Book Review ~ Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

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It’s a stroke of genius to take a murder mystery and set it in a boarding school. It taps into two very popular literary genres – I know that I am not the only person to have grown up reading boarding school books such as Malory Towers, and there’s no doubting the popularity of the murder mystery.

When I picked this up at the library, though I grabbed it from the children’s section, when I got home, I realised it didn’t have a sticker on it, and I couldn’t remember which age range it was written for. It’s definitely for children, but it’s written in such a way that it’s perfectly suitable for adults. Of course, that’s true of the vast majority of children’s stories, but it really struck me that Murder Most Unladylike is a mature book, written in the assumption that the children reading it can deal with the adult themes. That’s not to say that there’s anything in it that is unsuitable, rather that it treats its young readers as intelligent and mature.

The story is written from the perspective of Helen Wong, a young pupil from Hong Kong, and while Daisy is the driving force behind the detective agency, it’s Helen’s voice that gives us all of the details. In this, she’s the Watson of the story, a trope that is highlighted by Daisy and Helen themselves. It’s an amusing tale, written as a boarding school story from the 1930s, but from the perspective of a 21st-century writer, meaning that the casual racism that we get to hear about towards Helen is not entrenched in the writing as it would be in the tales that I loved to read as a child. There’s also some lovely moments that highlight the fact that not all teachers at boarding schools at this time were single women; one of the prime suspects in the story is gay, and her reason for being a suspect is that she was in a relationship with Miss Bell before her death.

It’s just a fabulously written story, full of the suspense and intrigue that makes a good murder mystery, but also staying true to the boarding school story tradition. I loved Murder Most Unladylike, and I’m already looking forward to reading the others in the series!

Murder Most Unladylike
Publication Date: June 2014
Corgi
Library Book

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Autumn 2018 TBR

A long, long time ago, I started joining in with Top Ten Tuesday posts; a bookish prompt was provided, and then people wrote all about it, and shared their posts. I only did it a few times, but I’ve recently come across it again, and realised that it might help me to get back into the groove on writing regularly on this blog, something I wish I could do ALL the time. So I’m giving it a go!

Top Ten Tuesday now lives on That Artsy Reader Girl, and you can find the future and past prompts here. This week’s prompt is Books on my Fall TBR. So I’ve picked out ten future releases that I’m particularly excited about, though as I’ve never been too concerned about reading things as soon as they come out (Book of Dust is *still* on my bedside table), who knows how many of these I’ll actually end up picking up before the end of the year!

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This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps – released 18th October
I’ve been a fan of Busy Philipps since she was Audrey on Dawson’s Creek, and now I, like millions of others, watch her Insta stories. A book was always going to be in the offing – you don’t amass an audience that size without a publisher wanted to use it to sell a book – but the early reviews seem to be that it’s a really good read, honest and well-observed. We’ll see, but I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Becoming by Michelle Obama – released 13th November
Another memoir that I just cannot wait to read, as I’m so eager to hear what Michelle Obama has to say. She’s an icon, and a true hero, and I have no doubt that this book will be as erudite, fascinating and warm as I believe she is. This is definitely top of my list for autumn reads.

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith – released today
I actually have issues with the Cormoran Strike series, not least that I think each book so far could have lost probably a third of the pages and still made sense, but J.K. Rowling gets away with murder because of who she is. I know she’s problematic these days, and I can’t say that in all honesty I’m her biggest fan, but I do love the stories she tells here with Strike, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes next.

How Does it Feel by Mark Kermode – released 20th September
It’s been a while since I mentioned Mark Kermode on the blog, but he’s out with a new book at the end of the week, so he’s made it into this list. I’m a huge fan of him as a film critic, but also as an author, so I’m really looking forward to his new offering, How Does It Feel, in which he tells the story of his life in music. I’m heading to the launch of his band’s new album on Friday, and hoping to grab a copy of the book at the same time, so expect a review very soon!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – released 20th September
I have only read one other Kate Morton book so far, but my sister is a big fan, and I always mean to pick up the ones I have missed and give them a read (if only that TBR pile wasn’t so tall already…). Not only does The Clockmaker’s Daughter boast a beautiful cover, the story sounds fascinating – I do love a dual narrative that weaves together a story from the past with a story from the present.

A Keeper by Graham Norton – released 4th October
Graham Norton’s debut novel, Holding, was one of my favourite books of 2016, not least because who knew that Graham Norton was such a talented writer? Now, the early reviews for A Keeper are great; it sounds a lot darker than Holding, and everything points to it being another favourite read of the year.

In Pieces by Sally Field – released today
For someone who doesn’t read an awful lot of memoirs, this is the fourth one on this list! But Sally Field is genuinely one of my favourite actresses, and again, it sounds as though she has written an honest and raw account of her life, which I’m sure will be fascinating to read.

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli – released 18th October
I’ve not read any Adam Silvera books yet, though I hear nothing but good things. But I have read two Becky Albertalli books: Love, Simon and Leah on the Offbeat. So I’m sure that I will enjoy this YA novel from the two of them, about two boys who meet in New York. It sounds delightfully romantic and angsty and everything you want from a YA novel.

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates – released 29th November 
Again, Joyce Carol Oates is not an author I’ve read before, but when I was looking through future releases, this one really caught my eye. It’s a dystopian story of a young woman who defies the conventions of the tightly controlled society in which she lives, only to find that she is sent back in time to the 1950s to be taught a lesson. I love stories about time travel, and this sounds as though it will be fascinating!

Life Honestly: Strong Opinions from Smart Women – released 20th September
This is a collection of essays and articles from writers at The Pool, a website I read regularly and really enjoy. This book is billed as a “collection of advice, comment and opinion that acts as a complete guide to modern life.” Definitely right up my street and one that is going straight on my library reservation list!

Photo an Hour #53 ~ December 2017

Looking back at my photos from December’s Photo an Hour has made me feel lovely and Christmassy! It also makes me realise just how rubbish I am at updating my blog with Photo an Hour posts. Though there’s a huge part of me that wants to just give up and start again, there’s a bigger part that wants to complete them, so I’m powering through!

As it turns out, I failed a little on the Photo an Hour front in December – I only managed six photos throughout the whole day!

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9.30am – Wrapping up some presents for a quick family visit to deliver some Christmas joy!

10.30am – Whenever I’m near a clock at a Photo an Hour time, I feel the need to photograph it!

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11.30am – Struggling to find anything to photograph, so I snapped this faux-old shopfront.

1.30pm – Some missing hours, because it’s hard to take photos on the hour when you’re with people! This was the day that I played Uno for about 3 hours with three little girls, one of whom didn’t really know the rules!

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4.30pm ~ Waiting for a lift home, and realising that I had missed a fair few hours of this game!

6.30pm ~ Is there anything more autumnal/wintery/Christmassy than the Strictly Come Dancing final? I was Team Joe, at the time, and he did win, though since then I’ve realised that I should have been Team Gemma.

And that was that – I always struggle with photos when I’m out and about, because I just don’t keep track of the time very well! Especially when I’m locked into one-after-the-other games of Uno that don’t feel like they are ever going to stop…

In case you’d like to play next time around, September’s day is set for 22nd September. It’s really easy to join in, just take a photo each hour and upload it to Instagram using the hashtag, or save them for a blog post. Once I’m up to date, I’ll start rounding up who joins in on a monthly basis.

We’ve also decided to set the dates for the rest of the year, to give people a chance to put the dates in their diaries so they can join in.

  • 27th October
  • 17th November
  • 15th December

If you want to sign up for a reminder email, you can do so here, and I’ll endeavour to remember to send it!

Book Review ~ Floored

40064391_2129872897287143_8150925586143806863_nFloored is a YA novel co-authored by seven of the hottest talents in the genre; Eleanor Wood, Holly Bourne, Lisa Williamson, Melinda Salisbury, Non Pratt, Sara Barnard and Tanya Byrne. Six teenagers get into a lift at a television broadcasting company in Manchester, starting as strangers to one another, before tragedy strikes, and their lives are forever linked.

The One Day of it all comes in when the gang meet up on the anniversary of their time in the lift, once a year. This is a group of teenagers, so hormones and sex and relationships and arguments filter through the years and cause make ups and break ups, and because we only really check in with them once a year, the format allows some things to be explored fully, while others are explained away in a paragraph.

Floored really interesting, if not all that innovative, and its winning hand is definitely in the way the six characters have been written. That being said, I did worry for a while that things were going to be too neatly tied up in a bow; at one point it seemed as if the story was going to end with three male-female couples from the six characters, and I was going to end up really irritated. But there’s plenty of twists and turns, and things turn out differently to how I expected, so that was nice.

The most interesting characters, and the ones that I feel were given the most room to grow, are Hugo and Kaitlyn. Hugo starts off as the most stereotypical, obnoxious rich boy, the type of sixteen year old that you know exists but you truly hope doesn’t. He really is odious, and the first half of the book leaves very little room for sympathy. Without giving too much away, the character development here is great; enough to give you somewhere to go with the character, but not too obvious (though it does take a little leap of faith to go with them on it!). Kaitlyn has to deal with her worsening sight, and how it impacts her young life, but her journey is a positive one, and she is definitely the most interesting of the three female characters to me.

The narrative is split into chapters in which each character is given a voice, with the occasional break for a third-person narrative to see all and give a brief overview of our six heroes. It’s a format that works, with the addition of text messages and some funny search histories.

Floored is a great addition to the UKYA catalogue, and quite a feat, if you consider how hard it must be to mesh seven very distinct authorial voices. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re a YA fan!

Floored
Publication Date: 10th July 2018
Pan MacMillan
Library Book