Anthology Review: Winter Magic

Hello everybody!

Today, for day 10 of blogmas, I’m going to be reviewing the fabulous Winter Magic anthology, which was released last year. I had so much fun rereading this!

Onto the reviews!

A Night at the Frost Fair by Emma Carroll– WHAT an opening! It’s the story of Maya, whose gran is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and the timeslip adventure at a frost fair she goes on after recieving a mysterious object from her gran. The frost fair was so well described it felt as though it was alive and I was really there, and I thought the paralells between the treatment of Edmund (the boy May meets at the fair) and gran in the present day were really clever.


The Magic of Midwinter by Amy Alward
– a short story set in Alward’s Potion Diaries world, the story is about alchemist Sam’s journey to Midwinter to meet the Svenland elves, and arriving to a surprise. The world felt so magical and well built, I adored the elves (especially Uyuni) and I thought the friendship between Sam and her companion Princess Evelyn was lovely in this. I don’t think it would confuse readers new to the Potion Diaries world either.


The Voice in the Snow by Michelle Harrison
– this revisits some of the characters we meet in the Other Alice, namely Gypsy and Piper. I found the plot of this quite complex for a short story and thought it would have worked better as something longer, but I love Michelle Harrison’s world of sinsiter magic and the fact I got to see what became of these characters. I also really like their relationship and the way that ended up.


The Cold Hearted by Geraldine McCaughrean
– this was the story of Fergal and the mysterious, slightly magical people who help him save his family from under an avalanche. I loved the whimsical writing style and grew attached to Fergal in the short number of pages. It also featured a golden retriever called Summer (which is actually what I’d call my next golden, if I ever get one!) so I have to love it for that reason too.


Casse-Noisette by Katherine Woodfine-
in her beautiful ballet inspired contribution, Katherine Woodfine tells the story of Stana, who has been chosen to dance in the first performance of the Nutcracker. Katherine Woodfine’s writing is so beautiful yet still moves on the story at a perfect pace and I thought Stana was a wonderfully relatable heroine. Finally, the love of the ballet really shines through this, and I adored the bittersweet ending.

Someone Like the Snow Queen by Berlie Doherty– I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It’s about Orla, who has recently lost her dad, as her little brother disappears and she has to set off on a journey to find him. I loved the parallels between this and the Snow Queen, and the slight twists Berlie Doherty put on it. I also loved the overall message of the story.

The Room with the Mountain View by Lauren St. John– this is a wintry take on Rear Window set at a ski resort, where Lexie witnesses an event crucial to the disappearance of a circus star when on bed rest with a broken leg. I love the ensuing mystery and the way it unfolds to a surprising conclusion. This has made me absolutely determined to get to Lauren’s two 2017 releases as soon as possible.

Into the Mountain by Jamila Gavin- this wasn’t my favourite of the anthology, if I’m honest. It’s based on the traditional story of the Pied Piper, but I couldn’t really grasp the plot as a whole and I wasn’t especially invested in the characters.

The Wishing Book by Piers Torday– this is the story of Ethel and a myserious, magical, slightly macabre Christmas gift she was given and how it changes her life forever. This reminded me hugely of Roald Dahl in tone and I really enjoyed it. I also loved the heartwarming ending, which I wasn’t sure was coming.

The Snow Dragon by Abi Elphinstone– what a glorious ending to a glorious collection! Curator Abj Elphinstone writes the story of an orphan called Phoebe (who lives in awful orphanage run by Griselda Bone) as she is whisked away by the magical snow dragon. I absolutely loves Phoebe, who is so brave and determined, and her little dancing dog Herbie, and the snow dragon couldn’t possibly have been any more magical and special. I absolutely must get to more of Abi’s books soon, because this was exceptional.

Thank you so much for reading! What are your favourite stories in this collection, if you’ve read it? (If you couldn’t tell mine are Night at the Frost Fair, Casse-Noisette and the Snow Dragon!) Is it on your TBR, if not? Are you a fan of any of the contributing authors? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx


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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

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 

Guest Post: Quest Reviews

Hello everybody!

Today I’m really excited to have my friend Louise here to write a guest post, reviewing some short stories from the anthology Quest. 

This was set up by the Hay Festival and written by the Aarhus 39- 39 emerging writers under 49 from across Europe, and edited by Daniel Hahn. 

I reviewed  the first half of the collection a few days ago on Louise’s blog , and Louise  also recently reviewed the YA Aarhus 39 anthology Odyssey.

Over to Louise…

Lady Night by Alaine Agirre

This reads like a gentle bedtime story, which is appropriate because it is about three children who are afraid of going to sleep. Wink, Blink and Nod are afraid if they go to sleep, they will never wake up. One night, they follow Sleep’s shadow into a wonderous place. Off all the stories in the Aarhus collections, this stood out as being suitable for the very youngest readers. 

Journey to the Centre of the Dark by David Machando. 

The protagonist wants to always be brave, and protect his little sister. When a monster comes out of her dreams, she says she must take it back to the darkest place inside her mind. The story raises some interesting philosophical questions children start to ask at a certain age – am I here or am I in someone else’s dream? Can I prove this? It was interesting to have this side by side with Lady Night. Machando’s story has a darker tone, but the same reassuring message that fear can be overcome. 

Dagesh And Mappiq Are Friends – Jana Šrámková.

A gentle story about making friends, which was one of my favourite stories. Dagesh is a field mouse with a bad reputation. He wants to turn over a new leaf and make friends, but nobody trusts him. Nobody except Mappiq, who is new to the area.

The pair become friends. When Mappiq hibernates, Dagesh’s new found responsibility is tested to the limits. If he wakes Mappiq early, Mappiq will die. I loved the message of second chances. 

The story is brilliantly illustrated by Axel Scheffler. His illustrations informed how I saw the character, which is always a compliment. I love his animals in Julia Donaldson’s work, and his experience at drawing characterful animals brought this story to life. 

The Day We Left Songstrup by Dy Plambeck

Mikkel is too old to play. He wants to explore beyond the village. Agnes is hesitant, but she goes along with her friends and lets different people in the village equip her for the journey.
This was fun to read, but also worked as a metaphor for the journey into adolescence and beyond. Do you remember being a pre-teen, and feeling wobbly about the idea of leaving childhood? Agnes learns that it won’t all happen at once, and that she’ll have her friends beside her. Songstrup will always be waiting for her when she returns. 

The Travel Agency by Maria Turtschaninoff

I loved Maresi. The community of nuns working to shelter and educate women was a fascinating idea. The Travel Agency is also intriguing. It is set in a travel agency, as you’ve never seen one before. Instead of booking a flight, the customers choose a portal – maybe an object, or a picture if they are feeling wealthy. Turtschaninoff doesn’t tell everything at once. Loads of questions built up in my mind. Why was the girl alone? Did her friend escape?

The Honey-Bee Cemetery by Stefan Bachmann

One of my favourite stories across the two anthologies. I’m a time-slip fan, so Bachmann was already on to a winner, but I love the language, the message and the exploration of historical attitudes. 

Benny moves in with Aunt Lucette, an absent Uncle and two cousins who delight in telling him he’s not a guest, but a burden. Aunt Lucette locks the good rooms a her skeleton key, and puts Benny in the smallest room. Benny can’t imagine anything worse, until he opens the cupboard in his new room. There he finds servant girl Hezra, awaiting execution in a different century. She’s been accused of witchcraft, after she buried some of the Lord’s honey bees. 

The message is lovely – regardless of whether or not they are noticed, the bees continue to buzz. It’s a familiar structure, but it is told beautifully. 

Between the Trees by Katherine Woodfine.

Set in the English Civil War, this is straight out of Du Maurier. A bodice-wearing heroine rides a horse through the forest to escape the Roundheads, and take a message to her uncle. Woodfine is masterful at suspense, and keeps us asking questions. The forest setting was described so well I felt I was experiencing it with all my senses, and I love how the protagonist sees the forest differently now she is no longer treated as a noblewoman. 

The Journey Within – Annelise Heurtier

Aveleen’s father will join the Other Worlds any day. He appears fit, but the tree has spoken, and the tree is at the centre of all things. A new Chosen One must be found, but the tree has rejected every person who has put themselves forward. Aveleen journeys into the centre of the tree to learn who must be the next Chosen One. 

This has a fairytale structure. I loved Aveleen’s development, and how her self-belief grows as a result of her journey. 

Have you read this anthology? What were your favourite stories? If you haven’t read, which stories do you most like the sound of? 

Amy xxx