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.

The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by Dodie Smith and illustrated by Alex T. Smith (Classic #12)

The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by Dodie Smith and illustrated by Alex T. Smith (Classic #12)


Series: The Hundred and One Dalmatians (#1)
Shelved: Classic (children’s)
Published: 1956
Rating: ★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #12
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

This is my last post for the 2015 Classics Challenge – you can now join the 2016 challenge!

“Like many other much-loved humans, they believed that they owned their dogs, instead of realizing that their dogs owned them.”

Cruella de Vil is enough to frighten the spots off a Dalmatian pup. But when she steals a whole family of them, the puppies’ parents, Pongo and Missus, lose no time in mounting a daring rescue mission. Will they be in time to thwart Cruella’s evil scheme, or have they bitten off more than they can chew?

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
Likely when I first watched the Disney adaptation in the 90s. I’m much more of a cat person, but I’ve always loved the film and adored Dalmatians!

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WHY I Chose to Read It
You picked my December classic and The Hundred and One Dalmatians won (27.32% of the vote). It was included in the poll because I wanted to read this newly-published edition, illustrated by Alex T. Smith.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
It is written by I Capture the Castle author Dodie Smith, a much-loved children’s classic and author.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I was hooked on The Hundred and One Dalmatians from the beginning. I loved discovering all the little differences from the story I grew up with and was surprised to discover that our courageous couple is not Pongo and Perdita, but Pongo and Missus. I was pleased to see that all of the animals in the story still had distinct, lovable personalities.

The Hundred and One Dalmatians is written in a wonderful style. It’s told almost conversationally, and in a way that is incredibly enjoyable to follow. I read it as if I were floating down a calm river or on a quiet jaunt through the countryside. But combined with the tense – and at times quite frightening – scenes that make Cruella de Vil one of the most notable villains in children’s literature, it becomes a brilliant canine adventure. It’s also beautifully accompanied by Alex T. Smith’s gorgeous illustrations, particularly of the puppies!

Even though I adored the story, I was a little disappointed by the attitude towards some of the female characters and the perpetuation of traditional gender roles, even if it was originally published 60 years ago. I was also intrigued by the description of Cruella de Vil (“She had a dark skin, black eyes with a tinge of red in them, and a very pointed nose”) compared to how she’s usually imagined – as a lady with pale skin. If you Google ‘Cruella de Vil’ and ‘dark skin’, you get zero results. Why is this?

Even if a little old-fashioned at times, The Hundred and One Dalmatians is still an incredibly charming classic that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a delightful end to the 2015 Classics Challenge.

“Nanny Cook slept dreaming of Dalmatian puppies dressed as babies, and Nanny Butler slept dreaming of babies dresses as Dalmatian puppies.”

WILL It Stay A Classic
It’s difficult to think of the book without thinking of the film. Would it still be a classic without Disney?

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love illustrated fiction, puppies and children’s books.

“Dogs can never speak the language of humans, and humans can never speak the language of dogs. But many dogs can understand almost every word humans say, while humans seldom learn to recognize more than half a dozen barks, if that.”

Behold the Pretty Books! / September Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / September Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / September Book Haul

Book Reviews: Christmas with the Savages & Lily and the Christmas Wish

Book Review: Christmas with the Savages by Mary Clive


Shelved: Children’s fiction (classic)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: October 2015 (originally September 1977) by Puffin
Pages: 186

Okay, it’s a little late (or early?!) for Christmas stories, but I wanted to share my thoughts on two wonderful children’s books. Mary Clive’s Christmas with the Savages was the perfect children’s classic to read in December. It’s about Evelyn, an 8-year-old who much prefers the company of adults to other children. Evelyn is dismayed when she is sent toTamerlane Hall, a large Edwardian house in the countryside, where she finds more children than she’s ever experienced before – the Glens, the Howliboos, and the Savages.

Christmas with the Savages was a delightful festive read, full of humour. It’s based on Mary Clive’s own experiences growing up – and it was lovely to be transported into this eccentric family’s holiday celebrations. All the children are left to roam the house and gardens, so it’s full of hilarious escapades and antics. I loved Evelyn’s prim and proper opinion on just about everything, from the youngest of children to the Nannies, who can’t quite cope with all 13 children!

Christmas with the Savages is a classic I only discovered this year and I’m so very glad I did. If you’re participating in the 2016 Classics Challenge, be sure to consider this one for December!

Book Review: Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton


Shelved: Children’s fiction (contemporary, fantasy)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: November 2015 by Piccadilly Press
Pages: 160
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

I think festive children’s stories have to be among the best kinds of stories. Keris Stainton’s Lily and the Christmas Wish was a welcome addition to my winter TBR pile. As Christmas approaches, the little town of Pinewood is so excited that they give everyone a wish to hang up on the town’s giant Christmas tree. But a storm strikes and something odd happens. Christmas wishes begin coming true – but for the wrong people! And Lily discovers that her puppy – an adorable pug named Bug – can talk! Can two children and one pug help make everyone’s wishes come true before it’s too late?

Lily and the Christmas Wish is an incredibly sweet story about festive cheer, fun, and family. It was thoroughly enjoyable to see if Lily – accompanied by her younger brother James – could match up everyone’s Christmas wishes in time. And it was heart-warming to see what everyone wished for: some wishes were funny, some were a little sad. Keris wonderfully blends fantasy with reality. Even though there’s a little bit of magic to the story, it’s really a contemporary tale of a sleepy town and the people who live there. A beautifully wintry story for younger children.

Is it also possible for me to get a talking pug?