Friday, 19 March 2021

Guest Post: Matthew Wainwright - Expectation vs Reality - Out of the Smoke - Mr.Ripley's Enchanted Books

 


Welcome to our second guest post. The first was by Philip Womack talking about his forthcoming Young Adult book WILDLORD which will be published this October. The second post (below) is by Matthew Wainwright and talks about his debut book OUT OF THE SMOKE being published in a national pandemic. It's a brilliant post about facing a new set of realities. Thank you Matthew for taking the time to write this post. 

If you fancy reading this brilliant book and want to support the author and small publishing company then you can purchase a copy from Waterstones HERE
Equally, you can order it from your local independent bookshop which will perhaps encourage more bookshops to stock it. Thank you for reading and we hope you all have a great day. 

Debuting in Lockdown: Expectation vs Reality

Every aspiring author dreams of landing a publishing deal. For many of us it’s our entire reason for existence. We can spend so many hours daydreaming, picturing how it will happen and building up the moment in our imagination, that when it finally comes there is usually an alarming jolt as expectation violently collides with reality.


For me, this jolt was twofold. Firstly, my deal was not with a Big Five publishing house, was not for a six-book series, and was not attended by a nationwide publicity campaign. Instead (and probably in common with most authors) I signed with a small independent label, for a single book, with the expectation that I would shoulder at least some of the responsibility of spreading the word about it.


And actually, this was fine. I was excited about the prospect of talking to people, drumming up support, and whipping up a bit of excitement. I have a background in graphic design, and was looking forward to flexing some pixels on social media and beyond. Being with a smaller publisher meant I had more direct contact with my editor and more editorial input; I was even allowed the opportunity to design my own cover (for better or worse).


But then the second jolt hit. On the 23rd of March 2020 England went into a national lockdown, closing schools and bookshops across the country and, in one fell swoop, cutting off the two main avenues I had been counting on to carry the bulk of my publicity. My book was due for release at the end of October, so it seemed likely things would be open again by the time it was ready to land in people’s hands, but it was still a huge blow to my pre-publication timetable.


To cap it all, this was my publisher’s first foray into YA novels, and they spooked a little. Not enough to pull the book, but enough to scale back the release to two stages: an initial limited release in October as planned, online and to selected bookshops who already stocked their titles; and a later, wider release once things had calmed down.


At first this seemed like a killing blow. I had been looking forward to walking into Waterstones and seeing copies of my book on shelves, and somehow my success or failure as an author was bound up in this image. Having a limited release, especially being largely online, felt fake, as if I wasn’t a ‘real’ author. I was afraid that poor sales and a lack of publicity would put my publisher off the idea of pursuing further titles. The dream had soured.


I swallowed my disappointment. After all, what else was there to do? I redoubled my efforts online, firing up Photoshop and running a cover reveal on Instagram over the course of two weeks in the summer, as well as teasing extracts of the book along with the gorgeous chapter header illustrations. I shelled out some of my own cash to promote Facebook and Instagram posts, encouraging people to preorder from the publisher and Amazon, and the response was encouraging. Not overwhelming, but enough to make me think that maybe there was still hope.


October came around. I received my first author copies, and held (and smelled!) my own book for the very first time, feeling a muted thrill of the heady excitement I had long dreamed about. Preorders were not staggering, but still respectable, and my publisher was happy. Reviews began to trickle in, and they were universally good. Everything had gone about as well as could be expected.


And there, I think, is the point: the release of my first book was not an earth-shattering moment, but then it was never going to be. Reality can never live up to expectation; things are never as incredible or dreadful as we think they are going to be. Sometimes life takes us by surprise, but it’s surprising precisely because it happens so rarely. I was always going to be a very small fish thrown into a very large sea, and sink or swim I was unlikely to make very large waves. Releasing in lockdown gave me a reason to temper my expectations and ration my hope. Even very small things, the fewest words of praise or encouragement, felt incredibly precious to me. Every win was a big win, because the odds were suddenly so astronomically high.


Since October my publisher has gradually begun to cast their net wider. We’re reaching out to schools, and I’ve begun to develop a pack of learning resources. Home educators have been a surprising customer base, and word of mouth has done what it does best in that community. I have one virtual author visit booked in for the Easter holidays, and a handful more pencilled in with various schools for when “things get better”. My daughter dressed up as one of my characters for World Book Day, and the headteacher at her school emailed me to thank me for the copy he received in the post. My old primary school tweeted about how they looked forward to having me in. Small things, but each one of them precious and beautiful. The bookshops are still closed (for now), but that’s fine with me. I’m concentrating on building relationships with teachers and home educators, and I know that things will progress in their own time.


Now I look back on it, I realise my expectations had never been realistic — I had been dreaming the dream, rather than visualising the future. Had I not released in lockdown, I might have been immensely disappointed with the exact same things I have come to cherish: the small messages of thanks, the gradual outreach to schools, the slow accumulation of feedback.


This was not a disaster: it was merely an alternative. As it stands, I am probably a happier author for it.






Thursday, 18 March 2021

Conrad Mason - The Girl in Wooden Armour - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books


When you are looking for a ray of sunshine then a new book by Conrad Mason is just the tonic. The Girl In Wooden Armour will be published on 1st April, 2021 by David Fickling. The book cover illustration is amazing; I have been recently informed it's been produced by the talented illustrator George Ermos (one of my favourite illustrators). It certainly enticed me and made me want to dive in straight away. After reading other books by Conrad Mason, I have a certain expectation of what to find. This did not fail but it lived up to my expectations in different ways. 

The story is about sorcery, witchcraft, and possibly a warrior or two. It's very dark and essentially is a middle-grade fantasy horror story. Conrad Mason appears to be stretching his fantasy wings and going into new territory.  Just like the main character in the book (Hattie), he is strapping on his wooden armour and getting ready to do battle with the readers' mind. It's a plot about a family that has secrets and a very unusual granny. 

One day Hattie gets a mysterious letter calling for help so she and her younger brother Jonathan visit her granny for the first time in years. The plot thickens and the veil of an ancient evil is cast over the reader as the characters launch into their adventure. At this point, this is not what I was expecting; I was looking for pirate swashbuckling and some spilled grog. However, what we get is a very strange place called Brokewood-on Tandle (a great name for a place) and an all-action-packed narrative that will be loved by all armchair readers. 

Unfortunately, Granny has disappeared and a dark shadowy place called the Un Forest is introduced. I really liked Un Forest and would have loved to have seen this explored in more detail. It had so much potential for the plotline and is what reading is all about - being transported to an imaginary world with mystery, mayhem, and madness. Nevertheless, we escape into a sinister world of scary monsters who are lurking around every corner (some of which would fit nicely into a Darren Shan novel). They are very imaginatively written and definitely sent shivers down my spine. Empathy is another element that has been injected into the story. It faces issues that many of us might be feeling at the moment: loneliness, sadness, and losing a loved one.  

This is a great book with many twists and turns. It doesn't have a set agenda instead it is about good quality storytelling that will grip you and captivate your fantasy brain. It has a courageous female heroine who will be adored regardless of gender or age. It's a thrilling read with a dynamite ending to capture readers and light up their imaginations. 

Monday, 15 March 2021

Philip Womack - Guest Post - Wildlord - Published by Little Island - Mr Ripley’s Enchanted Books


Thanks for joining us today. It's brilliant to be able to welcome Philip Womack to Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Book blog. His guest post will be talking about one of his up-and-coming book 'Wildlord'. Philip has really sold his new book to me. Hopefully, in October 2021, this will also be on your list and we will be in a time when we have more freedom to browse books. I'm already imagining walking back into a lovely bookshop to buy this book.  I'm now wondering what the book cover will look like and how the story will pan out.  
Thanks for reading - we hope your interest has also been piqued. If you have any more questions please get in touch. 

My work in progress isn’t, strictly, a work in progress; since, as I write, I have all but finished the final edit. It’s called Wildlord, and it’s my first ever teen novel, for readers of 13+, and will be published in October 2021 by Little Island.

A new book is always an excitement. We launch our carefully composed fictions out into the world, hoping that they will find readers, that they will enchant and enthrall. I have always written about magic; principally because, as a child, I was always much more drawn towards the worlds of fantasy than I was to anything set in the real world. Reading in and of itself is a branch of magic: we never, as adults, are able to read in the way that we did as children. I have always tried to write novels that are as immersive as those books I fell into as a child, curled up in the library or in my room, oblivious to the world outside.

Magic in fiction is also a way of thinking about power, and so what it means to be a teenager growing into an adult. Wildlord is about a sixteen-year-old boy, Tom, who receives a strange message from his Uncle James, inviting him to stay on his Suffolk farm. Without giving too much away, Tom decides to go. Only what he finds there isn’t a conventional farm at all, but something that exists on the boundaries between reality and other worlds. 

Every book I’ve written has brought its own challenges, its own glorious stretches when everything seems to be going well, its own periods when nothing seems to work. But that didn’t happen with Wildlord. I loved writing it, from early scribblings to final quibblings about word choices. I began it in 2017, just after I’d finished writing The Arrow of Apollo, a novel for 10+ set in the legendary Greek and Roman world, which was published in 2020.

 It might seem a bit of a leap from the shadowy, quasi-historical world of my ancient heroes, to a teenager with an iPhone and a laptop in 2021. But the themes are constant: how young people work with and against their parents; how they slot into the generations; the rules they must navigate to become adults. 

Where The Arrow of Apollo moved around the Mediterranean sea, Wildlord has a much smaller setting: an Elizabethan farmhouse, Mundham Farm.  The building seems to extend and grow and shift, subject to mysterious powers. There is a strong sense of wildness, of being on the edge of civilisation. 

The inhabitants of Mundham Farm are an ill-assorted bunch, and I had enormous amounts of fun pitching them into difficult (and deadly) situations. Mundham Farm is a nexus of powers, and Tom finds that there are stranger powers stalking the outskirts. These beings want to invade: and Tom has to stop them. But he finds himself thrown into an impossible conundrum, and what he thinks he knows is upturned and overturned almost every day. He finds solace in the woods, and in the diaries of a 19th-century rector’s daughter, which help to give him the key to solving his problems.

Wildlord is about finding a place for yourself in the world, as much as it is a magical story full of tension, danger and drama. It's also, in a way, about history and time. I hope it will find readers of all ages, and encourage them to think about the spaces in between, about the gaps between childhood and adulthood, and about love, friendship and family.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

The Best New Children's Book Picks US - March 2021 - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

 


Laura Amy Schlitz (Author), Julia Iredale (Illustrator) - Amber and Clay - Published by  Candlewick (March 9, 2021)

The Newbery Medal–winning author of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! gives readers a virtuoso performance in verse in this profoundly original epic pitched just right for fans of poetry, history, mythology, and fantasy.


Welcome to ancient Greece as only genius storyteller Laura Amy Schlitz can conjure it. In a warlike land of wind and sunlight, “ringed by a restless sea,” live Rhaskos and Melisto, spiritual twins with little in common beyond the violent and mysterious forces that dictate their lives. A Thracian slave in a Greek household, Rhaskos is as common as clay, a stable boy worth less than a donkey, much less a horse. Wrenched from his mother at a tender age, he nurtures in secret, aided by Socrates, his passions for art and philosophy. Melisto is a spoiled aristocrat, a girl as precious as amber but willful and wild. She’ll marry and be tamed—the curse of all highborn girls—but risk her life for a season first to serve Artemis, goddess of the hunt. 

Bound by destiny, Melisto and Rhaskos—Amber and Clay—never meet in the flesh. By the time they do, one of them is a ghost. But the thin line between life and death is just one boundary their unlikely friendship crosses. It takes an army of snarky gods and fearsome goddesses, slaves and masters, mothers and philosophers to help shape their story into a gorgeously distilled, symphonic tour de force. 

Blending verse, prose, and illustrated archaeological “artifacts,” this is a tale that vividly transcends time, an indelible reminder of the power of language to illuminate the over- and underworlds of human history.


Kate Alice Marshall -  Our Last Echoes - Viking Books for Young Readers (March 16, 2021)

In 1973, the thirty-one residents of Bitter Rock disappeared. In 2003, so did my mother. Now, I've come to Bitter Rock to find out what happened to her--and to me. Because Bitter Rock has many ghosts. And I might be one of them.

Sophia's earliest memory is of drowning. She remembers the darkness of the water and the briny taste as it filled her throat, the sensation of going under. She remembers hands pulling her back to safety, but that memory is impossible--she's never been to the ocean. 

But then Sophia gets a mysterious call about an island names Bitter Rock, and learns that she and her mother were there fifteen years ago--and her mother never returned. The hunt for answers lures her to Bitter Rock, but the more she uncovers, the clearer it is that her mother is just one in a chain of disappearances. 

People have been vanishing from Bitter Rock for decades, leaving only their ghostly echoes behind. Sophia is the only one who can break the cycle--or risk becoming nothing more than another echo haunting the island.

Veronica Mang - The Case of the Missing Cheeta (Secret Spy Society) - Viking Books for Young Readers (March 23, 2021) 
The first book in a highly illustrated new chapter book series about three delightfully mischievous young girls and some of the most enigmatic women in history who worked as spies.
 

It's a dark and stormy night when three sleuthing little girls get pulled into a web of mystery. They have mistakenly uncovered a secret society of some of the most famous female spies in history. A glamorous spy named Josephine Baker enlists the girls to find out who has kidnapped Chiquita, her precious pet cheetah. Do the girls have what it takes to become spies themselves? 

Debut author-illustrator Veronica Mang has created a playful pastiche full of masters of disguise, martial artists, codebreakers, and double agents in the first of this new illustrated chapter book series. Secret Spy Society: The Case of the Missing Cheetah introduces young readers to three delightfully mischievous girls and some of the most enigmatic and unforgettable women in history.


Jaclyn Moriarty - The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst - Published by Levine Querido (March 23, 2021) 
Esther is a middle child, in her own mind a pale reflection of siblings who are bright, shining stars. Her mother doesn't show the slightest bit of interest, no matter what Esther does. Still, she's content to go back to school, do her best, hang out with her friends, and let others take care of things.

But her best friends aren't AT school when she gets there. Why didn't they tell her they wouldn't be coming back? Why were they silent all summer? But stuff like that happens. And it's bad luck that her new teacher makes Esther the butt of all kinds of jokes. Mrs. Pollock is rumored to be an ogre—and maybe she IS one. Could be.

Then things go from unfortunate to outright dangerous. The mountains surrounding the school—usually sparkling with glaciers and lakes, alive with Faeries, and sheltering a quaint town with really great bakeries—are now crowded with Shadow Mages, casting a noticeable pall, and clearly—to Esther—signifying something very dark and threatening. As the people she might have depended on to help are either strangely absent or in hiding, it's left to ordinary, middle-child Esther ("just Esther") to act. But she'll have to burst out of the box of mediocrity she's been but in, and do something absolutely extraordinary.


Patrick D. Pidgeon -  Creeples! - Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press (March 9, 2021)
Let's just come right out and say it . . . stranger things do happen at Aberdasher Academy of Science
We re talking weird science, with fantastical consequences such as a slithering colossal Mongolian Death Worm, clashing medieval Bog People, an ambushing Ayia Napa sea monster, and a ravaging mythical beast, just to name a few!
Desperate to raise funds to save their favorite teacher's Genomic department from closing, Johnny ''Spigs'' Spignola, Theresa Ray ''T-Ray'' Rogers, and Pablo ''Peabo'' Torres team up to launch a crowdfunding lab experiment, but hastily use a mysterious DNA serum that astonishingly creates six pint-size, magical humanoids--the students affectionately call Creeples--who unleash mystical mayhem and campus chaos.
But even more shocking, a startling mystery emerges for these intrepid teens. Their noble but foolish actions uncover a shadowy insider's evil plan to gain demonic supremacy from the academy's hidden powers of ancient sorcery and the Creeples unwittingly stand in the way!

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Julian Sedgwick (Author), Chie Kutsuwada (Illustrator) - Tsunami Girl - Book Review (Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books)



Hello and welcome (こんにちは、ようこそ)  to Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books. This has been a very emotional and poignant book review.

A huge earthquake and Tsunami struck Japan at 2.46pm on March 11, 2011. It devastated towns and changed the landscape forever whilst also triggering nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. The world watched helplessly as a triple disaster unfolded and the chaotic struggle to contain the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl took place. Ten years later and the story of Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick is born. Published by Guppy Books in March 2021 the book will finally spread its wings and soar into the world. 

The book was inspired by the people, memories, and the author's visits to Odak, Minamisōm, Japan. The book is a three-year culmination of research and writing about the unseen crisis. It's a story to remember, savour and reflect upon. Just like petals falling from a Skura tree, this story showers the reader with a poignant and heartfelt story. It has both dark and light flowing throughout the narrative. 

The book is part story and part manga (a comic art form traditionally developed in Japan from scrolls dating back as far as the 12th century). The manga illustrations have been wonderfully created by Chie Kutsuwada and are used to weave in the imaginary element of the story alongside the written reality. They particularly introduce and follow the super-hero character in the imaginary world (Half Wave) who is bound by Yuki's own manga creation which is very much linked to the back story. The character is pulled together in a quirky quality that I associate with watching a Studio Ghibli film, both of which I really love. 

The narrative follows shy 15-year-old, Yuki Hara Jones, who finds herself caught up in the Earthquake and Tsunami whilst visiting her Grandpa. The story centers around both Yuki and her amazing Grandpa, who is an award-winning adult Manga artist. Back in England, she finds herself reliving the tragic events that unfolded on that unimaginable day. You'll find yourself walking a tightrope of emotions as you follow Yuki and the relationships between her English family in Cambridge (England) and her Japanese family as she attempts to heal herself by revisiting the disaster zone with the help of her friend Taka. 


This is the most thought-provoking story that I've read for a long time. It made me feel so emotional that it really swept me off my feet and stirred many thoughts. It was almost like looking over the edge of the cliff and free-falling into the foamy sea. The story is about place/time, pain, loss, friendship, and finally finding one's self again. It charts the struggles in the aftermath and how life was viewed differently as a result of such devastation. It's about not only the importance of memories but also after being in such a dark place trying to find the light and courage once more to make life a full experience and as rewarding as it can be. 

The way to best describe this book is as one massive Hanabi (花火) firework display as it sparkles, pops, and fizzes on the brain. A fluttering ghost story (Yami Shibai) delivers the yin and yang punching into the plot with a beating heart. The encounters and the feelings of the characters have been masterfully written. I view the story with sadness but also have fond memories from the special moments within. One day I hope to take a journey to Japan and, as a result of this book, will remember the people who lost their lives as well as those who were left behind to deal with the devastation. 

The story has been very well researched and written. It really is a very fitting tribute to one of the biggest natural disasters to happen in our lifetime. I'm sure that many people as they read this book will feel and view things differently but that's why I particularly love books like this. There is certainly no other book like this available to buy at the moment so I really would recommend that you read this. I would be particularly interested to know your thoughts on this amazingly well-published book. Thank you for reading and have a great day.

If you also fancy a doubled signed copy of the book. Here is the link to do so! https://www.kenilworthbooks.co.uk/tsunami-girl/




Monday, 8 March 2021

*BOOK COVER REVEAL* Between Sea and Sky by Nicola Penfold (Mr.Ripley's Enchanted Books)

 


Good morning and what a wonderful start to the Monday morning we have. Today, on Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books, we get to show off the brilliant book cover artwork for Nicola Penfold's second book Between Sea and Sky. It's always such a special and privileged opportunity to get to present the unveiling of such wonderful artwork and design. This is a brilliantly bold cover that is both eye-catching and in keeping with the author's first book (Where the World Turns Wild). The book cover has been designed by Pip Johnson (Senior Designer at Little Tiger Group) whilst the illustrator of the cover artwork is Kate Forrester. I think both have done an amazing job in making me want to pick up the book and find out more. 

I can tell you this book is a middle-grade standalone novel full of thought-provoking ecological themes. It is due to be published by Stripes Publishing on the 8th July 2021. Below is a brief synopsis for you to consider and, hopefully, this will encourage you to support these wonderful people and pre-order a copy. 

In a near-future where a series of environmental disasters has left much of the country underwater, Pearl lives on a floating oyster farm with her father and younger sister, Clover. Following her mum’s death several years earlier, Pearl refuses to set foot on land, believing her illness was caused by the poisons in the ground. Meanwhile, Clover dreams of school, friends and a normal life.

Then Nat comes to spend the summer at the sea farm while his scientist mum conducts some experiments. Leaving behind the mainland, with its strict rules and regulations, he brings with him a secret. But when the sisters promise to keep his secret safe, little do they realize that they may be risking everything...

Monday, 1 March 2021

The Best New Children's Book Picks March 2021 Part Two - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

 

Hannah Foley - The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle - Published by Floris Books (18 Mar. 2021) 

Part-girl, part-cat, Avery Buckle has always known she's a little different (after all, her tail is a bit of a giveaway). What Avery doesn't know is that she is the only one who can uncover a forgotten magical secret and bring back a great lost wizard. Teaming up with shape-shifting best friend Low, and with help from her witch guardians, Avery is plunged into a haphazard world of shadowy monsters, bewitched libraries and flying bicycles. Grab your enchanted tandem bike and hold on tight! Wildly inventive and packed with fantastical thrills, The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle is a warm and quirky whirlwind of an adventure, full of magical heart.

Gemma Fowler - City of Rust - Published by Chicken House (4 Mar. 2021)

An out-of-this-world sci-fi adventure for a new generation!

Railey dreams of winning the drone races with her bio-robotic gecko friend, Atti. But when a bounty hunter crashes their biggest race yet, the pair are forced to flee to the feared Junker clans who mine the rubbish orbiting the Earth.

Rescued by a couple of Junker kids, they discover a danger bigger than anything they'd imagined - but can three kids, a gecko and an ancient computer save the world against the huge trash bomb (and its power-crazed creator) threatening to destroy the world?

The fun, original and thrilling middle-grade debut from Gemma Fowler.  


Rachel Delahaye (Author), George Ermos (Illustrator) - Mort the Meek and the Ravens' Revenge - Published by Stripes Publishing (4 Mar. 2021)

The first in a wickedly funny new series about an aspiring pacifist in a brutal kingdom!
On Brutalia violence is a way of life. Ravenous ravens circle overhead, monstrous grot bears cause chaos and the streets are bulging with brawls. But Mort isn’t like the other islanders – he’s determined to live peacefully. His struggle is made even tougher when the cruel queen appoints Mort as Royal Executioner. No one has challenged the royals and lived to tell the tale. Can Mort keep his head and outwit the queen? 

Perfect for fans of the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON series, FROSTHEART and THE NOTHING TO SEE HERE HOTEL.


Laura Wood (Author), Ellie Snowdon (Illustrator) - The Animals of Madame Malone's Music Hall - Published by Barrington Stoke (4 Mar. 2021) 

Summer by the seaside with Gran isn't exactly what Callie expected. Instead of sunshine and ice cream, she's stuck helping Gran's drama group save their local theatre. Worst of all, they've asked her to star in their play. But when she goes exploring backstage, Callie stumbles into an altogether different world - another theatre, run by a wise fox and her troupe of talking animals. And the strangest part of all? Callie's set to play the lead in their show too. Forced to face her fears will Callie be up to the challenge of saving Madame Malone's Music Hall? A cast of creative creatures take centre stage in this theatrical Barrington Stoke debut from Blue Peter Book Award shortlisted author Laura Wood. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Interview with Children's Author Tamsin Mori - The Weather Weaver (Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books)


Hello Everybody. We hope you are all feeling more positive about the future. Reading is certainly a good way to help raise the spirits.  One of our children's book picks for March 2021 is The Weather Weaver by Tamsin Mori. The book will be published by UCLan Publishing on the 4th March 2021. We thought this was a cracking opportunity to contact the author and ask some questions to find out more about this wonderful book and the amazing cover you can see above. 

We really hope you enjoy reading this post as much as we did asking the questions. If you would like to know more about the author of the book you can drop us both a tweet on Twitter: @Enchantedbooks or @MoriTamsin Thanks for reading and have a nice day.


Can you reveal a bit more about the book than what the synopsis tells us? That's very tricky without spoilers, but hopefully, the answers to the rest of these questions will give you some clues.


When did you get the first idea about writing this book?

The seeds of the story were sown when I was very small. Whenever we went back to Shetland to visit family, I didn't want to leave. I realised that if the fog came in, the planes couldn't leave, and we'd get to stay a little longer, so I used all my powers of persuasion to call in the fog. I wrote poems, spells, secret recipes... And sometimes, it worked! Once, we got a whole extra week in Shetland. The fog had heard me. At that point, I became convinced that I had secret weather powers of my own. 


Stella, who is the main character in the book, discovers she is a Weather Weaver. What is a Weather Weaver and how important is this to the plot?

A weather weaver is someone who can choose the weather - usually with the help of a cloud who's taken a liking to them. 

Weather Weaving is fairly central to the plot - early in the book, Stella catches a small but very feisty cloud. Their early attempts at weather weaving are erratic, verging on dangerous. It takes a close relationship, an amount of self-awareness, and great deal of trust, to be able to conjure different weathers at will. Stella and her cloud find almost every aspect of that quite challenging! But with Tamar as her mentor, Stella is in good hands.


What made you write a book set in the Shetland Islands?

Shetland is my heart's home. Though I've never lived there, half my family are Shetlanders - my mum grew up in Scalloway. All the stories I loved when I was small originated in Shetland - both island myths and family legends - and they took root in my imagination. Most of the traditional myths belong to the land, or the sea - I wanted to write one that celebrated the wide, expressive Shetland skies.


What are the top things to do when visiting the Shetland Islands? (We'd really like to visit the Shetland Islands)

That could fill several books and besides, it depends what time of year you go there! 

In winter, there's the northern lights (the mirrie dancers), and the viking festival, Up Helly Ah! 

The Weather Weaver is set in summer, which is perfect for puffin spotting - the RSPB sanctuary at Sumburgh lighthouse is a great location for that. If you want to visit the broch which features in the book, the boat trip to Mousa is a must. You can see a multitude of amazing seabirds there - bonxies, guillemots, arctic terns, and storm petrels - and climb to the top of the broch for yourself! Though, fair warning, it's a long way up. In Lerwick, the Shetland Times Bookshop is a favourite haunt of mine (surprise!). The Shetland Museum and Mareel are both definitely worth a visit and the Peerie Shop makes outstanding Cullen Skink. There's also whale watching, the otter sanctuary, Shetland Wool Week, awesome food, incredible unspoilt landscape and empty beaches... sigh. I can't wait to get back there.


What emotions do you want the reader to experience when reading this book?

All of them! One of the key themes in the book is that there aren't any 'bad' emotions - every single one has its place and its purpose. Different weathers reflect and respond to our different moods - emotions as wide as the sky. Stella discovers that, though perhaps a little too late...


What would be your favourite type of weather day?

Bright and blustery, perhaps with a few showers and rainbows to liven things up a bit. Though having said that, I do love a good thunderstorm!


You went to eight different schools in your childhood. Do you think you have gained any skills/attributes by going to so many? 

I think it taught me self-reliance, and perhaps gave me an insight into the similarities and subtle differences between how people think and behave in different places. I wouldn't recommend it, but it was useful in the story. Stella experiences some of that sense of displacement and a deep longing to belong. 


What do you think of the book cover illustration and did you have any input into it?

I adore the cover illustration. David Dean has captured the full spectrum of weather magic, with Stella standing small and brave in the centre. I was bowled over when I first saw it: "It's like David read my mind!". My husband pointed out that it was more likely he'd read my book.

I was delighted that UCLAN publishing asked for my input, though to be honest, David created an illustration that immediately felt right for the book. The only thing I was picky about was Grandpa's but'n'ben (a type of small, simple building) on the back cover - it was a grand two-storey house in the first iteration. 


What books do you read for pleasure? Is there anything that stands out for you recently? 

I read a real mixture of books - middle-grade, YA, adult fiction, and non-fiction too. Some middle-grade books that I've adored recently are: Vi Spy, by the brilliant Maz Evans, The Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson, and Gargantis by Thomas Taylor. I'm waiting impatiently to jump into A Tangle of Spells by Michelle Harrison, but my daughter has first dibs.


Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Elle McNicoll - Show Us Who You Are - (Knights Of) Book Review (Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books)


Some books are really special as they just hit you right between the eyes. This is the second book by Elle McNicoll entitled Show Us Who You Are and it will certainly knock your socks off. Published by Knights Of on 4th March 2021 with a stunning book cover illustration by Kay Wilson. After reading the blurb, the concept of this story was very intriguing. However, I did not expect the totality of the story inside. What do you think if you were made perfect after you die?

In all honesty, this is not a book I would normally seek out and buy. With everything we are all going through, I'm mainly reading magical fantasy. I'm really looking for worlds that are uplifting and make you feel good - that type of plot. In contrast, this is not that type of book and maybe a tricky read if you are not in the right frame of mind. However, sometimes you have to bite the fantasy bullet and give it a go. This book certainly provokes a lot of thought - it is inspirational and challenging.  

If you do feel able to read this and to have your emotions scattered on the wind then you will not be disappointed. This book asks so many questions of the reader and is one of the saddest books I've read for a long time.  You really immerse yourself in the world of the two main characters. Cora and Adrien are two peas in a lonely pod (Cora is Autistic and Adrien has ADHD). The author has portrayed them both so well and with such understanding, it is magnificent and so heartbreaking to read. In some places in the story, there was even a tear running down my cheek. 

The plot is so clever - it is a great story in which to write both characters into. I don't really want to mention the plot details of the story as I want you to read this book open-minded. However, themes are around being different and accepting that being normal might not always be the way forward.  

This is a black and white story told in a technicolor rainbow that showers empathy and emotion. It's a holographic 3-D experience that will cut through daily life by showing diversity through the working minds that we should all read and hopefully begin to understand. Everything is told with immense compassion and bags of heart. Every page is packed full of adventure, technology, holograms, sorrow, and some timely mischief that slices some of the emotional tension away. It's a five-star read - it's something different and unique that should be read and loved. 



Saturday, 20 February 2021

The Best New Children's Book Picks March 2021 - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

 

Struan Murray - Shipwreck Island - Published by Puffin (4th March 2021)

Ellie and Seth's breathtaking magical adventure continues in the sequel to the much-loved Orphans of the Tide.

After defeating the Enemy and escaping the Inquisition, Ellie and Seth have fled the City and crossed the endless ocean in search of peace and the truth about Seth's lost memories.

Arriving on the shores of a colourful tropical island ruled by a mysterious queen, it seems their hardships may be behind them. But there is trouble brewing in paradise, and soon Ellie and Seth find themselves caught up in a dangerous struggle for power - and forced to confront terrible truths from the past . . .


Danny Wallace & Gemma Correll -  The Day the Screens Went Blank - Published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK (18 Mar. 2021)

A hilarious middle-grade road-trip adventure from bestselling author, comedian, and presenter Danny Wallace, with illustrations throughout from Gemma Correll. Perfect for fans of Liz Pichon and David Baddiel!

Imagine if all the technology in the world just . . . STOPPED.

When ten-year-old Stella wakes up to discover a world full of BLANK screens, her family, town, and in fact, the whole world seems to have been thrown into chaos. And what about poor Grandma who is stranded at the other end of the country?

Cue a rollicking madcap road trip, full of driving disasters and family fallouts, as they set off on a rescue mission. And along the way Stella and her family discover that being away from screens might not be the Worst Thing Ever, and even though they might not be able to rely on technology anymore, they can rely on each other instead.


John Kelly - The Monster Doctor: Slime Crime - Published by Macmillan Children's Books  (4 Mar. 2021)
Are you looking for the best monster medicine EVER?

Then look no further! FIXITALL will heal tentacle pain, fix leaky noses and stop your limbs falling off – in fact, it will heal practically any common monster illness. (It must be true, because it says so right there on the packet.)

When an annoying saleswoman called Ms Diagnosis arrives at the monster doctor surgery, she swears that her new wonder medicine can cure any monster malady. Ozzy and the monster doctor aren't so sure, and their suspicions are raised when the patients try the unusually slimy samples and strange things start happening . . . 

Laughter is the best medicine, so give yourself a healthy dose of fun and silliness with Monster Doctor: Slime Crime. The third in a spectacularly slimy series of monster adventures written and illustrated by John Kelly that will have you roaring with laughter



Tamsin Mori - The Weather Weaver - Published by UCLan Publishing (4 Mar. 2021)

What if you could befriend a cloud? 

                                                 What weather would you choose?

What if the weather matched itself to your mood, whether you wanted it to, or not?

11-year-old Stella has returned home to Shetland to spend the summer with her Grandpa, but it's nothing like she remembers. Grandpa is lost in his grief for Gran, the island is bleak and Stella feels trapped, until she encounters an old woman, Tamar, who can spin rainbows and call hurricanes. With the help of Nimbus, a feisty young storm cloud, Stella begins to learn the craft of weather weaving. But when her cloud brain-fogs Grandpa and The Haken (a sea witch) starts to close in, she realises that magic comes with big responsibilities. It will take all her heart and courage to face the coming storm...