I have a lot of friends who love this series so I feel really bad that I didn't like this book at all, so bad I thought, "I could give it two stars. II have a lot of friends who love this series so I feel really bad that I didn't like this book at all, so bad I thought, "I could give it two stars. It wasn't that badly written." Yet one star means didn't like it and I didn't like. I have reasons:
1. Totally called it. I knew who the murderer was from the first scene that person was in and figured out the motive shortly after. Now that in and of itself is not enough to turn me off a book. If I believe the amount of time it takes the characters to figure it out makes sense, I'm good. And with Julia it did. There is no reason any of that should have been on her radar. I'm less impressed that Nicholas didn't even seem to flirt with the notion. He has seen more of the world and had more experience. Really, the thought should have crossed his mind. Which leads me to...
2. Nicholas is fairly useless as a character. He is supposed to be this great agent. He makes his living off of investigating things. He does absolutely no investigating in this book. All the important clues are stumbled on by Julia. He contributes an arsenic test and a few field trips to question some people-to no avail I might add. Most of the time he is "indisposed" or "out of town". What he does contribute is a perfect brooding stare, snarly dialogue directed toward Julia, and some obligatory I'm-too-sexy-for-my-shirt scenes. None of which endeared him to me. Also he's there to save Julia in the end when she needs him, which of course she does because...
3. Julia is not exactly possessed with an overabundance of critical thinking skills. Au contraire. The book kept telling me she was smart. All the people who knew her kept stating it. I kept waiting for evidence of it to show up. Example: She finds a crucial clue to the case in her own private study, in her own private book. She has a couple of days to ruminate on this before showing it to Nicholas. She is utterly shocked when he presents the notion that this means the murderer is most likely someone in her own household. She had days to think it over. This is only one example, there were other times I was blinking at Julia's inability for deep and nuanced thinking. But she must be intelligent because the author kept insisting on it. After all she had a great education because...
4. Julia's family believes in fully educating women. Is this a bad thing? No. They are also completely okay with people having same sex lovers, performing merciful abortions, and are loving and helpful to gypsies. They are open minded and accepting of all the things. Now if this were a contemporary series all this together would not be a problem but...THIS IS VICTORIAN ENGLAND. I will say the context in which these are included is believable for the time period. If ONE of them had been present, I would not have been skeptical. But all of them together? No. This is a 21st century family living in Victorian times.
5. Finally: Nicholas's big "secret". I really hated this element. Why? What on earth was the purpose of this really? It seemed it was just a convenient way to have him out of commission for half the novel and then able to rescue Julia in the end. Also so he could angst and have reason to talk himself away from Julia. Lame.
Needless to say I will not be reading any more of these. They are clearly not meant for me....more
I really liked this! As far as mysteries go, it wasn't spectacular. It was incredibly easy to discern who the culprit was and exactly what m4.5 stars
I really liked this! As far as mysteries go, it wasn't spectacular. It was incredibly easy to discern who the culprit was and exactly what motive was behind their actions. BUT. I don't care. Because I loved Amelia's voice. She is intelligent, capable, independent, and adventurous. I enjoyed the irony in her narration as well. The reader knows far more than Amelia does and it adds a lot of humor to the book. I also really liked the romance. It is my favorite type: hate to love and full of banter and denial. Fun....more
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I'm going to admit it. I wasn't the biggest fan of the Bartimaeus books. I didn't actually fOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I'm going to admit it. I wasn't the biggest fan of the Bartimaeus books. I didn't actually finish the series. I hated it because I wanted to love them. So it was with a little trepidation that I requested a galley of the first book in Jonathan Stroud's newest series entitled Lockwood & Co. This time, I'm pleased to say, I wasn't at all disappointed and loved everything about The Screaming Staircase.
The book is told from the perspective of Lucy, a brave bold girl whose particular talent lies in hearing and feeling ghosts. After a tragic incident at her former job she sets off to find a new one. Lucy is a wonderful vehicle for the story as she is the newest employee of Lockwood & Co. and she has a greater sense of what the supernatural forces they face are feeling because of her talent. She is often impatient and doesn't always think her actions through all the way. Lockwood is the brilliant young leader of the band. His wit and charm tend to pull people toward him, Lucy included. She joins his agency despite the lack of adult supervisors and buys into his belief that they can and will be the best there is. This doesn't mean she can't see his faults though. Lockwood is brilliant, snarky, a great strategist, and a massive risk taker. There is something a bit Sherlockian about him. I loved him beyond all measure. There is also a mystery surrounding him involving a locked room in his house and the truth behind his dead parents. Other characters hint at things that just make you want to know as much as possible. Seeing him through Lucy's eyes makes him even more enigmatic, causing the reader to be drawn in by the force of his personality as much as Lucy and George are. George is the third member of the team. He is the cautious one. He lives for research and organizing things. The three of them together have all the essential components of a brilliant team if they could just work together properly. The story of this book is about them doing just that as much as it is about the mystery and the ghosts.
I love a good mystery and if you add in some creepy but not too terrifying supernatural elements I'm even more on board. Stroud builds his story piece by piece. The famed Screaming Staircase of the title is not even mentioned until well into the book. The story opens while Lucy and Lockwood are on another job. The reader learns all of the elements of the work involved in dealing with "the Problem". Since children are the ones best as sensing the spirits, the most dangerous work falls to them in this world. The job Lucy and Lockwood are working goes horribly wrong on several levels. There is then a flashback to how they came to work together and then a return to the fallout of the messed up job. All of this ties together brilliantly. There is so much action that despite the length of these sections the story doesn't drag or feel too heavy. A lot of this is due to the characterization. I will gladly read about Lucy, Lockwood, and George doing pretty much anything together now. I adore all three of them. A story that shows them working through their team work difficulties, fighting for their lives, solving a mystery decades old, and facing a night in the most sinister haunted house in existence is mesmerizing. I could not put this book down and read it one afternoon. I immediately wanted more. I hope we will be getting book two sooner rather than later.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Disney Hyperion, via NetGalley. The Screaming Staircase is available for purchase now. ...more
Kate Milford is one of my favorite authors, and I don't think her books get the attention and love they so deserve. She writes unique stories with such care and attention to detail. Greenglass House is different from her previous two novels in setting and plot, but no less excellent in its execution, unique voice, and brilliant storytelling.
Greenglass House has so many elements I love: an old house that needs exploring, guests trapped in an Inn with a mystery happening, intrepid children who embrace their imaginations and save the day. And it's Christmas. What more could you ask for? I can not stress enough how much this book seems just tailor made for me. Every single aspect of it is one that I love and Milford's writing is so clever here. The book has a rather nostalgic feel to it, but not in an old tired way, rather the same way the Penderwick books feel nostalgic to adult readers but kids still love them. I think Greenglass House will have a similar effect on both groups of readers. Milford builds her mystery slowly. In the tradition of all the great mystery writers she introduces each player one at a time giving the reader a glimpse at who they are and setting them in their places on the chess board of her story. The house itself even feels like a character as Milo shows each guest to the room they will occupying as they are all snowed in the week before Christmas. Not everyone is who they claim to be, none of them are honest about why they are there, and one of them is actually dangerous. All are connected through the house in some way and it is the house that has brought them all together. When Milo finds a strange map and then it is taken from him, he and Meddy team up to try and uncover the mysteries which are numerous and are leading them to uncovering buried truths of the past. This requires exploring the house, questioning the guests, and in a stroke of brilliance on Milo's part, having them each tell a story to entertain the others at night as they are trapped by the snow. These stories help Milo and Meddie piece together the mystery and reveal fascinating details about everyone's past. I enjoyed how this showed the interconnectedness of everyone and forged a community amongst the guest that would never have come about without it. The stories in themselves are fun too.
Milo is the central character and,while all the characters are drawn well, he is the one that connects everyone and pulls everything together. He is a typical kid looking forward to a few days of peace to begin his winter vacation. The Inn doesn't normally have guests before Christmas. He even does all of his homework on the first afternoon so it will be out of the way. When the guests begin to arrive, he is less than pleased. While he does what his parents require of him, it is with enough reluctance and temper that it strikes the perfect chord for a child his age. Milo is of Chinese descent and is adopted. This is another thing about his character that is really well done. He loves his parents, but he wonders about his birth parents too. He sometimes goes as fas as imagining he was still with his birth parents in a family that looks like him. At other times he even imagines what his life would be like if someone else had adopted him. He feels so conflicted and guilty about these fantasies. I really loved how Milford used this to make him relatable and also into something more than a cliche' of a character. Milo's struggles with adoption are real but not dramatic or a huge issue. In order to solve the mystery Milo and Meddy adopt role-playing characters and this too was a lot of fun. Milo is skeptical at first but soon embraces the idea that he can imagine himself to be whoever he wants with the skills necessary to do what must be done. He is surprised to find he is actually able to take on his character so well. Meddy is more shy and withdrawn, always hiding from the other occupants and only talking to Milo. She is his silent shadow and her role is to observe and collect information, which she does very well. They are a great team and wonderful foils for each other as they work to uncover the mystery.
Milford has combined the best elements of mystery, history, folklore, and reality to weave a wonderful tale that is both thoughtful and adventurous. The action is not page-turning exciting, but the way Milford writes kept me hooked and wondering what would happen next. The language and imagery is so well done, and this book would make a great read aloud, particularly during the month leading up to Christmas. I plan on rereading it myself during that time. Greenglass House has shades of both Agatha Christie and Charles Dickens, but is wholly its own story and told in such a way that it will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Clarion Books, at ALA Midwinter. Greenglass House is for sale on August 26. ...more
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
When I read Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, I went in expecting not to like it due toOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
When I read Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, I went in expecting not to like it due to my overwhelming dislike for quirky southern books, particularly ones that take place in the state I've lived the most years of my life. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and it overcame almost all my qualms. It was with no hesitation at all that I picked up a copy of the follow up, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, at ALA Midwinter. It has all the charm of the first book and does it all even better.
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing has so many aspects I look for in a good story: mystery, an old house to explore, old secrets, family history, friendship, and strong characters. Mo's voice, already the greatest strength of Three Times Lucky, is even stronger and more assured in this book, as though Turngage grew completely comfortable with her character and let her take completely over as she was writing. I appreciate how true to their age Mo, Dale, and all their classmates are. I recognize the kids I know in them. I further appreciate the friendship between Mo and Dale and how solid it is. As they are dealing with the fall out of the events in the last book, particularly Dale's father being in jail, this is brought out fully. Mo and her big mouth make all sorts of mistakes, but Dale forgives her (eventually). Mo is learning too, which is always a wonderful aspect of characterization to see. She actually realizes when she has gone too far sometimes, and even manages to hold herself back at points. The kids relationships with the adults in the community are highlighted well too. They are working on a history project where they have to interview an older member of the community and this brings in history, but also demonstrates the importance of these generational relationships and knowing your own story. I like how Mo firmly feels a part of this community and family created around her. She still writes to her upstream mother, and she still has moments she wonders about where she comes from, but mostly she is living where she is. Harm is a new student and character introduced in this book. I throughly enjoyed the addition he made to the Mo/Dale dynamic, how he changed it. It was an interesting look at how jumping to conclusions about a person is an injustice, and how friendships can grow and change to incorporate new people and relationship dynamics.
The mystery aspect of this story fascinated more in than in the last too. As a kid, I loved stories that explored the past of a certain place and how it connected with current characters lives. I still love those stories as an adult, and this one is executed well. It focuses mostly on the kids and their immediate problems, and the mystery itself focuses on children. The ghost is the same age as the characters making it infinitely interesting to readers. As an adult reader, I would not have minded if the ghosts in the title had been completely metaphorical, but I know my students would not agree. If they are promised a ghost, they want a ghost. And Turnage delivers a wonderful ghost, complete with chilling disembodied laughter, freezing spells, flickering lights, slamming doors, and visions of scenes past. Yet the story isn't creepy so even sensitive readers can enjoy it. It is full of humor and the charm that is Mo herself. The imagery is perfect. Descriptions are short and snappy yet full of wonderful similes that readers will understand, be able to picture perfectly, and find amusing. The writing is jus top notch.
I can't wait to book talk it. I have so many pages marked with passages that I love and that will be sure to capture interest.
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Kathy Dawson Books, at ALA Midwinter. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing will be in stores on February 4th....more
R.J. Anderson is one of my favorite authors. Being a voracious reader, I have a lot of authors I really like, but she is included in a special group of authors whose books I would scoop up in my arms if I was escaping my house in a disaster. They are all excellent and stand up to multiple rereads. Anderson has written books about (awesome) faerys and amazing girls in a mind boggling sci-fi duology. Her latest book, A Pocket Full of Murder, is a MG magical murder mystery and it is a perfect book for me in every way possible.
Isaveth's family has fallen on hard times since her mother's recent death. Her father, a builder, lost a major job he was counting on and has fallen into despair. Her sister had to quit school to get a job in a sweatshop factory. Just when things begin to look better for the family and her father's commission is restored, a worse tragedy befalls them. When the man who had fired then rehired Isaveth's father is found dead by means of Common Magic, Isaveth's father is arrested. Isaveth knows her father is innocent, but she's not sure how to go about proving it. As she begins to investigate, she is joined by a street boy with an eye patch named Quiz who has eyes and ears all over the city and a knack for getting at information. Together they begin to try and discover the real murderer in a case that has too many suspects and disastrous consequences for both of them if they fail.
GAHHHHHH!!!!! I don't really know where I want to start with this. I have so much love for every part of this book, and my brain just keeps doing cartwheels and squealing LOVE LOVE LOVE. Trying to calm it down and act rationally is a challenge. I even waited a few days after finishing to give myself space so I could write this. But as soon as I started thinking about the book again, I got a rush of endorphins and lost control of my critical thinking skills. I will start with what I always love most, the characters, and hope my brain calms enough to cooperate.
Isaveth is smart, courageous, and stubborn. When her family is having hard times, she pulls down her mother's book of magic recipes and concocts spells to sell on the street to give them a little extra money. She has a passionate love for dramatic crystal set (radio) shows and writes fanfiction for it on any scrap of paper she can get her hands on. She is perfecting her craft. Her imagination is vast and she's bursting with twelve year old idealism mixed with the harsh realities of the life she is living. She is desperate to free her father, and her headlong rush into investigating the crime causes her to stumble into unfortunate situations at times and make rash judgements and mistakes. This includes not listening to Quiz on the occasions when he tells her to slow down and think something through.
Quiz is no stranger to dashing into dangerous situations without thinking them through first himself though. He is also a bit of an adrenaline junkie who rides down hills at breakneck speeds and is prone to getting into sticky situations in defense of those who need defending. He is adorably awkward around Isaveth at times. When he's interacting with her sisters you can see how badly he longs for a regular family and normalcy. Together Isaveth and Quiz make a fantastic team. He can go places and get information she can't, and vice-versa. He is there to give her rides when she needs them and generally back her up when she's in a tough spot. And when the tables are turned and he is in the tough spot, she does the same for him. I have all these FEELINGS for both of them, separate and together. Feelings I will never be able to properly put into words.
The mystery is a good old fashioned mystery where there are clues that seem to lead to everywhere or nowhere, lots of suspects, and a few good twists. (Some of which I saw coming due to reasons I imagine will not be the case for the majority of the readers of this book.*) The ways in which Isaveth and Quiz find their information makes sense for the world they live in, and they are reliant on those older than them for crucial things. Isaveth's older sister plays a major part in helping them collect information. The way the mystery all came together in the end was fascinating and the resolution complex and layered, but simple to understand for the intended audience.
The world Anderson created for this book is one where society is split between nobility and those who are not. The nobility has a very specific sort of magic they use to keep the world running smoothly. Common Magic is for those not so privileged and was a hard won ability for the regular people. The city of Tarreton where Isaveth and Quiz live is divided. The common people are tired of being abused, underpaid, and unable to make decisions. Rebellion is whispered of and unrest is high. These political issues are an integral part of the story and woven into the texture of the character's lives perfectly. Religion plays a part in this as well. Isaveth's family are Moshites (very similar to real world Jewish faith) and therefore looked on as outsiders, if not dangerous dissenters. It's part of the reason her father makes such a perfect frame for murder. Anderson presents the religious and political aspects as part of everyday life important in different ways to different people and this makes the world she has built all the more realistic as a result.
I highly recommend this book to all lovers of mystery and fantasy of any age. There is something here to enjoy for everyone. I can not wait until my pre-ordered copy arrives so I can read it again. And so my daughter can read it because this is exactly the sort of book she adores.
*I saw some of the twists coming because I am a fan of the source material that was Anderson's inspiration. A HUGE fan actually. If you are completely unaware of what that source material is or anything about it, you have lots of surprises in store. I'm including this note for those of you who know what inspired this and love it as much as I do. I just want you to know that Anderson did an awesome job with that. It's a nice little treat for those of us who know and love that particular literary detective. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, but want to, ask in the comments and I'll tell you. Not spoilers. Just what the source material is.)
I read an ARC made available from the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss. A Pocket Full of Murder is on sale September 8th....more
A lot of my negative reaction to this book is because I am well and truly tired of the whole "kid is abandoned by parentReview originally posted here.
A lot of my negative reaction to this book is because I am well and truly tired of the whole "kid is abandoned by parent(s) with obscure little known relatives and has to be brave and learn something" story. So why did I read this? Hope that eventually someone has to subvert the trope. Hope that the mystery would be mysterious and intriguing. Hope for a good examination of British/American relations and thoughts in 1941. This book is sadly lacking in all of these.
Despite what the synopsis implies Felicity is nothing like Mary Lennox. Felicity is a hard character to like and almost impossible to empathize with. She is twelve and still talks about her teddy bear as if he were a living being. She doesn't cry into him at night whispering her secrets wishing he were real, she talks like he actually is real. Which is why I think this book would be tough for anyone over the age of 10 to take seriously. And even 8-10 year olds might find their credulity being stretched. Felicity has issues, no doubt. Her parents often left her on her own to go and do their own thing. Her grandmother claims this is the reason she is immature. I think she has issues that go beyond immaturity that more than cracking a spy code and finding a crush will fix, but this book is not that deep so the mystery and the boy do the trick here.
But what annoyed me the most was the book's REVELATION, which I saw coming from the first chapter, but a child reader wouldn't. That is not what bothers me about the revelation, it's what follows. (view spoiler)[It turns out that Felicity's father is actually her uncle and her Uncle Gideon is actually her father. Felicity's mother was married for a few months to Gideon, left him and took with his brother, and then realized she was pregnant. So Felicity grew up thinking her uncle was her dad. Gideon reveals this to Felicity by the request of her mother toward the end of the book. You would think that this would create some interesting scenes. Felicity has to feel something genuinely human right? Anger. Betrayal. Distrust. Horror. Anguish. Disgust. Sadness. ANYTHING. But this is what we get: "Perhaps it was something like wearing new shoes or having a completely new way of fixing your hair or having a new name or going to a new school or looking in the mirror and having a completely different air about you." Ummm...no actually. It is not like any of those things. She doesn't like Gideon in the beginning of the book because she senses he doesn't like her father. She finds out this massively scandalous (it is 1941) reason why and compares it to a new hairstyle????? The passage does continue: "Everything was changed. And I needed to time to let it all sift through me like beach sand as it falls through your fingers when you try to hold in in your hand." Ugh, the similes. But more than that we are not given any idea what is sifting or how it is being sifted. We are shown absolutely no emotion at all from Felicity. She shares the news with Derek (the crush) who was an abandoned child taken into the family when he was one and given the same birthday as Felicity to celebrate. His reaction: "I always felt I was a stand-in, a replacement for somebody or something, and now I see, Flissy, it was you. It was you I was standing in for. That's why we have the same birthday. That's why and how I came to live here. And it was a lucky thing for me, you know that?" Most people would have at least a little trouble with the concept that they were a replacement for someone who no longer needed replacing. (hide spoiler)]
The emotional vapidity of the novel made it impossible for me to enjoy. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Busman's Honeymoon picks up the story of Peter and Harriet on the day of their wedding. There are several amusing, and sometimes sweet, letters and joBusman's Honeymoon picks up the story of Peter and Harriet on the day of their wedding. There are several amusing, and sometimes sweet, letters and journal entries at the beginning that fill in the details of the time that has elapsed from the end of Gaudy Night to the big day. Peter and Harriet leave for their honeymoon at a house they have purchased near where Harriet lived as a child. The first day there one catastrophe after another occurs, culminating with the discovery of the former owner dead in the cellar. So of course, Peter and Harriet have to spend their honeymoon working, hence the title.
The book is, of course, brilliant. Like Sayers other Lord Peter books it is not the mystery aspect of the novel that makes it wonderful but the keen insight into humanity, the philosophy and the tackling of weightier issues that pushes it into the brilliant category.
Gaudy Night allowed us to see Harriet come to terms with her demons and, with Peter's help, overcome them. In Busman's Honeymoon it is Peter facing his demons and he has Harriet to help him this time around. The book paints a startling picture of a mind haunted by the things it has witnessed, the war it survived and the struggle it constantly undergoes to balance responsibility, honor and a massive guilt complex. Unlike all of the times Peter simply ran away and into himself, this time there is another person to factor in to his decisions and actions. This and the tension that is created by the situation as Peter and Harriet (and Bunter too) adjust to the new reality and revelations marriage brings about is the center of the story. The mystery acts as a catalyst that brings all of this to a head.
Peter and Harriet are one of my favorite literary couples and I am grateful to Sayers for rendering such a beautiful and complex love story. ...more
I was a huge fan of The Screaming Staircase when it came out last year and couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel, The Whispering Skull. Stroud bI was a huge fan of The Screaming Staircase when it came out last year and couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel, The Whispering Skull. Stroud brings his talent for eerie creepiness, mystery, and snarky humor to this latest edition and it is so much fun.
In the six months since the first novel ended, Lockwood, George, and Lucy have made good on the reputation they established in the first book. They have been busy banishing ghouls and continuing to build their business. The plot of The Whispering Skull begins with a bet with their rival team at the Fittes Agency and springboards them into an even more intense and circuitous mystery than their last. There is a mysterious artifact that has disappeared into the London underworld that kills those who look at it, and it seems to have a startlingly hypnotic effect on George. The criminals who want the artifact are also killing for it, and the mysterious skull in the jar has finally decided to start talking to Lucy once again, its interest awakened by the mystery it knows too many details of. The mystery here was rather easy for me to solve, as with the first, but also like the first that was okay with me because it is all about the journey the characters take to get at the answer. The setting of this book is expanded as the team goes out across the city of London. There is quite a lot of adventure, danger, fighting, and narrow escapes as Anthony, Lucy, and George strive to solve the mystery before the evil object takes another life and it's one of their own.
I enjoyed the way the characters grew and expanded in this book. After his performance in the first book, I was particularly happy to see Anthony falter a couple of times in this one. He made some mistakes and his thinking was wrong and off the mark on a couple of occasions. I was worried after the first book Stroud may turn him into one of those characters never allowed to fail, but he fills him in a little more in this book. Secrets Lockwood wants to bury come to light in this book too which I think is probably the set-up for the next book. It's fascinating and how it's revealed shows a lot about the growth of his character and his changing relationship with Lucy and George. George was given more of a role in this book too, a chance to be more than just a stock character to foil Lockwood and Lucy. Lucy's talent is growing and becoming something more and she has many mixed feelings about this. Her character, despite being the narrator, was the one I felt grew and filled out the least. I'm hoping that will change with the next book.
What makes this slightly better than the first book is the sly humor that is woven in it to it. I think it is so much more amusing and that the comic is there as relief against the drama in a much better way here.
Anyone who enjoyed the first book is sure to enjoy this one as well. I'm pretty invested in all theses characters now and am in this series until the end for sure.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Disney Hyperion, via NetGalley. The Whispering Skull has a release date of September 16th. ...more
I love murder mysteries and boarding school stories. Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens delivers brilliantly on both.
It is the 1930s and Deepdean School is a place where wealthy young ladies are sent for education and betterment. Hazel Wong is one such young lady. She is from Hong Kong, and her father sent her to England to be schooled because of his own enjoyable school boy day there. Soon after her arrival, Hazel is befriended by Daisy Wells the daughter of an English Lord. These two girls make up their own secret detective agency after Daisy spends a summer immersing herself in Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christy, and Dorothy Sayers. The girls content themselves with minor mysteries until one night Hazel stumbles on the dead body of their Science Mistress, Miss Bell. The body disappears mere minutes later. Now the girls have a murder to investigate with no body, multiple suspects, and few clues. In the days that follow, the girls uncover more secrets about their school and the people who reside their then they ever dreamed, but they also uncover some important truths about themselves.
Hazel and Daisy and their dynamic reminded me quite a lot of Ananka and Kiki in the Kiki Strike series. Daisy is the charismatic trickster who has her fingers in several different pies and agents to do her bidding. She pretends to be a very different person than she actually is in order to manipulate the people around her and get what she wants. Hazel is the controlled, steady, sensible one who relies more on book knowledge. She tells the girls' story as the secretary of the detective society. As the book is told from Hazel's first person perspective, I found myself sympathizing with her more. This is also due to her struggle to fit in and be seen as just one of the girls when she is from such a very different place. Hazel's desire to be just like everyone else and the way she belittles her different looks has a very realistic tone to it particularly for this historic time period. Her allusions to how the teachers view her culture and how inaccurate their view is, also lends a realism to her voice. Hazel is also the more cautious of the two girls and has far more common sense. In contrast Daisy comes across as impatient and obnoxious, often taking advantage of Hazel, belittling her, and not listening to sense when she ought. But she can also admit when she is wrong and humbles herself when it is needed. Together the girls make a great team. Daisy brings Hazel out of her shell, and Hazel forces Daisy to be more sensitive and thoughtful.
The mystery is exactly the sort I like. There are a lot of suspects, but they are limited to the people within the school. I was kept guessing and wondering, just as surprised by the girls at the outcome. The school itself is a great setting. It's a realistic look at the social strata, power plays, and politics of a such a school in the worlds of both the students and the adults.
I adored this first installment, and am looking forward to reading others in the series. The second book is out in the UK. I'm hoping it will follow here quickly.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher, Simon &Schuster Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss. Murder is Bad Manners is on sale April 21st in the US. It is already available in the UK under the title Murder Most Unladylike....more
Doll Bones is a new Middle Grade title from the talented Holly Black. It is, thus far, my favorite MG read of the year. It is a genre busting title that covers horror, suspense, mystery, and the supernatural. Or it could be a plain old contemporary realistic novel. It is all in how you look it at.
Doll Bones follows three twelve year olds who have been friends for years.
Zach: He is a talented basketball player and has recently attracted the interest of the cool kids and girls in his middle school. He doesn't want anyone to discover he still plays with action figures with his two friends who are girls, but he also loves it and doesn't want to give it up.
Alice: She is a drama girl who loves theater and acting and uses it to escape from her domineering grandmother, who is her guardian. She uses the game with her friends for the same thing and has created ever more dangerous and reckless characters who take the risks she is afraid to take herself.
Poppy: She is the youngest of a group of delinquent siblings. Her house is always a mess and her parents have quit trying to maintain order. It is her house the other two come to for their game, and it is Polly who is the diabolical thinker who comes up with all of the games danger and adventure. It is why she often plays the part of villain.
The game is complex. These kids created an epic imaginary world culled from tales and myths they read. Into it they placed characters who have real lives and histories. Over this world rules the Queen in her glass tower, an antique china doll belonging to Poppy's mom and locked in a cabinet to keeep her safe. They are invested in their game and everything it entails. Until one day Zach tells the girls he doesn't want to play anymore. Then one night the girls show up and tell him a horrifying story. Poppy released the Queen from the tower hoping she could convince Zach to keep playing. Now she is having dreams about a girl who was murdered. A girl whose bones were ground up and made into a china doll. She is demanding a proper burial in the cemetery in her home town. And she wants Poppy, Zach, and Alice to take her there.
All three characters are vivid, layered, and interesting. The story is told in third person from Zach's perspective so it is his thoughts and struggles the reader is most connected to. However, the girls' struggles are also depicted through Zach's interactions with and musings on them, even if he doesn't understand all of what he is seeing. The struggle here between childhood and emerging adolescence is rendered so well. It is happening gradually, yet faster than any of them would like, particularly Poppy who feels like she is being left behind by the other two. There is the struggle to hold on to the things that are most familiar as everything seems to be changing too fast. Yet there is an excitement and anticipation about the changes as well, at least in Zach and Alice. This is a story any middle school kid will find themselves in, they all have this same struggle.
Then there is the creepy horror part of the story. And creepy it is. Is Poppy messing with the other two? Spinning a yard to keep them playing the game, keep them attached to her? Or is the Queen really the ghost of murdered girl named Eleanor who is forcing the three to do her bidding by scaring the pants off of them? Black laid out her plot perfectly, setting down each event to keep the reader wondering, asking. Everything that happens to the kids can be logically explained, and Zach and Alice do logically explain it all. And yet...the creepiness is there.
The writing here is phenomenal. The pacing keeps the reader engaged from start to finish. The phrasing is engaging and simple, but layered with meaning at the same time. The kids are equal parts relateable and unlikable. They are so real. The theme of growing up, changing, moving on, learning to adapt are woven into the story so perfectly that anyone who is or has experienced adolescence will get the character's struggles. At the same time it also funny. When you add in the sense of mystery, intrigue, and horror, you have a book that is impossible to put down until you have reached the last page.
Some of my favorite quotes: Sometimes it seemed to him that girls spoke a different language, but he couldn't figure out when they'd learned it. He was pretty sure that they used to all speak the same language a year ago.
In stories, orphan boys became assistant pig keepers and magician's apprentices. In real life, he wasn't sure there were many equivalent jobs.
He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.
Also, it wasn't like they were walking through the awesome vistas of Middle Earth- a forest full of Ents or elves, a mountain pass brimming with orcs and ice-they were mostly walking past industrial buildings and a bowling alley.
It's not fair. We had a story, and our story was important. And I hate that both of you can just walk away and take part of my story with you and not even care. I hate that you can do what you're supposed to do and I can't. I hate that you're going to leave me behind. I hate that everyone calls it growing up, but it seems like dying. It feels like each of you is being possessed and I'm next. ...more
In order to have a solitary holiday with no mail or phones Harriet sets out on a walking tour of the coast. One day after lunch and a nap she comes a In order to have a solitary holiday with no mail or phones Harriet sets out on a walking tour of the coast. One day after lunch and a nap she comes across a corpse on a rock. It is the body of a young man and his throat has been slit. Knowing that the tide will come in soon and wash the body away Harriet does some investigating, finds the razor used and takes pictures of the body to give to the police. When she finally is able to reach a phone she calls the police and then the press, thinking that she should try to control the media story as much as possible. The next day Peter, who was notified by his reporter friend, arrives at her hotel in Wilvercombe to help in sorting out crime, be it murder or suicide.
This is definitely my least favorite of the quartet of books with Harriet in them. It is loooong and the mystery is a complex puzzle. I felt that part dragged a bit. However, as far as the development of Peter and Harriet go it was a good read....more
I usually enjoy Erin Dionne's books more than I did this one. I think my disappointment was magnified because I had my hopes rather high for this oneI usually enjoy Erin Dionne's books more than I did this one. I think my disappointment was magnified because I had my hopes rather high for this one and was mostly unimpressed. I can see kids loving it though. It has that sort of kid adventure movie feel to it. Kids versus the mobsters, and the kids actually have a chance of winning. The danger never materializes quite like it would in reality. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I could have liked Moxie herself, but I was rolling my eyes by the end of the first chapter. I'm so tired of main characters who are supposed to be unique and special because they like older music and buy vintage clothes. This is so overused that there is nothing unique or special about these characters. It feels like slapping a vintage t-shirt on a character and giving her a playlist her parents would have listened to are acceptable replacements for actual character development. I do like that she was a Math lover though. ...more
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Looking for an adrenaline pumping edge of your seat read? Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner isOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Looking for an adrenaline pumping edge of your seat read? Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner is just the book.
Wake Up Missing is a mind bending twisty ride full of adventure and intrigue. Messner sets the tone perfectly from the beginning. There is a sense that nothing is quite right or as it seems. The reader is kept off balance from chapter one, which fits with Cat's difficulty in keeping hers. The clues are revealed slowly, and just when you think you know what's going on there is a shift. The twisty plot comes with boat chases through swamps, conspiracies, fears of who to trust, quick risky escapes, and some rather seedy bad guys of more than one variety. Messner maintains a real sense of danger for the kids, while keeping it from being too terrifying at the same time. I also appreciate Messner's willingness to show the messy outcomes inevitable in such a plot.
The kids are typical 12 year olds. Some of the things they choose to do (searching offices, sneaking around, taking a kayak out on the swamp in an attempt to escape) are not the best plans, but perfectly in tune with a middle school mentality. They all have different personalities and issues, but have to work together. Cat is telling the story, but all of them are key members of the team. It was interesting to see how each of them reacted to what they discover, and how they chose to deal with it.
Wake Up Missing had my heart pounding in many places and I was frantically flipping pages to see what was going to happen next. My kids were forced to wait for their dinner. I can see this having the same spell binding effect on the kids who read it. Messner is one of my daughter's favorite authors and I know she's going to be thrilled by this one. (She has to wait for the actual copy to come as I wouldn't let her run off with my Nook.)
I read an e-galley received from the publisher, Bloomsbury Walker, made available via NetGalley. Wake Up Missing is available for purchase September 10. ...more
Strong Poison is a book that is mystery, romance, philosophy and social commentary combined in a very interesting and funny story. This is the third bStrong Poison is a book that is mystery, romance, philosophy and social commentary combined in a very interesting and funny story. This is the third book of Dorothy Sayers I have read and now I know why so many people claim she was a genius.
Lord Peter Wimsey is in a hurry to figure out who murdered a little known writer before the wrong person is convicted and hanged. The police are convinced he was murdered by his former lover, Harriet Vane, who is a mystery writer. When her first trial ends with the jury being unable to reach an agreement Lord Peter steps up to help find proof of the defendant's innocence. He only has a month before the new trial begins and normally that would challenge him. But this time he is not interested in the challenge so much as the outcome because he has fallen in love with Harriet.
It was interesting to watch Peter, who is normally so in control and cool, lose it a little in this story. Also for someone who always knows what to say he totally puts his foot in it the first time he meets Harriet. All of thier interactions in this book were hilarious.
I read Gaudy Night first, not realizing it was part of a sequence and while it did not hurt my enjoyment of this book I wish I could have experienced reading them in order ...more
I really enjoyed this book at first. It is a classic who-done-it mystery in which there are multiple suspects and no real clear evidence. Yet the bodiI really enjoyed this book at first. It is a classic who-done-it mystery in which there are multiple suspects and no real clear evidence. Yet the bodies keep piling up. I loved the portrayal of small British village life. I was thoroughly enjoying the character of Richard Jury and thinking this would be a book (and series) I could really get into do despite the sometimes overwrought use of figurative language. (Seriously, the similes in this are way over the top.)
There is insta-love. The hero takes one look at a girl and decides he is madly in love with her. Never mind that she can actually be considered a suspect. Never mind that she is known to be close to two other people who are also suspects. No. He is in love. And why? I couldn't really tell since the girl hadn't spoken a word when he decided this, but it is implied she in some way reminded him of a former lover. Nice. Jury immediately gets all grumbly and jealous over her interactions with other men. My liking for his character dwindled fast. The overwrought similes in the writing became more annoying when tied up with this, and the last half of the book left a bad taste in my mouth as a result. Sigh. I so wanted to like this one. ...more
Sir John Fielding was the half brother of British novelist, Henry Fielding. Together they started the first London police force known as the Bow StreeSir John Fielding was the half brother of British novelist, Henry Fielding. Together they started the first London police force known as the Bow Street Runners. After Henry's death, John took over as the Bow Street Magistrate. His ability to discern truth and learn the facts of crimes was extraordinary given that he was blinded in an accident in the Navy when he was 19. Bruce Alexander wrote 11 fiction novels in which the historical figure of Sir John is the protagonist. Blind Justice is the first volume of the series. I am looking forward to reading the others as well.
The narrator of the story is a 13 year old by the name of Jeremy Proctor who finds himself standing before the famous magistrate after he is accused of a theft he didn't commit. Sir John dismisses the charges against Jeremy but at the same time brings him under the custody of the court. While trying to sort out Jeremy's future Sir John is called to investigate a death. In the course of gathering information the extremely observant Jeremy proves useful as a pair of eyes for Sir John when needed and helps during the rest of the investigation.
The mystery is an interesting puzzle though not tricky or surprising. The plot unfolded in a way that was never boring. The characters are memorable, some for being rather stereotypical of the time period. The two things that made the book a great read for me were the historical integrity of the novel and Jeremy's voice.
Georgian London is represented in all its glory and grit from the upper class to the Covent Garden prostitutes and everything in between. The job the Magistrate and the Bow Street Runners had before them is shown clearly through the eyes of the innocent country boy Jeremy. The historical figures who make appearances in the novel are not trifled with. They remain true to the historical accounts of their lives with no embellishment. This is true of the ones who are merely small players and of Sir John, who is the main protagonist. I found the book to be a clear window on what life in London at the time was like.
Jeremy is a newcomer to London so seeing the world through his eyes allows even those not well versed in London history to gain a clear picture of what it was like. The novel is written very much in the style of the times so it reads like something Henry Fielding himself might have written. Jeremy's story reads genuine as a result. I found this made it easier to get caught up in the time period even more. I also enjoyed Jeremy's observations on the world around him and is innocent obliviousness to many things was amusing....more
This is a fun MG mystery. Fast paced from the beginning, Kittscher has woven together a tale of intrigue and danger where the kids get to save the dayThis is a fun MG mystery. Fast paced from the beginning, Kittscher has woven together a tale of intrigue and danger where the kids get to save the day. It is one of those books that MG readers who like mysteries will love. The mom-reader in my was side-eyeing it through a good deal though because I don't like it when kids take risks I can realistically see my own thinking would be awesome. ...more
It is sad that Space Case by Stuart Gibbs didn't get a better cover. I can seeing it getting skipped over without a second glance, and that would just be sad because it is actually a fun science-ficition murder mystery.
Dash Gibson is a "Moonie" one of the first residences on the moon. His parents are both scientists working on the space station there. The government lured their family there with promises of adventure and historic fame. They would be pioneers. Dash feels hoodwinked. Life on the moon is not nearly as exciting as it sounds, and is uncomfortable to boot. Dash wants nothing more than to return to his life in Hawaii. He misses his friends, the ocean, having toilets that flush normally, and fresh food. But things in the space station become more interesting when one the resident doctor dies while on an unauthorized moonwalk. Dash immediately suspects foul play. He overheard a conversation the doctor had the night before where he was excited to reveal a recent discover. Dash's concerns are smoothed over and he is told to keep quiet until a mysterious security official approaches him in secret and asks for help investigating. Soon Dash is convinced he's right about the doctor's death being murder. Unfortunately Dash's investigations have attracted to notice of exactly the wrong person.
This is an interesting sci-fi twist on the murder mystery at a house party story. The inhabitants of the space station are trapped. There is nowhere for them to go. A murderer on the loose is definitely not a comforting though. This is why so many people want to silence Dash. The actual investigation is one I found to be highly probable. I can see the Dash and his friends being able to do the things they did in this story and follow the clues to their outcome. I also felt that the scientific aspects were well done and what I imagine would be possible in the not too distant future. I liked how sterile and uncomfortable life on the moon was because that's also realistic.
Dash is a great hero. He is smart, sarcastic, and willing to take risks. At the same time, he is a typical kid, one who is just learning that he doesn't always want to go along with what the adults have to say. He has a quiet rebellion beginning to stir in him that the target audience for this book will be able to identify with. As a result of living on the moon, he does have a fair amount of independence and maturity, but his parents are very much all up in his business all the time. Typically in stories like this, parents are conveniently shuffled to the side. Not so in this book. Dash is tripping over his constantly. I liked that. We are seeing more involved and engaged parents show up in MG speculative fiction and that's a trend that needs to continue. Dash's closest ally in his investigations is a newcomer his age named Kira. She is the perfect foil for Dash. Adventurous, a boundary pusher, definitely not tripping over her father at every turn, she is a lot of things Dash isn't and they balance each other well.
I do hope that there are going to be more of these. Good murder mysteries for MG readers are a hard find, and this one is delightful. ...more
When I discovered there was a book coming out about a girl who was a literal Nightmare I was super excited. The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett has a great concept. When I began reading it I was afraid the execution would not quite live up to it. I'm glad I stuck with it though because I thoroughly enjoyed the second two thirds.
Dusty and Eli are a dream-seer pair, a very rare phenomenon. She is a nightmare who feeds on dreams and when she feeds on Eli's they can see things that are going to happen or that have happened. Which means they have no choice but to work together no matter how either of them feels about it. Dusty is uncomfortable with feeding on Eli and Eli is seriously angry at her for dragging him into this strange world where he doesn't belong. My concern at the beginning of the book was that it was going to have all the elements I hate finding in YA fantasy: boy and girl bound together by a supernatural destiny neither of them can fight=love, boy half of duo being dangerous and sparking feelings of fear, a love triangle, cliche high school politics (exchange mean sirens for mean cheerleaders). I kept reading though because I did love the concept and I couldn't help but like Dusty's snarky yet vulnerable voice. I'm happy to say that most of my concerns were laid to rest as the story unfolded.
Eli is not at all dangerous or a bad boy. At all. He is actually a really nice guy who wants to be a cop and loves mythology and folklore. He sticks up for the little guy and though he is angry at Dusty he never mistreats her. Dusty and Eli are attracted to each other but both are trying to ignore it. He is dating someone else and so is she. Their characters are not as fully realized as I like my characters to be, but I definitely enjoyed them and their story which is full of action, adventure, and mystery. In addition to Dusty and Eli there are several minor characters who I really enjoyed particularly Selene, Dusty's best friend. I love the way Arnett has given a new spin to old folklore and what she has done with the world here. The book is hard to put down and engrossing to the very end.
The book is a fun mystery with a magical flavor. It is lighter in tone than other books of the same genre and I enjoyed that element. I will definitely be back for more as I'm fairly certain this will be a series.
I read an e-galley received via the publisher from NetGalley. The Nightmare Affair is on sale March 5....more
Secret Letters by Leah Scheier was a book I couldn't refuse. It involves Sherlock Holmes after all, and I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. I did enjoy the mystery element of the story even though I had some issues with the book overall.
The mystery part of the story was a lot of fun. There is more than one Secret Letter floating around in the plot. So many that one of the characters (the "attractive yet enigmatic young detective") makes a joke about it in his own letter to Dora: I would burn this letter if I were you. There are far too many questionable letters floating about in this case, and I don't want to add mine to the pile. Which brings to my favorite part of the book. Peter. I want a book series that is all about Peter. There is really no need for Dora (I'll get to that in a minute). Peter is funny. Peter is brilliant. Peter has a tragic past that has marked him, but doesn't make him. He is making himself. He is all kinds of interesting and when he was in a scene it was great.
The mystery is a good one. It is certainly not on the level of some of the Holmes canon, but it is fun and there are several twists and turns along the way to keep the reader engaged and guessing. Though I don't think the whole connection to Dora's cousin's blackmailing was explained as well as it could have been.
My major issue with the book lies with Dora. She is an anachronism, a 21st century girl dropped in a Victorian setting. And it shows. She is a lady of class and wealth who has been brought up in a gentle household, corseted, finished, taught the ways of society. She of course thinks it's all nonsense. I'm sure there are girls who did, but an awful lot of them seem to pop up in historical fiction. More than I think there were actually. And the extent of it here is not so believable. When it is proposed that Dora should go undercover in a house as a scullery maid she doesn't hesitate. She manages to hoodwink her chaperone into thinking she is somewhere else and hoodwink everyone into thinking that she is indeed a scullery maid. This is more than just donning a costume. It is also more than just doing chores she would never have dreamed existed. It is an entire way of life she would have had no prior exposure to. Yet it doesn't require much effort for her to fit in. Then she barely bats an eye when she discovers a fellow maid is pregnant and not married. Then she barely bats an eye again when said maid confesses she is going to have an abortion. THIS IS THE VICTORIAN ERA. I realize that this is a thing of mine being the history nerd that I am. Others might not be so bothered by it, but I'm just too tired of reading YA historical fiction where the main character thinks in such a modern context. It bothered me enough here I wanted Dora completely gone from the story and more Peter. Lots more Peter.
If you are not a hyper sensitive history nerd like me and love mystery, Sherlock Holmes, and Victorian settings this is a fun and engaging story. If you are a hyper sensitive history nerd like me you may enjoy it too. Just be forewarned. ...more
The cover of my copy of this book says, "A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane". That should really be the other way around. This is Harriet'sThe cover of my copy of this book says, "A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane". That should really be the other way around. This is Harriet's book. The third novel in the quartet of Peter novels involving Harriet, Gaudy Night finds her sorting out her feelings on the past and finally ready to contemplate a future. Sound easy? It is anything but.
The opening of this novel finds Harriet attending the gaudy of her former college, Shrewsbury at Oxford University. While there Harriet contemplates and weighs the pros and cons of married life versus life as a scholar. Seeing so many former bright minds dulled by years of marriage and child rearing Harriet wonders if the only choice is to lose oneself to someone else or spend a lifetime alone. Is there any way that finds a balance? When a string of strange incidents at the college involving some horrid notes and malicious pranks begin the dons call in Harriet, with her limited investigating experience, to help them figure out who is behind it. Harriet finds herself living at Oxford again for some months and is happy with how she fits and is able to work. However, as the campaign of the college "poltergeist" takes on new and dangerous aspects Harriet begins to suspect nearly everyone forcing her to question whether lifelong celibacy for scholarship can cause you to go mad. When the case begins to reach impossible levels she calls in Peter to help her. His arrival at Oxford brings closure to the case and the fraught five year relationship between Peter and Harriet.
I really enjoyed the further development of Harriet's character in this novel, the discussion of women and their roles in society, and the 1930's perspective on the rise of Hitler's Germany.
And then there was the romance. Peter and Harriet have a truly spectacular love story. ...more
If any one was meant to bring the atmosphere of a Gothic novel into a contemporary setting and do it well it is Sarah Rees Brennan and that is exactly what she has done with Unspoken.
You know how in all Gothic novels there is a mysterious manor and an equally mysterious yet strangely alluring person/family who lives in said manor? Now imagine that family was the Malfoys and they had the entire town of terrified normal folk under their power. Now imagine one such normal girl was Veronica Mars. Throw in a paranormal connection between girl and boy from family and wrap it all up in Sara Rees Brennan's signature pithy prose and you have Unspoken.
Kami is a heroine with a mind of her own, even when Jared is invading it and reading her thoughts. The girl is all over the place. (In a good way.) Breaking into buildings to gather evidence. Harassing people for information. Walking into dangerous parts of the woods with eyes wide open. Getting herself shoved down wells. Jared has to rescue her a couple of times. She rescues him a couple of times too. Kami is understandably wary of Jared. He knows all there is to know about her and she knows a lot about him too. However she doesn't trust him. Brennan did a brilliant job of making me feel all the emotions Kami was feeling about who to trust. Like her, I found Jared extremely appealing, in the way all troubled bad-boys-who-may-not-be-so bad are. I wanted to trust him, but I didn't completely. It was an interesting ride to take with Kami.
But this book isn't all about Kami and Jared. Kami has a life outside the cute boys that come to town and so suddenly into her life. She's a busy girl. And she has an entire team of people at her back. Her parents are involved in her life. She has friends. She has adorable little siblings. All of these people better live to see the end of the third book.
The mystery surrounding the Lynburns is solved in an action packed sequence in which much happens and not a lot is resolved. This is the beginning of the trilogy and the end is definitely not neat and tidy. Be warned if you don't like books that leave you wanting to what happens next. This one will. I'm certainly eager to know what happens next and that's unfortunate because I have no idea when the next one is coming out in the US.
If you are a fan of the Gothic romance, creepy families, intrepid heroines, and mystery this would be a fun read. And seriously how can you not want to have fun with a book that contains all that?
I read a copy made available via NetGalley. The book will be released on September 11. ...more
I was worried after readingThe Case of the Peculiar Pink Fanthat the series may have lost some of its quality as it continued. It only took reading thI was worried after readingThe Case of the Peculiar Pink Fanthat the series may have lost some of its quality as it continued. It only took reading the prologue of this one for me to say, " Ah, now that's more like it." This book is my favorite in the series after the original. Not only do we have more delightful encounters, or near encounters, between Enola and Sherlock but there is also the added presence of Florence Nightingale as a character. Ms. Springer does a delightful job of again accurately displaying history but also giving her own twist to the motivations of a well known figure in history. (She does include a very brief end note explaining what is true and what is fabricated.) The mystery in this one is tied up in the work of Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War and gives the reader a graphic picture of what life was like for those who fought it and the people who cared for them....more
Sherlock has finally figured out the fastest way to find Enola and its a good thing because he has received a communication from their missing motherSherlock has finally figured out the fastest way to find Enola and its a good thing because he has received a communication from their missing mother that is for her. At the same time they are both tied up in a case involving a missing noblewoman. The book pulls together all the missing pieces in a tidy way and leaves the reader with a sense of closure. (Inexplicably to me Lady Cecily is brought up by Enola again at the end and it is said she has affection for her. I remain completely baffled by this one aspect of the books. She doesn't even really know Lady Cecily, she is fascinated by her own conjectures of Lady Cecily's personality. I really want to point out to her the difference and wish someone else Mycroft? Sherlock? would.) ...more
I didn't like this book nearly as much as I have the others in the series. Jeremy's voice is starting to grate on my nerves and his hero worship for SI didn't like this book nearly as much as I have the others in the series. Jeremy's voice is starting to grate on my nerves and his hero worship for Sir John is beginning to get tedious. This is a personal preference objection. I prefer anti-heroes or at least heroes who flirt with being anti, and Jeremy is just far too well behaved. I also felt in this novel that the historical integrity was being sacrificed for twentieth century political correctness and thought....more
I really enjoyed this series when I first started it but as I've continued it my enjoyment has been steadily decreasing. I skipped and skimmed great cI really enjoyed this series when I first started it but as I've continued it my enjoyment has been steadily decreasing. I skipped and skimmed great chunks of this one without missing anything and keeping up with both mysteries just fine. In the previous novel I noticed some places where 2oth century ideals and thoughts were being unrealistically spouted by the characters and this continues in this volume as well. I think maybe I need to take a break from the series for a while before moving on to the sixth volume. ...more
From looking at the cover you might come to the conclusion that those kids are creepy an bizarre. They are not creepy, bReview originally posted here.
From looking at the cover you might come to the conclusion that those kids are creepy an bizarre. They are not creepy, but they are a bit bizarre. Otto doesn't speak (by choice), Lucia is uncomfortably forthright and Max is super smart and likes to sit on the roof. This is their story and I have a great love for books about siblings who adventure, suffer, and succeed together so I was expecting to like the Hardscrabbles. I was not expecting them to earn a place in my heart next to the Bastables, Pevensies, and Penderwicks, but they have.
The adventures of the Hardscabble children will captivate young readers. What child doesn't love the idea of being on their own in a big city? Or living in a miniature version of a castle complete with its own carousel? Or finding and exploring a secret passageway? Or brilliantly outwitting all the grownups? These kids argue and fuss with each other like any other group of siblings. There are characteristics in them all kids could identify with, but at the same time they are so different, and having such a strange adventure that their story is engrossing. It is the perfect combination.
I really enjoyed the style of the writing here as well. From the beginning it pulls you in: "There were three of them. Otto was the oldest, and the oddest. Then there was Lucia, who wished something interesting would happen. Last of all was Max, who always thought he knew better. They lived in a small town in England called Little Tunks. There is no Big Tunks. One Tunks was more than enough for everyone."
This is one of those books where the story is told in third person by a first person narrator who provides commentary for the reader. Normally that type of narration drives me nuts, but it worked for me in this book, probably because the narrator is one of the children and not some unknown supercilious adult. The narrator's identity is meant to be secret, as this is the story of all three children and not just one. The narrator, not necessarily agreeing with this edict, gives the reader plenty of information to make an accurate identification. I absolutely love the narrator's wit, such as: "They hooted and laughed and staggered around like a pack of drunken idiots as the Hardscrabbles walked by. If I ever become like this when I am a teenager, I hope someone smothers me in my sleep." and "Here is my most important message to you: All great adventures have moments that are really crap."
The ending is a bit rushed, which I'm noticing a lot in books lately. It is described in the book as bittersweet and I think young readers would agree. As a mother, I found it to be really really sad. Don't worry, everyone, including the cat, is alive and well in the end. Happy even.
If you know a kid who loves adventure, humor, and mystery then put this book in their hands. If you are a lover of those things yourself, you should read it too. ...more