Monday, November 8, 2021

Review: When Marnie Was There by Joan G Robinson

I recently posted my review of WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE by Joan G Robinson on my library's Facebook page. 

I confess I hadn’t heard of the 1967 classic WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE by Joan G Robinson until the Studio Ghibli film of the same name was released in 2014. Hearing it was based on a book set in Norfolk I decided to seek it out.

The story is told by Anna, whose age is not specified but seems to be around eleven. She is orphaned at a young age and when her grandmother who was caring for her, also dies she is sent to a children’s home. She is later fostered by a London couple. But Anna doesn’t seem to fit in and is lonely and struggling at school and her health is suffering. In desperation her foster mum sends Anna to stay with friends of hers at the North Norfolk coastal village of Little Overton (modelled on the real-life Burnham Overy Staithe). Anna is immediately drawn to the Marsh House at the end of the creek and imagines who might live there.
Anna spends all her time outside, on the beach, paddling in the creeks and one day sees a young girl having her hair brushed in a window of the Marsh House.
One night, Anna finds a small boat tied up near her house and assumes it has been left for her to visit the Marsh House and she finally gets to meet the young girl, Marnie.
Marnie and Anna spend lots of time together though nobody sees them together and Anna is heard talking to herself. Is Marnie real or imagined?
When Marnie must leave, a new and happier chapter begins for Anna.
This is a very interesting and captivating book which was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. The book teases the mystery of who is Marnie: is she real, a figment of Anna’s imagination or even a ghost? It quietly covers themes of loss and loneliness and grief and acceptance in a beautifully realised Norfolk setting.
“A remote, quiet world where there were only boats and birds and water, and an enormous sky.”

Friday, March 19, 2021

Review: Enola Homes: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer

I recently posted my review of ENOLA HOLMES: THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS by Nancy Springer on my library's Facebook page.

ENOLA HOLMES: THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS by Nancy Springer is the first in a six-book series featuring the hitherto unknown younger sister of famous Victorian detective Sherlock Holmes. First published in the United States in 2006, the recent Netflix film has led to the series being published in paperback in the UK. [NB. The final two books in the series are available as audiobooks via Overdrive/Libby and as CD copies in the library].
Enola and her mother having been living in the country with little to no contact with Enola’s elder brothers Mycroft and Sherlock. Enola is very bright but has not had a conventional education. On Enola’s fourteenth birthday, her mother disappears, without it seems, a trace. Enter the brothers. Shocked by the state of the house and Enola, Mycroft arranges for Enola to attend boarding school.
Enola thinks otherwise and sets off to find her mother, using some clues that her mother left behind for her…alone.
Enola’s journey to London overlaps with a missing person’s case, which she cannot ignore and so lands herself in a lot of danger however she is intelligent enough to save the day.
This is a short book and the first half is Enola escaping her brother’s intentions, and the second half is her escapades in London. It very much sets up the series with Enola becoming not a detective like her brother but a finder of lost things. And there is the ongoing mystery of her mother’s whereabouts.
This is an enjoyable mystery set in the Victorian Era with a humorous, resourceful and quick-witted heroine. Due to some briefly referenced adult themes, it is more of a teenage book than junior fiction.
Also available in the teenage section, is the ‘Young Sherlock’ series by Andrew Lane.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Review: The Highland Falcon Thief by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

I recently posted my review of THE HIGHLAND FALCON THIEF by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli, on my library's Facebook page.

THE HIGHLAND FALCON THIEF by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli, is the first in the “Adventures on Trains” series which will number four entries by the end of 2021 and is aimed at readers aged nine-years-old or older.
The Highland Falcon is the name of a steam engine which, on its final commemorative voyage, is doing a lap of the UK, from London and back, with a stop off at Balmoral in Scotland to pick up the (unnamed) prince and princess who will wave from the train as it passes slowly through stations and show off the magnificent Atlas Diamond necklace.
Our hero is eleven-year-old Hal who is, at first reluctantly, joining his travel writer Uncle Nat on this Royal Train. Hal thinks he’s the only child on the train and is disappointed to not be able to play his electronic games. He is a talented artist, however, and settles for sketching. When Hal spots a girl hiding in the out of bounds part of the train, he tracks her down and together they decide to track down the jewel thief who has struck at least once already, and with the priceless Royal jewel coming aboard they know what the thief’s next target will be.
Things of course do not go to plan, and Hal has to be very brave to save the day and later reveal the culprit in a classic “get all the suspects together in the dining room” denouement.
From its striking foiled cover to the high-quality drawings inside, this is a very attractive book and it is complemented by an exciting and informative story. Readers will pick up some history of the railway whilst trying to solve the puzzle of who is stealing and where are the stolen goods being hidden? The solution to the latter should appeal to the target audience!
THE HIGHLAND FALCON THIEF has unsurprisingly won several awards including the ‘2020 Books Are My Bag readers awards’ for Children’s Fiction.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Review: The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton

I recently posted my review of THE LAST CHANCE HOTEL by Nicki Thornton on my library's Facebook page:

THE LAST CHANCE HOTEL is the first book in the Seth Seppi series. We meet Seth, who is to all intents and purposes an orphan, working as a kitchen boy/general dogsbody to the Bunn family who run the Hotel. He is bullied mercilessly by their awful daughter Tiffany who is supposedly training to be a chef.

There is a grand event being held at the Hotel and Tiffany tricks Seth into making a dessert which is unsuitable for the main guest so Seth quickly rustles up an alternative and labels it for the main guest’s consumption only.

So when the main guest dies of apparent poisoning after sampling their special dessert, Seth is immediately the main and only suspect.

It is then Seth discovers that his cat, Nightshade, can talk and that magic is real. The main thing going for him is that the main detective doesn’t seem to think that Seth did it. Can Seth clear his name? And what else doesn’t he know about his home and its residents?

With its short chapters this is a quick read, and combines a locked-room-style mystery with Harry Potter-style magic. As well as a death there are a few punch-up scenes during the thrilling finale which might steer this to a slightly older children’s audience eg 9+ years.

THE LAST CHANCE HOTEL won the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition in 2016.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Review: Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm

I recently posted my review of ORION LOST my library's Facebook page:

ORION LOST by Alastair Chisholm is set on Orion, a colony spaceship leaving Earth and heading for the planet Eos Five, far far away. The story is told from the point of view of Beth who is thirteen. Her mum is an officer aboard the ship and her dad is also employed on the ship, as a farmer. Beth is training to be an officer herself and soon makes friends with her classmates with the exception of Vihaan, the arrogant son of Orion’s Captain, and his bullying friend Arnold.

For the ship to travel the necessary vast distances, every so often it must “Jump”. The Jump requires that everybody’s memories are backed up just prior to them going to “Sleep” and when they “Wake” the memories are restored.

All is going well aboard the ship, Beth is learning and they’ve made several successful Jumps. But then an unexplained shudder through the ship means everyone is put into emergency Sleep.

When Beth is next awake, it is to find that only her and her classmates can be awoken. The ship is way off the flight-plan, there is massive damage and fires are raging. This small crew has to learn to work together to save themselves, their families and the ship itself. They have to face numerous challenges, ranging from space pirates and mysterious aliens, to the ship’s Artificial Intelligence which might be hiding something, as well as their own fears.

ORION LOST is an absorbing read. It is a mystery, a thriller and a science fiction book all in one. There are lots of twists and turns and surprises and Beth is a character you can root for and empathise with. It appears to be a non-series book though I really would love a sequel.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Review: Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Missing Diamonds by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa

I recently posted my review of AGENT ZAIBA INVESTIGATES: THE MISSING DIAMONDS on my library's Facebook page:

AGENT ZAIBA INVESTIGATES: THE MISSING DIAMONDS, by Annabelle Sami and illustrated by Daniela Sosa, is the first book in a new series and introduces Zaiba, an aspiring detective, and her two sidekicks: her best friend Poppy and younger (half) brother Ali.

The story all takes place in the Royal Star Hotel where Zaiba’s cousin Sam and fiancĂ© Tanvir are having their Mehndi party.

Zaiba, in the best tradition of her hero Eden Lockett - a successful writer of detective stories based on events in her own life – is tasked with identifying the mysterious celebrity who is staying at the hotel. The female celebrity is staying with a small dog who has an expensively bejewelled collar. When first the dog goes missing and then the collar, it is up to Zaiba and her team to find both, solve the mystery and save the day!

I really enjoyed this book. There’s lots of action and use of initiative. All the characters have their individual strengths though Zaiba is on a bit of a learning curve to take notice of her friends’ suggestions at times. Alongside the text there are full-page and incidental illustrations dotted throughout.

Zaiba gets on well with her step-mum Jessica whom she calls mum but there is a mystery about the loss of her birth mum which I hope is revealed over the series. Zaiba feels close to her mum via the Eden Lockett books which she inherited as her mum had written little notes in the margins.

The second book is out in July and I look forward to it.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Review: The Blizzard Challenge by Bear Grylls

I recently posted my review of Bear Grylls' THE BLIZZARD CHALLENGE on my library's Facebook page:

THE BLIZZARD CHALLENGE is the first in the Bear Grylls Adventures series aimed at younger children.

In this first book we meet Olly who has been sent off to an adventure camp with his friend Jack. Jack loves this type of thing but Olly would rather be at home with his tv and creature comforts.

The boys are teamed up with Omar, who doesn’t think much of Olly and his impatient attitude soon has Olly deciding to wander off and leave his team to get on without him. Olly is then given a compass by a girl. The compass seems to have a fifth direction though he cannot read it.

Omar is not happy with Olly for abandoning him and Jack, and there’s a tense atmosphere in their tent. As Olly is trying to sleep, a cold wind blows through the tent and when Olly goes to close the door tighter he finds himself in the snowy mountains with a man called Bear.

Bear and Olly must team up and get away from the approaching storm. They will only survive as a team. During his adventure with Bear, Olly will learn some survival lessons and also how he can push himself to do better and how we are stronger together.

This is a short book with quite simple language with more difficult words explained by Bear eg hypothermia, and it shows the benefits of team-work whilst telling an adventure-filled story. It includes illustrations, provided by Emma McCann. The target audience is around 6+.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Free Ebook: The New Girl

As you may have seen Amazon are offering a number of free ebooks for children/young people at the moment. I recently spotted that Cathy Cole's first Heartside Bay book, The New Girl, was included in the freebies.

I reviewed books one and two here.

Download The New Girl here.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Review: Kat Wolfe Investigates by Lauren St John

I recently posted my review of Lauren St John's Kat Wolfe Investgates on my library's Facebook page:

KAT WOLFE INVESTIGATES, the first in a new series from Lauren St John, won CrimeFest’s, Best Crime Novel for Children (8-12) last year. And I loved it too.

After an unpleasant incident in their London home, Kat's mum, a veterinary surgeon, and Kat relocate to a slightly mysterious job in an idyllic Dorset sea-side town called Bluebell Bay. One of the conditions is that they take on the previous owner's cat, which is no ordinary British Domestic Shorthair... Plus Dr Wolfe has to be able to treat monkeys at the local sanctuary.

As it's the school holidays Kat is soon running her own small business – pet sitter for hire, and meets a temporarily housebound American girl of her own age (12) who has been thrown and badly injured by the very horse that Kat is to look after. Kat also offers to look after a parrot whose Paraguayan owner is returning home for a while. This latter job is what instigates an involving adventure with international implications.

This is a very rich book, with quite a complicated storyline. I don't want to say anything more about the plot but it is I think, quite an unusual story for this age group. Kat is a great animal-whisperer and not surprisingly her and her mum are vegan. She has a good heart and those around her respond to it. This book beams with good messages, has an exciting story and is quite funny as well.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Where Have I Been?

As you may have noticed, I've not posted anything for a long time. A couple of life changes have meant that I currently have less time to spend blogging and both my blogs have suffered though I have kept the Euro Crime one ticking over.

I do still work in a library and I do still co-oversee the children's/teenage reading group.

I'm not sure when or if I'll get back to my YA reading in large quantities like I used to. Most of my reading time is spent on Scandinavian crime fiction for the Petrona Award which was set up to remember a dear friend who died in 2012.

At the moment I am disbanding my (somewhat dated) YA tbr by distributing my finished review copies to the library and proofs to my reading group.

Thank you to any readers of this blog and publishers who have sent me books in the past. I am trying to continue the good work with library users even though I am unable to blog.