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Murder At St Anne's by J R Ellis - Review

Tuesday, May 31, 2022


At the beginning of May I wasn't feeling too well so I needed something easy to read, so I went for the next in J R Ellis' series of books set in Harrogate. This is the last one which is out at the moment, although I've pre ordered the eighth in the series so that's something to look forward to in November! 

DCI Oldroyd is back in this book, but called very quickly to Knaresborough. A vicar by the name of Clare Wilcox has been found murdered in her parish church. Oldroyd and Andy head over there and are immediately told about the stories about a ghost monk that haunts the church - could there be a supernatural element to the murder? There's no obvious murder weapon, but Clare has extensive injuries to her neck and shoulder. 

Oldroyd and Andy get snowed in and end up having to spend the night in the vestry of the church. They have a ghostly visitation - but Oldroyd remains unconvinced that a ghost could have murdered Clare. After all, he can't arrest a ghost.

There are lots of suspects in the murder, from Clare's husband Jeremy, who was having an affair, to one of the church wardens, Donald Avison, to a few of the parishioners who are against women priests. Then there's Violet Saunders, the church cleaner, who seems just a little bit too keen to tell Oldroyd and Andy all about the story of the ghostly monk. 

Clare was also friends with Oldroyd's sister, Alison, so her death is a huge blow to Alison. I like Alison and was glad to see her again. There's barely any of Steph Johnson in this book, which is a shame - I hope next time she gets to go and have some adventures with Oldroyd!

I enjoyed this book and read it quickly. I liked the mystery and the look at the Church of England - I work for the CofE so am quite used to the jargon and hierarchy,  but I thought it was quite funny to read it in a book! I'm giving this four out of five. 


Ellen Outside the Lines by A J Sass - Review

Friday, May 27, 2022


Where did I get it? Amazon! You all know how much I loved Ana on the Edge so when someone mentioned a second book by A J Sass I RAN to Amazon to order this. Then I picked it up just a few days later. I'm so glad I did because I loved it so much 


What's it about? Ellen is thirteen years old and lives in Georgia since her family moved from New York. She is autistic. She lives with her parents, Mom and Abba. The family is Jewish. Ellen has just one friend, Laurel, but recently Laurel has made friends with some popular girls and the two have stopped having as many sleepovers and such. 

Now Ellen and her Abba are going to Spain on a school trip. They arrive, staying at a hotel with sixteen other kids, and a few teachers. Due to a misunderstanding, Ellen ends up in a team with three kids she doesn't know, not Laurel. She's with Andy and Gibs, and a new student called Isa. Isa is non binary and their pronouns are they/them. Ellen likes schedules and she thinks she has the trip figured out, until Senor L, the Spanish teacher, tells them that their teams will have to solve clues around Barcelona. 

Ellen tries to split herself between her team and Laurel, but she feels like Laurel cares more about her new friends Sophie-Anne and Madison. Meanwhile she gets on really well with her team, figuring out the clues and enjoying Barcelona's sights. I loved Ellen's team - they soon learnt what she needed from them and were all very gentle with her. I loved Andy and Isa especially. I know why Ellen loved Laurel, but I felt she was quite nasty - and I think Ellen did by the end too.

This is a lovely, lovely book, and I didn't want it to end. I loved how Ellen's autism was portrayed, and how things that helped her (like stimming, or noise cancelling headphones) were shown too.

I also liked the range of genders and sexualities shown, and how they were explained in age appropriate ways, but with really cute crushes on other characters too. 

I also love to see Jewish families portrayed too! Even while away, Ellen and her Abba celebrated Shabbat with her mum, and tried to keep kosher. There's a lovely discussion about Judaism that I really liked. Again, it gave the reader a lot of information without feeling preachy. 

This is a perfect middle grade book. I think I want to be A J Sass when I grow up! I definitely want to write like them! 


What age range is it for? Ten or eleven plus, I think. 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yep! Ellen already knows she has crushes on girls, and doesn't really understand why Laurel and her friends are surprised by this (I'm autistic myself and FELT THIS SO HARD, omg), and as I say there's a range of genders and sexualities and I loved this. It felt very real. 


Are any main characters people of colour? Isa is of Hispanic origin, I think, and people assume that they speak Spanish, which they hit back at, which I liked. 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, as I say, Ellen is autistic and this was portrayed brilliantly. I think Gibs has ADHD too, although it's not named - he does take meds which "help him concentrate", so I inferred he had ADHD from that. 

Are there swear words? No 

 

What criticisms do I have? None, I just loved it so much 


Would I recommend the book? Yes, run to it right now. 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I just couldn't wait to read it. I actually didn't realise I read Ana on the Edge all the way back in 2020. 

 

What do I think of the cover? It's lovely - you get a picture of Ellen immediately. I also really like the title - it fits with Ana on the Edge in a really nice way 

How many stars? Five out of five! It's just gorgeous 

 

Where is the book going now? I'll definitely keep it!


Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers - Review

Monday, May 23, 2022


This was another book club book, and it's actually the one I chose! I bought it last April when Waterstones had just opened up again in Meadowhall, I think it was on buy one get one half price. I didn't read it in 2021 so when it came to choosing books for book club in 2022 I chose this. Coincidentally someone else did too, it was one of Lynn's choices. It seems like such an ideal book for a book club, which the publisher must agree with because there's book club questions at the back of this copy. This will be useful for me when it comes to book club!

The book is set in 1957 and the main character is Jean. She is one of the only female staff on the North Kent Echo. She enjoys her job as a journalist, mostly. She lives with her widowed mother; her sister Dorrie emmigrated to Kenya with her husband and they only hear from her sporadically. Jean's mother is difficult to say the least, unwilling to leave the house and increasingly demanding within it. Jean spends all her time, energy and money on dealing with her money. She can't go out with her colleagues for a drink on a Friday night. She is thirty-nine and seems to be quite depressed, having accepted her lot but not being too please about it. 

The paper receives a letter from a Mrs Gretchen Tilbury, alleging that her daughter was the product of a Virgin Birth. The letter seems quite credible, so Jean's boss sends her off on the story. Jean goes to meet Gretchen and the little girl, Mary, who's around ten, and Gretchen's husband, Howard. Gretchen was ill as a teenager and was in hospital at around the time that she must have conceived. She was on a ward with three other girls and particular friends with a girl called Martha. Jean tries to contact the other girls and also the Matron of the ward.

Everyone seems to agree that Gretchen is a credible witness and that she could be telling the truth. There are certain scientific tests that can be done, so Gretchen and Mary and Jean go to London for some of those. Howard owns a jewellery shop near the Strand, and Jean calls in on him a couple of times. She also visits the family at home and ends up becoming close to all of them. She must engineer time away from her mother carefully, but as she becomes freer and freer she is too close to the story really as it develops.

I don't want to give away much more of the story as I liked watching it unfold. There are parellels between Jean's life and Gretchen's and, as it turns out, between Jean's and her mother's. I liked Jean a lot and really felt like the reader understood her and her motivations. I felt sorry for her, too. I think generally my book club will have enjoyed the book, I'm looking forward to our meeting!

I'm giving this five out of five and I'm also going to lend it to my mum I think!

The Midnight Hour by Elly Griffiths - Review

Thursday, May 19, 2022


I've been waiting for this book forever! It feels like so long since I got to read one of Elly's adult books, whether the Ruth novels or these, the Stephens and Mephisto series. I had this and the new Ruth book on pre-order, because I was waiting for the paperbacks. This one arrived in mid April and I picked it up not too long afterwards. I do feel like it's not really a Stephens and Mephisto book anymore because we don't get a lot from Edgar's point of view. Instead a lot of it is from Emma Stephens' point of view. She used to be a DI but once she married Edgar she had to give up her job. She is now a private detective alongside Sam Collins, who is also a journalist. There is a young female detective, WPC Meg Connolly. Emma and Meg mostly narrate the book, and I love both of them and am really happy that in this book they become much more friendly!

At the beginning of the book a man called Bert Billington is found dead. He is an ex showman, married to ex chorus girl Verity Malone, and the couple have three children - David, Seth, and Aaron. Bert was fifteen years older than Verity, and had a string of affairs in his life, and is found to have been poisoned with rat poison. Aaron telephones the police to say that he thinks his mother has killed his dad. Bob Willis and Meg start to investigate. Meanwhile Verity employs Emma and Sam to look into the death too. There is a list of suspects a mile long as it seems no one really liked Bert.

Middle son Seth is an actor, and he's currently in Whitby filming a sequel to Dracula with Max. Max knew Verity and had a short-lived relationship with her. His wife Lydia is in Whitby with him, but once filming is finished she doesn't want to stay with him and heads home to Massingham Hall. 

There's a lot of mystery and intrigue throughout the book, but I find it so cosy, like putting on some comfy slippers and settling down with friends. I liked the further look into Meg's family, and I liked Emma's struggle with being a mother and wanting to work. I am giving this four out of five and I'll look forward to the next one as usual!

Hazel Hill Is Gonna Win This One by Maggie Horne - Review

Sunday, May 15, 2022

 


This is a perfect middle grade book and I'm so glad I had the chance to read it. I saw someone mention it on Twitter and they also said it was on Netgalley, so I requested it immediately. So thank you to Firefly Press for granting me permission to read this book. I was given a free electronic copy for reviews purposes only and was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions remain my own. 

Hazel Hill is in the seventh grade at middle school and she has no friends. Really, she doesn't, and really, she's okay with that. She works hard and is a hit with most teachers. She lost the speech competition last year to super popular girl Ella Quinn, but she is determined that she will win this year. She lives with her parents and her baby brother, Rowan. And she's gay. She knows that but she isn't yet out to anyone. 

She shares her desk in homeroom with a boy called Tyler. He isn't exactly her friend, but he talks to her. Specifically, he talks to her about the girls he has crushes on and girls he's been out with. And he's pretty mean about them, but Hazel doesn't entirely notice. 

But then he tells her that Ella Quinn has a crush on her, but that can't be right, can it? Hazel asks Ella Quinn (she always goes by her full name to everyone except her BFF, Riley) and it turns out that no, Ella isn't any kind of LGBTQ+, but she was being harassed by Tyler and trying to get him off her back. This sounds awful written down, but it does make sense in context and Hazel forgives her. 

Ella Quinn has quite a developed body meaning that she gets lots of negative attention from men and boys much older than her. At first Hazel doesn't quite get it but then she sees it in action and does get it. Ella then shows her some disgusting messages that she's received on an app, and Hazel recognises one of Tyler's spelling errors and knows he sent the messages. The girls ask other girls if they've had run ins with Tyler, and find at least two who have.

They then end up in trouble because Tyler's mother accuses them of starting a campaign against Tyler. The girls try to explain to their principal, Mrs West, what is actually going on, but she doesn't believe them and tells them to be less online basically. 

The girls realise they need to sort this out for themselves... so they do.

I loved this book, it was so perfectly like being twelve and all the problems that go alongside that. I loved Hazel, I wanted her to win and felt for her very deeply. I liked her parents, who are slightly clueless but trying their very best, especially as they have a small baby and a big gap between the two kids. I liked Ella and Riley and their friendship, and the way they pulled Hazel into their circle too. I would love for their to be a sequel to this from any of those three's point of view. I love middle grade when it's written in such an endearing way as this. I'm giving this five out of five!

Hazel Hill Is Gonna Win This One will be published on 18th October 2022. 

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - Review

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

I heard about this book because I was watching Write Around the World with Richard E Grant, which was basically an excuse for him to go on holiday and swan about talking about books. Anyway he was in Naples and he mentioned this book, and I was intrigued, so I requested it at the library. It took me quite a while to read it, because it's really dense, but I did like it. It's the first in a series and I'm not sure if I will get round to the rest of them, but I wouldn't be opposed to it!

The book is set in Naples, in a poor neighbourhood. The narrator is Elena, the eldest in her family. Her mother is disabled; her father works as a porter in the city. Her best friend is Lila, whose father is a shoemaker, and whose brother Rino joins him in the family shop after school. The book is set in the late 1950s. Elena and Lila have many neighbourhood friends, but always come back to each other. After their compulsory schooling, Lila leaves school even though she is clever, cleverer than Elena. A teacher insists to Elena's parents that she continue in school. She does, and eventually even goes to high school. 

Their lives diverge and at times Lila seems disengaged from their friendship, but Elena remains loyal to her through periods, acne, first boyfriends, and growing up. From the beginning of the book we know that they're still friends as old women - Lila's son phones Elena to tell her that his mother is missing, and so begins Elena's recounting of their whole lives.

I loved the setting - I could just imagine the neighbourhood and the houses and apartments, and the neighbours that Elena tells us about. I liked how she grew away, how she studied and could hold her own against her teachers. I liked the boys she fell in love with and her trip to Ischia. I am giving this four out of five - it's a total epic and I wanted to know what happened. 

The Secret of Haven Point by Lisette Auton - Review

Saturday, May 7, 2022



Where did I get it? A friend on Facebook shared it because their friend wrote it, and I liked the sound of it so bought it when I had a voucher on Amazon. 


What's it about? Alpha Lux was the first of the Wrecklings. She was discovered abandoned in a soap flakes box by Cap'n, an ex boat captain who has made his home on a peninsula somewhere in the north east of England. One by one others arrived. They're all disabled in one way or another. Alpha was burned in a fire and lost one eye and one ear. Her best friend Badger is blind and uses clicks to orient herself. Cap'n has agoraphobia. Everyone lives in the lighthouse, Old Ben, or one of the cottages nearby, and every Sunday the wrecklings have to wreck a ship to bring their supplies in. 

Oh, and there's mermaids. Alpha's adoptive mother - whose name I forget, I'm writing this a few days after I read the book, and I'm sorry - is a mermaid who uses her magic to let Alpha into the depths to visit her and the other mermaids. Mermaids can also go on land, and they also sing a magical song to bring the ships in. This song also keeps Outsiders out. 

But Alpha's mother is keeping something from her, and then Alpha sees something glinting up on the cliff top, and begins to feel the community is being watched. She and Badger make plans to go looking, before anything can threaten their community. 


What age range is it for? 11 plus


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah, there's two women who are getting married in the book, which I liked. I also for the longest time couldn't work out if Alpha was a boy or girl - no one uses any pronouns about her for ages. I get big non binary vibes from her. I do reckon there'll be a sequel so maybe I'll be right! 


Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, I think so, but can't remember specifics


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, as I said, the whole community has either physical or mental disabilities. I loved the way these were described, in such a good way as to explain them to a kid. One of the women, Laura, has what sounded very much like ME, and it was described brilliantly. The whole lighthouse and surrounding area have been modified to be accessible to everyone. 


Is there any talk of death? Yes, and it is somewhat graphic, but age appropriate I thought 


Are there swear words? No, but there's loads of inventive ways for Alpha and her friends to NOT swear, which I found really funny and fun. 

 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none, I really liked it 


Would I recommend the book? Yes, especially for a middle grade reader 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I just wanted to get to it soon! I really hope there's more in the series - the ending has Alpha and Badger setting off on a journey and I hope we see it

How many stars? Four out of five 

 

Where is the book going now? I think I'll send it to my friend Lucinda who might like it!

A Girl Called Justice: The Smuggler's Secret by Elly Griffiths - Review

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

 

I read the first one in this series nearly three years ago, and felt it had some teething pains. But something reminded me of the second and third in the series recently, so I requested them both at the library. The third one came in first, annoyingly, but then this one came in the week after so I picked it up. I do think this book was much better, I liked Justice a lot more and understood her motivations more. 

Justice is back at school just after Christmas. She feels a bit better towards her school though. She meets a new games teacher, Miss Heron, and the new Matron, Miss Robinson. There seems to be a mystery about Miss Robinson straight away, and there also seems to be a new mystery about the school basements, which are even more strictly off limits than they already had been. 

Miss Heron makes the girls do cross country running, and it turns out Justice is good at it and she gets put on the team. They all each have to do a Good Citizenship project also, where they each go into the village on Wednesday afternoons to help out one of the residents. Justice gets paired with Mr Arthur, who lives in Smugglers' Lodge right on the beach. He was blinded in the war and has a fierce Alsatian called Sabre. He asks Justice to read The Times to him, and she has a good time with him. 

Of course there's a mystery and I loved it, I thought it was very well executed. I'm giving this four out of five. 

 

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