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

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

Book Review: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.G. Chester

Book Review: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.G. Chester


Series:
The Curiosity House (#1)
Shelved:
Children’s fiction (fantasy, mystery)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Challenge: Halloween TBR – #4

I’ve enjoyed two of Lauren Oliver’s middle grade novels before – Liesl & Po and The Spindlersso I was quite excited to see that she had written another. It’s the first in The Curiosity House series and was perfect to add to my Halloween TBR. However, I did make the mistake of picking it up straight after reading The Diviners. Both feature an intriguing museum, mysterious murders and characters with unusual abilities. This similarity meant that I was often mixing the two up! But my favourite thing about The Shrunken Head is the wonderful child characters and the message that just because you’re different, doesn’t mean you need to be ashamed.

The Shrunken Head features four extraordinary children: Philippa the powerful mentalist (she can guess what’s in your pockets!); Sam the world’s strongest boy; Max the knife-thrower; and Thomas, who can squeeze himself into a tiny spaces. They adore working at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, and are extremely proud of their abilities. That is, until their prized show-stopper – an Amazonian shrunken head – is stolen from the museum. After a string of brutal murders, the press start spreading lies about the children. Everyone believes it’s the curse of the shrunken head and the child ‘freaks’, so it’s up to Philippa, Sam, Max and Thomas to discover the real culprit!

The Shrunken Head is a delightful and dark children’s mystery from Lauren Oliver and H.G. Chester. I’d have loved even more illustrations – one of my favourite things about children’s books! – from Benjamin Lacombe. They were enchanting and brought the story to life. As with The Diviners, I would have preferred the story to be a little shorter – I like my mysteries shorty and snappy! Nonetheless, it’s a story well worth reading for it’s incredible, feisty protagonists!

We get to see the exciting adventure from each of the children’s points of view. They’re all very unique and talented, even if they’re coming together for one cause. Max is possibly my favourite of them all. She’s so incredibly blunt and has an amazing sense of humour, and is extremely loyal and trustworthy! All of the children were wonderful and yet are often treated as outcasts, but the message of The Shrunken Head is a powerful one: it’s okay to be different.

Published: September 2015 (US) October 2015 (UK)
Publisher: HarperCollins (US) Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Pages: 368
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Books On My TBR / Halloween

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray


Series:
The Diviners (#1)
Shelved:
Young adult fiction (fantasy, historical, mystery, horror)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Challenge: Halloween TBR – #3

I’ve owned The Diviners for over 3 years and I finally picked it up as part of this year’s Halloween reads. Hurrah! I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this 1920s murder mystery. Evie O’Neill’s secret ability has led her from small-town Ohio to sparkling New York City, full of speakeasies and Ziegfield girls. She’s living with Uncle ‘Unc’ Will at the Museum of Creepy Crawlies when she befriends a whole host of alluring characters: Sam, Jericho, Mabel and Theta, all with their own credible histories and drawn by beautiful writing. Together they attempt to solve the murders before it’s too late.

The mystery of creepy Naughty John was certainly an experience. Libba Bray has an impressive ability to make it as eerie as possible – from our opening chapter, where we’re introduced to something terrible being unleashed, to the chilling points of view of the victims before they’re murdered. She presents New York as somewhere dark and dangerous, but also intriguing.  Although I’ve never been a superfan of 1920s America, it was difficult to resist. It was compelling and magical and sinister, with scary things lurking in the shadows. I couldn’t help but be drawn to it – by both the glamour and the grittiness.

The Diviners is wonderfully crafted, with incredible detail. We’re told so much about the time, the characters, and the mystery. The reader accompanies Evie and friends on their investigation into the gruesome, brutal murders occurring across the city, with links to religion and the occult. If I had any reservations at all, it would be that I’d have preferred the story to be ~200 pages shorter to tighten it up and make it a little more fast-paced, which appeals to me as a slow reader. But this extra time did mean that we got to delve into the characters’ complicated pasts. It enabled Libba Bray to bring 1920s New York City to life.

The Diviners is a stunning mystery that takes us back to the Roaring Twenties and the supernatural horrors found there. I’m looking forward to meeting new Diviners and a new mystery in Lair of Dreams.

Published: September 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (US) Atom (UK)
Pages: 592

Books On My TBR / HalloweenBooks On My TBR / Halloween

Book Review: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Book Review: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Series: Lockwood & Co. (#2)
Shelved: Children’s fiction (fantasy, paranormal – ghosts, mystery, horror)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Challenge: Halloween TBR – #2

I forgot how much I love Lockwood, George and Lucy. They’re one of my favourite trios in children’s fiction at the moment, rivalling the most famous of them all. Each character shines, from Lockwood’s inexplicable ability to act and think both like a teenage boy and an old man, George’s chaotic dedication to researching archives and consuming biscuits, and Lucy’s impressive intelligence and determination to solve even the most dangerous of cases and support her argumentative friends. She’s been working at Lockwood & Co. for a year now – and they’d be lost without her.

The Whispering Skull shares a lot less backstory than The Screaming Staircase because the reader is already familiar with the Problem and different types of ghosts, meaning we’re thrown straight into the mystery. This time, powerful supernatural artefacts across London have been stolen, and their warders brutally murdered. Lockwood & Co. have messed up yet another case and are feeling dejected after their triumph solving the mystery of the screaming staircase. That is, until they are called to investigate serious paranormal activity at Kensal Green Cemetery. A suspicious grave of a Victorian doctor has been discovered and inside it, a mirror made of bones with mysterious powers. It has been stolen in the night and it’s up to Lockwood & Co. to solve the case. They must reluctantly work alongside fellow detectives – the Fittes Agency – with a little healthy (and humiliating) competition. And with help from the mysterious whispering skull, housed in a jar in the Lockwood & Co. residence – one of the strongest characters in the book!

The Whispering Skull is a worthy sequel to The Screaming Staircase. It’s full of mystery, adventure, humour – and lots of ghosts! I loved getting to know the trio even more, especially the reserved Anthony Lockwood. I enjoyed watching Lucy’s crush on Lockwood develop, with tension that rivals young adult contemporary romance! It is such a fun series – with the character interactions being a memorable highlight – and I have heard that the third book, The Hollow Boy, is the best so far. I should probably pick it up soon, yes?

“Well, I make that one murder victim, one police interrogation and one conversation with a ghost,” George said. “Now that’s what I call a busy evening.” Lockwood nodded. “To think some people just watch television.”


Published: September 2014
Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers (UK) Disney Hyperion (US)
Pages: 496
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Books On My TBR / Halloween