Grimly’s Blog

Dr Who Online Review

It’s been a while since we’ve had a new review of the Vale of Strange books, so it’s great to see this very positive newly published assessment of The Shop on Peculiar Hill from Sebastian J Brook, Site Editor of the entertaining and comprehensive website, Dr Who Online. He told me: “I have to commend you on a truly fantastic book. I mean this when I say it’s one of the best Children’s Fantasies I’ve read in a loooong time. It’s up there with Lemony and JKR – seriously!”

What a nice guy! I think I might leave that summary lying around in a few places. You can read the full review here. And while you’re about it, why not stop and take a look at all the latest Dr Who news? (Did you know John Bishop was joining the cast?) There’s a lot to read on there. As Sebastian explains, the site is “bigger on the inside”…

Clever people, those Time Lords…

Nen and the Lonely Fisherman

Mr Ian Eagleton, inventor of the celebrated Reading Realm gadget for use with those infernal iPlod devices which everyone seems to use these days, has been kind enough to speak well of my Vale of Strange novels on several occasions, so I am delighted to be able to reciprocate here with some very well deserved words of praise for his own magnificent book, which by all accounts has been flying off the shelves as fast as he can squeeze it out of his exceptionally vivid imagination.

When I was young, my aunt had an apron which was covered in pictures of the seaside. She held me in goggle-eyed fascination as she showed me what she said was the house she used to live in and the street leading down from it to the beach, with its row of multicoloured changing huts, and the nearby harbour where the fishermen landed their catches and mended their nets. James Mayhew’s illustrations for Ian Eagleton’s fabulous fable ‘Nen and the Lonely Fisherman’ seem likely to have a similar power to enchant, their windswept multi-hued blues and contrasting patches of golden yellow providing a memorable setting for the story of the merman Nen and his new friend Ernest the fisherman, who come together across a great chasm of loneliness and differentness to find happiness together.

It’s a story of triumph over adversity, hope in the face of despair, of what can be done if we follow our dreams and don’t give way unnecessarily to the fears of those such as Nen’s father, who – it turns out – may have just a little more advice to share then they have of wisdom.

One of my favourite parts of the book is where we see the deep sea angler fish, which have always terrified me with their bulging mouths full of sharp pointed teeth, each of them dangling an illuminated fishing rod from their mouths to ensnare their unwary prey. But on this occasion the angler fish themselves have to flee in terror when Nen’s father Pelagius unleashes a great tempest upon the ocean, and their gruesome mouths gape open in fear as they try to escape. (Serves them right for scaring us all…)

I guess you could argue that this whole book is about emerging from darkness to live in the light. It has many issues to raise about our attitude to others, how we treat our planet, and our right to lead the kind of life that we want to lead. I think we may find that children have plenty to say on these matters – and I would guess they may have even more to say after reading this splendid book.

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Shout Out Time…

“Here is your chance to celebrate some brilliant but overlooked books,” tweeted Andrew Rough a few days ago, and many thanks to the ever-supportive Ian Eagleton for choosing The Shop on Peculiar Hill and Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill amongst his responses. He also selected The Tunnels Below by Nadine Wild-Palmer (which is on my Kindle and will probably be even more exciting if I actually get round to reading it, which I am DEFINITELY GOING TO DO NEXT) and also a new book to me, The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas and Erin E Stead.

Ian himself has an exciting week coming up because his own book Nen and the Lonely Fisherman (with illustrations by James Mayhew) is released on June 1 and there’s also an Instagram reading of the book by none other than Stephen Fry on 29 May!

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…