Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit – JULY READ – Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Published July 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

What did I think?:

I’ve had this middle grade novel on my TBR for a long time now, wondering when on earth I was going to get round to reading it. Then I thought I could suggest it to Chrissi as part of our next Kid Lit list, of course! So on it went and I’m so pleased it did. Everything about this book is so appealing, from the eye-catching cover design to the clever title but most importantly, the story within is so charming and utterly delightful that I was captivated throughout. This is the sort of book that obviously isn’t marketed towards someone of my age range but if I had read this as a child I would have fallen head over heels in love with it and would probably have begged my parents for the next one in the series immediately. I have a very small, hardly worth mentioning niggle but it’s nothing to do with the writing and is purely because of my own individual experience with attending boarding school from the ages of 11-16.

Robin Stevens, author of Murder Most Unladylike.

This is the story of two young girls, Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells who attend Deepdean School For Girls in 1930’s England. The two become fast friends and decide to set up a detective agency to solve mysteries – even if their most exciting case so far is their dorm-mate’s missing tie. However, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting when Hazel finds the body of Miss Bell lying in the gym, only to disappear when she runs to get help. As Watson to Daisy’s Holmes, Hazel’s job is to keep meticulous notes about the evidence they manage to collect, their suspects for the horrendous crime and any motives they might have for killing the Science teacher. Thus, the two girls begin their mission to crack the case and bring the perpetrator to justice, not realising that their investigations could be proving very dangerous for themselves if they are discovered with a murderer on the loose.

An example of a dormitory in a boarding school – looks kind of familiar to me!

One of the most endearing things about this novel was how similar it felt to the boarding school stories I used to read as a child by Enid Blyton. It reminded me of the Malory Towers/St Clare’s adventures (I’m not sure if anyone else remembers them?) and it was these tales that made me desperate to go to boarding school in the first place. However this was also my tiny little niggle. Boarding school is often given the representation in fiction as being all “jolly hockey sticks,” midnight feasts and sharing bedrooms with your best friends but unfortunately, the reality of being away at school is quite different and often a very difficult experience, especially if you have troubles whilst at school i.e. bullying and are unable to escape back home on a nightly basis. For this reason, it was why I had mixed feelings. On one hand it was lovely and comforting to be taken back to a more innocent time fictionally speaking, but on the other hand, having lived through that experience myself, I couldn’t quite believe in it as much as I wanted to (and certainly as much as I did when I was a child) because I’m all too aware of what really goes on behind closed doors.

Saying that, if you’re after a fun, easy and exciting reading experience for your middle grade reader, especially if they’re a budding detective, you can’t go wrong with this novel. It’s got everything you could want from a mystery story plot wise, and also has the advantage of having some terrific female lead characters for children to enjoy and connect with. There’s nothing but pleasure to be had for youngsters from this entertaining, well-written series and it deserves a spot alongside Blyton’s Malory Towers as an excellent boarding school adventure story.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN AUGUST ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Creakers by Tom Fletcher.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens was the fortieth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – FEBRUARY READ – Matilda by Roald Dahl

Published February 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

What did I think?:

Disclaimer: Roald Dahl was a staple part of my childhood reading so I may be slightly biased or over-passionate about his work as like most children who read him when they were younger, I adored him and his wonderful stories. I was slightly concerned as I am with all the kid-lit Chrissi Reads and I re-visit, if there happens to be a re-read that I won’t enjoy as much as an adult. I’m delighted to say that Matilda has aged very well and I instantly remembered all the joy I got from this little book, the lines I used to be able to recite off by heart and of course, the glorious illustrations by Quentin Blake which just add a little extra something special to Roald Dahl’s expert story-telling.

If you don’t know what Matilda is about (where have you BEEN?), it follows a rather extraordinary little girl who is thoroughly under-appreciated by her family. Matilda is extraordinary as she is highly intelligent, teaches herself to read before she goes to school, can multiply huge sums in her head and once she has exhausted everything in the children’s section of the library, she starts on all the adult books with the help of Mrs Phelps, the kind (yet astounded) librarian. Matilda does eventually go to school like a normal child and her teacher, Miss Honey realises quite quickly how bright she is and gives her more advanced books to study whilst the rest of the children learn their ABC’s. There is a dark side to this narrative however and this is the dreaded headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, who terrorises the school, especially young children like Matilda who she has a particular distaste for. However, clever Matilda has more than a few tricks up her sleeve to deal with such a deadly adversary and revenge is certainly sweet indeed for anyone who has ever been unlucky enough to be frightened by The Trunchbull.

Ahhh, this book is everything. It was perfect for a bookish child like myself who delighted in a female protagonist that was intelligent yet gentle and managed to get her own back on the people who wronged her in the most hilarious way. It was also perfect for the bookish adult that I have become who still champions a quirky female heroine who will always hold a special place in my heart. It was such a nostalgic, beautiful reading experience that made me hug the book to my chest within just a few pages at the sheer remembrance of how fantastic the story and the characters are. Roald Dahl has a real quality to his writing that can enable the reader to imagine particular scenes so vividly and there’s still those scenes for me, like The Trunchbull throwing Amanda Thripp round and round in a hammer throw that I pictured as a child and funnily enough, still have the same picture in my head as an adult, completely before the film came into fruition. Now that I’ve been reminded how awesome Roald Dahl is, I can’t wait to re-read more of his work so that I can re-discover that same magic that captivated me as a child and still continues to enchant me today.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN MARCH ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2017 – The Round Up

Published December 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/02/17/beware-the-bigoted-subtext-of-childrens-literature.html

Hello everyone and welcome to Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 The Round Up where we’ll be talking about our highlights (and lowlights) of our Kid Lit year. As always, we’ve read some fantastic books and series, some of which we will be continuing into 2018. Please find below all the books we read and the links to my reviews. For Chrissi’s reviews the link will be at the bottom of each original post.

JANUARY- Prince Caspian- C.S. Lewis
FEBRUARY- The Cuckoo Sister- Vivian Alcock
MARCH- Awful Auntie- David Walliams
APRIL- A Snicker of Magic- Natalie Lloyd
MAY- The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)- Rick Riordan
JUNE- The Prime Minister’s Brain- Gillian Cross
JULY- The Reptile Room (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2) by Lemony Snicket
AUGUST- Fortunately, the Milk- Neil Gaiman
SEPTEMBER- Saffy’s Angel – Hilary McKay
OCTOBER- Black Hearts in Battersea- Joan Aiken
NOVEMBER- Witch Child – Celia Rees
DECEMBER- Finding Jennifer Jones- Anne Cassidy

So, in the style of the “Talking About…” reviews we normally do, we thought we’d answer a quick few questions about our year in Kid-Lit blogging.

1) What was your favourite Kid-Lit book of 2017 and why?
BETH: It’s a toss up between two for me – Awful Auntie by David Walliams who I’ve really fallen in love with as a children’s author for his unique style often compared to Roald Dahl. The second is Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman which I was utterly charmed by, especially the wonderful illustrations by Chris Riddell.
CHRISSI: For me, there was a stand out read this year for me and that was Awful Auntie. David Walliams is such a fantastic writer for children and I love the subtle humour that appeals to adults too.
2) What was your least favourite Kid-Lit book of 2017 and why?
BETH: That’s an easy one I’m afraid. It was Witch Child by Celia Rees. Unfortunately I found this book a bit of a slog and wasn’t overly impressed with the story.
CHRISSI: Same as Beth for me, I didn’t get on with Witch ChildI’m afraid I was a little bored by it, which is a great shame!
3) What was the Kid-Lit book of 2017 that surprised you the most?
BETH: Perhaps The Cuckoo Sister by Vivian Alcock. It was a huge favourite of mine as a child and I went into it anticipating that I would love it just as much. It was a shame that I didn’t but it was still a nostalgic reading experience.
CHRISSI:  I don’t like to look like I’m copying what Beth says each time, but for me it was also The Cuckoo Sister. I was expecting such a fabulous, nostalgic reading experience and I was left wondering why I liked it so much as a child.
4) Have you been inspired to read any other books from a Kid-Lit author of 2017?
BETH: Definitely more from Rick Riordan who writes the Percy Jackson series. I love the fantasy and mythology elements, I’m really enjoying the characters and hoping to continue with at it at some point next year.
CHRISSI:  I will definitely read more from David Walliams. Big fan over here!

For anyone who reads these posts, thank you so much for your continued support, we love doing this challenge and hope to continue it indefinitely. Coming on January 2nd – the big reveal for Kid-Lit 2018! Which titles made it this year? And which titles are we going to have to do er…. another year?!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – DECEMBER READ – Finding Jennifer Jones (Jennifer Jones #2) – Anne Cassidy

Published December 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Kate Rickman seems just like any other nineteen-year-old girl. She goes to university, she dates nice, normal boys and she works in her local tourist office at the weekend. But Kate’s not really normal at all. ‘Kate’ is in fact a carefully constructed facade for a girl called Jennifer Jones – and it’s a facade that’s crumbling fast. Jennifer has spent the last nine years frantically trying to escape from her horrifying past. Increasingly desperate, Jennifer decides to do something drastic. She contacts the only other girl who might understand what she’s dealing with, breaking every rule of her parole along the way. Lucy Bussell is the last person Jennifer expects any sympathy from, but she’s also the last person she has left. Finding Jennifer Jones is the powerful sequel to the highly acclaimed, Carnegie Medal nominated Looking for JJ. It is a tense, emotional thriller about guilt, running away and wondering if you can ever truly know yourself.

What did I think?:

Finding Jennifer Jones is the last book in our Kid-Lit challenge for this year and one we thought we’d leave until last to savour as we enjoyed the first book in the series so much in 2016, Looking For JJ. Quite often, I find the second book in a series a bit of a let down if I’ve loved the first so much but luckily, this wasn’t the case at all with Finding Jennifer Jones. It was just as gut-wrenching and poignant as the first novel and it instantly made me remember why I loved the author’s writing style so much when Chrissi and I first discovered her.

As with many series in young adult fiction, I think you will get much more out of the Jennifer Jones duology if you read Looking For JJ first where it introduces our main character, Jennifer Jones and explores the reasons why she finds herself living with a new identity. She is constantly on edge about the risk of people discovering who she really is and more importantly, what she did in her past which still continues to haunt her, as it well should. In this second novel, she has been forced to move once again and assume yet another identity whilst she goes to university, works part time at a tourist information centre, makes new friends and a love interest and desperately tries to live a normal life. However, this is easier said then done when the ghosts of her past still continue to torture her everyday life and it’s not long before she considers breaking the very strict terms of her new existence just to try and feel free once more.

Hopefully I’ve been just vague enough for people who haven’t read the first book in the series yet, both of which I highly recommend. Anne Cassidy is a fantastic author for young adults and really explores the gritty, darker side of human nature in a way that elicits your full and frank sympathy, particularly for our female protagonist, Jennifer. She realises unequivocally the gravity of her actions when she was a child and does not try to make excuses for them but obviously deeply regrets what happened as a terrible, unforgiveable mistake. As the reader, we too are appalled by what Jennifer did but at the same time feel so sorry for what she has gone through and still continues to suffer. Perhaps, we even think, she might have been punished enough? This is a story I was completely compelled by and it was wonderful to re-enter Jennifer’s world and catch up with her life after the tense and life-changing events of the first novel. It would definitely raise some talking points considering the subject matter and is is nothing short of page turning.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Don’t miss our post on January 2nd when we reveal our Kid-Lit titles for 2018! Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year. 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Published December 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from: https://www.mypostcard.com/en/designs/christmas-cards/postcard-greeting-card-christmas-merry-christmas-happy-new-year-antler-turquoise-8200

Hello everyone! I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. I’m normally a bit rubbish at remembering to do Christmas messages but this year has been a bit of an “interesting” year for me both personally and health-wise in that it has been a bit awful. However, I don’t want to get all miserable on you and am trying to focus on lots of positive things that could happen in 2018 so fingers crossed next year is a much better one.

I want to wish everyone who comes to visit my blog (whether you’re a regular or an occasional drop in) the loveliest of times this holiday, with lots of rest, relaxation, family time and, of course, bookish goodness. Thank you ever so much for your support especially this year, it has meant the world to me. I can’t express how grateful or touched I am for every single message, no matter how tiny or insignificant you think it is, it’s been a tower of strength for me. Time for a virtual hug for all of you – HUGGGGGGGGG.

Thank you also to all the publishers and authors who’ve been kind enough to send me books to review, I’ve been slowly getting back on top of things but apologies if there’s been any delays, I really appreciate your patience. Blogging has become such a huge part of my life that I can’t imagine life without it to be honest and I’m still loving every moment, despite the occasional pressure which is just a reflection of how much stress I put on myself and nothing to do with anyone else at all!

I’ll still be doing the occasional post after the festive period and just before New Year as there’s a couple of things I really want to get out before the close of the year but bibliobeth reviews will probably not be a “daily affair” as I spend some time with my nearest and dearest. There’s a lot of things I’m looking forward to next year and I’m determined to finally get on top of that pesky backlog of reviews….it WILL happen. Tomorrow there is the final Banned Book of the year and on the 31st December will be my final Kid-Lit review, both challenges I love doing with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. We will also be revealing our Kid-Lit list for 2018 on the 1st of January and our Banned Books for 2018 on the 2nd January which I’m also very excited about.

For now, I hope you have a wonderful time with your loved ones and I’ll see you all very soon!

Beth xxx

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – NOVEMBER READ – Witch Child by Celia Rees

Published November 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Enter the world of young Mary Newbury, a world where simply being different can cost a person her life. Hidden until now in the pages of her diary, Mary’s startling story begins in 1659, the year her beloved grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch. Mary narrowly escapes a similar fate, only to face intolerance and new danger among the Puritans in the New World. How long can she hide her true identity? Will she ever find a place where her healing powers will not be feared?
Just two weeks after publication, Celia Rees’s WITCH CHILD spirited its way onto the Book Sense Children’s Only 76 list as one of the Top 10 books that independent booksellers like to handsell. Within a month, this riveting book sold out its first two hardcover printings. Now, Candlewick Press is pleased to announce the publication of WITCH CHILD in paperback.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I have been very lucky with the choices for our Kid Lit challenge this year and I’ve been delighted with what we’ve read so far. However, I’m sorry to say Witch Child fell a little bit short for me in comparison and if it hadn’t been so short and I hadn’t been so intrigued by the main character, I probably would have given up. It’s not written like many other pieces of young adult fiction and I think that’s a positive thing to say about it. In a way, it feels quite adult and not a book that specifically panders to a younger audience but personally speaking, I just found it too slow in points to capture my attention like I had hoped.

Witch Child is a historical fiction novel told in the format of a diary from the 1600’s, written by our young female protagonist, Mary Newbury. When the story opens, she has had to witness the brutal death of her grandmother after being put on trial for being a witch and yes, she floated which instantly made her a friend of Satan. There have been whispers about Mary too, being her grand-daughter of course, but she manages to escape overseas to America on a ship with a group of Puritans to start a new life and escape the rumours surrounding her “powers.” However, on reaching the settlement, Mary is once again in danger, especially as she fraternises with the Native American people whose way of life/ideals are seen as blasphemy to the Puritan way of life. The threat to her life becomes once again very substantial leading to her taking drastic measures to save herself from certain death.

I’ll start with the things I liked about this novel. Firstly, I loved the character of Mary herself. She was extremely personable, very easy to like and sympathise with and I did find myself eager to find out what her fate was going to be. As I mentioned before, I think it’s written in quite a unique style and I appreciated the difference when I compare it to other works of young adult fiction. Sadly however, points of the narrative were just so very tedious, especially the parts where Mary is on the ship that I found myself skipping entire paragraphs just to get to another part that I could feel slightly more excited about. Furthermore, I didn’t really feel that other characters, for example, Rebekah and Martha were as fleshed out as they had the potential to be and this was a shame as I was quite interested in both their personalities and back stories. This book has so many terrific ratings on Goodreads, I’m sure I’m in the minority that feel the way about it, perhaps it was just a case of wrong reader? I’d love to know if you’ve read it and what you think, especially if you feel the exact opposite and adore this story. I’m open to being talked round!

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP IN DECEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Finding Jennifer Jones (Jennifer Jones #2) by Anne Cassidy.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – OCTOBER READ – Black Hearts In Battersea (Wolves Chronicles #2) – Joan Aiken

Published November 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Simon, the foundling from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, arrives in London to meet an old friend and pursue the study of painting. Instead he finds himself unwittingly in the middle of a wicked crew’s fiendish caper to overthrow the good King James and the Duke and Duchess of Battersea. With the help of his friend Sophie and the resourceful waif Dido, Simon narrowly escapes a series of madcap close calls and dangerous run-ins. In a time and place where villains do nothing halfway, Simon is faced with wild wolves, poisoned pies, kidnapping, and a wrecked ship. This is a cleverly contrived tale of intrigue and misadventure.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I first came across Joan Aiken when we read the first book in this fantastic series, The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase last year as part of our Kid Lit challenge. We both loved it so much that we were determined to read the next in the series, Black Hearts In Battersea this year – and here it is! I have to be honest and say I didn’t enjoy Black Hearts In Battersea quite as much as the first book in the series but I was still utterly charmed and delighted by the characters, the setting and the general “feel” of the books which really comes across beautifully in the author’s evocative writing.

In this second instalment, we follow one of my favourite characters from The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase, Simon as he leaves home for a new, exciting adventure in London to pursue one of his dreams, painting. He is due to meet up with an old friend destined to become his mentor, Dr Field but when he arrives at his lodgings, the Twite family that reside there deny ever having heard of him. He manages to persuade them to give him a room (in the same room that his friend was supposed to be staying in….hmm!) and it is not long before his friendly, hard-working nature lands him with a job with the local smithy, Cobb and a chance to show off his artistic talent at a prestigious school for painters. He also manages to reconnect with another good friend, Sophie who is working as a maid in waiting for the Duchess of Battersea and he squeezes in a couple of rounds of chess with the rather eccentric Duke of Battersea when he too falls for Simon’s easy charm.

Along with all of this, Simon is working hard to try and piece together what has happened to Dr Field and look after the youngest girl in the Twite family, Dido who he feels is sorely neglected. It is not long before all the connections start to fall into place and Simon manages to uncover a horrific plan involving the Battersea family and some Hanoverian plotters who are determined to cause as much mayhem as possible to get what they believe is the true ruler of England on the throne. With the help of Dido, Sophie and the Duke of Battersea’s nephew, Simon embarks on a dangerous plot to protect his new friends and discovers a lot more about his own humble beginnings in the process.

One of my favourite things about The Wolves Chronicles is most definitely the characterisation. Simon, who was a relatively minor character in the first book, really comes into his own in Black Hearts In Battersea and I completely fell in love with his winning personality and protective nature, especially when it came to Dido Twite. Speaking of Dido, how wonderful is she? When she first appeared she was absolutely awful and I thought her mannerisms (and her mouth) were going to irritate me through the entire story. Then she turns it around and becomes someone you just want to look after and take far, far away from her hideous family. She has a little heroine moment near the end of the novel that I adored but really can’t say too much about for fear of spoilers, I just want everyone to read this and fall in love with Dido too. When I compare it with the first book I have to say I enjoyed the plot of Wolves more but I don’t think this should put you off reading this one in any way – it has its moments of quietness and contemplation where we’re simply enjoying getting to know the characters, but then there are these action sequences involving shipwrecks, hot air balloons and explosions that completely take your breath away.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN NOVEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Witch Child by Celia Rees.