End - Published by Orca Book Publishers (20 Feb. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1459817210 BUY HERE

    Modo, who first made his appearance in The Hunchback Assignments, is a young, disfigured spy trained to be the ultimate secret agent. Not only is Modo brilliant and strong, but he also has a special ability: he can temporarily take on the appearance of other people. 
    While on holiday, Modo and fellow spy Octavia Milkweed find themselves in Ember's End. Created by the slightly mad scientific genius Dr. Ebenezer Ember, this is no ordinary wild-west town. It is surrounded by an energy field that prevents gunpowder from firing, and messages are sent via pneumatic tubes. There are also rumors that before Dr. Ember died, he built a weapon so powerful it could end all wars. With the local sheriff recently deceased, the two travelers are suddenly put in charge of Ember's End law enforcement.

    Friday, 9 February 2018

    Steven Butler (Author) Steve Lenton (Illustrator) - The Nothing to See Here Hotel - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books Book Review

    Welcome to The Nothing to See Here Hotel! A hotel for magical creatures, where weird is normal for Frankie Banister and his parents who run the hotel.

    When a goblin messenger arrives at The Nothing to See Here Hotel, announcing the imminent arrival of the goblin prince Grogbah, Frankie and his family rush into action to get ready for their important guest. But it soon becomes obvious that the Banister family are going to have their work cut out with the demanding prince and his never-ending entourage, especially when it turns out the rude little prince is hiding a secret...

    The Nothing to See Here Hotel is a crazy and wildly imagined story written by Steven Butler and his sidekick illustrator, Steven Lenton. This is a fantastic new series for the younger reader (Age 6+) or the big kid like me. It is due to be published by the mighty Simon & Schuster Children's in the UK on the 22nd February 2018. It's fantastically illustrated all the way through and will help any reluctant reader to capture the story. It certainly brings the characters to life visually. 

    No sooner do you turn the first page, when your life shatters and explodes in a green mist of flesh and uncontrollable smells. You'll open the door of The Nothing to See Here Hotel and be expertly guided through the narrative by Frankie Banister. It is an unbelievable story that might take you and your smelly socks by surprise. You'll wobble down the path of humour before your toes go green and your brain turns into jelly. This is a funny, action-packed crazy ride that is faster than an Orkney Brittle-back, which I have on good authority by Steve. 

    This is a disgusting book that you really don't want to read. Nevertheless, you'll feel compelled to read it. It's absolutely crazy - packed full of ghastly humour and outlandish behaviour that will captivate the reading audience. You will be introduced to a bucket-load of magical characters, especially The Royal Regalia of wobbliness, Prince Grogbah, and his troll entourage. 

    This is a great book to get kids to read. It is full of imaginative 'shouting' text and rollercoaster action which is more suited to Brighton Pier. It will make you laugh, especially when the story explodes into a fantasy world of swashbuckling mayhem and gnashing teeth. This is Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books young readers pick of the month, so get it ordered now. 

    If I was rating this on Trolliday Review it would read. BOG OFF you little pimple. THERE IS NOTHING to see here. Expect ghastly food, dirty bed linen and no service you LOATHSOME LITTLE Toads! Thank you for not staying in the non-star rated hotel in Brighton. Our pleasure is in your dissatisfaction. 

    Wednesday, 7 February 2018

    Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlists 2018 (Appetite for new Imaginary Worlds)

    Children’s Book Prize shortlists reflect readers’ appetite for new imaginary worlds

    Stories depicting the fantastical are highlighted in the shortlists for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2018, announced today, Wednesday 7th February. 

    In previous years, real-life topics were prominent in the shortlists, but this year it is notable that the majority of shortlisted fiction titles are fantastical adventures. Many of the authors, representing the best in new children’s writing, have chosen to provide escapism from the boundaries of reality by setting their stories in imagined realms, or by infusing real-world settings with magical elements.

    Florentyna Martin, Waterstones Children’s Buyer says:
    “Whilst we still see exceptional real-life stories, this year’s shortlists indicate a renewed interest in the publishing and purchasing of fantastical adventure stories. Children have always been eager to experience worlds beyond our own, whether it’s in books, films or technology, but our booksellers’ shortlist choices show that a resurgence of nostalgic fantastical adventures is creating a hunger for new magical stories. We’ve been treated recently to bestselling revisits to the Wizarding World, with both Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts, and our booksellers crowned Philip Pullman’s new adventure La Belle Sauvageas Book of the Year 2017, ultimately championing the wide-reaching magic of children’s books. The books chosen by our booksellers on this year’s list are classics of the future, and will be inspiring children for generations to come.”

    A selection of more traditional adventure stories set in imaginary worlds, exemplified by Kieran Larwood’s The Five Realms: The Legend of Podkin One Ear, is highlighted in the ‘younger fiction’ shortlists. The first book in a new series, The Legend of Podkin One Ear is inspired by the author’s joy of reading The Hobbit as a child, and comparable to beloved childhood classics, such as Watership Down and RedwallNevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend, another first book in a new series, is a story in the tradition of Harry Potter, creating a “wundrous” world full of adventures. Helena Duggan’s A Place Called Perfect is a fantastical mystery, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl stories.

    ‘Fiction for older readers’ showcases fantastical story telling in its various forms, from speculative fiction to a magical coming of age story, and all protagonists are strong young women. Ink by Alice Broadway imagines a world where everyone’s actions and significant moments are tattooed on their skin for ever. Emily Bain Murphy’s The Disappearances is a story thick with secrets and follows a teenage girl whose family history could hold the key to a town’s mystery. Alternating between wordless graphic novel and written journal entries, Thornhill by Pam Smy tells the story of two girls and one house, evoking the atmosphere of a gothic ghost novel.

    Themes of fantasy and nature have merged in several of the illustrated books. In surreal adventure story The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton a young girl discovers the truth behind a mysterious legend about the deepest sea and protects a peaceful creature from human harm. In The Night Box, Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay tell a lyrical story about the magical nature of night-time. Sandra Dieckmann’s beautifully illustrated book Leaf introduces the youngest readers to the effects of global warming by telling  the story of a lost polar bear, who floats away from home on an ice floe and tries to find his way back.

    James Daunt, Waterstones Managing Director says:
    “The track record of our Children’s Prize is a source of great pride. Year after year, the Prize launches the enduring careers of a succession of brilliant writers. Our bookshops revel in the vibrant creativity of children’s publishing, with growing sales propelled to a significant extent by new discoveries. This is proving to be a golden age for children’s books in which we are delighted to play our part.”

    The Waterstones Children’s book prize exists to reward and champion new and emerging talent in children’s books. Now in its fourteenth year, it is widely regarded as one of the most important prizes for children’s books.

    Last year’s winner, The Girl Of Ink And Stars shot to the top of the bestseller charts after announcement and saw an increase in sales of over 1400% across the Waterstones estate.

    The winners will be announced at an evening reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookshop, on Thursday 22nd March 2018. Six books will compete within each category to be crowned category winner, with the three category winners then vying for the overall title of Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year 2018. The winner of each category will receive £2000, with the overall winner receiving an extra £3000. In the event that the prize is awarded to a partnership then the prize money will be split equally between the joint winners.

    The winning authors and illustrators will also see a significant boost in sales, and the promise of an ongoing commitment to their writing career from all Waterstones shops nationwide.

    The full lists of shortlisted titles (in alphabetical order by author) for the 2018 Prize are:

    Illustrated Books:
    Superbat by Matt Carr (Scholastic)
    Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann (Flying Eye)
    The Night Box by Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay (Egmont)
    I Really Want The Cake by Simon Philip and Lucia Gagiotti (Kings Road Publishing)
    Fergal Is Fuming by Robert Starling (Andersen Press)
    The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton (Flying Eye)

    Younger Fiction:
    A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan (Usborne)
    Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans (Chicken House)
    Kid Normal by Greg James, Chris Smith and Erica Salcedo, (Bloomsbury)
    The Five Realms: The Legend of Podkin One–Ear by Kieran Larwood (with illustrations from renowned British artist David Wyatt), (Faber)
    The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson (Scholastic)
    Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend (Hachette Children’s)

    Older Fiction:
    The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy (Pushkin Children’s)
    Troublemakers by Catherine Barter (Andersen Press)
    Ink by Alice Broadway (Scholastic)
    Thornhill by Pam Smy (David Fickling Books)
    This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada (Penguin Random House Children’s)
    The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker)

    Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle-Grade Book Picks February 2018 - US Post One

    John August - Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire - Published by Roaring Brook Press (February 6, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1626728141


    As Arlo looked around, the walls of his room began to vanish, revealing a moonlit forest. Only his bed remained, and the frame of his window, through which he saw the girl. The world on her side of the glass was sparkling with silver and gold, like a palace made of autumn leaves. 
    She looked off to her right. Someone was coming. Her words came in an urgent whisper: "If I can see you, they can see you . . . Be careful, Arlo Finch.” 
    Arlo Finch thought becoming a Ranger meant learning wilderness skills, like camping and knots. But upon arriving in the tiny town of Pine Mountain, Colorado, Arlo soon learns there's so much more. His new friends Indra and Wu teach him how to harness the wild magic seeping in from the mysterious Long Woods―a parallel realm of wonder and danger.
    First he must master the basics, including snaplights, thunderclaps and identifying supernatural creatures. But Arlo Finch is no ordinary Ranger, and this is no ordinary time. A dark and ancient force is sending threats into the real world . . . our world.
    Through perilous adventures and close calls, Arlo is awakened to his unique destiny―but the obstacles he faces will test the foundations of the Ranger's Vow: loyalty, bravery, kindness, and truth.

    Sayantani DasGupta - The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) - Published by Scholastic Press (February 27, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1338185706



    (Only she doesn't know it yet.)

    On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey . . . until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents' fantastical stories-like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world.

    To complicate matters, two crush-worthy princes ring her doorbell, insisting they've come to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and battle demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld and the Rakkhoshi Queen in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it . . .

    Aimée Carter - Simon Thorn and the Shark's Cave - Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's (February 6, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1619637184

    Simon Thorn has only recently discovered that he's an Animalgam, a member of a secret race of people who can shift into animals, and found a home where he truly belongs. But not everything is as good as it seems. Simon's evil grandfather, Orion, is bent on taking over the entire animal kingdom, and to do so, he'll need to gather the pieces of a terrible weapon--one that could shred the very foundations of the Animalgams' world. . . unless Simon can gather the pieces first. 
    So when Simon's dolphin Animalgam friend Jam is summoned home to the underwater kingdom's headquarters, Avalon, Simon sees it as an opportunity to secure another piece. But as soon as he and his friends arrive in Avalon, their search is complicated by Jam's strict family--and a potential traitor. Can they locate the piece before it falls into Orion's hands and puts the entire underwater kingdom at risk?

    Kristine Asselin & Jen Malone - The Art of the Swap - Published by Aladdin (February 13, 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1481478717

    Freaky Friday meets Downton Abbey in this middle-grade mystery that features a modern-day twelve-year-old switching bodies with a Gilded Age heiress in order to solve a famous art heist.

    Hannah Jordan lives in a museum…well, sort of. She is the daughter of the caretaker for mansion-turned-museum The Elms in Newport, Rhode Island. Hannah’s captivated by stories of The Elms’s original occupants, especially Maggie Dunlap, the tween heiress subject of a painting that went missing during a legendary art heist in 1905.

    But when a mysterious mirror allows Hannah and Maggie to switch places in time, suddenly Hannah is racing to stop the heist from happening, while Maggie gets an introduction to iPhones, soccer (which girls can play!), and freedoms like exploring without supervision. Not to mention the best invention of all: sweatpants (so long, corsets!).

    As the hours tick off to the art heist, something’s not adding up. Can the girls work together against time—and across it—to set things right? Or will their temporary swap become a permanent trade?

    Monday, 5 February 2018

    Christopher Edge - The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books Book Review (Nosy Crow)

    Cover illustration by Matt Saunders.

    How do you know you really exist? It's Maisie's birthday and she can't wait to open her presents. She's hoping for the things she needs to build her own nuclear reactor. But she wakes to an empty house and outside the front door is nothing but a terrifying, all-consuming blackness. Trapped in an ever-shifting reality, Maisie knows that she will have to use the laws of the universe and the love of her family to survive. And even that might not be enough...A mind-bending mystery for anyone who's ever asked questions.

    It's always a real pleasure to receive a book for review, especially a book written by Christopher Edge. The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day will spring into the universe on the 5th April 2018. It is published by Nosy Crow, the Children's Publisher of the year 2017, and will hurtle through the black holes of space just in time to land in a bookshop near you. 

    This might be the strangest book Christopher Edge has written. The narrative is emotionally challenging and thought provoking. As you follow the two female characters, Maisie and her sister you will soon find yourself sucked into a vortex of everyday family life. It might even be a mirror image of your own reality, fallings out, fighting, family disputes, friends making fun at you etc -  that's not too unusual, RIGHT? Well, that REALITY changes through a dramatic plot twist.  A collision course of atoms explodes into life, a tiny flutter of fantasy particles dance on the heads of the reader. It really challenges the direction you thought the story was taking and makes you want to read more, and quickly. 

    The plot turns the adventure into an ever-shifting reality that will engulf you into a world of blackness. You'll hurtle into a chilling and mind-bending fantasy universe which is devoid of colour and leads you into the bizarre. This part of the story is very surreal - it certainly captured my attention. I was led into a mystery that I was desperate to uncover.  

    It's very cleverly written, although all of the books that Christopher has written have been brilliant. This is a truly thought-provoking and touching story that will gently pull on the heart-strings. It will gently take you on a journey which exercises your emotional self to the full. 

    Like all books by Christopher, it is full of scientific facts and wonder. It bestows a mini educational adventure that surely any teacher would recommend. It is a brilliant and well thought out story that will ask many questions of the reader whilst exploring what it's like to be human. Could we actually be characters subconsciously playing out our lives in a book or computer game? Will we ever know? The world we live in is a miracle and, just like the power of reading, this is a book that you will love and want to read. 

    Friday, 2 February 2018

    Sinéad O’Hart - The Eye of the North - Q&A Interview with Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

    Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books has taken this fantastic opportunity, in the run-up to the publication of The Eye of the North, to ask Irish author Sinéad O’Hart about her debut book. The book will be published in the UK by Stripes Publishing on the 8th Feb 2018. It's a brilliant middle-grade fantasy - please check out my book review HERE

    Thank you Sinéad for taking the time to answer some questions about the book. This interview takes a brilliant LOOK AT the book and gives you a great insight into the author and her writing. I hope this interview peaks your interest and makes you add this title to your reading pleasure. 

    How would you sum up The Eye of the North to potential readers? 
    The Eye of the North is a story about Emmeline, a girl with no friends, and a boy with no name who calls himself Thing as they are thrown headfirst into a mystery which threatens the entire world. They must learn to trust and rely on one another, and on the people around them (something neither of them has had much experience of) as they race to the frozen North to stop an ancient evil from being unleashed. It’s a story about friendship and loyalty, love and bravery, and doing whatever it takes to save the people closest to you – with added peril, mythical monsters and scary witches made of ice! 

    What element are you most proud of in this book? Is there anything that you would change? 
    I am proud of many things in The Eye of the North, but I think I’m proudest of Emmeline as a character. She’s anxious, cautious, suspicious and introverted (for reasons which are explained in the book), and it takes a while for the depth of her love for her family and her commitment to Thing to really come to the fore. She’s a bit atypical of what you’d expect from a main character, particularly a girl, and I wrote her like that purposefully. I wouldn’t change a thing about her – and I’m pretty happy with the book overall! There are a couple of typos, but hopefully nobody will spot those but me… 

    Do you have any tips about writing convincing characters? 
    I love characters who go against type – girls who are rebellious and scientific, inventors and explorers and the hero of their own story, and boys who are emotional, loving, kind and generous. None of that takes away from their strength, but instead deepens their character and makes them more interesting. My tips for writing convincing characters would be: make them unexpected, because that will make them seem more real and fully rounded; give them flaws as well as strengths, because nobody in real life is all one thing or another, and finally: let them speak to you. If a character wants to go in a particular direction, then let them – and see where it takes you! 

    Which actor would you like to see play the lead character from your book? 
    I don’t get to watch much TV or go to the cinema these days; I have a young child, so leisure time is a bit of a premium! As a result, I’m out of touch with the young actors and actresses of today. I imagine Emmeline as a twelve-year-old girl with dark eyes, light brown skin, long dark curly hair, and – as the book describes it – a ‘know-it-all nose’, and Thing as a boy of around the same age or a little older with blue eyes, pale skin and longish, messy dark hair which sticks up and out in an unruly fashion. If you know any good actors who fit the part, I’m all ears! 

    Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the buying process? 
    For me, certainly it does – I am a sucker for an eye-catching cover, particularly well-designed lettering and typeface. I love both the covers which have been created for The Eye of the North, and I’m particularly pleased that they’re so different! I love the artist Jeff Nentrup’s 
    imagining of Emmeline and Thing on the US cover, published by Knopf in 2017, and I adore Sara Mulvanny’s illustrative cover for the UK edition (Stripes Publishing, 2018), particularly the fact that she included the dogsled team which plays such an important role in the story. I really do think a good cover can do a huge amount to get a book from the shelf into a reader’s hand; cover design is definitely an art, and I have huge admiration for anyone who can get it just right. 

    I have read that you love churches, graveyards and, antiques, do these influence your writing in any way? 
    Yes! I do. I love visiting old churches, reading inscriptions on gravestones and learning about the past, and poking about in antique shops. I have a love for history and all things to do with ages gone by, which includes a love for mythology and folklore. That love of old stories certainly played a role in the writing of The Eye of the North, as it is filled with details and influences from all the old myths and tales I love. 

    This is your debut book, what did you learn from writing it? 
    That’s a big question. From writing this book, I learned it’s possible to have a dream come true, and from the process of having it published I learned that making a dream come true takes more work than I could have imagined. I learned to trust my inner voice, to allow my characters the space to do what they want, and that if I reach a point where I simply can’t write, that sometimes it means my brain is trying to stop me going down the wrong path, and not that I’m lazy or unmotivated. I also learned that sometimes, getting exactly what you’ve dreamed of and worked hard for can be scary, unexpected and overwhelming – but that it’s always worth it. 

    Where is your favourite place to write? 
    These days, I write wherever I can! I write with my laptop perched on my knees on the sofa or balanced on the kitchen worktop, after my little one goes to bed or whenever I can get someone else to distract her for a few minutes. I have a home office, too, but getting to use that is a real pleasure! 

    How important are stories to you? What do you like to read? 
    Stories are almost as important to me as breathing. I’ve been reading since I was very young, and it’s my favourite thing to do. I like it even more than writing, I think, though they do tend to go hand in hand! I like to read children’s books, primarily, and that’s been the case for over twenty years. When I read a book not specifically aimed at children, I like fantasy, historical novels, science fiction, and magical realism. Some of my favourite authors are Angela Carter, John Connolly, Jeanette Winterson, Ursula le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Jennifer Bell, Catherine Fisher, Diana Wynne Jones, Abi Elphinstone, Frances Hardinge, Philip Pullman, J.R. Wallis, Dave Rudden and Jonathan Stroud – but there are so many others, and I’m always discovering more.

    Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
    I have always found to be useful and informative, and – like everyone – I love the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and its associated website ( I also think it’s great that literary agencies have their own websites with tips, hints, manuscript wishlists, submission instructions and many other gems. My own agency – – has a fab Question and Answer section which is full of useful information. I also love to make use of my own blog ( and to follow other writers’ blogs, as I think sharing the process of writing for publication can be really helpful for others who want to follow in your footsteps. Writers on the road to publication can be very honest about the highs and lows of the journey, and they’re always worth following.


    Thursday, 1 February 2018

    Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle-Grade Book Picks - February 2018 - UK Post Two

    M. G. Leonard - Battle of the Beetles - Published by Chicken House Ltd (1 Feb. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1910002780

    Darkus and his friends continue their unforgettable adventure in this final instalment of the Beetle trilogy. Arch-villainess Lucretia Cutter has a secret Biome hidden in the Amazon rainforest: can Darkus and his friends, human and beetle alike, find it before it's too late? If they can't stop Lucretia, she will release her hoard of giant Frankenstein beetles, and the planet will never be the same again ...

    Robin Stevens - A Spoonful of Murder: A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery - Published by Puffin (8 Feb. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-0141373782

    When Hazel Wong's beloved grandfather passes away, Daisy Wells is all too happy to accompany her friend (and Detective Society Vice President) to Hazel's family estate in beautiful, bustling Hong Kong. 
    But when they arrive they discover something they didn't expect: there's a new member of the Wong family. Daisy and Hazel think baby Teddy is enough to deal with, but as always the girls are never far from a mystery. Tragedy strikes very close to home, and this time Hazel isn't just the detective. She's been framed for murder! 
    The girls must work together like never before, confronting dangerous gangs, mysterious suspects and sinister private detectives to solve the murder and clear Hazel's name - before it's too late . . .

    Celine Kiernan -  Begone the Raggedy Witches - Published by Walker Books (1 Feb. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1406366020

    A middle-grade fantasy adventure perfect for fans of Frances Hardinge, Katherine Rundell and Sally Gardner. On the night that Aunty dies the Raggedy Witches come for Mup’s mam. Pale, cold, relentless, they will do anything to coax Mam back to Witches Borough. When they kidnap Mup’s dad, Mup and her mam must leave the mundane world to rescue him. But Mam is strange on this side of the border – striding, powerful, and distant. Even if they can save Dad, Mup is not sure anything will ever be the same again…

    Mark Powers (Author), Tim Wesson (Illustrator) - Spy Toys: Undercover Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books (8 Feb. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1408870907

    Toy Story meets James Bond in the third book in this incredible action-packed series! Can Dan the teddy bear who is too strong, Arabella the rag doll with the bad temper and Flax the tech genuis robot rabbit save the day once more?
    When the world's most famous chocolate factory disappears, it is up to the Spy Toys to find out the truth - and fast! If the chocolate runs out, there could be riots from children everywhere! The Spy Toys are sent undercover into a school where they need to disguise themselves as regular pupils. Could this be their toughest challenge yet? They'll need all their wits about them to defeat this baddie. And one thing is for sure: these kids don't play nice!
    Featuring hilarious illustrations from Tim Wesson throughout, this series is perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and David Solomons' My Brother is a Superhero.

    Andy Briggs - Inventory: Winter Storm (The Inventory) - Published by Scholastic Fiction (1 Feb. 2018) - ISBN-13: 978-1407162058
    Biobot alert! The fight for power has a new target – your body! The dark forces who want to control the planet know no limits to their greed. And since they busted into the Inventory, they’ve gotten even deadlier! The Collector is back, on his evil quest to menace the world. Now he’s stolen Winter Storm – a swarm of powerful biobots! These tiny robots can infect and take over everyone you know and love. Oh – and you too, of course! No one will stand a chance. Our only hope is Dev. But after his freaky trip into the Black Zone, he daren’t even rely on himself. And in this new world of covert control, nobody else can be trusted…
    • The storming finale to this bestselling all-action series
    • Addictive sci-fi by the author of and Tarzan
    • For fans of Alex RiderCHERUB or The Unicorne Files
    • Gadgets, secrets, villains, danger and breakneck thrills!