Radzy’s Review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’

Hi, Grimly here! Yes, I know it’s the first time I’ve shown my face in a while but I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches to my new book ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’. I’ll be sending it off to our publisher, Jennifer, at Journey Fiction any day now so it should be out in good time for Christmas. Don’t forget to put it on Santa’s shopping list…

As you might have guessed, it’s all about the further adventures of Peter and Amanda on Peculiar Hill, this time joined by another young friend called Mala, whose father, the hapless explorer Augustus Flipper, has gone mysteriously missing. Is there a chance that in the course of their investigations they will wander into the Vale of Strange, you may be asking? It may be best not to exclude this possibility.

You’ll be able to read much more about the new book here on the blog in the buildup to publication, so don’t forget to follow us to make sure you get notification of new posts as they come out. You can do this either by email (see the form in the sidebar) or through Facebook. If you have a WordPress account, you can also follow us through them.

To add to the excitement, there’s another new review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ just out, this time by blogger Radzy who writes: “I can only imagine the creative impact this will have on young minds, and cannot recommend this book enough for yourself, the wee ones in your world, or just anyone you know who will enjoy a quirky, meaningful novel.”

As you can tell, she really likes the book and it’s a very thoughtful, perceptive review, well worth a read in full on her excellent blog, ‘Radzy Writes and Reviews‘. I strongly suggest you take a look at it now…

Thank you, Radzy!

Finally, the usual piece of fashion advice: Uncle Bob may say you don’t really need one for bogeys at this time of year, but if you’re here in the UK, you’ll need one to keep out the rain. So do the smart thing and don’t forget your hat!

(This column has Aunt Maggie’s Official Seal of Approval.)

The Shop on Peculiar Hill – three free copies to be won!

Well, with the extra publicity we’ve been getting through lovereading4 kids (as we mentioned last time) we’re getting more people reading The Shop on Peculiar Hill and so, we hope, more people are finding this website for the first time. If one of them is you, then welcome to Planet Grimly, your one stop shop for all things Vale of Strange (though we’re a bit short of unge and glop, to be honest – we suggest you try eBay for them). You are very welcome to ask any questions you may have about The Vale of Strange (just occasionally we may even know the answers) or send us a review of the book or some artwork it has inspired you to create. You will see some of the remarkable artwork and responses we’ve already received if you take a look back through the previous posts. Our contact address is grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail (dot) com

We’re also delighted to announce that those nice people at lovereading4kids have three signed copies of The Shop on Peculiar Hill to give away free! That’s signed by Grimly himself, I hasten to add. It was quite an effort and he had to lie down afterwards. If he ever becomes a truly best selling author (and he’s not quite there yet) he’s going to have to go on one of those army fitness programmes to tone up his hand muscles first. Otherwise he will never cope with the signing sessions. Anyway, just for now his work is done and he’s getting back his strength by munching on a chocolate biscuit and a stick of celery, so the chances are he’ll pull through this time. If you would like a chance to partake of the fruits of his labour then full details of how you can win one of the valuable signed copies he has produced can be found on the lovereading4kids site here.  The competition closes on 30th June, so don’t delay – get entering right away!

It occurs to me, though, that most of you reading this will probably already have read The Shop on Peculiar Hill so you may not be mega excited by the competition. Bear in mind, however, that these are potentially valuable signed copies, so they could be worth a fortune one day – or at least the price of a packet of chocolate biscuits and a stick of celery, in case you too need to recover from an arduous workout. And it also seems likely that you may know some of those unfortunate people who haven’t yet read the book. So here is your chance to bring a little sunshine into their lives by sending them a link to the competition and strongly suggesting they enter. After all, someone – or, more accurately – three people – have to get lucky and one of them could be them!

All right, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading this (assuming you did, and haven’t just cheated by skipping to the end). Don’t forget to spread the news about the competition – and, most importantly – as always! – don’t forget your hat!

A Perfectly Peculiar Page-turner

(Just in case you were wondering, The Shop on Peculiar Hill is available from Amazon UK and other online retailers, in either paperback or Kindle format. For US readers, it is also on Amazon.com, again in paperback or Kindle format.)

Grimly is very excited again today because The Shop on Peculiar Hill just got an excellent review from the prestigious lovereading4kids.co.uk site. Here’s a taste of what they had to say:

“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. Brilliantly bonkers, this perfectly peculiar page-turner comes heartily recommended for fans of Mr Gum and Philip Ardagh.”

– Joanne Owen, review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ for lovereading4kids.co.uk

You can read the entire review on the lovereading4kids site, and you may be interested to see what other books the site recommends. They’re certainly worth bookmarking for the next time you’re prodding around for an entertaining read.

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The Shop on Peculiar Hill is featured on their front page as one of the site’s ‘Indie Books We Love’! It also appears in numerous other lists on the site, including ‘featured books for age 7+’ , ‘featured books for age 9+’ and ‘fantasy and magic books’, where it rubs shoulders with titles by JK Rowling, David Walliams, and the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ books.

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It’s nice to be listed amongst such famous writers. Up until now, The Shop on Peculiar Hill has been mainly getting great reviews but in terms of sales, it’s not been rivalling the popularity of, say, hot cakes, mainly because not many people know about us yet. So we’re hoping that more people will notice us while we’re on lovereading4kids

In her review (see above) Joanne mentions Philip Ardagh and Mr Gum. This is interesting, because Grimly was inspired to write The Shop on Peculiar Hill by reading a Philip Ardagh book which his nephew lent him. This was one of the Eddie Dickens trilogy. Grimly loved the style of the writing and wanted to use a similar style to describe the events in the Vale of Strange that he saw through his telescope. We still love Philip Ardagh. We’re completely new to Mr Gum though. Have you read him? If you like The Shop on Peculiar Hill, you should give Mr Gum a try. His books, which are written by Andy Stanton, are a bit like The Vale of Strange with all the sensible bits taken out  – and I mean that in a nice way.

So if you enjoyed The Shop on Peculiar Hill, what other authors do you like? And who would you recommend to people who have finished Grimly’s first book and are sitting around impatiently waiting for the next (which is due later this year, don’t forget!) Do write and tell us! Grimly’s email address is grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail (dot) com

And finally, if you enjoyed The Shop on Peculiar Hill, do spread the word about it. There are plenty of poor people out there who’ve never heard of us – don’t let them miss out!

And finally, finally, one – two – three, don’t forget your hat!

Strange Vegetables

“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. Great story and I’m looking forward to Book Two.”

– Anne-Marie Reynolds (Readers’ Favorite)

Grimly is very excited about this new review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill‘. He likes it when people choose exactly the right words to describe a book. If in doubt, “Harry Potter” will always do very nicely, though “strange vegetables” comes a close second…

Great Review at Mani’s Book Corner

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We’re pleased to report an excellent five-heart review for ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ at Mani’s Book Corner blog. Mani says: “This is Grim Darkwood’s debut and first novel in the Vale of Strange Series. It’s originally aimed at readers aged 8-12 year olds but after reading it I think it’s a great read for any age.” You can read the whole of the review on Mani’s site here.

You and your family may also be interested in bookmarking Mani’s site to read some of her other reviews. Young Adult books are a particular interest of hers but she would also like to read and review more children’s books such as this one. Look out for the new list of links to Mani’s site and other blogs reviewing children’s books which we hope will appear in the sidebar any day now.

Review by Django

Hi Everyone – We’re pleased to be back with another review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, this time from twelve-year-old Django Ensor, who says:

  • I loved the cute tomatoes
  • I liked all the different strange creatures
  • I liked Aunt Maggie and Uncle Bob’s characters
  • My favourite part was when they went to the Vale of Strange

Django also sent us this brilliant sketch of Uncle Bob’s strange purring tomatoes, pointing out that a purring tomato is likely to look like…. a cat

Django image Purring tomato

Many thanks to Django, who has been one of the first to help us out by reading an advance copy of ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, the second book in the ‘Vale of Strange’ series. The book is still undergoing revision, which is why Grimly is even more grumpy than usual just now, but we hope to have a bit of a foretaste of what it holds in store here on the website soon!

In the meantime, you are warmly invited to send us your own review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, complete with an illustration if you wish. Please use the ‘Contact Grimly’ page or email us at grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail (dot) com

(Please note that by submitting your comments. audios, photos, pictures etc. you are giving us permission to post them online.)

See you soon – and don’t forget your hat!

Review by Lucy West

Hi Everyone – Well, time has been scurrying on without leaving too many posts here on Grimly’s website. so I’m delighted to be able to bounce back with this new audio review of the book plus a quite frankly terrifying picture of a bogey by seven-year-old Lucy West.

Let’s listen to the review first:

Which got us wondering: Lucy says Algernon is her favourite character from the book. What is yours – and why? Would you like to write in and tell us? We’d love to hear from you. It’s probably easiest to use the ‘Contact Grimly’ page, the link to which is (most likely) on the right hand side of the screen. Or you can email us at grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail (dot) com

Maybe you would also like to send us a drawing inspired by the book, just as Lucy has done, though you may find it hard to draw a bogey as scary as hers:

Lucy Bogey pictureHey, where’s everyone gone? Oh, I see. They haven’t left after all. The whole of Team Grimly is hiding behind the sofa. Can you terrify them too? Please send us your monster picture and we’ll post it here…

See you next time then. And remember: don’t forget your hat!

Please note that by submitting your comments, audios, photographs, pictures etc you are giving us permission to post them online. Many thanks to Lucy and her father Graham for sending us these.

A Glimpse of Bogeys

Greetings from all at Vale of Strange HQ! We thought we’d start the New Year by sharing some impressions of The Shop on Peculiar Hill. One of our readers, Janet, sent some great, very spooky pictures of bogeys. You may have seen them on our Facebook page but here is one of them again.

I don’t know about you at home but everyone here in the office is now hiding behind the sofa. These bogeys look very similar to the bogey pictured in the top right of Pete Lyon’s excellent cover illustration (see below) so maybe they’re genuine bogeys. Perhaps Janet went out for a stroll and just happened to have her phone handy when the bogeys flew by. I hope you had your hat with you too, Janet.

This is actually one of two bogeys on Pete’s cover. Have you noticed the other one? If so, can you write and tell us where it is? And while we’re about it, what do you think is peering out of the cellar of the Shop on Peculiar Hill? Have you noticed those eyes?

We shall be excited to hear your own impressions of Peculiar Hill, the Vale of Strange, and the scary creatures which live there. Please write in with your pictures or descriptions and we’ll post them here. (Please note that by sending these in, you are giving us permission to post them here and/or share them online. We will just identify you by your first name unless you tell us otherwise.)

You can write to us at grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail (dot) com or use the ‘ContactGrimly’ form.

Don’t forget you can also share your impressions of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ by leaving a review on the Amazon.com or Amazon UK sites. This is very useful, as it helps to spread the word about the book. You can also leave reviews on other sites such as iTunes and Goodreads.

Grimly says “Hi!” but is too busy to say any more because he is working hard on the next book in the Vale of Strange series, ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill ‘, which is due out later this year and is due to reveal some further secrets about the vale and its inhabitants. Don’t forget to look out for it – and don’t forget your hat!


Fun for All Ages

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Well, we’re in the pre- Christmas rush period now, so everyone’s rushing round to get everything ready for Christmas. This is very important. If everything wasn’t ready for Christmas then people would have to sit around pretending to open invisible presents and wondering who had run off with the Christmas tree. So, it’s very important that all these things get done, including putting in the bit that goes bang in the Christmas crackers. Otherwise they might go pop instead of bang and you might have to somehow struggle through the next twelve months without a tiny screwdriver set or a joke about a reindeer.

Then there’s remembering to order in enough snow and making sure the chimney’s unlocked so that Santa can get down it with all the presents, none of which leaves very much time left over for writing book reviews on Amazon. So after the first gush of five-star responses to ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, there’s been a bit of a quiet time. But a new review arrived just the other day, and the person who wrote it has left some very useful thoughts to share with the other Amazon customers. Here’s what she had to say:

“Question: What amuses a seven-year-old and a seventy-year old for hours? Answer: The Shop on Peculiar Hill. My 7 year old granddaughter and her 70 year old grandfather both loved it. It’s a brilliant book, suitable for 7 year olds and upwards.”

We love that review, especially the bit about it being “a brilliant book”, but it’s also really helpful that this reader has explained how the book can be enjoyed by a very wide age range of people. This is what Grimly and the rest of the team have been saying all along. So if you can’t find a copy of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ around the house to read, it might be because you or your parents have accidentally forgotten to buy one (possibly because you were too busy ordering some other bit of Christmas) or it may be that your seventy year old grandfather or similarly aged relative have come across the book and have now found a spot to hide quietly away in and read it themselves. In which case you may just have to politely suggest that they get their own copy at Amazon UK, Amazon USA, or some other online bookshop of their choice. Or better still, why don’t you suggest that you read it together? That way you can share all the funny and scary bits, chuckling at the antics of Uncle Bob and Aunt Maggie, then hiding under the sofa together when the bogeys come out.

But whether you read it alone or in company, we hope these Christmas holidays provide you with time to read the book if you haven’t already had chance. After Christmas, we’ll be having lots of entertaining chats about the book here on the blog and we think you’ll enjoy those a lot more if you already know the story.

Right then, I hear the jingling of reindeer bells. Grimly says “Ho ho ho!” but he can’t stop and chat right now because we’re doing our test run with the sleigh we’ll be using to distribute the ‘Shop on Peculiar Hill’ flyers planetary wide this evening. Don’t worry – they’re made out of biodegradable Christmas Cake and they burst into flames as soon as you’ve read them anyway. All environmentally sound. “Hey, Mr Darkwoood! Wait for me!”

Merry Christmas, everybody!

(Thanks to Sarah Helen Booth for the photograph.)

Five Stars

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Hi Everyone – If you have read ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ and would like to let other people know what you think about it, you can leave a review on Amazon. Here are the Amazon listings for the book. Scroll down and you will see a button on the left inviting you to leave a review.

Amazon UK site

Amazon US site

Speaking of which, we just got our first review on the Amazon UK site and it’s a good one, giving us a maximum five stars!

This is what the customer who left the review said:

“This is a thoroughly delightful tale about Peter who goes to live with his Uncle and Aunt on the edge of the Vale of Strange – a valley where strangeness oozes through cracks in the earth, engendering all sorts of weird creatures to terrify and, on occasion, consume tourists. The writer, Grimly Darkwood, skilfully treads the fine line between laugh out loud funny and disturbingly creepy to great effect. Despite reassuringly daft names like Bogeys and Heeble-greebs, the bizarre monsters that Peter and his friend Amanda encounter while trying to rescue a missing child, are often genuinely frightening. Darkwood builds up the suspense in the first half of the book very effectively, so that when the two adventurers are finally plunged into the depths of the Vale of Strange there’s a real sense of desperate peril. The sheer scope and barminess of the author’s imagination places this story firmly at the pioneering end of children’s fantasy, and I can heartily recommend it to both younger and older readers alike.”

Pretty good, eh? The review has the title ‘utterly charming and completely bonkers in equal measure’ though we’re not sure if that refers to the book or to the author Grimly Darkwood himself. (Note to Mr Darkwood: “I was only joking. Please don’t sack me, sir!”)

We look forward to speaking with you again soon.

Grimly and the Team