Mini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to Us

Mini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to UsIt’s been an odd few weeks and I’ve been neglecting Pretty Books a little since I moved house. But I’m currently sitting in a local cafe with bookish housemate Charlie and ready to review!

Mystery & Mayhem: Twelve Delicious Intriguing Mysteries edited by Katherine Woodfine

I was excited to see Egmont publish a collection of crime short stories by some of my favourite children’s authors, such as Clementine Beauvais and Katherine Woodfine. In Mystery & Mayhem, we solve baffling crimes occurring in locked rooms, encounter a whole host of canine capers, and more; it’s a fun and varied collection of stories.

I’m sadly not a short story convert (still!) because more often than not, the stories end just as I start getting into them. However, the young detectives are a delight. We get to solve The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls with Lil from The Clockwork Sparrow series, and help Minnie from Marsh Road Mysteries track down which dastardly character destroyed the feathery carnival costume. I might stick to full-length stories, but I’m looking forward to reading more from The Crime Club.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

One of the most beloved Aussie young adult novels, I borrowed Jellicoe Road from Daphne after seeing so many people over the years say how amazing it was. I began reading on a busy tube and quickly decided this wasn’t the way to go. Jellicoe Road is not a story to be dipped into, but one that demands your attention, and one you must devour in one go.

Taylor Markham’s home is a boarding school where disputes between teenagers – the visiting Cadets vs. the local Townies – are rife. It’s at first puzzling and confusing but this passes as we begin to uncover Taylor’s past. She’s struggling with the fact her mother left her all those years ago, and when her friend and mentor Hannah disappears, Taylor is confronted with a lot more. The leader of the Cadets, Jonah Griggs, once again enters her world. Taylor’s story is also interwoven with memories from the past, involving a fierce group of friends: Tate, Narnie, Fitz, Jude, and Webb. Jellicoe Road takes you from bemused to clear in one fell swoop and is certainly a unique one.

London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

I’ve (almost) always lived in London and adore books set here, especially when they’re written as well as London Belongs to Us.

London Belongs to Us takes us on a fast-paced London adventure: 17-year-old Sunny receives a photo of her boyfriend kissing another girl, so she leaves Crystal Palace to find out what’s going on and ends up at Alexandra Palace 12 hours later. It’s an unpredictable, colourful journey that takes Sunny through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho and more. I’ve been to almost every place and with Sarra Manning’s help, could vividly picture Sunny on her madcap journey with French cousins, Jean Luc and Vic – and not forgetting the many other diverse characters Sunny encounters on the way.

I rarely read a book that’s so much fun as London Belongs to Us. It was such a joy to read about my home city in all its glory, not forgetting the gritty parts. As an east Londoner, I enjoyed the attitude to the (so far away) south London and the characters they meet on the way, from drag queens and rickshaw drivers to lead singers and the awfully posh. It’s a delight!

Thank you Hot Key Books and Egmont for sending me two of the above books to review!

Blog Tour: Mystery and MayhemMini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to UsBehold the Pretty Books! / April Book Haul

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Classic #3)

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Classic #3)

Shelved: Classic (children’s, fantasy, science fiction)
Series: Time Quintet (#1)
Published: 1962 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Rating: ★★★
Challenge: Classics – #3
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

This is my third post for the 2016 Classics Challenge – sign up and join 430+ other people in reading one classic each month.

Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure – one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
It’s a children’s classic that I’ve been aware of since joining the book community. It’s super popular in the US, but not so much in the UK. Last year, Puffin got in touch to offer me a bunch of newly redesigned and published Puffin Classics. I couldn’t say no and requested A Wrinkle in Time.

WHY I Chose to Read It
A Wrinkle in Time is not only a highly-regarded classic (it won the 1963 Newbery Medal), but a much-beloved classic. I was excited to finally pick it up.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
It’s a novel that is seen to be for 9 to 12-year-olds and yet tackles highly complex themes. Good vs. evil – illustrated in the story as light vs. dark – and conformity vs. freedom are woven into the plot. It’s scientific and philosophical, and some say religious.

Jean Fulton wrote: “L’Engle’s fiction for young readers is considered important partly because she was among the first to focus directly on the deep, delicate issues that young people must face, such as death, social conformity, and truth.”

“A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.”

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I was intrigued, particularly by the concepts of wrinkling time and tessering; folding the fabric of space and time. Meg, Charles and Calvin are promised that they’ll travel from one area of space to another and arrive back home five minutes before they left. As for the characters, I adored 13-year-old Margaret “Meg” Murray and her younger brother, 5-year-old Charles Wallace, who is both a genius and telepathic. They are the key to saving their father, a scientist studying tesseract, who is being kept on the planet Camazotz.

A Wrinkle in Time is one of the few children’s science fiction classics I’ve read. It’s impressive, challenging and ambitious. As my experience of science fiction is limited to dystopia and post-apocalyptic – and so therefore much easier concepts to grasp – I just about got my head around the science. But I appreciate that it was explained. I attended an event about writing children’s science fiction a few years ago and a comment was made that it’s easier to write for children because there’s less to explain. I’m sure Madeleine L’Engle wouldn’t agree. Rather than simply “travelling through time”, the reader becomes more invested in how this might happen and what could go wrong.

Even so, A Wrinkle in Time was often a little too bizarre for me, as someone who generally reads contemporary fiction. I was hoping that I’d get into the story much more than I did. But I thoroughly enjoyed the personal journey that the children went on and it’s one I’d happily give another shot.

“The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.” 

WILL It Stay A Classic
I’m sure it’ll continue to be popular within in the US, but it may be a little too peculiar to be reintroduced to the UK – but time will tell as a new adaptation is currently being made!

“They are very young. And on their earth, as they call it, they never communicate with other planets. They revolve about all alone in space.”
“Oh,” the thin beast said. “Aren’t they lonely?”

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love science fiction. People who love stories about complex and challenging themes.

“We can’t take any credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts.”

A Book and a Bag / #PackAPuffin A Book and a Bag / #PackAPuffin

Book Reviews: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow & The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine

Book Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow & The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine


Series: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow (#1-2)
Shelved:
Children’s fiction (mystery)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I’m a big fan of middle grade mysteries, so The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow was pretty high on my TBR. I’ve always enjoyed ornate department stores. I love taking my time, carefully discovering the delights each floor has to offer (I must admit, the food hall is a firm favourite). Sinclair’s, a luxury department store in London’s Piccadilly, is the perfect setting for Sophie Taylor’s story.

Sophie is an orphan and young employee at Sinclair’s, determined to track down the violent thief who’s stolen a priceless clockwork sparrow from the store. But an even bigger mystery emerges while on her adventures, accompanied by new best friends Lillian, Billy and Joe. And The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth takes us out of the extravagance that is Sinclair’s and onto the impoverished and grimy streets of early 1900s East End of London, where danger lurks around every corner – particularly the formidable Baron’s Boys, villains we’re introduced to in the first book.

Book Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow & The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine WoodfineKatherine Woodfine’s series is an utter delight, with its intricate Edwardian setting and colourful characters. I loved devouring stories of bonbons and iced buns, beautiful dresses and hats – and even the rich, snobby customers! The incredible setting mixed with our brave and intelligent protagonists make for two marvellous stories. I loved accompanying Sophie and Lil as they cracked codes, duped debutantes, and solved conundrums, secrets and puzzles – not bad for a day’s work! And we meet many more lovable – and even odious – characters along the way.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow series is perfect for fans of Enid Blyton and Murder Most Unladylike. Stay tuned for The Mystery of the Painted Dragon – I’m looking forward to spending more time at Sinclair’s!

Published: June 2015 & February 2016
Publisher: Egmont

Behold the Pretty Books! / January & February Book Haul (Part 2)Book Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow & The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine

Mini Reviews: Graphic Novels

Mini Reviews: Graphic Novels
I borrowed a bunch of graphic novels from the library (read all about that here) and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck into them. Here are my thoughts!

Coraline by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
I must confess that I’ve never read Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, but I have seen the adaptation and have been curious about how it’d work as a graphic novel. As it turns out, it’s wonderfully creepy. I expected Coraline to have bright blue hair and the story to be as whimsical as it is in the film, but the graphic novel is more realistic. I don’t think button eyes and the Other Mother will ever stop being creepy. P. Craig Russell’s illustrations capture the weirdness perfectly!

Blankets by Craig Thompson
Blankets had been on my wishlist for years. I knew it was a coming-of-age story, but I wasn’t prepared for how gritty it could be. The story of young Craig Thompson and his little brother was both bleak and poignant. The story becomes more hopeful as Craig grows older and falls in love for the first time. Even though the religious aspect was a little too heavy for me, Blankets is full of lovely cinematic panels and gorgeous illustrations.

El Deafo by Cece Bell
El Deafo is one of the best graphic novels I’ve read, about Cece Bell growing up with a severe hearing impairment in the 80s after becoming ill. El Deafo is beautifully illustrated and the story is fantastic. Cece shows us what it’s like to not only be unable to hear what’s being said but understand what’s being said. From the difficulties of making friends – especially best friends – to discovering the amazing Phonic Ear, this is a remarkable story about growing up. Cece now has superpowers: El Deafo, Listener for All!

Phonogram, Vol 2: The Singles Club by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
Before I loved books, I loved music. In The Singles Club, each character gets their own comic, telling the story of one night in a dance club, in a world where music is magic – and they are all “phonomancers”. It’s a little odd and I didn’t love all the characters’ stories, but I enjoyed the bubbly Penny B and her love of dancing, The Pipettes, and beautiful boy Marc, who can’t get over his ex. It’s not a favourite, but a fun concept all the same.

The Property by Rutu Modan and translated by Jessica Cohen
I love coming across books I didn’t know about yet end up loving, but it rarely happens. The Property is the tale of Regina Segal and her granddaughter Mica, who return to Warsaw to get back the family home that was lost during the Second World War. The Property is an emotional tale of heritage and family secrets, but with a sense of humour too. I picked it up because I’m intrigued by World War II stories but I got much more: an emotional graphic novel that I continued to think about long after I put it down.

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Ghost World is the story of Enid and Becky, two best friends growing up and growing apart. It’s hailed as “a must for any self-respecting comics fan’s library”. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t a teen in 90s USA, or perhaps I because I just wasn’t like these particular teens, but I found them too pretentious and unpleasant to appreciate what happened to them. Although I enjoyed the occasional panel, the story and artwork didn’t work for me. I welcome graphic novels about what it’s like to be a teenage girl, but Ghost World sadly isn’t one of them.

Have you read any of these graphic novels?

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels

El Deafo

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels

The Singles Club

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels

Coraline

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels

Blankets

Frame illustrations designed by Freepik.

Mini Reviews: World Book Day 2016

Mini Reviews: World Book Day 2016 Books
I had a lot of fun on World Book Day! I work for National Book Tokens, the official sponsor of World Book Day. I spent the day on social media (we were trending!), revealed your top ten heroes, villains and future classics in children’s books, and in the evening, I helped out with TeenFest. One of my favourite things about the annual celebration is the books. Every year, short stories go on sale for £1 and this year I read four. Here are my thoughts!

The Great Mouse Plot by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake
8-year-old Roald Dahl loves sweets. He loves liquorice and sherbet and every other wonderful delight found in the sweetshop he passes on the way to school. But one day, with his best friends, he decides to do something a little cheeky. He plays a mean trick on the nefarious old shop owner and puts a dead mouse her jar of gobstoppers. The Great Mouse Plot was a delightful short story about young Dahl. I’m loving working my way through my Roald Dahl box set and this made me want to pick up Boy: Tales of Childhood even more!

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
Elena has loved Star Wars since she was a child. Her friends aren’t super fans, but she is determined to join the cinema queue and count down the days until Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released. She’s expecting hundreds of fans – it’s the biggest movie of the year after all – but she only meets Troy and Gabe. Kindred Spirits is a delightful story about new friendship and fandom. It has many fun moments – from Elena desperately needing to pee (Gabe to the rescue!) to being quizzed on her favourite characters – that’ll delight any fan. It’s super adorable – but perhaps watch Star Wars first!

Harper and the Sea of Secrets by Cerrie Burnell and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson
I adored Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella so was very excited to see this World Book Day story! In this short adventure, Harper travels to the City of Gulls (in the Scarlet Umbrella, of course!) to help send musical instruments to the Songs of the Sea festival. It was as charming and as a stunningly illustrated as ever. Harper is beautifully accompanied by her new best friends Liesel, Ferdie and Nate – and not forgetting the Smoke the Wolf and Midnight the Cat. Harper is definitely one of my favourite young children’s series. It was an utter delight, as expected. I’m now ready for Harper and the Circus of Dreams!

Spot the Difference by Juno Dawson
Avery has always suffered from severe acne and everyone seems to hate her for it, except her close family and best friend, who have always been supportive. But when Avery manages to persuade her parents to let her try a miracle cure, it changes more than her skin. Suddenly part of the A-List, the most popular teenagers in school, she’s not sure whether is the best place for her. Spot the Difference is another fun contemporary story from Juno Dawson, full of teenagers with attitude, amazing best friends, and messages about being yourself.