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…)
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…
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!
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:
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!”
If you missed the great reading of The Shop on Peculiar Hill Chapter One by Ian Eagleton, developer of the terrific The Reading Realm app, you can now catch it on YouTube.
The video is set to start at 14 min and 40 seconds in, which is about where Ian starts reading Chapter One, but the whole video is fun. Amongst other things, Ian reads a poem called The Owl and The Pussycat in sign language plus a snippet of my biography!
Ian is continuing to do readings, quizzes etc while the schools are out, about a couple of times a week at 11am, so do take a look at them. If you want to catch them live, you can find them on the Reading Realm Facebook page.
There was a brilliant online reading of the opening chapter of The Shop on Peculiar Hill yesterday by Ian Eagleton (developer of The Reading Realm). He really brought the characters to life (I mean even more than they usually are!) I wish I could do all those voices like he can. I particularly liked his Mr Grimble…
Anyway, it’s all still online so it’s well worth a look and a listen. The Reading Realm live readings are going out daily at 11am while the schools are out. You’ll find them on the Reading Realm Facebook page.
As well as the readings, there’s lots more entertainment for kids including competitions, quizzes, and a chance to learn sign language. They produced a brilliant Shop on Peculiar Hill themed activity pack yesterday which included instructions for designing your own version of Evil Island! You can find it – along with a full recording of yesterday’s live event (The Shop on Peculiar Hill Reading included) here.
And of course, don’t forget the Reading Realm app for iPad itself, full of lots of excerpts from books (including The Shop on Peculiar Hill) and fun and games to play around them!
That nice Ian Eagleton, developer of the ReadingRealm app, is running a series of live readings and other activities to entertain the kids during these challenging times. Here’s his schedule for the week ahead and I’m delighted to report that Tuesday’s session will include a read along extract from none other than that exciting and mysterious fantasy adventure, The Shop on Peculiar Hill by Grimly Darkwood. Do tune in or synchronise your algorithms or whatever it is you do these days and join in the fun. You will find the live readings over at the Reading Realm Facebook page (as opposed to the Reading Realm Group Facebook page where you won’t find them, this being an entirely different kettle of strange creatures). Ian helpfully points out that the Ebook version of The Shop on Peculiar Hill is currently available from Amazon for just 99p, so if the reading whets your appetite for further strangeness, you know where to go…
Many thanks to Hayley who has sent in some incisive questions about ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’. If you have any questions on the Vale of Strange books which you would like to ask, please do send them in. You can contact us via the Contact Grimly page, using either the contact box or the email address you will find on the page.
Please note that unless you tell us otherwise, we will assume you are happy for your questions to be answered here on the blog. To make it all as simple as possible, please mark your email ‘Questions for the blog’.
Now over to Hayley with the first of her four questions. Grimly himself will be providing the answers (we hope). Grimly! Are you there?
What is the deal with the marmalade? Why does it have crosses on the lid and why do you have turn it anticlockwise 3 times before you open it?
Ah yes, hum, well, (slurps cup of tea) very good question. Thanks, Hayley! The truth is that although the world of the Vale of Strange is very different to our own, it has quite a lot in common with us too. In our own world, we have plenty of so called ‘traditional remedies’ which are thought to fight off illnesses, and various superstitious actions (such as crossing our fingers) which are said to protect us against bad luck. We can’t assume that all of these necessarily work.
It is just the same in the world of the Vale of Strange. The ritual with the marmalade first emerged in the distant past and has been handed down over the years to the present generation of Peculiarshire residents along with unge and glop. These latter are protective substances against strange creatures which are commonly used but for which there is not a great deal of scientific evidence. Unge is placed in a bowl on the dining table but scientists who have studied it claim it is no more effective against bogeys and other strange creatures than a bowl of sugar or a vase of flowers would be.
Glop has a more impressive reputation but is only effective if used properly. You may have noticed that Amanda has never suggested that she and Peter should take plenty of glop in their bags when they set off into the Vale of Strange. This is because you can’t just throw it at bogeys. It has to be prepared in advance. You spread a ring of it around your house a few weeks before the start of the bogey season. Then as the days go by, it reacts with the soil of the ground around it to form a substance called glopthwock which the bogeys don’t like. As long as this ring is inspected every few weeks and repaired as necessary – chiefly reinforcing any sections which have been eaten away by snails (which unfortunately find glopthwock delicious) – the glop will provide a useful bogey deterrent.
Aunt Maggie uses glop of course, not least because she makes it herself, and she and Uncle Bob conscientiously inspect and repair the protective ring around their shop throughout the winter. Some of their neighbours, however, don’t have the patience for this and would rather just have a bogey pole handy to fend off the creatures instead.
Scientists have carried out numerous tests on glop but differ in their opinion as to how effective it is at keeping bogeys away. This is probably because the tests have not all been carried out in the same place, so the strength of glopthwock produced by the soil on which the glop is spread may have varied from one test site to another.
To return to the original subject of your question, however, scientists have paid much less attention to the effect of turning a jar of marmalade three times widdershins etc. There have been only two trials concerning this, neither of which have indicated any deterrent effect on bogeys, but some of the scientists on one of the trials thought the marmalade tasted a bit better afterwards.
Does the strangeness make everyone in the town strange or does it not affect them?
Humans have a very high resistance to strangeness. This is not something which is fully understood. However, the latest theory is that it is due to the high concentration of a substance called mezzrinine in the human body. This substance appears to take in all the available strangeness itself, so blocking absorption into the rest of the body. Humans are therefore unlikely to become strange, even when exposed to very high concentrations of strangeness.
This may be why the unfortunate tourists who get eaten by monsters in the Vale have the effect of keeping down levels of strangeness, strange-hungry mezzrinine being released into the atmosphere as part of the process of digestion – in the same sort of way as cows produce carbon dioxide. But the end effect of all this mezzrinine in the atmosphere is not global warming (as in the case of the cows) but lower levels of strangeness. These lower levels are welcomed by the citizens of Peculiarshire, of course, not because higher levels would make them strange (which they wouldn’t) but because higher levels would encourage the bogeys and other strange creatures to fly nearby and generally make a nuisance of themselves.
I think there will be more about mezzrinine in the third book in the series, which will be out, er, eventually…
Does Peter find a way to keep the strangness at bay without the tourists?
This is a much easier question to answer but I’d rather not do it just here because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, the second book in the series. I will only comment that there may be some progress made concerning this problem, but the proof (as the lifkins would put it) is in the pudding. To find out more, read ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, available now from Amazon!
Do Amanda and Peter end up together?
I was quite amused when another of our readers described Amanda and Peter as ‘the love interest’ in the book. It seemed to me that they were a little bit young for romance, but that is probably just me being old-fashioned! Anyway, I am afraid I don’t know what the answer is because we haven’t got there yet. We are only two books into the series.
What do you think? Do you think they’ll end up together? On the evidence of the first book I would be a little bit scared for Peter if they did. Don’t you think Amanda would push him around? On the other hand, maybe Peter is well capable of standing up for himself. He is very adamant at the end of the first book about not going back to the Vale for instance. But does he stick to that decision in the second book? And if he doesn’t, who is it that talks him into going back into the Vale? Is it Amanda – or somebody else?
So that’s it then. Many thanks to Hayley again for sending in those questions! What would you like to know about the world of the Vale of Strange? There’s a lot of things that aren’t explained in the books. This is your chance to become a Vale of Strange insider. Send in your questions and you could be talking to Grimly here too…
Great to get another recommendation on Twitter for The Shop on Peculiar Hill from those nice people at The Reading Realm. Especially chuffed to be mentioned alongside Abi Elphinstone and Nadine Wild-Palmer, two exciting young writers. Their books featured here are Rumblestar and The Tunnels Below, both worth looking out.
The Reading Realm itself, of course, is a great resource full of games and quizzes to help young people fall in love with the art of reading. Available now for iPod from the App Store. An Android version is on its way. Rumblestar and The Shop on Peculiar Hill are both featured in the App. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Tunnels Below is in the next edition…