Best Name Ever!

Well, it’s been an up-and-down few days. First, The Shop on Peculiar Hill didn’t make the finals of The Wishing Shelf Book Awards. So everyone here was disappointed for a while. But that didn’t last very long because we won a Red Ribbon award and the feedback we received on the book from the 17 kids who judged it was really good. Take a look:

Star Rating: 4 Stars

Of the 17 readers:

14 would read another book by this author.
12 thought the cover was good or excellent.
17 felt it was easy to follow.
15 would recommend this book to another reader to try.
Of all the readers, 7 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘plotting a story’.
Of all the readers, 5 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘developing the characters’.
Of all the readers, 5 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘writing style’.
16 felt the pacing was good or excellent.
14 thought the author understood the readership and what they wanted.

Readers’ Comments:

“This author has the best name ever!” Boy, aged 8

“I liked this book a lot. I thought the plot was a bit crazy and lots of crazy things kept happening. It was like a rollercoaster!” Boy, aged 12

“Scary animals in the Vale of Strange. Exciting book. I liked the characters. They were sort of larger than life. I thought the cover was a bit messy, but the story’s good.’ Boy, aged 11

“Sort of scary but sort of funny too. I think this writer has an exciting imagination and knows how to write a good story for kids. The best character was Peter. I also like the shop too.” Girl, aged 9 with a little help from her teacher

“Amanda’s cool. She’s the character I would want to be. I laughed a lot when reading this book. I thought it was slow in the beginning but the second half’s a blast. Kids aged 10 – 13 will find this a fun book.” Girl, aged 12

To sum it up:

‘A fun, whimsical adventure, excellent for 9 – 12 year olds. A RED RIBBON WINNER and highly recommended.’ The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

According to the Award’s scoring system, the book got 30 points out of 40. We needed 31 or more to make the finals so we just missed out! So, we’ll be submitting Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill for their next contest – and keeping our fingers crossed…

We’ll have to have a word with Pete about that messy cover though…

Must-Read Books!

Hooray! Many thanks to the ever-supportive Ian Eagleton, developer of the fabulous Reading Realm app, for including The Vale of Strange amongst his top five must-read children’s books! At any rate, he did yesterday. He admits he may change his mind from time to time but, hey, we’re relaxed about that, aren’t we guys?

In case you were wondering, the other books that Ian chose were The Tunnels Below by Nadine Wild-Palmer, Poems the Wind Blew In by Karmelo C Iribarren and others, Look Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson and Elisa Paganelli, and The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, which actually makes six in all but who’s counting?

Oh, and er, Happy New Year! Sorry you haven’t heard much from us recently but what with having to remember to wash our hands and wear a mask as well as wearing sturdy boots and a hat here in the Vale, we’ve been kept rather busy. We hope to have more news for you soon so, if you haven’t already done so, subscribe to the blog or like us on Facebook to make sure you stay up to date, ok? And do stay safe! – love from Grimly and the Team.

Mani’s Favorite Books of 2020…

Great to see my book, Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill, listed as one of review blogger Mani’s favorite books among those she has read this year – especially as it appears amongst other such prestigious titles. You may remember that Mani reviewed the book when it first came out.

Although it’s the second book in the Vale of Strange series, I wrote Stranger Days so you can pick it up and enjoy it without having read the previous volume. It tells of Peter’s return to the vale, along with Amanda and his new friend Mala, this time to rescue Mala’s father, the hapless explorer Augustus Flipper, but it soon becomes clear that the very balance of the weirdosphere is at stake…

This is also an excellent time to get both books however. The earlier volume, The Shop on Peculiar Hill and Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill are both available on Kindle for just 77p each (or 99c US) till the end of the year (so there’s just a few days left to go…)

UK link

US link

I notice that Mani has also listed another middlegrade children’s adventure, Amari and the Night Brothers, among her favourite books of the year. This happens to be a book I’d already earmarked to read myself. I’ll let you know more about it here – along with some other books which you might enjoy – in the New Year…

(So keep safe – and don’t forget your hat!)

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas from all at the Vale of Strange! Stay safe – and don’t forget your hat!

Funny, mysterious fantasy stories, The Shop on Peculiar Hill and Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill – Special Kindle prices on both books! Get them now before they’re gone!

Amazon UK 77p

Amazon US 99c

Congratulations!

Many congratulations to Teresa and her son, who won our recent Halloween competition for a copy of The Shop on Peculiar Hill, my funny, creepy fantasy adventure. We really hope they enjoy the book!

If you weren’t successful this time, you can still buy the book from Amazon of course, along with the exciting sequel, Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill. Both are available in paperback and Kíndle formats, and if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited you can read the books for free!

Here’s the UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shop-Peculiar-Hill-Vale-Strange/dp/1946892165

Here’s the US link: https://www.amazon.com/Shop-Peculiar-Hill-Vale-Strange/dp/1946892165

And there are similar links scattered conveniently around the planet…

A Free Book for Halloween!

If the COVID pandemic is stopping you trick or treating this year, there’s still a chance for some spooky fun! Join in our competition to win a free paperback copy of The Shop on Peculiar Hill! Just visit me @DarkwoodGrimly on Twitter then retweet one of my tweets about this competition and follow me on Twitter.

That’s all you need to do to be in with a chance of winning. And if you already follow me on Twitter, that’s fine. Just retweet and it counts anyway!

The competition ends at midnight on Halloween! Or if you can’t wait and want to get a copy of this spooky, funny, thrilling book right away, you can buy one right now from Amazon:

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KR17MGT

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07KR17MGT

Still time for a Bargain!

I’ve just notified the three lucky winners of the recent competition (run by LoveReading4Kids) to win a signed copy of Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill. I’m pleased to announce that there were no fewer than 1585 entries for the competition, so confirming the enduring popularity of my books – at least on occasions where no exchange of funds is required.

If you happen to be one of the 1582 people who just missed out on winning a book, I’m happy to report that you still have a chance to pick up a bargain. The first book in the Vale of Strange series, The Shop on Peculiar Hill, which is the prequel to Stranger Days, is still available as an e-book from Amazon, priced at just 99p UK or 99c US (and for similarly paltry amounts in other parts of the globe). The paperback version is also competitively priced at just £6-99 UK or $9-99 US.

The Shop on Peculiar Hill has become unexpectedly topical since the onset of COVID-19. The young hero Peter finds that his move to stay with his uncle and aunt on Peculiar Hill puts him in an unfamilar situation. He is told that he is not allowed to go out of the house without taking special precautions like wearing a hat and sturdy boots. His aunt and uncle use weird protective concoctions called unge and glop which they put on the dining table and spread in a ring round the house, while Aunt Maggie will never even leave the house without a long pole to defend herself against monsters. Indeed, she never goes out at all except on a Thursday.

How is Peter supposed to adapt to this strange, unfamilar predicament?

Anne-Marie Reynolds at Readers’ Favorite wrote: “The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ by Grimly Darkwood is a fascinating story, much like a dark version of a fairy tale… This book has it all – death, darkness, fearsome creatures, strange vegetables – everything needed to brew up a fantastical tale. This story is well written in very straightforward language… There is always something going on to keep your interest. The author has written the characters very well, so clearly that you can picture them in your mind – kind of like watching a Harry Potter movie.”

Joanne Owen at LoveReading4Kids said “A riotously imaginative feast of fantastical adventure with lashings of larger-than-life characters and curious goings-on… This book’s whimsical, jaunty language and characterisation make it marvellous for reading aloud. In fact, as you read the dialogue, it’s easy to hear and see the characters in action, replete with tone of voice and physical quirks.”

Ian Eagleton, Creator of the Reading Realm app, wrote: “Thrilling, dark, utterly barmy, funny and surprisingly moving… if you haven’t read it already, please do. What a hidden gem!”

You can find out more about The Shop on Peculiar Hill here on my website. You can also try before you buy! Read the first two chapters here for free…

Competition Extended to 12 August!

Just when you you thought you had missed your chance, I am pleased to inform you that you haven’t! That’s good news, isn’t it? What could be better than that?

Now don’t get overexcited. I’m afraid that some opportunities have indeed disappeared into the mists of time. You’re still too late to attend the 1966 World Cup football final for instance, which may be for the best, because I have a sneaking feeling that the more times we watch it, the more likely it is that Germany is going to win after all. We’re also too late to be the first person to land on the moon. I can vouch for that because they brought me back an authentic stick of moon rock which had little green men on it and a label which said ‘made in Blackpool’ with the ‘Blackpool’ bit crossed out and ‘the moon’ written in.

So that possibility’s gone as well, I’m afraid, But don’t worry because believe it it not, you are still in time to win the most important prize of all: one of three signed copies of that fantastic work of fiction, ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’ because the deadline for entries to the LoveReading4Kids competition has now been extended (by popular demand) to 12 August. So get in now while you’re still in time! Hurry across to LoveReading4Kids to find out all the instructions for how to enter. Those books won’t be there for ever, you know, so don’t miss out!

I understand that if you don’t win a book, you can still pick up a piece of moon rock, though the rumour is that the latest ones don’t come from the moon at all but from a popular range of insolvent garden centres. So that’s hardly the same sort of quality prize as Peter’s mysterious adventures in the Vale of Strange, now is it?

So make sure you win one of those books, personally signed my me, Grimly Darkwood.

And if you win,

a) Don’t forget to read it, and

b) please post an honest review of the book on Amazon, Goodreads, your own blog, or in some other reputable publication, whether in print or online. Most people who read the Vale of Strange books seem to really enjoy them, with lots of five star reviews, but we need more people, kids and adults alike, to spread the word!

Grimly Talks about Stranger Days… plus Books to be Won!

Those really nice people at The Reading Realm app called round for a chat a little while ago (when such things were still possible) and Grimly shared a few thoughts about Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill, the second book in the Vale of Strange series. It’s a really good interview. You’ll find out all about one of the new characters in Stranger Days, Peter’s new friend Mala; how Grimly says you can save the world by asking questions; and what might be coming up in the third book in the series. You’ll find it all on the Reading Realm website here.

And if that wasn’t exciting enough, there’s a chance to win one of three signed copies of Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill! To find out how to enter, visit @reading_realm on Twitter.

And before you go, don’t forget that The Reading Realm app is a great resource to encourage kids to read, with lots of games, extracts from books (including The Shop on Peculiar Hill), and tools to help you write and draw stories yourself.

Right then, that’s it… Good luck in the competition, keep safe, and don’t forget your hat!

More Reviews of Stranger Days

As I mentioned in the last post (which was, ahem, a few weeks ago now but then we’ve all been busy not meeting people and not going anywhere, haven’t we?) Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill has been chosen as one of the lovereading4kids Indie Books We Love. This means it features on the front page of their website, and to add to the excitement, it is also one of their featured books for 9+ and 11+ readers this month, listed together with other titles such as Liz Flanagan’s exciting Rise of the Shadow Dragons and the new illustrated edition of Ted Hughes’ classic story The Iron Man.

To celebrate, we’ve updated the Stranger Days page here on grimlydarkwood.com with all the latest reviews, many of them five star including this one that’s just come in from an Amazon UK customer called JG, who says: “Weird and wonderful escape from reality. Genuinely new and surprising in its inventiveness. I should have been warned about the big spider.

I’m glad you enjoyed it, JG. I’m sorry if you were startled by the spider (and actually there were three of them but maybe you looked away at that point) but we did say that the Vale of Strange books contain monsters, I seem to remember, so I would have thought that was warning enough. Ok, they were actually giant spiders with really strange webs and the kids almost ran out of unctuous splodger so Amanda almost got eaten but it seems to me that ‘warning – contains monsters!’ just about covers all that, doesn’t it?

What do you think? Should we put more warnings on Vale of Strange books? In which case, what should we warn about? “Caution – contains Uncle Bob!” maybe? Or: “This book mentions chocolate cake rather a lot” Or even: “This book may disturb the balance of the weirdosphere!” What do you think is scary in the books? Write and tell me….

You can contact me, Grimly, via the ‘contact Grimly‘ page (see link in sidebar) or just email me directly at grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail.com It will be great to hear from you. While I’m waiting, though, there’s something else I need to work out: if something scares you, should I put more of it or less of it in the next book?

(Don’t forget that as well as reading the reviews on the Stranger Days page, you can ‘try before you buy’. Read two free sample chapters here.)