This first in The Sinclair’s Mysteries series is certainly of a type, but for fans of Robin Stevens this is a must.
Our main character, Sophie Taylor, has not in the most auspicious of circumstances. Her mother died when Sophie was little, and her father has recently been killed at War. For reasons which are never fully explained, Sophie’s home has been sold from under her and she is now responsible for herself. Sophie is clearly resourceful and has secured a position as a milliner’s assistant in Sinclair’s store – a wonder of the time.
Unfortunately, on the night before the grand opening a mysterious object – the clockwork sparrow – is stolen along with a number of valuable jewels. Sophie is accused of the theft, but we know – from the events we’ve watched – that this is not the full story.
From the outset we are plunged into a world of espionage, where young adults get to show they are cleverer than established detectives. There’s the occasional red herring and we are kept in the dark with certain characters/links.
While I was frustrated by some of the mysteries remaining hidden, there was enough there to make me think the Baron will be a recurring feature of these novels – and I wondered if he would end up being a little closer to home than Sophie is prepared for.
Having changed their ‘happy ever after’ Sophie and Agatha have returned home. They don’t need a prince, but neither of them is happy and we have to wonder what this means.
In book two the girls are returned to this world, but an unspoken wish has changed things. It’s no longer a school of good and evil, but boys and girls are pitted against one another. The only way the girls can return home is if they find the means to end their story.
This book focuses on quite a drawn-out scenario. Both Sophie and Agatha are tested, and their greatest battle comes from within. Someone is trying to prevent them from getting their heart’s desire, but when they don’t really know what they want what chance do they have?
The whole thing felt a bit pointless at times. It got a little more exciting towards the end, but I’m pretty sure a bit of a chat between the characters could have resolved a good number of their issues.
Having survived her trip into the veil last time, Cassidy’s parents are – understandably – concerned for her welfare. They urge her to take care, but this is Cassidy Blake so we know things aren’t going to remain settled.
This time round the family are visiting Paris for their show. Unfortunately, Cass disturbed the spirit of a young boy who starts to cause trouble for her. After her usual attempts to help the spirit move on fail, Cassidy realises she has to do more.
The quest to work out how to remove the poltergeist ensures Cassidy encounters some unexpected events and finds herself seeing a very different side to Paris.
We have the usual account of her parents’ show but I loved that we get to learn a little more about Jacob.
The story was well-paced and just the right side of scary. What I particularly enjoyed was the ending, with the mysterious figure causing a very unusual reaction in Cassidy which – I’m hoping – we’ll be told more about in book 3.
Scheduled for release in early September 2019, this sequel to The Lost Magician picks up the Narnia vibe so prevalent in that story. Ever since I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child I loved the idea of another land waiting to be discovered. To have such a land ruled by Readers…combining the two best things…a recipe for a great story.
Even if you haven’t read book one this story makes sense and captures the imagination perfectly.
Jewel is often singled out for being different to her peers. When we first see her being chased out of school by those bullying her, we know just how desperate she is to find her place in the world. Stumbling into a mysterious bookshop, Jewel finds herself reading an unusual atlas – one that seems to bring the world around her to life. Before we know it, Jewel and her hamster Fizz have been transported to Folio and are assigned a mysterious quest.
The links to book one are explained clearly, which keeps new readers up to date. One of the original four has found their way back to the world of Folio and set in motion a chain of events with potentially dire consequences. Jewel is charged with helping rescue her aunt Evie.
So begins a series of adventures and Jewel’s knowledge of stories stands her in good stead to navigate this scenario. Naturally, we learn some not wholly unexpected news and Jewel learns plenty about herself.
Framing the story of Jewel’s adventure are the mysterious excerpts from official documents suggesting there’s more to come in this story.
Great fun, capturing perfectly the power of imagination.
Jemima Small is a big character. She has so much going for her – kind, loyal, knowledgeable – but in her mind these count for little. This is because Jemima is overweight. For years she has had peers ridicule her, mock her size and basically try to destroy her confidence.
When we first meet Jemima it’s hard not to feel sympathy for her. Whatever your view on the best way to support children with health issues, nobody should have to put up with the comments she experiences. When Jemima and some of her schoolmates are put into what becomes known as Fat Club, it’s hard to see where this will go.
Yet this book has a really positive message. There’s no quick fix. Some of it is hard work, and most of it is about adjusting your mental outlook. You won’t satisfy everyone, and sometimes it’s about finding other things to occupy your time with.
Set alongside the exploration of weight/body image is the set-up of a competition to enter Brainiacs. Jemima does, as we expect, get through and it was great to see knowledge and the acquisition of it seen as a positive thing.
Lacey Chu is a fantastic engineer. She harbours dreams of working for MONCHA, a leading firm behind the concept of the baku – robotic companions that also act as phones. Unfortunately, it looks like her dream will fall at the first hurdle when she’s not accepted at the special school linked to the company.
With her dreams seemingly in tatters Lacey is not thinking straight when she tries to rescue her best friend’s baku and ends up finding something that many people are looking for. A heap of scrap metal, she thinks, but when she gets back to her workshop Lacey realises it’s a baku like no other.
Over the summer she does her utmost to get it working. In a kind of fantasy fulfilment, things work just fine and suddenly Lacey finds herself heading to the school and getting caught up in stuff she only dreamt of.
While this was set in North America, the whole concept and the battling felt like Pokemon had been brought to life and given personalities. That in itself was great fun, and the dynamics between Lacey and her new-found friends was entertaining. However, not everything is as it seems and there are definitely people suspicious of the skills Lacey and her baku exhibit.
I enjoyed this so much I’ve already pre-ordered Unleashed as I cannot leave this not knowing who on earth is behind what happened at the end. I also wonder whether we’ll learn a little more about the mysterious Mr Chu.
Huge thanks to NetGalley for putting me onto this one.
A welcome return to Deepdean. A murder witnessed from afar becomes the focal point for the Detective Agency this time around, but they are up against it as nothing is quite what it seems.
Daisy and Hazel are changing (as you’d expect) and the setting echoes the sense of growing turmoil. They have a rather predictable response to returning to school and finding things have changed a little in their absence, but quickly things settle into their usual routine.
Their friend witnesses a murder so the girls decide to investigate. Nobody is found, so as parents descend on Deepdean for the anniversary celebrations the girls decide to monitor things carefully. It’s not long before they have witnessed an actual murder, so the race is on to learn exactly who is behind this crime.
We have the usual red herrings and a bit of sidetracking with other events. All too soon, though, the girls piece things together and end up solving the crime.
The usual great fun, and it’s lovely to see the characters growing and developing. I love this series!
Can You See Me? is a definite one to recommend.
We focus on the story of Tally, a young girl just starting Year Seven. She tries very hard to be ‘normal’ and to fit in but doesn’t always find it easy because she is autistic. While her experience might not be the same for everyone, it certainly offers a glimpse into her life and offers the reader a chance to walk in her shoes a while. However, it goes beyond sharing just her experience as an autistic child; focusing on how many of her peers also feel about the experiences they face.
I loved the authentic feel to Tally’s voice, and the perceptive comments about how those around her react to her/her ‘meltdowns’ and the quirks that make her who she is.
A great cross-over read for primary/high school students.
The stories I remember loving when I was younger were those where the real work exists in a shadowy form, and a more vibrant place becomes the reality for the characters.
In this charming story, Emily is coming to terms with the death of her sister. She misses her terribly, so when old toys start to come to life around her Emily is more than happy to investigate this world more carefully.
With the help of her older next door neighbour, Ruth (whose teenage son died unexpectedly), Emily tries to work out how to get to the world of Smockeroon and save the toys from the spread of unhappiness.
Definitely one I want to read with my youngest son, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he makes of it.
Jess Aarons’ greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He’s been practicing all summer and can’t wait to see his classmates’ faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys’ side and outruns everyone.
That’s not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.
Unbelievably this is not a book I remember reading, I vaguely recall one of my children watching a movie version and yet I feel I knew exactly what to expect.
Some of the elements of this are not going to mean much to younger readers now. I can’t imagine many who’ve experienced the freedom of playing outside for hours without a parent hovering over them. There are probably few who’d be happy with the idea of creating their own world.
In spite of these issues, this is a lovely story about dealing with children on the cusp of growing up and coming to terms with loss and friendship.
It’s brief which does mean some of the nuances that could flesh out the characters were missing, but it’s still one of those stories that will make you smile to remember childhood friendships and to relish the power of the imagination.