Mini Review Round-Up: September – October 2015

I realized the other day that I read a bunch of books in the past few months that I didn’t write reviews on. I’m not sure why, to be honest, but instead of writing eight (!) extra posts, I’ve condensed them all into one post of mini reviews!

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow – Katherine Woodfine

24463265A charming middle-grade mystery. I can see it appealing to people who’ve read/want to read The Adventures of Miss Petitfour (except a lot less cats). There were certain elements that seemed “older” than middle-grade, but I feel like people in the UK have different standards for children’s books. Also, LOVE the endpapers/spot illustrations by Julia Sarda.

Rating: 4 interrobangs


Knightly and Son – Rohan Gavin

17978149Mix Artemis Fowl (or really any Eoin Colfer boy protagonist) with a hint of Sherlock Holmes, a dash of Lemony Snicket’s All The Wrong Questions series, and a lot of Spy (the hilarious British show), and you get this. I think I literally laughed out loud a couple of times (or at least snorted). Another fun middle-grade mystery, not to be taken too seriously.

Rating: 4 interrobangs


The Ghosts of Ashbury High – Jaclyn Moriarty

0-545-06973-4I’ve been a big fan of Jaclyn Moriarty’s Ashbury/Brookfield books for many years, and I was so stoked when I realized there was a fourth book (they’re loosely connected so you don’t really need to read them in order). I liked what she was doing with it – ghosts! gothic fiction! exams! – but I found it took longer to get into this installment than the others.

Rating: 4 interrobangs


Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times – Emma Trevayne

18332010This cover kills me, it’s so pretty. It had a lot of elements that I really enjoyed – clocks and London and alternate universes, to name a few – and I would compare the tone to classic children’s books like Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz. The only thing that stopped it from being perfect was the slow-moving plot: stuff happened, but it took a while for it to really pick up.

Rating: 4.5 interrobangs


Vivian Divine is Dead – Lauren Sabel

18651963I got an ARC of this last year when I was interning at HarperCollins Canada and then sort of forgot about it until last week. It started out great, then kind of sputtered along in the middle, and the end was good in a soap opera kind of way. Now that I think about it, it’s probably similar to a really dramatic Hispanic soap opera. Decent, but not stellar.

Rating: 3 interrobangs


Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean – Justin Somper

1721141This was a re-read. I know it sounds almost like a joke (vampires + pirates?), but it’s honestly such a good series, even if the second book is a little slow. Lorcan Furey is definitely one of my book boyfriends. And I know it gets better, especially when the badass lady vampirate shows up. Really, I was just glad to see it still held up after almost ten years!

Rating: 5 interrobangs


Why is This Night Different From All Other Nights? – Lemony Snicket

25229245I’ve been reading Lemony Snicket books for literally half my life, so you think by now I’d know that a series ending is just going to leave me confused. It was about as satisfying (that is, unsatisfying) as I expected, but still so Lemony Snicket (if you’ve read his books, you know exactly what I’m talking about). Loved the references to ASOUE characters!

Rating: 4 interrobangs


Whisky From Small Glasses and The Last Witness  – Denzil Meyrick

2482053222665422I liked book one more. It was well-paced and I could easily imagine the small Scottish town where it took place. It’s interesting because some of the characters, such as DS Scott had heavy Scottish accents which were depicted in the text (think Hagrid’s way of speaking x 1000). Book two was harder to get into for because the storyline was more complicated and DS Scott played a huge role, which made reading it a chore.

Rating (Whisky From Small Glasses): 4 interrobangs
Rating (The Last Witness): 3 interrobangs

Have you read any of the books on this list? Or do you have any recs for me now that I’ve read these? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Don’t forget to enter this giveaway for an ebook of J.P. Grider’s Naked and Far From Home, courtesy of Xpresso Book Tours!

Shouldn’t You Be in School – Lemony Snicket // The Beautiful and the Cursed – Page Morgan // Every Breath – Ellie Marney

Shouldn’t You Be in School?:

“Young apprentice Lemony Snicket is trying to smoke out an arsonist but soon finds himself enveloped in a thickening haze of mystery that has settled upon the town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea. Who is setting the fires? What secrets are hidden in the Department of Education? Why are so many schoolchildren in danger? Is it all the work of the notorious villain Hangfire? How could you even ask that?
Maybe you should be in school.”

I read the second book in the series, When Did You See Her Last? in September, and honestly, I don’t have anything else to add to this.

Oh, except for the fact that this book officially confirms what VFD stands for, even though it’s easy to work out if you’ve read all of A Series of Unfortunate Events. But still! To have THE LEMONY SNICKET confirm it is basically what I’ve been waiting for my whole life (or at least the past ten years).

The Beautiful and the Cursed:

“It was bizarre and inexplicable, but after it happened no one spoke of it, and Ingrid Waverly was forced to leave her life in London behind. She had to trade a world full of fancy dresses and society events and move to Paris with her mother and younger sister, Gabby.
In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house her twin brother Grayson found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s a creepy old abbey with a roof lined with stone gargoyles that one could almost mistake for living, breathing creatures.
And Grayson is missing.
Yet no one seems to be concerned about Grayson’s whereabouts save for Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant who has some secrets of his own.
Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead–she can feel it deep in her soul–but she knows he’s in grave danger, and it’s up to her and Gabby to find him before all hope is lost.
Only the path to Grayson is more dangerous than Ingrid could ever have imagined.”

I actually didn’t realize this was YA when I first picked it up, but it doesn’t really feel YA (apart from their ages). Here is a one word spoiler: gargoyles. Do you know how rare it is to find gargoyles in YA? I can’t even think of another book that mentions gargoyles, nevermind features them so prominently.

I liked all the characters so much, I’m still not sure which guy I like the most (Luc? Vander? Nolan?), and there were a couple of betrayals at the end that had me gasping so hard I choked. It was excellent. Even the female characters were well done – Ingrid is strong (in more ways than one) and not in the least bit whiny, and Gabby is, for lack of a better word, pretty badass for a English lady in 1899.

As Ro pointed out (she read it before me, then repeated “YOU HAVE TO READ IT” until I gave in, despite the fact that I had literally 50 other books sitting on my “to read” shelf…it was worth it), if the writing had been subpar, this book would not have been good. But Page Morgan’s writing was vivid and fast-paced and I couldn’t wait to see where she was leading me.

I’m trying to convince myself I don’t need the sequel right away…

Every Breath:

“When James Mycroft drags Rachel Watts off on a night mission to the Melbourne Zoo, the last thing she expects to find is the mutilated body of Homeless Dave, one of Mycroft’s numerous eccentric friends. But Mycroft’s passion for forensics leads him to realize that something about the scene isn’t right–and he wants Watts to help him investigate the murder.
While Watts battles her attraction to bad-boy Mycroft, he’s busy getting himself expelled and clashing with the police, becoming murder suspect number one. When Watts and Mycroft unknowingly reveal too much to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den–literally. A trip to the zoo will never have quite the same meaning to Rachel Watts again…”

Oh man. As soon as I saw this cover, I knew I had to read it. I’ve never been a massive Sherlock Holmes fan, though recently I became obsessed with the BBC Sherlock series, but the premise was so intriguing.

I loved it. Mycroft and Watts…I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved them. Watts was strong and independent; when she argued or made a fuss about something, you couldn’t blame her because it was the most realistic reaction to her situation. Mycroft was eccentric without being completely insane, and the two of them made a delightful pair. I was definitely rooting for their relationship from page one. The dialogue was realistic, and the supporting characters were also interesting, and it takes place in Australia which I rarely get to read about, so that was a plus.

The sequel, Every Word, comes out later this year…I don’t know if I can wait that long!

Coraline – Neil Gaiman // Descendant – Lesley Livingston // When Did You See Her Last? – Lemony Snicket

Three books again! I’m on a flippin’ roll…

Coraline:

“When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wits and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.”

This was the first Gaiman book I ever read, when I was about 12 or so. I didn’t remember much of it, apart from the fact that it’s deliciously creepy as heck, but I do quite enjoy the movie version (sidenote: I spent the first half of the book wondering where Wybie was until I figured out he was just a movie character).

I can see why this is a “cross-over” book: some children (like me, the first time around), will enjoy being scared, and some adults (like me, the second time) will appreciate how dark it is. The Other Mother is definitely in the running as the most terrifying villain in children’s literature (sorry, Voldemort, you’re big and bad, but SPOILER ALERT your dismembered hand never skittered down a hallway between worlds). That plot point and the button eyes stayed with me the first time I read it…which is why, even though I like LaLaLoopsy dolls (they have some funny names), their eyes sort of freak me out.

Descendant:

“In this pulse-pounding sequel to Starling, Mason Starling is alone after having crossed over into the realm of the Norse gods, and her only way out—the Bridge of Asgard—has been destroyed. Already traumatized after seeing Fennrys shot, Mason is further shocked to find herself in a place that she thought existed only in myth—Hel. So when she is greeted by a mysterious woman who introduces herself as the queen of Hel and Mason’s long-dead mother, things quickly go from bad to strange.Mason needs to return to her old life in Manhattan—and more importantly, she needs to find Fenn. In her quest to leave Hel, Mason learns she must find the Spear of Odin, a powerful magickal object and the only thing that can get her back home. What Mason doesn’t know is that if she takes up the Spear, she could set forth a series of events culminating in the end of the world . . .”

A couple of weeks ago, I read Starling, and liked it…so naturally when I read Descendant, I liked it too. Mythology – Norse, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian – is further explained and developed in this one; since I don’t have a big mythology background, it feels like I’m learning something new! Even if some of it has been tweaked to fit this particular story.

I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s a sequel, but again, the major problem was the amount of emphasis put on Mason’s physical attributes: midnight hair and super blue eyes. It’s constantly mentioned, and, unless it’s going to be a Harry Potter situation (where having his mother’s eyes makes for a devastating moment), it’s really not necessary.

My other issue – and I felt the same way with the first one – is that the beginning starts of strong, then there’s a lag in the middle, and finally the end explodes all over your face with a crazy cliffhanger. Which makes sense, and is typical of books in general, but you hit a certain point and sort of barrel through to the end so that by the time you’re done, there’s a moment of “Wait, what?”. Of course, that just makes you anxious for the next book, so it’s really quite effective.

When Did You See Her Last?:

“In the fading town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, young apprentice Lemony Snicket has a new case to solve when he and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl. Is the girl a runaway? Or was she kidnapped? Was she seen last at the grocery store? Or could she have stopped at the diner? Is it really any of your business? These are all the wrong questions.”

I’ve been a Lemony Snicket fan for a really long time, and I just had to pick up his next series, if only for some closure (I was perplexed for months after the end of A Series of Unfortunate Events). This series focuses on a young Snicket (pre-Baudelaire children) and his many adventures after joining the “organization”.

I don’t really remember what happened in the first book, Who Could That Be at This Hour?, but there’s enough description in this one that you at least have a vague idea of what happened previously. And since Snicket is a pro at being vague, you can’t really ask for anything more.

I love the various literary allusions (even if I don’t catch all of them), and I absolutely love how one of Snicket’s associates shows up at the end, a childhood version of an adult character from ASOUE. If you’ve read the previous books, it’s very easy to pick up on who this associate will grow up to become, well before Snicket reveals their name.

Large font (and even larger margins), a handful of illustrations, and a fast-moving story line make it easy to finish a book in a day. Quick and easy reading that’s satisfying yet leaves you asking all the (probably wrong) questions.