Sunday 1 August 2021

Book Review - Murder Most Unladylike


Title: Murder Most Unladylike

Author: Robin Stevens

Series: Murder Most Unladylike (Book 1) 

Publisher: Puffin 

Release Date: 18 Feb. 2016 

ISBN-13: 978-0141369761


1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up a secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find a truly exciting mystery to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't.)
But then Hazel discovers the body of the Science Mistress, Miss Bell - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls have to solve a murder, and prove a murder has happened in the first place before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally),
But will they succeed?
And can their friendship stand the test?


My Review

I have seen these books around a lot over the last few years and I always looked at them and thought they would be the sort of thing that I would enjoy but I had never got round to reading them. Then in the last couple of weeks of term, my class had a library lesson and the librarian read an extract from one of the books and I was engrossed. I asked if I could borrow the first book and she gave me a copy straight away. My mum then also told me she was planning on reading them, so we are making our way through the series together and then talking about them.

This is the first book in the series, it is set in 1934 in a girls boarding school, Hazel Wong is our narrator, a young girl from Hong Kong who has come over to America for her full education, learning to fit in and be a part of English society seems oddly challenging to her, but she observes all around and does her best. I like Hazel, I think she is funny and silly and has a good sense of humour. She makes friends with Daisy Wells who is the quintessential English girl - blonde hair, blue eyes, popular and daring. Together they form a Detective society, although nothing of any excitement really happens. Until Hazel finds Miss Bell, their science teacher, dead on the gymnasium floor - suddenly they have a real murder on their hands, and they need to solve it before the whole school finds out, or worse, someone else is next!

I really enjoyed the book, the Agatha Christie references are quite obvious, but there is a real charm about the books, you can't help but like the characters, and the story is fast paced enough to keep you hooked. I had to know who was behind it, and I feared for Hazel and Daisy at times, hoping they would triumph. I had suspicions as to who it was and was pleased that I was proven correct, but I wasn't able to fully solve everything and there were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing.

I will definitely be reading more of the series and would recommend these to anyone who loves a good mystery, they are gripping, charming and delightful.


My Rating


Book Review - All Dogs Great and Small

 Title: All Dogs Great and Small

Author: Graeme Hall 

Publisher: ‎ Ebury Press 

Release Date: 18 Feb. 2021 

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1529107449

Have you ever wished you could get the dog in your life to behave better?
Enter Graeme Hall: The Dogfather.
Having worked with more than 5,000 dogs, of all shapes and sizes, Graeme has seen pretty much every behavioural issue going. And - whether it's house-destruction, fear and anxiety, or aggression - he's helped to fix it.
From the Great Dane scared of a chihuahua and the Labrador that barked whenever his owners tried to eat, to the schoolboy error that landed him in hospital, in All Dogs Great and Small, Graeme shares some of his hard-won, often hilarious, success stories (as well as the odd disaster). Backed up by scientific research, he also reveals his simple, practical and effective golden rules for dog training, which will enable you to understand your dog, help you drive better behaviours and give you the tools to bring much-needed harmony to your home.

My Review

This isn't my normal type of read, but I enjoy watching 'Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly) on TV and my dad bought this book and offered me the chance to read it. I don't have a dog myself but often go over and walk my parents dog so I thought, 'why not?' and gave this a go.

It tells stories from Graeme's career and some of the encounters he has had with dogs and their owners, but also offers some advice and wisdom on how to get the best behaviour and response from your dog. It's easy to read and flows really well, it reads like Graeme is talking to you, which I really liked. 

There is a certain sarcastic humour to parts of it, and of course things that should be common sense, but I really enjoyed reading his take on training and situations and would definitely apply some of them to my own dog when I get one in the future.

A very interesting book with some helpful tips and tricks and some heartwarming stories too. A must for any fans of the show, or any dog owners.


My Rating


Book Review - Melt


Title: Melt

Author: Ele Fountain 

Publisher: ‎ Pushkin Children's Books 

Release Date: 29 April 2021

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1782692881



Yutu lives in a remote, Arctic village with his elderly grandmother. Their traditional way of life is threatened by the changing snow and ice, which melts faster every year.
Bea is trying to adapt to yet another new school. Worse still, her father’s new job takes up any spare time, and his behaviour becomes odd and secretive. On a trip she hopes will fix things, their fates take a drastic turn and Bea's life becomes entwined with Yutu's in a way she could never have imagined.
Together, they are locked in a desperate race for survival.

My Review

I started my summer holidays off with this book, we will be using this book during the first week of term with our new year 7's (11-12year olds), so I needed to read this so that I can help plan some lessons based on it.

I was worried that the book would be really preachy and overly factual but I was very pleased to find that it was actually a really nice story based around 2 different yet likeable characters and their struggles with fitting in and finding purpose. There is some mention and focus on the fact that the ice is melting and therefore people's way of life is changing, but it was presented as more of a challenge that our characters faced within their lives and those around them, and I never felt like I was being moaned at or coerced into donating to something. It was handled subtly but still with meaning.

The story starts with alternating narrative, the chapters alternate between Yutu and Bea. Yutu lives in a small, remote village in the arctic, his parents died when he was a child and he has been brought up by his grandma. She is very over-protective and never seems to want Yutu to do anything. He goes to school, he studies and he helps round the house. But Yutu has dreams, if he studies hard enough he may be able to get into a college and leave his tiny town. But his determination to prove himself often gets him into trouble.

Bea has moved to another new school, her father's job means they move around a lot, and this is at least the tenth or twelfth move. Immediately she feels like she doesn't fit in, she somehow upsets the popular girls and suddenly life is miserable. On top of that, her father starts to act strange and she feels like she is being pushed away by everyone. Then her father invites her on a flight for a job, but when they get ambushed, Bea has to run and try to find help, that's when she meets Yutu.

After that all the chapters are narrated by Bea, i did miss Yutu's voice a bit, but it definitely made it easier to follow, having to focus on just one point of view.

I found the book very easy to read and follow, I liked the main characters and I felt myself getting invested in their story, I wanted to know what would happen and if they would survive. The book is not very long and I had finished in just over 2 hours. It was creative, moving and different and I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.  


My Rating


Wednesday 30 June 2021

Book Review - The Girl Who Speaks Bear


Title: The Girl Who Speaks Bear

Author: Sophie Anderson 

Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd 

Release Date: 5 Sept. 2019 

ISBN-13: 978-1474940672


Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, 12-year-old Yanka has always felt out of place in her small village. When she wakes up to find that her legs have become bear legs, she sets off into the forest to discover who she is, on a journey that takes her from icy rivers to smouldering mountains, with an ever-growing group of misfits alongside her... Interwoven with traditional stories of bears, princesses and dragons, Yanka's journey is a gorgeously lyrical adventure from the best-selling author of The House With Chicken Legs. 


My Review

This is the last of the Carnegie shortlist books that I have been reading. From the blurb, I thought is sounded a bit weird but very intriguing and i think the cover is beautiful so I was quite looking forward to reading it. 

Yanka was found as a baby outside a bears cave, she was taken back the village by the person she now calls mother, but Yanka has always felt out of place, much bigger and stronger than all of the other children and with a yearning for the forest, she isn't sure where she belongs in life. Then one morning, she wakes up to discover that her legs have turned from human to bear! Desperate not to let anyone see, she runs away and takes off into the woods - desperate to find out what is happening to her and guided by old folk stories and legends.

That was my favourite part of the book - between chapters there would be a traditional story printed that was linked to this story, so you got a variety of other tales too that all connected and made the world seem more alive and realistic. I actually preferred the legends to the main story.

I found Yanka to be quite a strong and brave young lady considering what she was going through but at times she could also be very annoying and naive. But I did find myself hoping that she would find her happiness.

The story was quite odd, and I wasn't entirely sure of the relevance of all of it, it is quite convoluted in getting to the ending and i skim read some parts as i got a bit bored, but overall I really enjoyed the story and would definitely like to know more about the background of her father and ancestors and their links to the bears.

Overall, I enjoyed it and wouldn't be upset if it won.   

My Rating


Book Review - Clap When You Land


Title: Clap When You Land

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo 

Publisher: Hot Key Books 

Release Date: 5 May 2020 

ISBN-13‏: 978-1471409127


Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people...
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal's office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance - and Papi's secrets - the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they've lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Papi's death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.

 My Review

This was another of the Carnegie nominated books, it is also another one written in verse - which seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment. The book is also told in a duel narrative - splitting between Camino in the Dominican Republic and Yahaira in New York. They both share the same father, but neither knows of the others existence. He splits his time between life in New York and the summers in the DR, Camino knows he has a family and his main life is in NY, but Yahaira assumes that he goes away for business each year.

Then at the start of summer, his plane crashes, there are no survivors and suddenly both girls have to come to terms with the loss, and when they discover that he had more secrets than they could have ever imagined, they also have to come to terms with having a whole new family. But can they get along, when they are so different?

The story was better than I expected, but very slow to get started. I found it quite difficult to tell the difference between the two narratives at first - both girl seemed quite similar, but as the story progresses they do start to develop their own characteristics and personalities and the story got more exciting.

I liked the concept of the story, the idea of the two worlds colliding and the two very different lifestyles having to find the common ground. And it was executed fairly well, but I honestly think I would have got more out of it if it had been written in prose, I craved more details, I wanted to know more about the girls and their backgrounds and the places they lived. Verse novels tend to skim the surface, and whilst some do give details in a clever way, this one just felt like there was something missing.

It wasn't a bad read, and I'm glad i've read it, but I wasn't blown away by it.

My Rating


Wednesday 5 May 2021

Book Review - Echo Mountain

 Title: Echo Mountain

Author: Lauren Wolk 

Publisher: Penguin 

Release Date: 7 May 2020 

ISBN-13: 978-0241424155


1933. When Ellie and her family lose everything, they flee to Echo Mountain to build a new life. Ellie runs wild, exploring the mountain's mysteries. But the one she can't solve is who's leaving the gifts for her: tiny, beautiful wooden carvings of animals and flowers, dotted around the mountain for her to find.

Then Ellie's father has a terrible accident. Now he lies in a coma, while Ellie shoulders the blame for what happened. When she sets out to find a cure for him, she discovers Cate, the outcast witch, and Larkin, a wild mountain boy. From them she learns about being a healer, being brave - and about how there can be much more to a person than first meets the eye.

 My Review

This is another book on the Carnegie shortlist, and I have to admit that this is the one that I was looking forward to the most, I know you should never judge a book by its cover - but I thought this one was really attractive, I loved the mix of blues that created a magical, wintery atmosphere, and all the details added in - you could literally look at this cover for a good half hour and still spot different details. 

The blurb sounded interesting to me and I wasn't sure if it would be fantasy style or not, but I was certainly intrigued. After the Great Depression, Ellie's family has lost everything - forced to leave their home and possessions behind, they make thier way up the mountain to start a new life. At first they must adapt to tents and tinned food, but they soon learn how to build shelters, hunt food and establish a way of life. There are 5 families on the mountain and they trade goods to aid survival - milk from one's family cows in exchange for honey from another's bees etc. Life seems to be going well, and Ellie is settling into her new life well, her sister may not be all that impressed and her mum may miss certain aspects of normal life but they've created a good strong foundation and life is moving on. But then one day Ellie's dad has a serious accident, hit on the head by a fallen tree and now in a coma. Ellie is desperate to get her dad back - life is not the same without him and they don't know if they can survive. But then Ellie starts to find little wood carvings, and when she ventures up the mountain, she finds Cate - the old hag. No one is sure if she is a witch or just a crazy old woman, but Ellie sees beyond that and soon the pair are working together to heal more than just her dad. 

Although there isn't any actual magic or witchcraft in the book, there is a very magical almost ethereal feel to the story and I felt hooked in by it and swept away by the story and it's characters. 

I found myself really liking Ellie, she is plucky, stubborn and a bit unsure of herself, but she is determined and refuses to give up. Her family is quite dysfunctional yet works perfectly. My favourite character is actually Cate, I loved her no nonsense attitude and old-world feel.

I wanted to know more about their mountain life and all the characters - the book swept me up and immersed me into the world and I was desperate to have time to keep reading, and I really enjoyed reading too. I was never bored or put off, every sentence, every word swept me through the story, and so far this book definitely has my vote as the winner. It was truly gripping. 

 My Rating


Book Review - The Girl Who Became a Tree

 Title: The Girl Who Became a Tree

Author: Joseph Coelho 

Publisher: Otter-Barry Books Ltd 

Release Date: 27 Aug. 2020 

ISBN-13: 978-1913074784



Daphne is unbearably sad and adrift. She feels the painful loss of her father acutely and seeks solace both in the security of her local library and the escape her phone screen provides by blocking out the world around her. As Daphne tries to make sense of what has happened she recalls memories of shared times and stories past, and in facing the darkness she finds a way back from the tangle of fear and confusion, to feel connected once more with her friends and family.   


My Review

This is yet another of the Carnegie shortlist, given to me to read as part of our school group. This is ANOTHER verse book- it seems to me that this is some sort of trend that authors are jumping on and I'm not quite sure why. I really enjoyed 'Run, Rebel' and thought the verse actually helped progress and deal with the story, but unless done in a particular way that allows the story to flow through the poems, it's very hard to get right. 

I read the blurb of this one and felt encouraged, it sounded fantasy style, set in a library - 2 of my favourite things, add onto that the fact that it's based on a Greek legend which i always like,  so I expected to enjoy it. My overall feeling of the book however was mainly confusion - I found it very hard to keep up with what was going on and why. I got that she went to the library after school to wait for her mum, she liked the place and the way she could escape, either in a good book or through using her phone. The whole 'journey into the hole in the shelves' confused me though - I wasn't sure at first if it was an actual journey or a metaphorical one, I had no idea what the creature was meant to be or why it wanted her there. The poems, for me, just didn't flow, I did not connect to the characters and didn't really care what happened to her. I still want verse books to hook me in and make me care, but this one just didn't. It was just weird!

I actually feel that this was a story that would benefit from more information, proper prose and description to fully immerse you in Daphne's world. This did nothing to entice me, and the only plus was that it is so short, I had finished it within half an hour. It's only 172 pages, and a number of those have 'illustrations' - strange pictures that also made no sense to me. And most of the poems are quite short so you will be done in no time. 

I would not pick this up again or recommend it to anyone, very disappointing and confusing. Maybe I've just missed something - but who knows?

 My Rating

Saturday 1 May 2021

Book Review - Run, Rebel

 Title: Run, Rebel

Author: Manjeet Mann 

Publisher: Penguin 

Release Date: 5 Mar. 2020 

ISBN-13 : 978-0241411421 


When Amber runs, it's the only time she feels completely free - far away from her claustrophobic home life. Her father wants her to be a dutiful daughter, waiting for an arranged marriage like her sister Ruby.
Running is a quiet rebellion. But Amber wants so much more - and she's ready to fight for it.
It's time for a revolution.

 My Review

This is another one of the Carnegie shortlist books I have been given to read. I wasn't sure what to expect before picking it up, although it's nearly 400 pages, it is written in verse so I knew it would be quite a quick read. I'm a bit hesitant about verse novels as it seems to be a trend that everyone is jumping on at the moment and some are brilliant but others are shocking. So I tried to approach this with as open a mind as possible. 

Amber lives with her very strict father, who expects her to be the perfect daughter, follwoing the rules and preparing for an arranged marriage when the time comes, but Amber wants to live her own life and follow her own destiny, she loves nothing more that to run and when she gets the chance to join the school team and train towards a future as an athlete she has to decide whether it is worth upsetting her family in order to follow her dreams.

Along the way we meet Ambers 2 friends whi try to keep her grounded, but even they have their moments where Amber wonders why they hang out with her, will the two of them fall in love and leave her behind and will they ever find out about her harsh home life, having to witness her fathers violent outbursts towards her mother, and sometimes herself.

The book does deal with domestic violence and abuse, along with the strains put on children of foreign parents who can't speak English, meaning the children have to be responsible for everything. Although these are heavy issues, the books verse style and the way the author has presented them, make them easier to read and deal with. They are still as serious as ever, but it isn't too graphic which allows you to emphasise with Amber and wish for a change along with her. 

I liked how Amber grew and developed across the novel, in so few words you see her go from a scared, submissive girl into a girl capable of rebellion, but it's not a quick change - you see it build across a time scale that would be totally believable and it's heart warming to see. I found myself growing to like her more and more and rooting for her to succeed. However my favourite character is her mother - she emerges even more than Amber does and I desperately wanted her to get free and live her own life.

This is certainly not the sort of book I would usually pick up, which is why I love this Carnegie award as it is exposing me to different types of novel and allowing me to get immersed in a mixture of different worlds. This is a powerful and moving novel that is easily accessible and gripping. 

My Rating


Thursday 29 April 2021

Book Review - Look Both Ways

 Title: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

Author: Jason Reynolds 

Publisher: Knights Of 

Release Date: 7 Nov. 2019 

ISBN-13: 978-1999642594



Parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, nosy neighbours, babysitters - there's not much of your day that isn't dictated by someone else. Unless you walk home from school - walkers have independence - those fifteen-minutes from school to home, completely unsupervised. What waits for them is the mischief of curiosity, allies and enemies, a taste of freedom, and plenty of humour.  

My Review

This is the third title I have been given from the Carnegie shortlist, this one is very short and from first appearances I wasn't particularly looking forward to reading it, but at just over 130 pages, I knew it would be a fairly quick experience.

The book is divided into 10 chapters and each one follows a child, or a friendship group of children and gives you an insight into their world for that short walk home from school. The concept itself was quite good but I had three main problems with it.

Firstly, I would just start to connect with the character, feel like I was getting to know them and wanting to know more about their story when the chapter would end and it would move to a different child on a different street with a completely different life. Some people may enjoy these brief interludes and be content but I found it very frustrating, I wanted to know more about some of the stories but that was it. 

Secondly, Some of the stories were just boring, especially if you had just read a really gripping one such as the group of pickpockets with a deeper meaning behind thier actions. Some of them I just found rather irritating and I just wanted them to get home so i could stop reading about them.   

Lastly, I was expecting there to be some big reveal or connection between all the stories, I thought there was going to be a massive moment where all of these children came together and found a common ground, to give some reason to their stories and ventures, but apart from the odd cross over where a new character would see one of the others in the hallway, there was no link at all and as I finished the book I turned to my husband and said 'well what was the point of that then?!!?' It all just fell rather flat and I'm still not sure exactly what the point of this book is.

Some may enjoy these brief stories and peeks into the lives of our walkers, but I just found it frustrating and it didn't ever go anywhere. So a big disappointment from me, but it did only take me an hour to read so not much wasted time!

My Rating


Book Review - On Midnight Beach


Title: On Midnight Beach

Author: Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick 

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Release Date: 2 April 2020 

ISBN-13: 978-0571355594



I kept clear of Dog Cullen. Till the summer we turned seventeen, the summer the dolphin came to Carrig Cove . . .
Donegal, 1976
When a dolphin takes up residence in Carrig Cove, Emer and her best friend, Fee, feel like they have an instant connection with it. Then Dog Cullen and his sidekick, Kit, turn up, and the four friends begin to sneak out at midnight to go down to the beach, daring each other to swim closer and closer to the creature . . .

But the fame and fortune the dolphin brings to their small village builds resentment amongst their neighbours across the bay, and the summer days get longer and hotter . . . There is something wild and intense in the air. Love feels fierce, old hatreds fester, and suddenly everything feels worth fighting for.

My Review

This is the second book I was given as part of the Carnegie award, from the blurb I was quite looking forward to this one - I like Dolphins and books set by the sea so thought I would absorb it and love it.

In a lazy seaside town called Carrig Cove, Emer is forced to work in her dads shop, he's quite strict and doesn't like her going out, but one summer a dolphin arrives in the bay and causes quite a stir with the locals, and soon tourists are arriving too, but Emer seems to have a connection with the dolphin and the four of them sneak out at midnight to swim with the dolphin, and maybe get to know each other better too. Emer and Dog start to get closer and soon a relationship is blooming, but there is rivalry with the other nearest town, soon there are fights and disputes that could endanger the town, the dolphin and the kids.

There are a host of other characters that we meet and follow too, including Gus who used to live in one of the towns but moved to the other and never really fit into either, then theres Maeve who wants to be the center of attention. This was the main part of the book I didn't like, this is a teen book and most of the book reads like it would be aimed at a younger or mid teen, on the Carnegie website it says it is suitable for Year 9 at school and up, but that means students as young as 13 are reading this book, and there is a lot of sex scenes in it. I don't mind the odd sexual reference if it is absolutely necessary and furthers the story and plot line, but this one just seemed to have moments for no reason other than the author felt like it. At one point Maeve comments on the size of his c**k and then they precede to strip each other and go at it. This continues throughout the book, but I couldn't really see a point to any of it. IT just made me feel uncomfortable, especially knowing some of the students who had this book and would be cringing at reading it. I don't think it is necessary or appropriate.

 The thing I did find most interesting about the book though was that it is actually based on an old legend, which made me interested in looking up the legend and discovering more about it. 

Overall I found the book to be a bit of a washout, i didn't care much about any of the main characters, the dolphin is not really the main focus of the book - it's just a catalyst for events and there was far too much sexual references. Just didn't spark anything in me. 

My Rating