Review: The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine

Because this gorgeous purple book is the last book in The Sinclair’s Mysteries series, I don’t want to say too much about what goes on. Instead, I thought I’d give you five reasons to read the series if you haven’t already so you can get to this glorious finale that really delivers on everything you want from a mystery and conclusion. Historical Setting

1. Historical Setting!

The Sinclair’s Mysteries all take place in the 20th century, and while 1910 may not sound that long ago, it’s been over 100 years since departments stores like Sinclair’s first opened. It’s the time of the suffragette movement, the attitude of which definitely plays into our main female characters. It’s a time of fancy, where going to the shops was an event and there’s something so pleasant about the luxury of it all that makes me want to just fall through the pages. If you’ve got a soft spot for atmospheric setting, this series is perfect. (The Midnight Peacock also takes place around Christmas and New Year, so the setting is ten times more delightful and festive than usual!)

2. Female Friendship!

The story is mostly routed in the relationship between Sophie and Lil. They have entirely different personalities, Sophie being from a slightly poorer background and more reserved, Lil being a gorgeous model who oozes confidence. The girls work together at the store (and at solving mysteries) and always have each other’s backs. I can’t wait for their spin off!

3. Diversity!

While Sophie and Lil, along with Billy and Joe, make up the core members of the mystery solving crew, but as the books go on more secondary characters get added (my fave being Leo from The Painted Dragon). They have repeated appearances and are never forgotten about. There’s representation of the Chinese community in Mei and Song, and Leo is disabled. It’s the perfect example of what all middle grade stories should be striving for.

4. Mysteries! 

Why is this only number 4 when it’s the most important part of the plot? Well, I’m so jazzed about everything else, the actual body of the books slipped my mind…I’d read about these characters if they were just baking cakes, let alone solving crime. I’m a sucker for a good mystery, especially ones that play across a whole series. It makes the finishing of each book feel so rewarding.

5. The covers + extras!

I know that you should never judge a book by its cover, (it’s the inside that counts!) but aren’t these covers gorgeous? The jewel tones work perfectly together and with each silhouette, you get a real sense of what’s going on in each book. There are also some really beautiful end papers and illustrations at the beginning of each part which I love, love, love. Additionally, there are always letters and invitations inserted into the narrative to keep things interesting.

I hope I’ve convinced you enough to read The Sinclair’s Mysteries, especially The Midnight Peacock because the pay off is just SO great. The world expands as Sophie learns more about what happened to her parents and how the Baron might not be the only suspicious member of the secret society. It’s no doubt my favourite in the series, earning 4 stars. I can’t wait to see what Katherine Woodfine does with these characters next!

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Mini Review: The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine

31202255The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodbine
Genre: 
Mystery, Middle Grade
Publisher: Egmont Books
Pages: 352
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This summer, I read the first book in the Sinclair Mystery series. It was my first new Middle Grade book in a decade, and I was really excited to find something that was a genre I love, in a historical setting (also LOVE), just with younger protagonists. The third book in the series, The Mystery of the Painted Dragon is no different from the first in the lovely vibes it gave me, and the pure rush of enjoyment I get from reading a mystery, and solving it along with the protagonists.

Katherine Woodfine knows how to put together a great mystery, one with interesting characters, a devious hidden plot and historical markers that always put a smile on my face.  Continue reading “Mini Review: The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine”

Review: The Hetty Feather Series by Jacqueline Wilson

The Hetty Feather Series by Jacqueline Wilson
Genre: 
Historical
Published by: Doubleday Children’s
Pages: 400 | 400 | 432 | 304 | 512
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★★
Note: As this is a review of the entire series, certain plot points and outcomes are discussed that may spoil the series for first time readers, or people that haven’t completed the series!

H  E  T  T  Y     F  E  A  T  H  E  R

Hetty Feather is such a change of pace from anything Jacqueline Wilson has written before. Set in the 1890s, it is the first in her Victorian series, featuring Hetty, a foundling girl with ambitions to join the circus and becoming a published author, whichever comes first. Hetty Feather is so unique because it reads like usual middle grade fiction, but has the makings of a classic. Hetty’s journey is structured very much like Jane Eyre’s, except it spans across three books! The first book is pastoral, fascinating and exciting. The circus makes such a wonderful setting, in stark contrast to the Foundling Hospital. Reading as Hetty gets torn away from everyone she loves: her mother, foster family and beloved Jem, is heartbreaking. No matter what she goes through, mischief, mayhem or injustice, you always root for her! It’s hard to think that the sequels are going to match up to such a marvellous beginning!  Continue reading “Review: The Hetty Feather Series by Jacqueline Wilson”

Review: A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson

cover98899-medium.pngA Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson
Genre: 
Fairy-tale, Retelling
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Pages: Under 300
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★.5
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Just from the blurb, I knew there was going to be a lot to like about A Girl Called Owl. It’s got a fairy tale retelling element to it, though the source material is some I’ve never seen tackled before, and it’s marketed as middle grade, which I’ve been trying to read a lot more of recently, so it feels great to read something up and coming from this genre!

Continue reading “Review: A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson”

Series Review: Stella Etc by Karen McCombie

Frankie, Peaches and Me, Sweet-Talking TJ, Meet the Real World, Rachel, Truly, Madly Megan, Amber and the Hot Pepper Jelly, Twists, Turns and 100% Tilda, and Forever and Ever and Evie
Genre: 
Contemporary, Adventure, Humour | Published by: Scholastic
Rating: ★★★★★

Stella Etc. was another one of our all-time favourites. Back when the summers were only six weeks long, we’d read one book a week (always skipping the final book because it was when Stella went back to London so you did’t see all her Portbay friends). This time Maddie and I managed to read all seven books in one day! Stella Etc. is full of summer adventures, friends and sea-side fun!

Continue reading “Series Review: Stella Etc by Karen McCombie”

Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

15944406Doll Bones by Holly Black
Genre: Magical-Realism, Middle-Grade
Published by: Corgi Children’s
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★

Okay, so I’ve sampled Holly Black’s YA books and her MG that’s co-written, so this is actually the first middle grade book of hers where there isn’t a secondary contributor. I feel like her writing is a bit hit-and-miss in general, and I’m sad to say that Doll Bones was a bit of a miss for me. It was an engaging story but completely over the top and I think I would’ve needed more elements of realism to properly enjoy it.

Continue reading “Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black”

Review: Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy

1239697Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Family
Published by: Puffin
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★.5

Maddie and I have wanted to start reading more Middle Grade recently, so we decided to start with some of our favourite books from when we were tweens! Cathy Cassidy was a complete staple in my reading life when I was 11-14. I loved her(!) and Scarlett was the first of her books that I read, so I decided to start here.

Scarlett follows an angry girl who is misunderstood. She’s been booted from one school to the next and lives with her single mother who’s a little tired of Scarlett’s antics, so she sends her to live with her dad. But Scarlett’s dad started a new family…in Ireland.

Continue reading “Review: Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy”

Series Review: The Chocolate Box Girls by Cathy Cassidy

Cherry Crush, Marshmallow Skye, Summer’s Dream, Coco Caramel, Sweet Honey, Fortune Cookie
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Romance | Published by: Puffin
Pages: 272, 304, 288, 304, 304, 288 | Format: Hardback | Rating: ★★★★

The Chocolate Box series is one of my favourite middle grade series. I remember when Cherry Crush was being teased on Cathy Cassidy’s website and getting so excited at the idea that she was going to be writing a series about sisters! I also remember in 2010 (when I was 12-13) thinking, ‘oh my goodness, I’m going to be 18 by the time I finish this series!’ (Though I was 19 in the end because she added a half-brother to the mix which bumped the series up to six.) I stopped reading when Summer’s Dream came out…I’m not entirely sure why… but it felt like finally the right time to complete my Cathy Cassidy reading experience! I’m so glad I did, because it’s chocolatey and beautiful.

Continue reading “Series Review: The Chocolate Box Girls by Cathy Cassidy”

Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

24463265The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodvine
Genre: Mystery
Published by: Egmont
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★

Mystery is one of my favourite genres, so what better middle grade to start with than this? In brief, this book is essentially Nancy Drew in a department store, and if that sounds like your thing then there’s no way to be disappointed! With the next book in the series already published and the third on the way, I’m glad that now I’m hooked, more are at my fingertips! Continue reading “Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine”

I’ll Never Grow Out of…Middle Grade?

At the beginning of the year, Bee and I posted a video on our channel called ‘Outgrowing YA?‘ in which we talked how the Young Adult genre isn’t something you can ‘grow out’ of, because that suggests the age of the audience of YA has a limit. Instead, you can ‘expand’ or ‘change’ your reading tastes, both words not holding the horrid connotations that reading YA is childish after you reach a certain age.

So, I’ve always thought that, regardless of age, you can read whatever books you like. If you’re 44 and love Percy Jackson, cool! If you’re 8 and love Jane Eyre, amazing! I’ll never try and stop someone reading what they love, not matter which section of a bookstore they’ve picked it up from.

But there is one person I’ve limited. Me.

And I’m a complete hypocrite because of it! For years I told myself I’d ‘grown out’ of Middle Grade, using the same phrase on myself that I tend to avoid! I stopped myself enjoying whatever Jacqueline Wilson has published in the last decade by saying that I’m too old to enjoy it. I read, and love, all of Cathy Cassidy’s books, but have to qualify it by saying that I owe it to my younger self to keep reading them.

To heck with my younger self! Nineteen year old me LOVES Middle Grade!

Why couldn’t I admit that? Why was it like a dirty secret?

If I preach that anyone can read anything, that sentiment needs to extend to me as well. I can read Rooftoppers. I can read The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not too old and the books aren’t too juvenile. In fact, the last twenty books I’ve read have been Middle Grade, and I haven’t had this much fun reading in a long time.

I think, by finally admitting that browsing the children’s section in my local library is my new favourite hobby, I’ve finally fully accepted my reading tastes, and what I enjoy. It no longer has to be something I hide from my Goodreads account, and it didn’t need to be in the first place.

Read what you want to read, regardless of age labels, everyone, because that’s what I’ll be doing from now on!