Winged Reviews A UK young adult book blog for those a little bit older.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin StevensMurder Most Unladylike
Author: Robin Stevens
Series: Wells and Wong #1
Publisher: Corgi Childrens, Random House Children's Publishers
Date: June 2014
324 pages
Source: Review copy from author
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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?

If you put Nancy Drew in a boarding school, set it in the 1930s and sprinkle heavily with Sherlock references, bunbreaks and Cluedo, you’re getting close to describing the sheer charm that is Murder Most Unladylike. I absolutely adored Robin Stevens’ debut novel featuring the first case of the Wells & Wong Detective Society. As a warning, you will definitely want to read this book with a cup of tea and baked goods within arm’s reach.

And if you need more to sell you on this book, there is a map (!) of the Deepdean School for Girls and a cast list up front so you can follow along as the girls try to convince everyone their teacher was murdered and also solve the whodunit. Plus, the cover is gorgeously blue with striking graphics and typography and would look great on your shelves. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I love this book so much but everything about it is simply lovely.

The main girls are wonderfully likable and memorable. Popular girl Daisy Wells is full of confidence and bravado, president and leader with her shiny blonde hair and ease about life. You definitely want to be her friend, although sometimes her ego and determined attitude gets in the way of the truth. My favourite of the two was definitely narrator Hazel Wong, the thoughtful and quiet Watson to Daisy’s Sherlock and secretary of the society. She starts off a foreigner and outsider, but becomes Daisy’s closest confidant and her smarts and intuition eventually save the day. Their friendship was strong, and I loved that it wasn’t perfect, that they argued and disagreed. It made it feel more real.

The story is smartly written and read like a true detective story. The girls were very meticulous about solving the case, and the book shows glimpses of Hazel’s casebook throughout the story, with an updates on each piece of evidence and alibi carefully recorded within. It was clever, engaging, and best of all a very realistic way for two 13-year-olds to solve the mystery.

Basically, I can’t recommend this enough—it’s got friendship, mystery, intrigue—everything you want in a middle grade book that is thoroughly enjoyable for young and old alike. It will also introduce you to bunbreaks, the glorious mid-afternoon tea and cake time that I think should definitely be brought back into fashion. (At work. Everywhere.) I absolutely can’t wait for the sequel, Arsenic for Tea, for more of Daisy and Hazel’s adventures!

4.5 Stars

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Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. MaasCrown of Midnight
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #2
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Date: August 2013
418 pages
Source: ARC from publisher
Genres: Fantasy
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Eighteen-year-old Celaena Sardothien is bold, daring and beautiful – the perfect seductress and the greatest assassin her world has ever known. But though she won the King’s contest and became his champion, Celaena has been granted neither her liberty nor the freedom to follow her heart. The slavery of the suffocating salt mines of Endovier that scarred her past is nothing compared to a life bound to her darkest enemy, a king whose rule is so dark and evil it is near impossible to defy. Celaena faces a choice that is tearing her heart to pieces: kill in cold blood for a man she hates, or risk sentencing those she loves to death. Celaena must decide what she will fight for: survival, love or the future of a kingdom. Because an assassin cannot have it all . . . And trying to may just destroy her.

Love or loathe Celaena, she will slice open your heart with her dagger and leave you bleeding long after the last page of the highly anticipated sequel in what is undeniably THE hottest new fantasy series.

Crown of Midnight was an epic read in all respects. What I loved about the first book was all here and MORE. There was more world building, more character development, more magic, more surprises, and just generally more awesome. For a high fantasy lover like me, this wasn’t the fantasy-light of Throne of Glass and I loved it for that.

At the end of the first book, Celaena was appointed the King’s Champion and is now being sent off to do assassin-like things to whoever the King decrees…or does she? Sarah J. Maas once again gives us the perfect balanced heroine in Celaena. She’s ruthless, but caring, frivolous, but business-like, loving, but heartless when she needs to be. What she went through in this story was incredible and I admire Celaena so much for it.

What’s stopping me from giving it full marks was the slow beginning. I’m probably in the minority here but I had lukewarm feelings about the romance at the start. I do love Chaol and Celaena, but the full on romance jolted me as it felt like a happy ending too soon into the story. I totally understood why it had to start out that way and it was sweet reading but I was honestly a bit bored. Also, I’m trying not to be petty but I basically missed Dorian throughout the first half of the book as I enjoyed a lot of his and Celaena’s banter and relationship in Throne of Glass. I was glad when he eventually became part of the story again and gave us some much needed charm towards the end. His character development was great and I love how much he’s developing his own mysteries and purpose in the story.

Then THAT happened. I was completely blown away by it and it hit me like a bucket of cold water. Instantly my interest in the story grew tenfold. All the characters were tested to their limits. The betrayals, secrets, surprises, general fierceness all around was incredible. My emotions were a rollercoaster throughout the last half of the book and I’ve got to give all the credit to Maas’ writing, for putting me in the middle of it all, feeling all the feels with Celaena, Chaol, Dorian and everyone else.

Plus the world-building improved in spades and many of the mysteries like Wyrdmarks were explained well. While it was all a bit fuzzy and confined to the castle in the first book, I can definitely picture Erilea very clearly now, with all its history and strife.

Lastly, those revelations at the end were outstanding! If you felt a bit lukewarm about Throne of Glass, let me tell you the series just gets better and better. My expectations for the third are sky high—I can’t wait.

4.5 Stars

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Bookish Firsts: Zoe Marriott

Bookish Firsts: Zoe Marriott

Bookish Firsts Banner

Welcome back to Bookish Firsts! I launched this feature several weeks ago to get guest bloggers and authors to talk about their bookish ‘first times’.

Today I’m ecstatic to have one of my favourite UKYA authors Zoe Marriott on the blog. The second book in her The Name of the Blade series Darkness Falls was released yesterday so yay! This book is the follow up to the superb The Night Itself. She is also the author of other wonderful books such as Shadows on the Moon which was one of my top ten so far in 2014.

I revealed the new covers of The Name of the Blade books here, but because you can never have too much of a pretty cover:

002zoe-bladebooks

 

Bookish Firsts

With author Zoe Marriott

What is the first book you ever read/remember reading?
002zoe-magictreeThe first book I remember reading by myself was The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. And that was a hugely significant book for me, because up until that point I really wasn’t much of a reader. I enjoyed being read to, like most kids, but I thought of books that you read yourself as being these dry, boring things about John and Janet walking their D O G in the P A R K, like the books they made us read at school. But my parents were both avid readers, and when I developed this horrible fear of going to sleep on my own at night (my older sister had helpfully told me that wolves lived under my bed) my mum gave me The Magic Faraway Tree and told me to read it in bed before I went to sleep to distract me from being afraid. And it worked. It couldn’t have been more different to those boring school books if it had tried – it was full of amazing and scary things that expanded my brain in all kinds of new ways. I still vividly remember trying to imagine the taste of salamander ice cream! It took me about six weeks to work my way through this thin little book, but by the end of it all I wanted was more – more books, more stories, more magic and adventure. I became a reader for life.

What is the first book you recommend to anyone you meet?
My friends and family can vouch for the truth of this – I recommend The Curse of Chalion (and it’s sequel, The Paladin of Souls) by Lois McMaster Bujold to everyone that I meet. Everyone. I keep spare copies of the paperback on hand just so that I can push them on people. This is an adult fantasy novel set in a world inspired by Rennaissance Italy, and it’s so beautifully written and plotted and filled with such stunningly realised characters that ever since I read it, shortly before my first book was published, I’ve aspired to write something as good myself one day. I haven’t managed it yet, but it’s a lifetime goal. And in the meantime, I’ve re-read it at least ten times. Seriously, get a copy – it will blow your mind. I promise.

002zoe-chalion

What is the first book you ever wrote (can be published or unpublished)?
The first book that I ever completed was… completely embarrassing. I was sixteen and at that point I thought I wanted to be a romantic novelist writing for Mills&Boon. The manuscript was called Maddie’s Ransome and it was about a dowdy and downtrodden personal assistant (Maddie) who snaps when her handsome boss (John Ransome) gives her lavender scented bath salts for her birthday and she realises that he sees her as an old lady, even though she’s ten years younger than him. She decides to get a makeover and make him fall in love with her. It was terrible. Luckily for me it was rejected! I’m not sure if I could stand having that under my name as my first published book. I’d have had to make up a pen-name to escape the shame.
 

Thank you so much to Zoe for stopping by! If you haven’t read The Night Itself or Darkness Hidden yet, I really highly recommend you do. And I’ll be taking Zoe’s recommendations and adding the Charion series to my TBR. Until next week!

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Bookish Firsts: Jim from YA Yeah Yeah

Bookish Firsts: Jim from YA Yeah Yeah

Bookish Firsts Banner

Welcome back to Bookish Firsts! I launched this feature last week to get guest bloggers and authors to talk about their bookish ‘first times’.

Today I’m really pleased to welcome to the blog good friend and super blogger Jim from YA Yeah Yeah and The Bookbag. Jim is also the creator of fab events such as Countdown YA, #MeetUKYA, and is just a general champion for the bookish community.

It was during a fateful escalator ride with Jim that I decided to make Bookish Firsts a feature, so he gets the honour of being the first one featured. Thanks Jim and without further ado…!
 

Bookish Firsts

With Jim from YA Yeah Yeah

What is the first book you ever read/remember reading?
This is a really difficult question because I honestly can’t remember that much early on in my life, in terms of books I actually read myself. My parents read a LOT to me, from picture books right up to The Famous Five and so on, and I’m guessing the first book I read for myself was probably something by Enid Blyton. The first book I actually have a vivid, real memory of reading, though, was Ballet For Drina, which I borrowed from a friend when I was about six and which set me off on a lifelong love affair with the series. (Reading the final pages of Drina Ballerina in Red Lion Square, where most of the books are set, is still one of my favourite things that I’ve done since moving down to London!)

001jim-drina

Who is the first author you ever met?
I have a really bad feeling I’m forgetting someone obvious here, but I THINK I’m right in saying the first author I ever met was the lovely Adele Geras, who visited my school when I was in the sixth form. I was thrilled to meet someone who I was a big fan of, and delighted to get a signed copy of Stagestruck, which I actually stumbled on recently when going through books at my parents’ house.

001jim-stagestruck

What is the first book you reviewed?
Can I give three answers? The first one I ever wrote a review for (outside of school, at least) was actually for the university newspaper when I was at Exeter, and it was Not Fade Away by Jim Dodge, a stunning road-trip novel which is still one of my all-time favourites.

After doing a few for the uni paper, I gave up due to lack of time, so the first one I reviewed when I started reviewing on the internet was an adult crime novel for The Bookbag, The Dead Room by Chris Mooney. It was hit-and-miss but worth reading and definitely got me hooked on reviewing.

Finally, the first one I reviewed for my own blog was Nobody’s Girl by Sarra Manning, still one of my favourites by a fantastic author. (Although I have to say her most recent release, The Worst Girlfriend In The World, is even better!)
 

Thanks for stopping by Jim! If you are interested in taking part in the feature, send me an email!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Read So Far in 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Read So Far in 2014

Top Ten Tuesday banner

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish to show off our book-related lists!

I know this isn’t the topic you expected this week (sorry I’m a week late), but I can never pass up the opportunity to highlight my top reads of the year so far. So much so that I’ve had to cheat a little and grouped several series in here as one pick. So here you have my top ten fourteen books for 2014 so far (which by the way, just made total sense):
 

Top Ten Books

I’ve Read So Far in 2014


 

thiefsmagic
My first foray into high fantasy this year from a beloved author doesn’t let down. Two words: sentient book. I was hooked from the first 5 pages!

americansavage
As far as sequels go, more of the same dark humour from this super awesome author makes this an absolute dinner. Not for those with faint stomachs.

lipstouch
Gorgeous short story-telling from beautiful wordsmith Laini Taylor. I still haven’t read Dreams of Gods and Monsters because I don’t want that series to end, so this tided me over nicely.

shadowsonthemoon
A shout out to editor Annalie for pushing Zoe’s backlist on my. Completely unique, not-so Cinderella, more Count of Monte Cristo. Revenge at its finest and most beautifully written.

lunarchronicles
Can’t believe it took me so long to get into this series. Many thanks to my awesome secret santa for gifting Cinder to me. The series better with each book and each awesome character introduced.

murdermostunladylike
The book that surely brought ‘bun break’ into today’s vernacular. Super fun 30s boarding school mystery with Sherlockain duo Daisy and Hazel. Does more need to be said?

sesameseade
Big thanks to Caitlin for pushing these on me! Precocious detective Sesame causing mischief in Cambridge. Oh, and solving crime of course!

attachments
My favourite Rainbow Rowell. Completely enraptured by Beth and Lincoln. I fell in love with them like they fell in love with each other – completely through their words.

winnerscurse
I was worried about all the hype, but more than completely justified. Slow-burning goodness in every sense of the word. I had a book hangover for days after reading this as I was still living in this elegantly crafted world.

vicious
My first and still favourite book of the year. Vicious is a masterclass pace, plotting and most of all, characters. Cheers Victor and Eli, for your masterfully twisted game.
 


What was your favourite book this year? Let me know in the comments below!

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