Welcome to my young adult portion of reviews for the month of January. If you want to read the MG post, you can find it here. Onto the books!
Welcome to my young adult portion of reviews for the month of January. If you want to read the MG post, you can find it here. Onto the books!
Today I`m going to be sharing my reviews for November and December. I haven`t read as much as I`d have liked over both, but I have been rereading for most of December so it`s not too bad. Onto the books!
The Fabled Beast Chronicles series by Lari Don
While I initially found this series harder to get into than the Spellchasers trilogy, by just the 2nd book I was absolutely immersed in the story of Helen, a talented fiddler, as her life becomes entwined with the fabled beasts when a centaur turns up at her house and asks her to heal him and their subsequent thrilling adventures. I thought Helen was an amazing heroine; strong, capable and independent, and I loved getting to know the fabled beasts. My particular favourites were Sapphire the dragon and Yann the centaur, but I also enjoyed getting to see more in depth how most of the species lived and their customs through excellent worldbuilding over the course of the quartet. I really hope Lari Don has another middle grade fantasy series of some sort coming soon, as she`s a master of them. 4.5/5
A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan
In her debut novel, Helena Duggan tells the story of Violet as she moves to the unusually perfect town Perfect, and her journey of realising that all is not as it seems. There is a sense of sinister foreboding from the off, and the tension increases gradually until I was absolutely glued to the book towards the end. Alongside the mystery plot of working out what`s gone wrong with the town and who`s behind it, I liked the friendship between Violet and Boy a lot, and them as individuals, and the secondary characters (good and evil alike) jumped off the page. On that note, the worldbuilding was so well done that I felt as if I were actually in Perfect with the characters, and the multi layered backstory was fabulous. I`m not sure where this will go in the sequel, but I`ll definitely be reading to find out. 4.5/5
The Polar Bear Explorers` Club by Alex Bell (illustrated by Tomislav Tomic)
Alex`s first foray into the middle grade genre is, in my eyes, is an example of MG at its very finest. It tells the tale of Stella Starflake Pearl, who longs to be an explorer, as she sets off with her adopted father Felix on her first expedition and ends up separated from the main group along with the three other children of the voyage. I absolutely adored the group dynamics, and each character. Beanie was particularly delightful (he is quite possibly one of my new favourites of all time) but I also liked wolf whisperer Shay (I want to whisper with animals, please), Stella was an excellent leader, and it was so interesting to see how initially hostile Edward developed over the course of their journey. I also fell in love with the different animals and magical creatures the group encounter over the book (except, of course, the baddies) and loved how the book moved from one magical incident to another fluidly and always furthered either the relationships or plot. In case it`s not clear, I was completely obsessed with this book from beginning to end, and I have my fingers very tightly crossed for a sequel (or ten). 5/5
Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn
While I had expected to adore this book, it didn`t quite live up to my expectations. The writing style wasn`t especially to my taste, and I struggled to get to grips with the overcomplicated mystery plot, which never felt entirely linked to me. However, there were also parts of the book I enjoyed more. I liked the main trio, especially main character Lottie herself, and the friendships they strike up, as well as the unique and interesting system of monarchy, and getting to see both the dangerous and glamourous aspects of this. I also liked the ending, which was genuinely surprising and will probably lead me to pick up the second in the series at some stage after it`s released. 3.5/5
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I went into this book with no idea of what it was going to be like, except knowing that it focused on Cameron Post as she grew up in a rural area in the 80s and explored her sexuality as a lesbian. I really liked Cameron as a character as I thought she was resilient, sometimes funny in her narration and strong, while also being flawed, and I also liked some of the secondary characters, especially those she meets during the 2nd half of the book after her aunt takes the drastic action alluded to in the blurb. Another thing I found interesting about the book, although it was a minor inclusion, was that Cameron`s aunt has neurofibromatosis (the condition I`m believed to have, albeit not the type it`s suspected I personally have and she experiences it very differently), which I was quite emotional to see represented in a book for the first time. However, there were also several aspects of the book I really struggled with. I found the first half of the book, which is rather long at almost 500 pages, incredibly slow to the point where I was close to DNFing, and I found the prose too “purple”. Overall, this was a book I learnt quite a lot from, but it wasn`t my cup of tea. 3/5
The Ghost Light by Sarah Rubin
I see very little buzz around the Alice Jones mysteries online, but I`ve thoroughly enjoyed both instalments so far. This book tells the story of Alice, who lives in Philadelphia, as she becomes in another mystery, this time involving sabotage and scary accidents at a local theatre. I love what a clever, independent heroine Alice is, and the colourful characters who surround her from her lovely journalist dad to arrogant film stars starring in the seemingly cursed, haunted play. I also thought the conclusion to the mystery was interesting as I only partially guessed the culprit, and there were several surprises. I did, however miss the presence of Sammy from the Impossible Clue, and thought the book felt quite different in tone too, but overall I think these are definetely underrated and I’d like a few more in the series. 4/5
The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters
After having this recommended to me, I decided to pick it up and give it a go. I found it initially quite hard to get into and connect with narrator Hannah, but I soon did and was swept up in this contemporary middle grade tale of a girl trying to save her family`s farm from being sold when the landlord bumps up the rent, while also putting on a play. It has the same whimsical, modern classic feel that Natasha Farrant captured in the Bluebell Gadsby series, and it features a large group of siblings. I loved that things weren`t perfect between the family in the slightest but they were still always there for each other and the gentle humour sprinkled throughout the book. I worried desperately about the characters till the end as there were so many twists when I thought they were nearing a happy ending, though I did love the one they eventually got. 4.5/5
Hole in the Middle by Kendra Fortmeyer
After seeing an excerpt from this book, I knew I wanted to read it, but the reality was very different to what I`d imagined. I didn`t find the book anywhere near as funny as I`d hoped, though I did find the plot of Morgan`s treatment for the hole in her torso interesting. I also liked the romance between her and Holden, as despite it being an odd addition after their initial reaction to one another they shared some lovely moments. Another element of the plot I enjoyed was the way the media treats Morgan, and finally the dysfunctional relationship between Morgan and her mother. I was less keen on the aspects previously mentioned, Morgan`s narrative style and the rather abrupt ending. 3.5/5
Rocking Horse War by Lari Don
After loving both the Spellchasers trilogy and the Fabled Beast Chronicles, I had high expectations for Rocking Horse War and it delivered. While I initially struggled to get into it, and I hadn`t realised for some reason it was set historically, I was very intrigued by Pearl`s story of waking up one morning and discovering her troublesome triplet siblings gone. She becomes tangled up in mysterious magic, and must battle to take the triplets home. I liked Pearl a lot; she was so determined and focused, and never gave up. Another thing I thought was great was that we got to see the impact of the first world war on a family, which isn`t especially common but I find fascinating. Finally, as always, Lari Don`s worldbuilding and magic system was exceptionally well done, particularly as we are learning more about it along with Pearl gradually so it never feels like an infodump despite the small page count. 4.5/5
The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge
This was a lovely read, and I`m so glad I finally picked it up. It tells the story of Albie, whose mum has just died, and his experiment with quantum physics to try and find a universe she`s still in. It was a slice of life style format where we see a few hours in the lives of Albie`s counterparts (my personal favourite of which was Alba) and I found it such an original, clever idea. I also thought that Albie was a really sweet character, and unusually for me I actually grasped most of the science and never found it to overwhelm Albie`s journey. I definitely want to read more from Christopher Edge in 2018. 4.5/5
Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
Vashti Hardy`s debut is so incredibly special, and I can`t wait for everyone to be able to read it. It`s about twins Arthur and Maudie as they set off on a skyship adventure and attempt to clear their dad`s name of stealing fuel from another ship on his last expedition. I absolutely loved the twins, and their relationship with one another, and I thought the secondary characters added to the story marvellously. The thought wolves, especially gentle, noble Tuyok were simply incredible, and more than one part of this book left me breathless and in tears because I fell so hard for this world and these characters. Another addition I liked hugely was that it championed STEM, and I was impressed with it tackling disability, a real rarity in fantasy worlds, with Arthur only having one arm. I guessed a twist or two but I still had quite a few surprises, and after the conclusion I`m already desperate for the sequel. 5/5
The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher (illustrated by Shane Devries)
I`ll admit I was pretty sceptical going into this, seeing it`s by a celebrity author, but the overwhelming praise in the bookish community and shiny, pretty gold cover convinced me to pick it up, and I`m really glad I did. It`s the story of William Trundle as he faces ableist bullying at school until he receives a magical (and unintentional) Christmas gift from Santa that changes his life. I really liked William as a character, and the way his disability is portrayed, and I also had fun getting to know the multi layered secondary characters. Shane Devries` illustrations were a fantastic addition, and the book zips along at a great pace. My absolute favourite bit of this book, though, was the superb worldbuilding of the North Pole, which made this a truly magical read and I think children would adore it. 4.5/5
Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review
Having been excited for this book since the day it was announced, I was absolutely thrilled when it came through my door. I was gripped by the story of Magpie, a young orphan/pickpocket living in France as she becomes unexpectedly involved in a bid to become the first country to fly a hot air balloon. Emma Carroll`s writing is as beautiful and lyrical as ever, and never falls down the trap of going too far with this in favour of advancing the plot. I also adored Magpie as a character as she was so brave, clever and really deserving of the happiness she finds by the end, as well as her friend Pierre and the incredibly sweet animals; Coco, Voltaire and Lancelot. I got through this in two sittings despite having very little time to read at the time, as I couldn`t wait to see what would happen next. I`m so excited for Emma`s next book already! 5/5
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Are any on your TBR? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!
Today, I’m finally sharing my reviews for the month of October, except for the couple of books I didn’t enjoy. Without further ado, onto the books!
The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix by Kate Saunders
In this return to the magical world we first visited in the Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop, Kate Saunders sends Oz, Lily and Caydon on a new adventure to protect Britain from magical terrorists. Even though the chocolate shop and magic related to chocolate didn`t feel as prominent in this instalment, I still really enjoyed what we did see of it. In addition, I found the time travel element of the plot really confusing and ended up a bit lost for part of the book. However, I feel that the real strength of these books is the characters as there is a really likeable main trio and I liked all of them individually as well as their dynamic as a team. I also thought new character Silver was an excellent addition and she actually ended up becoming my favourite of the children. I wasn`t just as keen on the villains in this book in comparison to first, but they were still suitably scary, and Alba was especially sinister. My absolute favourite characters had to be Demerara the cat and Spike the rat who were so sweet and funny. 3.5/5
Vlad the World`s Worst Vampire by Anna Wilson, and illustrated by Kathryn Durst
In this utterly lovely younger middle grade book, we follow Vlad, a young vampire who is struggling so much with his vampiric studies that he decides to give human school a go instead, with some interesting results. This was really gentle but also well paced; it was a one sitting read for me mainly due to its length (between 150 and 200 pages), but also because I was so immersed by Vlad`s world I didn`t want to put it down. The book`s humour also appealed to me- I was chuckling constantly. Vlad`s fabulous pet bat Flit was the source of much of this; he was totally hilarious. Finally, Kathryn Durst`s illustrations added so much to my already extremely positive view of this book as they truly brought the story and the characters to life. I couldn`t have been more overjoyed when I discovered a few days later that there`s going to be a sequel in a few months! 4.5/5
Countless by Karen Gregory
In her important and topical debut, Karen Gregory tells the story of Hedda, a teenage girl with anorexia as she falls pregnant and her life changes as she calls a truce with the disorder (which she calls `Nia`) for the duration of her pregnancy. While I can`t speak for the accuracy of the anorexia portrayal myself, it came across as well researched and realistic, and also gave insight into Hedda`s mind and how the disorder can manifest in a sensitive way. It also never felt sensationalised. Hedda was a wonderful, brave character who I definetly sympathised with throughout the novel. I loved how much she developed throughout and became a very different person for her baby. I actually found this true of all the characters, for example Hedda`s family (who I found frustratingly unsupportive at times, and were excellently portrayed as it shows not all people who face challenges like this have a support system). Considering the book takes place over a long period of time, this seemed true to life. Another thing I found interesting in this book was that we actually got to see Hedda have her baby and adjust to life as a mum, which I don`t remember ever seeing before in a book about a teen pregnancy. The only thing I`d have liked slightly more development in was what led Hedda to develop anorexia as it was only briefly touched on but I would have been interested to Finally, the ending broke my heart in some ways but also put it back together in others, and I liked the hopeful note on which we left Hedda a lot. I`m looking forward to seeing what Karen Gregory writes next. 4/5
The Spellchaser Trilogy by Lari Don
In this middle grade fantasy/magical realism trilogy, Lari Don tells the story of Molly, a girl who has been cursed into shapeshifting into a hare, as she meets other cursed characters and works with them to reverse the curses. First of all, the worldbuilding is phenomenal. It`s well explained and detailed, but never info dumps, and I adore the magic system and idea of curses being so important to so many magical groups. The characters were also well developed and really interesting. My personal favourites were Beth the druid and Atacama the sphinx, but I rooted for all of them (except the horrible baddies!) in lifting their curses and beyond. The plot of the trilogy worked fabulously as well; it was never predictable and I loved all the shocks and surprises that the team faced, and it`s the best constructed trilogy I`ve ever read. There was a standalone plot to each book that kept me interested, and also longer threads interwoven throughout, which weren`t resolved till book three and therefore, made that very satisfying. 5/5
Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
In her first book after the end of the How to Train Your Dragon series, Cressida Cowell tells the story of Wish and Xar, who are from opposing warring tribes, as they meet and go on an adventure together. I found it incredibly slow paced and considered DNFing more than once, but it did pick up slightly in the second half, and I also enjoyed the construct of the mysterious narrator. I also found the main characters quite difficult to connect to, particularly Xar, although I did love a few secondary characters rather a bit (namely Caliburn and Squeezjoos). Another high point was Cressida Cowell`s stunning illustrations. I especially adored the wolf drawing, which is around page 116 I think. I doubt I`ll be continuing with this series, but I`m thinking about giving How to Train Your Dragon a chance as it sounds fantastic. 3/5
Editing Emma by Chloe Seager
In her laugh out loud hilarious debut, Chloe Seager introduces us to Emma, a 16 year old who has just been `ghosted` by her sort-of-boyfriend Leon, as she dips her toe back into the dating pool in a bid to improve herself, while also tackling friendship drama and family problems. I found this similar to the humour in the Electra Brown series by Helen Bailey (which I adored), and I snorted more than once. I adored the characters in this huge amounts. Emma was such a relatable main character, but I also loved her best friend Steph and madcap mum. The only thing I found slightly difficult was the short chapters as it was slightly jarring as it was hard to tell where I`d left off, but as this was such a fast paced, fun read and I got through it in a few sittings it wasn`t too big a problem! I can`t wait to see what Emma gets up to in book two… . 4.5/5
Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
In a dazzling debut novel, Jessica Townsend writes the story of cursed child Morrigan Crow, as her predicted date of death arrives and she is saved by enigmatic Jupiter North and taken to the magical land of Nevermoor to compete in trials for a place in the Wundrous Society. I was gripped from the first page and constantly desperate to read on throughout due to the perfect pacing, and I thought the worldbuilding was utterly exceptional. I loved getting to know Nevermoor and its customs, and I especially enjoyed the Christmas scenes. Though I guessed the conclusion to the mystery of the book partially, there were still some shocks and twists I hadn`t anticipated, and it`s left me so excited to see where the story will go in the next book. Finally, the characters were also incredible. I loved Morrigan, who was a heroine I could get behind absolutely, her mentor Jupiter and his many eccentricities and her friends Hawthorne and Jack. My very favourite, however, was undoubtedly Fenestra the Magnificat, who was so feisty and funny and fabulous. I`ve been anticipating this book eagerly for around a year, and it didn`t let me down. A future classic for sure, in my opinion. 5/5
The Witch`s Kiss by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr
From the very first page of this, I was intensely invested in Merry and her story. Merry is a teenage witch who isn`t very interested in powers, as she becomes embroiled in protecting her town from a terrible magical danger and falls in forbidden love while trying to defeat the enemy. The standout thing in this for me was the sibling relationship between Merry and Leo; they felt realistic and never overly mushy, but also have each other’s` backs no matter what. I also loved the blend of contemporary and fantasy, as well as the dual timeline (I was equally interested in both time periods, which I`m not usually), and this doesn`t feel quite like anything I`ve ever read before. I did get slightly muddled during the very fast paced climax, but I liked the resolution and overall, I really enjoyed this. 4.5/5
The Witch`s Tears by Katherine and Elizabeth Corr
In this excellent sequel to the Witch`s Kiss, we see Merry on a new adventure when her gran goes missing and odd, dangerous events begin to take place, and she has to work out what`s going on, while also trying to fit into a coven and deal with other issues. I found it very different in tone to the first book, and if anything I actually preferred it as it read more as a mystery with fantasy/contemporary subplots to me, and I adore mystery books. I also liked how much the characters, especially Merry`s wonderful big brother Leo, changed and developed, and that even though this was mainly a different story we still saw the effects of book one on their lives. I enjoyed getting to see new characters too, and I love Finn in particular. After THAT ending, I`m dying to get my hands on book 3, and if you love any of the genres I`ve mentioned that I think this books fits into, I strongly recommend you pick them up. 4.5/5
The Eye of the North by Sinead O` Hart (received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)
In this mesmerising, magical adventure, we meet Emmeline and follow her on her journey to the North to rescue her kidnapped parents. The characters in this book are amazing. Emmeline`s sidekick Thing was so sweet and such a good friend, and I adored him, and I thought that the other main secondary character Sasha was wonderful too. Emmeline was one of my favourite heroines in ages, possibly of all time; I saw a lot of similarities between us and I thought she was just an imperfect heroine trying her very best, which I love. I really liked being able to see all the characters when they weren`t together at some points, even though some of the switches were quite sudden. The world was all-enveloping, and I felt like I was journeying alongside the characters. I want my own ice horse immediately, though I wouldn`t like to run into the super sinister villains that O Hart has created. I`m so very hopeful for a sequel someday soon, particularly after an event in the climax that made me cry buckets and the lovely ending. 4.5/5
The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine
In the fourth and final book of the series, we see Sophie and Lil attend a Winter Ball to solve a mystery there, and finally discover the identity of the notorious Baron. It was fast paced and most intriguing, and it was wonderful to see snippets of Christmas at Sinclair`s Department Store, which made me feel really festive even though I read it in October. It was also fun to see how all of the main quartet have grown and changed since The Clockwork Sparrow, and I loved that many of the minor characters were brought back in this book too. Woodfine`s writing continued to be as elegant as ever and brought her world to life, and made me want to jump into it in many places. Finally, I thought the conclusion of the series`s arc of the Baron was phenomenal, and there were some gasp-worthy moments in the last few sections of the books (which are split into parts, with titles, and each new one has a stunning Karl James Mountford illustration to signify it). 4.5/5
Goodybe Perfect by Sara Barnard (received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)
In my opinion, Sara Barnard`s third novel is her best to date, which I didn`t think I`d say as a huge fan of both Beautiful Broken Things and A Quiet Kind of Thunder. It`s the story of Eden as her best friend runs away with her boyfriend (her music teacher). I found it interesting to read about a teacher-pupil relationship from the point of view of a friend, as I haven`t seen this before, and I love Barnard`s character focused writing, that keeps me completely hooked even though the plot isn`t full of action. I devoured Goodbye, Perfect in a single afternoon. Eden was a glorious main character. She was so misunderstood in places and I was behind her all through the book. I found living in her head for a few hours amazing; and some scenes (such as those with Bonnie`s mum) really made me laugh. I also adored some of the side characters, in particular Eden`s sister Valerie and her boyfriend Connor (I loved that their relationship was prominent, but didn`t go through any issues. I can`t remember seeing anything like that in another book). In short, this book was stunning in every way imaginable and made me go through so many emotions in a relatively short amount of pages, and I highly recommend picking up a copy come February. 5/5
The Rise of Wolves by Kerr Thomson (received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)
In a lyrical, exciting middle grade mystery/contemporary, Kerr Thomson tells the story of Innis, a boy who lives on Nin in Scotland as he decides to try and jump the Bonnie Laddie`s Leap in order to become Laird of Nin and not have to move due to his grandfather`s deteriorating health, while also trying to work out why there are wolves on the island and why they`re so interested in him. I thought Innis was a lovely, yet still flawed, main character and I felt really sympathetic towards him when things were tough. I also enjoyed his friendship with Kat (who was such a fabulous character in her own right; a very strong female), and how his relationship changed throughout with moody, mysterious Lachlan Geddes, who is somehow linked with the wolves. I felt like I learnt some new things from this (namely about the history of Nin and wind turbines) and I`m an absolute sucker for island settings, so I was guaranteed to fall in love with this book). The only thing I`d have liked was for the book to have continued on a little longer after the end, but I suppose it had to end somewhere 😉 . I`ll be seeking out the Sound of Whales soon! 4.5/5
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.
Safe–Keeping 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,
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 😊
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?
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
Today, I’m incredibly excited to be part of the blog tour for Ruth Lauren’s Prisoner of Ice and Snow. I read this back in July, and I’ve been super excited for today ever since, as I really couldn’t have loved it very much more! Huge, HUGE thanks to Faye Rogers and Bloomsbury for allowing me to be part of this tour!
Let’s get onto the review!
*I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
In her debut novel, Ruth Lauren transports us to the wintry kingdom of Demidova, where we meet heroine Valor, who has got herself put into prison so she can break her sister out.
Valor is a fantastic character as I really rooted for her, and I also love the supporting cast of the other prisoners who joined the escape attempt as they all felt well rounded and fairly unique, which isn’t always the case with ensemble casts. The book also featured some absolutely chilling villains.
This is super fast paced (and quite a short book), and there was almost constant action that made me want to keep turning the pages. There were some major twists and turns, and they’ll leave you not quite sure of which characters you can trust.
As well as excellent characters and plotting, the worldbuilding is exceptional. Demidova felt multi faceted and I loved it as a fantasy world.
Finally, I thought the actual writing was brilliant. It struck the perfect balance for me of good prose/exciting imagery and keeping the plot advancing.
I’m unbelievably excited for the sequel to this next year, as it’s by far one of my favourite books this year.
Valor is under arrest for the attempted murder of the crown prince. Her parents are outcasts from the royal court, her sister is banished for theft of a national treasure, and now Valor has been sentenced to life imprisonment at Demidova, a prison built from stone and ice.
But that’s exactly where she wants to be. For her sister was sent there too, and Valor embarks on an epic plan to break her out from the inside.
No one has escaped from Demidova in over three hundred years, and if Valor is to succeed she will need all of her strength, courage and love. If the plan fails, she faces a chilling fate worse than any prison …
An unforgettable story of sisterhood, valour and rebellion, Prisoner of Ice and Snow will fire you up and melt your heart all at once. Perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Cathryn Constable
About the author
Ruth Lauren lives in the West Midlands in England with her family and a lot of cats. She likes chocolate, walking in the woods, cheese, orchids, going to the movies, and reading as many books as she can. She’s been a teacher and worked in lots of different offices, but she likes writing best. Prisoner of Ice and Snow is her debut novel.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!