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

Book Review ~ The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

I can’t call myself a huge fan of B.J. Novak, because my experience of him extends to his guest appearances in The Mindy Project and following him on Instagram and Twitter. I’m a fan though, and he has released two books this year, one of which I am yet to read (One More Thing), and the other of which I am reviewing here!

The Book With No Pictures is a children’s picture book, and as such, isn’t within the usual remit of books I usually review here. I don’t have children, so I can’t tell you that I read it to them and they loved it, though I have heard that it is a hit with the children who have had it read aloud to them. That’s the key with this book – you have to read it aloud. It actually commands you to do so.

“Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say.”

The Book With No Pictures – B.J. Novak

So there are no pictures, but who needs pictures when the words are so entertaining? The way it is written makes the listener think that they are in on something with the book – the person reading aloud might not want to read words like ‘blork’ or ‘bluurf’, but the book says you have to read everything, so read it you must. It’s a lot of fun, and the asides that come alongside the silly words or phrases add to this sense of nonsense.

If you need any convincing, take a look at this video of B.J. Novak reading it to a group of children, who clearly love it.

Of course, it’s an American book, so there are going to be some Americanisms (use of the word ‘butt’ for instance). But in the end, I think it’s just funny, and I think children will love it.

The Book With No Pictures
First published: September 2014
ISBN: 9780803741713
Dial
Review copy provided by publisher