Mystery and Mayhem pt 1

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m reviewing the first half of the wonderful Mystery and Mayhem anthology, written by a collection of UK authors and published by Egmont. I reviewed the second part of this collection on Book Murmuration  a few weeks ago and Louise reviewed this half here last week.

Onto the reviews!

God’s Eye by Frances Hardinge

While I found this quite different in tone, and much darker, than the other stories within the anthology, I still enjoyed it. It tells the story of Ben; who is assistant to one of two pernickety painters tasked with painting the ‘God’s Eye’ view of London, and what happens when one of them is fatally poisoned. I liked Ben as a character and his unselfish motive for solving for solving the mystery, as well as how the mystery itself unfolds.


The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot by Helen Moss

This is a sublime story set in the Georgian era, which shows that Helen Moss can write an expertly researched page turner regardless of length or the historical era it’s set in. It focues on a seemingly-rich family who are hosting a dinner to impress their elder daughter’s suitor, until he’s poisoned by their prize pineapple! Their servant Quality Fruit and younger daughter Catherine set about investigating. I absolutely adored them as a detective duo, and I thought the mystery was really intriguing. The historical setting was one I’d never seen before, but it felt realistic and the world was well built. The writing style is easy to read and hugely enjoyable; the last line especially made laugh. Finally, I loved the reveal of the culprit as I definetly didn’t expect the story to go in that direction.

The Murder of Monsieur Pierre by Harriet Whitehorn 

The last story in the Poison Plots section tells the tale of shop girl turned detective Angelica as she becomes embroiled in solving the murder of her former boss: hairdresser Monsieur Pierre. Angelica is a gloriously clever heroine, and I also liked that we got told she becomes a famous detective later in life. This is super fun to read as it’s such a melodramatic, madcap mystery (I guessed culprit, but I still had a lot of fun following along till the end). I’m not sure why, but it reminded me of watching Death in Paradise, excpet with child detectives! This has made me want to pick up the Violet books at some point in the future.

SafeKeeping by Sally Nicholls 

As a huge fan of most of Sally Nicholls’s books, I found it interesting to see her turn her hand to the mystery genre. This is a Boys’ Own style story which feautures three office boys trying to solve the mystery of a necklace which has disappeared from the office safe. The narrator is great and has a very distinctive voice. The dialogue and tone appeared realistic for the time, and I also enjoyed the friendship between the three boys. I found the solution of the msytery quite obvious, but I did like the way the detectives came to the comclusion.

The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls by Katherine Woodfine

In this offshoot from the Sinclair’s Mysteries, we see one member of the gang solve a mystery in a theatre. I love a good theatre mystery (especially the Mystery of the Pantomime Cat by Enid Blyton!) and this one was no exception. Woodfine’s prose is as flawless as ever, and I enjoyed seeing things from Lil’s perspective as we tend to follow Sophie during the main series. Finally, I didn’t guess who stole the pearls, and this has really whet my appetite for the 4th and final Sinclair’s book, which came out last week.

The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens 

In Stevens’s first foray into a contemporary setting, she proves that she’s just as excellent at creating a modern tone and setting as she is historical. She also manages to retain the Agatha Christie/Enid Blyton vibes that are so prominent in her Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries. This story is about Jamie, whose family own a hotel, as he tries to work out where the woman who checked in while he was manning reception alone, has disappeared to without a trace and why. Jamie was super endearing (I also adored his dog) and I thought he was a fabulous detective. Finally, I love how clever and complex the solution to this pacy, exciting mystery is, and I’d actually love to see more stories, or even books, in this setting.

Thank you so much for reading! What’s your favourite of these stories? Do you like any of these authors’ standalones? Are you a fan of mysteries in general?

See you soon with a new post, 

Amy xxx

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Guest Review: Mystery and Mayhem pt. 2

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m excited to welcome my wonderful friend Louise to do a review of the second half of the marvellous Mystery and Mayhem anthology. I reviewed part one on Louise’s blog a couple of days ago, and I’m planning to to review this half in the next week or so too 😊

Over to Louise! 
God’s Eye by Frances Hardinge

Newspaper owner Whyte wants a ‘Gods Eye’ view of London. Rival artists Solomon Cork and William Pother are commissioned, although they hate each other so much they refuse to fly in the air balloon together. With Cork flies his young employee Billy. Then Cork falls out of the balloon, and Billy’s friend Susan is arrested on suspicion of poisoning. 

I love the trail of clues in this mystery. It was intriguing enough to keep me reading, and had the perfect balance of believable and out-of-the-ordinary. The set-up gives us just enough people to suspect, and gives Billy reason to care for Susan. Set in the 1800s, it comes across how exciting early flight was. People dream of new possibilities as the skies become accessible to humans for the first time. 

The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot by Helen Moss

It is the 1700s. Ten years ago, a child arrived in England in a crate of pineapples. He came from the plantations, but was kept as a playmate for Lord Catchpole’s daughters. He was named for the words on the side of the crate, Quality First. 

Now Lord Catchpole’s eldest daughter Eliza is engaged against her will to Lord Ponsonby. The pineapple cuttings taken when Quality First was a small child now bare fruit, and Lord Catchpole is engaged in fierce rivalry with his neighbours for the best pineapples. When a pineapple explodes, and a worm bites Lord Ponsonby on the nose, the race is on to find out who put the worm in the pineapple before servant Sam is punished.

Beautifully written. I love Moss’s prose. Her descriptions are so subtle, and often conveyed with action rather than statement. The setting is brought to life through the focus of Lord Catchpole’s obsession with the exotic. As import became wider, new goods arrived in the UK and people became obsessed with the ‘foreign’. Moss shows how what people wanted often wasn’t the real thing, but a very British idea of what another country was. 

This was one of the few stories which wasn’t a murder mystery, and shows how widely the term can be applied. 

The Murder Of Monsieur Pierre by Harriet Whitehorn 

When Monsieur Pierre is murdered, Angelica ‘Jelly’ Beck vows to find out who did it. Was it Lady Osborne, who visited the same evening, or rival shopkeeper Monsieur Leonard?

I found this a little slow-going, but liked Angelica. We are told at the start of the story that she goes on to become a master detective, and the idea that she learned her skills in childhood must be exciting for young readers. 

Safe-Keeping by Sally Nicholls

A necklace is stolen from solicitor Mr Mathieson’s safe, and Mr Contrad is arrested. Young empolyees Billy, Arnold and Stanley set out to find the truth, inspired by the heroes of their favourite ‘tec’ stories. 

The trio of young protaganists reminded me of Katherine Woodfine’s group of young detectives. I LOVE the Sinclair mysteries, so this is positive. I liked how this story was less about the actions which happened, and more about who had the biggest motive

The Mystery Of The Purloined Pearls by Katherine Woodfine

Kitty Shaw’s pearls are stolen from her dressing room. She won’t go on stage without them, to the horror of the theatre producers. Why would anybody steal Kitty’s pearls? 

Did I mention, I love the Sinclair Mysteries? This story is set in the same world. Instead of being told by Sophie, as in the novels, it is narrated by Lil. It was lovely to be back in a familiar world, and to hear Lil’s voice in first person. The set-up is great – a group of people are introduced, and it became apparent that someone’s actions and reactions were a little out-of-sync. A little suspicious

The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens

James Kahn is left on reception one evening in his father’s hotel. He knows he checked Stella Smith in. Knows she wrote her name and went upstairs. In the morning, her name is gone, her room spotless and nobody believes James. 

Could Stella Smith be runaway Andrea Sandford? If so, what happened? Did she simply disappear? And why are the other guests so keen for him to forget he saw her? 

Unlike most of the stories in the book, it isn’t clear whether there has been a murder or any sort of incident until near the end. I love this format. Robin Stevens is masterful as what she reveals when, and I was hooked. It also had my favourite overall line, about adults: ‘they’ve been around too long, and that means they can’t see what has really happened because they’ve seen too much other stuff already’. Brilliant observation.

Thank you so much to Louise for these fabulous reviews! What did you think of this anthology, if you’ve read it? 

Amy xxx 

September Reviews

Hello everybody! 

Today I’m sharing my reviews of all of the AMAZING books I’ve read in September (except for the few I really didn’t enjoy). Let’s get onto the reviews! 😊😊

Going Viral by Amy Alward (recieved from the publisher via Toppsta)

In the 3rd and final instalment of the Potion Diaries trilogy, we see our alchemist heroine Sam attempt to save Princess Evelyn from a mysterious virus and her new husband Stefan (who I found a seriously menacing villain). This book felt a lot darker to me than books one and two, somehow and I found it totally gripping as I read the book in a day. Alward builds the tension of the mystery perfectly and expertly lets the reader in on information throughout, and it`s really interesting to read a POV fully aware of the situation and the dangers and one who is totally in the dark (this was nailbiting material for me at points!). This book also continued to be a fabulous blend of contemporary and fantasy, with a wonderful heroine whose strength and determination I really admired. Finally, I loved the side characters, and even though I had predicted something quite different I liked the ending a lot. 4.5/5
The Matilda Effect by Ellie Irving
In her latest novel, Ellie Irving tells the story of aspiring inventor Matilda as she journeys to Switzerland with her Granny Joss to get the Nobel Prize which has been stolen by a man, but rightfully belongs to her gran! This is delightfully silly and has such a colourful, zany cast of characters who really had me giggling throughout. I thought many of the people Matilda and Granny meet along the way celebrated the good in humanity, no matter how hidden it may be. I was thrilled to learn more about females in STEM through this book, and I feel it balanced the feminist message and Ellie Irving`s glorious sense of humour wonderfully. If you`re looking for a 21st century version of Roald Dahl`s Matilda, look no further. 4/5
The Starlight Barking by Dodie Smith 

In the follow up to one of my favourite children`s classics, Dodie Smith tells the story of the delightful Dalmatian gang as they wake up one morning and discover that all the humans across the world are asleep, and they set off for London to try and solve the problem. This is very much a sci-fi story, which I hadn`t really expected, but it maintained the gentle, charming loveliness that made me fall in love with The One Hundred and One Dalmatians and I had a lot of fun reading the Starlight Barking too. It was amazing to see all of the characters from book one again and to see how some of them, like Cadpig, have changed while others, like absolutely precious Roly have stayed just the same, although they`re all as loveable as ever. Finally, I think both of these books would be really accessible for any children wanting to get into classics as they`re quite short and are at their heart just lovely stories about animals, adventure and the love between humans or their pets (or the other way around 😉 ).
The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

This book is an absolutely delicious read from page one; what more could you want in a book than a feisty but likeable heroine, some dragons and yummy sounding chocolate? This tells the tale of Aventurine, a dragon who gets turned into a chocolate obsessed human by a sneaky food mage, and her struggle with adjusting to human life as she begins work in a chocolate house. This was a very relaxing, escapism read as while the plot moves along at a steady pace and I was most certainly never bored, it wasn`t packed with action and I was never confused by anything that happened. It was also hugely funny in places, and I especially adored Aventurine`s family (especially her grandfather!) as they added so much humour and I`m sure many readers will be able to identify with her sibling rivalries and feeling inferior to her siblings. This reads like the absolute best sort of Disney film in book form (I`d love a film version) and I`m looking forward to the companion novel next year! 4.5/5
The Great Chocoplot by Chris Callaghan

In his debut novel, Chris Callaghan tells the story of Jelly and her family, who live in the town which produces/consumes the most chocolate, and the madness which ensues when a news programme declares that chocolate will cease to exist in just 5 days` time. Jelly decides to investigate and soon finds that the `Chocopocalypse` is perhaps not such a natural disaster after all… I thought Jelly was an amazing heroine and is a realistic role model for younger readers as while she`s brave, she also has a lot of anxious moments throughout and manages to persevere even though she`s afraid. I also thought it was excellent to see working class representation as that is the reality for a lot of young people in the UK. Finally, I thought the subtle mocking of social media hysteria was really interesting and also quite amusing in places. 4/5

The Lights Under the Lake by Sophie Cleverly

In the 4th book of the Scarlet and Ivy series, Sophie Cleverly managed to ensnare me completely from page 1. We follow the twins and some of their friends (and enemies) as they go on a school trip, where sinister incidents begin to take place and suspicion falls on Rose, who rarely speaks. The characters in these books just jump off the page (especially Scarlet, who I love) and I think they`re all well described and feel realistic whether they`re good, bad or in between. Another thing I was very impressed by was that it was really easy to tell whether it was Scarlet and Ivy speaking in the dual narrative without having to check, which I don`t find is often the case. I thought the mystery was excellent as I was initially incredibly smug as I thought the solution was obvious but Sophie Cleverly totally prove me wrong after some spectacular twists towards the end, which left me unable to put this down. I`m so excited to read the newly released the Curse in the Candlelight soon! 5/5

Defender of the Realm: Dark Age by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

In an excellent follow up to Defender of the Realm, we continue to follow Alfie, the new king as he negotiates his new royal duties, especially his role as the secret superhero Defender who fights against the mythical monsters who were the real causes of historical disasters. I loved how Huckerby and Ostler expanded this world in this instalment, particularly when we got to meet royals from another country. I also grew even more attached to Alfie, his friend Hayley and the rest of the crew at the Keep (LC always make me chuckle). I thought the development of Alfie`s brother Prince Richard in this book was phenomenal, particularly as he was such a minor character in book one. This was absolutely action packed, so much so I got a bit muddled about what was happening at some point and I`m really crossing my fingers for film versions as it reads like watching a superhero film. After the dramatic ending, I cannot WAIT to get hold of book 3 next year. 4.5/5

Worry Angels by Sita Brahmacari and illustrated by Jane Ray ( sent to me by publisher in exchange for my honest review)

In this novella for Barrington Stoke, Sita Brahmachari tells the story of Amy-May who has begun to suffer from anxiety after her parents divorce and how she goes to Grace`s art school instead of secondary and meets Rima, a Syrian refugee. Rima`s story was heartbreaking and I loved that this book showed her family as real people, not a problem for the country. Even though they couldn`t initially speak to one another, I still loved her friendship with Amy-May and how it developed throughout. While I did find the writing hard to adjust to at first, it`s absolutely stunning, and I also adored the hopeful, heartwarming ending for the girls. Finally, Jane Ray`s interior illustrations are beautiful and really enhance the story. 4/5

The Taken by Inbali Iserles

In this novel, Inbali Iserles tells the story of fox cub Isla as her whole family go missing and her journey to try and find them. This story is so well written and has vivid description, and I love that Iserles has created a language and full world of their own for foxes as it was so interesting, and it really reminded me of the wonderful Warriors series (which Iserles was a ghostwriter for) in this respect. The glossary at the back was super helpful to keep track of all the different aspects of the worldbuilding. Isla is a wonderful narrator and I felt so sorry for her throughout the book. I also adored her companion Siffrin, who I`m very much hoping to see again in the Elders. I thought that this book perfectly balanced quieter scenes and action scenes, and managed to build tension and drama constantly so that I was always looking forward to picking it up again. The only thing I found slightly confusing were the flashback scenes as even though I loved seeing them it was difficult to tell when it was happening. 4.5/5

The Summer of Telling Tales by Laura Summers

This is the touching and at times frankly terrifying story of sisters Ellie and Grace as they and their mum escape to the seaside from a life of horrific abuse at the hands of their dad. It was so incredibly heartwarming to watch them build new lives for themselves and while I didn`t always understand Ellie`s actions I still liked and sympathised with her, despite preferring Grace`s POV. The sisters were very unique and it would have been easy to tell who was speaking even without the clear formatting. Alongside Grace, I also loved side character Ryan who was so sunny and optimistic, and really supported Grace throughout the novel. This book was such an emotional rollercoaster; I didn`t stop crying once throughout (not joking here), but those were with joy and sadness, and my heart was completely in my mouth during some scenes toward the end. This story and these characters are going to stay with me for a long time and even though it`s now a few years old I`d really recommend trying to get a copy. 5/5

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy ( recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

In her captivating debut, Emily Bain Murphy tells the story of Aila as she moves to a town called Sterling, where an important sense or ability disappears once every seven years (fo example, colouring in). I was enraptured by the world Bain Murphy builds, and I loved the prose, which is stunning but never crosses into being “purple”. I also found Aila to be a wonderful character: she was complex and relatable, but still likeable as our narrator. I loved the sibling relationship of Aila and her brother Miles as it was so sweet but felt realistic and I enjoyed Aila`s romance with Will too. I didn`t really understand the chapters in italics but I otherwise really enjoyed this simmering, slow-building magical realism mystery which felt nothing quite like anything I`ve ever read before. 4/5.

Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink by Jennifer Killick (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

In this delightful middle grade adventure, we`re told the story of Alex as he develops a strange superpower with an even stranger (and definitely stinker!) side effect. I loved this a lot. Alex is a truly loveable main character and his friend Jess was fabulous too. They worked really well as a duo and the banter between them was just brilliant. Their bickering was the source of a lot of giggles throughout this book, and I especially found the scenes with Bob the goldfish hilarious! The superhero plot is fun and silly, with a few twists I didn`t actually expect but I also really liked the way the book shows some of the realities of primary school life too, and how difficult friendships can be at that age. I`m already excited for Alex`s second adventure! 4.5/5

Truly Madly Awkward by Beth Garrod

In the 2nd Bella Fisher book, we see Bella navigate friendship difficulties, her budding romance (or is it?) with Adam, a radio competition that`s piling on the pressure to win a gig from her favourite band for her school and her mum`s new business venture. While I struggled to adapt to the writing style a little at first, once I adjusted I thought the plot was fun and I definitely found myself chuckling constantly throughout! I really liked the radio competition, which was the main plot point of the novel, and I was seriously rooting for Bella to do well and defeat her mysterious rival `Letty`. I also loved how much the characters developed throughout this instalment; I feel like I got to know Bella`s friends much better and got quite attached to them, and I developed a major love for her big sister Jo, who was basically my favourite thing about this book as she was so witty and snarky, but also had Bella`s best interests at heart deep down. My other highlight was the super sweet romance between Bella and Adam and how that progressed in this book. I`m looking forward to reading more from Garrod in the future, and hopefully seeing Bella`s world grow and expand even more. 4/5 

The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud

This was pretty much everything I could have hoped for in the finale to one of my most beloved series; a witty, adventurous romp through the alternate version of London I`ve come to know and love with characters I couldn`t love any more if I tried. This book sees the team tackle a very spooky supernatural case in a theatre (do not, as I did, try to read the scenes with this ghost in them by candlelight. You will only terrify yourself.) and also face off against the formidable Fittes agency once and for all. The book moves at an excellent pace and I totally tore through it, and I was so happy that all of the characters were at their very best for their last outing. The Skull, undoubtedly my favourite character, had me cackling at some of his comments. These books are honestly worth reading just for him! Finally, I was very satisfied by the ending, even though a part of it made me cry quite considerably. If you haven`t picked up this series yet, I highly recommend them, even if you aren`t usually into this sort of book. I`m not, and this has become one of my favourite series of all time over the years. 5/5

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

In her newest release, Holly Bourne tells the story of Audrey and Harry as they meet and fall in love, but for real, not the way it happens in all the movies. Real love and romance film love being vastly different is the theme of Audrey`s Media project and I really liked the paragraphs exploring different aspects of this at the start of some chapters, and also the general exploration of the topic throughout the book as it offered a balanced view on the subject. I thought the characters were amazing; Audrey is so relatable and nuanced and cynical and generally just a wonderful lead (I felt so much sympathy for her family problems and worries about her life throughout, and wanted to give her a massive hug), and even though we aren`t probably meant to I utterly adored Harry too. Their bosses at the cinema, Lou Lou and Ma, were the perfect side characters; supportive to the prontagonists and offering us some fabulous comic relief in places too. Finally, I liked the ending in terms of Audrey and Harry`s relationship even though I hadn`t expected it to go that route, and although I do wish we`d found out whether Audrey was going to proceed with further studies in Media or Drama, this was a superb contemporary that I think a lot of people are going to love. 4.5/5


Thank you so much for reading! What did you think of these books, if you’ve read any? What were your favourite books of September?  I’d really love to hear in the comments below! 

See you soon with a new post 

Amy xxx 

Review: The Soterion Mission Trilogy by Stewart Ross

Hi everybody!

Hope your week is off to a great start. Today, I’m reviewing The Soterion Mission Trilogy. I’d love to know what you think of these books in the comments or on Twitter if you’ve read them. 

Amy x

Continue reading “Review: The Soterion Mission Trilogy by Stewart Ross”

LGBTQIA Read Wrap-Up

Hello everybody! Its the weekend, yay! Today I'm sharing my reviews for the books I read during the #LGBTQIARead, which was hosted from 24th June-1st July by Faye from A Daydreamer`s Thoughts and George Lester (who is one of my very favourite YouTubers). I read some fabulous books during this ( even though I didn’t read everything from my TBR, which you can read here)

Along with the books I`ll be reviewing below, I also reread Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, which I loved even more this time round.

Let`s get onto the reviews!

Continue reading “LGBTQIA Read Wrap-Up”

June Reviews

Hi everybody! Happy weekend!

Today I`m sharing my reviews for the books I read in the month of June (except for the new books I read during the LGBTQIA Readathon hosted by Faye at A Daydreamer’s Thoughts and George Lester.

I read some fantastic books this month, so let`s get started with the reviews 🙂

Continue reading “June Reviews”

Review: Jack Dash and the Summer Blizzard

Hello everyone!

Hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend. Today I’m reviewing Jack Dash and the Summer Blizzard by Sophie Plowden which was very kindly sent to me by Catnip Publishing via Bounce Marketing (which did not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review). Let’s get started!

As I haven’t read the first book in this series, I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this book.

Continue reading “Review: Jack Dash and the Summer Blizzard”