The Agency For Scandal by Laura Wood, reviewed by Farrah (16)

With its vivid setting, gripping plot-line, and both loveable and villainous characters alike, ‘The Agency for Scandal’ instantly became one of my top reads of the year 2022. 

An expertly crafted combination of swoon-worthy romance and a spy-thriller, with the buzzing backdrop of London.

Farrah (16)

Following Isobel Stanhope, the eighteen-year-old member of The Aviary (an elusive society, aiming to protect women in a society where their rights are severely limited), we witness the unfolding of a mystery involving gaslighting, blackmailing, and some very special jewellery.  Alongside her friends and fellow Aviary members, as well as a very dashing Duke, whom Isobel happens to be secretly besotted with, she sets out on an epic journey to untangle the cryptic web of lies, secrets and deceptions, and thus protect the innocent victims of these schemes. 

As a main character, Isobel is resilient, inspirational and capable, juggling not only the mystery, and her job at The Aviary, but also dealing with the repercussions of her father’s death, and the fact that he has left the family penniless. ‘An Agency for Scandal’ discusses the struggles women face in this society (the novel is set at the beginning of the nineteenth century) and The Aviary is a fantastic addition to the story, as a society run by women, in order to aid other women, often by digging up scandal on powerful men.

Isobel forms meaningful relationships with those around her, and this book is an expertly crafted combination of swoon-worthy romance and a spy-thriller, with the buzzing backdrop of London.

Do yourself a favour and read this wonderful book. 

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron, reviewed by Torrin (16)

Jess Choudhary is a pupil at Heybuckle, the most exclusive private school in England. Ex- Alumni have gone on to be significant politicians and journalists. Then a pupil is murdered, and Jess finds herself at the heart of the investigation.

The death of a pupil at such a well renowned  school obviously has consequences; especially if, like Jess, your prestigious scholarship is threatened by a dangerously classist schoolboard. The stakes of the plot are ludicrously high because not only does Jess face the threat of an actual murder but everything she’s worked hard for could be taken away. At its core this is a YA mystery in the vein of “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” or “One of Us is Lying”, but author Ravena Guron injects it with the poignant themes of elitism and class.

A tone is set in the opening pages which is then twisted in a number of fun and interesting ways.

Torrin (16)

She successfully juggles these themes whilst also delivering a compelling murder mystery. I feared that the story might get bogged down in some of the more complex ideas, but the novel remains broad enough that teens aged 14 and up can comfortably enjoy it.

A tone is set in the opening pages which is then twisted in a number of fun and interesting ways. While I felt that some of the clues were a little heavy-handed, especially towards the end, the mystery is wrapped up nicely in the end with some genuine surprises.

At first glance the book may look daunting, 400 or so pages is a big ask for even the most hardy bookworm. But don’t be put off, I absolutely raced through it. In part due to the constantly mounting tension but also because the characters were likeable, and I wanted to see how it turned out for them.

A challenge when reading a murder mystery is keeping all the suspects in your head at once. A good author is able to keep each suspect distinct and memorable, Guron made this even more challenging for herself by setting the story in a school; she needs enough characters that the place feels alive and busy but not too many or the reader may lose track. I’m happy to report that she was successful. Not only does each and every character feel unique (even the side-characters are memorable) but they have goals and motivations outside of the main plot – they’re truly characters and not just plot devices.

The murder mystery genre seems to be having quite the resurgence in both books and film. And This Book Kills is a worthy addition to the pantheon of modern whodunnits.

The Octopus, Dadu and Me by Lucy Ann Unwin, reviewed by Niamh (10)

The Octopus, Dadu and Me is the heart-warming debut book from Lucy Ann Unwin. 

Sashi is left completely heartbroken when her parents tell her she can no longer visit her beloved grandfather, Dadu, because of his dementia. Instead of visiting Dadu in the care home, her parents start taking her to the local aquarium to take her mind off things and that’s when she meets Ian… an octopus who longs to escape. 

I really like this book because it’s extremely unique and a great insight into octopuses and dementia.

Niamh (aged 10)

With the help of her friends, Darcie and Hassan, they come up with a plan to break Ian out of his aquarium prison. 

It has loads of fascinating octopus facts and fun cartoon illustrations throughout the book, drawn by Lucy Mulligan. Did you know that octopuses can squeeze through spaces smaller than their eyeball?!

My favourite parts of the book were Sashi’s special memories with her Dadu and about what it’s like to have someone so close to you who doesn’t even remember you because of dementia.

I really like this book because it’s extremely unique and a great insight into octopuses and dementia. I found out lots of facts about both in a fun and engaging way, at the same time that Sashi and her friends are trying to work out how to sneak an octopus out of the aquarium without anyone noticing!

I would recommend this book especially to anyone whose families have experienced dementia, as there are not many books that deal with this subject well or even at all. It’s also perfect for people who like adventurous stories. I look forward to more books from Lucy!

Perfect for fans of: Keep Dancing, Lizzy Chu by Maisie Chan, and Me and My Dad at the End of the Rainbow.

Peanut Jones and The Twelve Portals by Rob Biddulph, reviewed by Aysha (11)

Peanut Jones, her friend Rockwell, her sister Little Bit and the pencil that can make drawings come to life go on their second adventure. This time to try and stop Mr White (the baddie) from making the world and the illustrated city colourless and also to try and get famous paintings back after they had mysteriously disintegrated.

I loved this book because it had lots of beautiful illustrations on each page.

Aysha (11)

I loved this book because it had lots of beautiful illustrations on each page. It was exciting to read and nerve-wracking too! This would make a great gift to get with Christmas coming up!

Niamh’s 12 Days of Christmas ~ Best books of 2022

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… Rainbow Grey in a pear tree (again because the second book came out this year! Hooray!). I’m back again with more amazing book recommendations to buy for Christmas this year! These books are mainly aimed at 9–12-year-olds but some of them are suitable for older and younger readers. 

  1. Like a Charm by Elle McNicoll – This isn’t just one of my favourite books of 2022 but one of my favourite books ever! The story follows Ramya, wearing her trademark beret, as she encounters different mythical creatures like vampires, kelpies, sirens and fae around Edinburgh. In Elle’s own words, the main characters in her books (and Elle herself) are “unapologetically neurodivergent” and in this book Ramya’s dyspraxia doesn’t stop her from saving the day. I can’t wait for the final book, Like a Curse, out next year!
  1. Frankie’s World by Aoife Dooley – Being normal is boring. Just like me, Frankie is the only person in her class who listens to rock music, does karate and loves creating art. However, Frankie’s classmates call her names like freak and weirdo, and she feels like an alien compared to everybody else. She sets out to find her dad to see if he’s different like her and discover more about herself. It’s illustrated in a fun, comic style and the book is inspired by the author and illustrator’s own experiences of being autistic.
  1. Escape Room by Christopher Edge – This is no ordinary escape room! In this escape room you may not ever scape! The main character Ami must work with her teammates to solve the puzzles or face fatal consequences. And who is the mysterious Host and why do they need to “Find the answer. Save the world”?! A thrilling, adventure with a brilliant twist at the end. My lips are sealed!
  1. Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Taking the Blame (book 2) by Louie Stowell – Loki is back and still trapped in the body of an 11-year-old boy! This time Loki must protect Earth from fearsome Frost Giants and clear his name after Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, goes missing. The book is written and drawn in the form of Loki’s diary and is absolutely hilarious. I can’t wait for book 3 next year! Read my Book Nook Review Crew verdict here.
  1. Spooked: The Theatre Ghosts by Steven Butler (illustrated by Claire Powell) – As a big fan of The Nothing to See Here Hotel series, I was delighted Steven had brought out a new book in time for Halloween! Just like the main character Ella, I loved getting to know the ghosts of the Hippodrome Theatre in Cod’s Bottom. I particularly liked fortune teller Madame Grebble and her random predictions, and Veronica Ratsinger is a character you love to hate! I also enjoyed how Claire Powell brought the ghosts to life with her illustrations.
  1. Libby and the Parisian Puzzle by Jo Clarke (illustrated by Becka Moor) – I love a good detective story and this one didn’t fail! Attending her aunt’s travelling school, Libby must help her new friend Connie find her missing jewellery and clear her aunt’s name, after she’s accused of stealing them. It’s fun trying to solve the mysteries along with Libby and Connie, and I enjoyed the Parisian setting because of all the fantastic food they get to eat and landmarks they visit!
  1. The Colour of Hope by Ross MacKenzie – Just like his Nowhere Emporium series, this book is filled with excitement, magic and dark moments (including some gory bits!). In a world of no colour because the Emperor and his aunt, the Necromancer, stole all the colour for themselves, everyone else must live in grey. However, a miracle child is born and everything she touches fills with colour. The Ripper Dogs and Blacks Coats that work for the Emperor will do anything to stop her! Wow, this book is as amazing as it sounds!
  1. Magicborn by Peter Bunzl – An enchanted adventure that travels from Kensington Palace to the fairy realm. Filled with danger, magic and mystery, I enjoyed following Tempest on her journey to finding out her true identity and making new friends and family on the way. My favourite character was the talking robin Coriel and how she ends all of her sentences with bird names, like “What’s the plan, little kingfisher?”, and dog names when she’s turned into a dog! I’m looking forward to the sequel! You can read my full Book Nook Review Crew review here.
  1. Rainbow Grey: Eye of the Storm by Laura Ellen Anderson – Having come into her powers as a rainbow weatherling in the last book, Ray finds it’s going to take some practice to control her powers! When all the cloud creatures start to disappear and she’s blamed, Ray must clear her name and find the creatures quick! Funny, adventurous and beautifully illustrated, this book is a must to read. And Nim the cloud cat is once again adorable! The final book in the series is out next year! You can read my review of the first book in the series here.
  1. The Great Fox Illusion by Justyn Edwards – Flick must compete in a television magic trick competition to win the legacy of a famous magician, called The Great Fox. However, Flick has a secret and is also searching for the mysterious Bell System trick to bring her missing dad back. Featuring real-life magic tricks, you can try to solve the challenges at the same time. It’s also very inspiring that the main character has a prosthetic leg and the story tells you about the challenges of having a disability. My full Book Nook Review Crew review can be read here.
  1. Greta and the Ghost Hunters by Sam Copeland (illustrated by Sarah Horne) – Another fantastic ghost book out this year! Can you tell I like the TV series Ghosts too?! After a near death experience that leaves her afraid to leave the house, Greta finds she’s living with more people than just her parents, brother and grandma! My absolute favourite ghost is Percy, who wants to play traditional games like “thrash a boy” and “stick push a poo”! A laugh out loud book with some touching moments and an uplifting message at the end.
  1. The Underpants of Chaos by Sam Copeland and Jenny Pearson (illustrated by Robin Boyden and Katie Kear) – Sam Copeland gets the honour of being featured twice! This is a very different book, where Sam is joined by Jenny Pearson in telling the story of the unexplained events that are happening at Little Strangehaven Primary, like everyone growing a beard, the stone building gargoyles coming to life, or underpants trying to smother you! And as if two authors weren’t enough, there are two illustrators taking turns to draw the chapters! A brilliant, hilarious book! 

Xmas discounts ~ Twenty-Four Days of NOOKMAS!

To celebrate the run up to Christmas this December, we’re sharing the most festive books about Xmas, beautiful gift books and a few of this year’s best reads that would make perfect gifts on Christmas morning!

Every day a different book will be 15% off for one day only ~ Check out our social media sites to see each days book!

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/booknookhove/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/booknookhove

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Booknookhove

Or just have a browse of our selections and recommendations so far:

Always, Clementine by Carlie Sorosiak, reviewed by Aysha (11)

This story has to be read aloud! 

The story is all about a mouse who someone has stolen from a science lab and placed inside a mailbox.

This story is really good and will make you laugh out loud.

Aysha (11)

What makes this story brilliant is that it is told by Clementine the mouse, who smells of raspberries and is very bright.

Each chapter is a letter she is writing in her head to her friend back in the lab.

She meets wonderful new people and discovers her love for playing chess, while also trying not to get caught by the researchers from the lab.

This story is really good and will make you laugh out loud.

Which Way to Anywhere by Cressida Cowell, reviewed by Evie M (9)

How long can you hold your breath? 

This is a story out of this world… it is dazzling and dangerous, 

come with me if you dare through the Which Way to anywhere!

What is the story about?

This intriguing story is about two thirteen year old twins called Izzabird and K2 O’hero. Their father had mysteriously gone missing when they were little. They have two stepsisters and a stepbrother, called Theo and Mabel, who they don’t like very much and a baby sister Annipeck. Their mother and aunts have magic powers and K2 discovers that he also has a gift that means he can draw maps to other strange universes when he places a cross in the middle of a piece of paper. The cross is a ‘Which Way’ and acts as a gateway to access other planets. 

“The best bit was when Horizabel, full of grace, appears from out of the washing machine with adorable Blinkers her robot!”

Evie M (9)

The adventure really begins when a stranger knocks on the door of their washing machine, a fearsome robot storms their house to destroy them and their baby sister Annipeck is snatched by an evil pirate named Cyril. They are forced to slice an ‘X’ in the air of their world to create a ‘Which Way’ portal to travel through to save their sister by working together and maybe even Everest, the father of Izzabird and K2! They also make new friends on the way including a cheeky robot named Puck and the beautiful, talented Horizabel, but is she really a friend?

My personal favourite character

Horizabel because she is the storyteller of the book and is pretty. She also seems to be good but really… Horizabel is quite fascinating and by far has the best clothing. (Cressida Cowell well done!)

If you liked these books you will love this story too!

Harry Potter or The Magic Faraway Tree then you would love this!

Best bit…

My favourite part was where baby Anniepeck is kidnapped by evil Cyril and when Horizabel, full of grace, appears from out of the washing machine with adorable Blinkers her robot!

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, reviewed by Farrah (16)

In a deeply patriarchal society, where young girls undergo a ‘purity ceremony’, our main character Deka is forced to lead a different life than the predetermined path set out for her, when her blood runs gold with deemed impurity.

I massively enjoyed the experience of living inside Deka’s brain as she undergoes all of these shocking and exciting new experiences.

Farrah (16)

Snatched from her village, she is thrust into a world of battle and demons and is forced to deconstruct the indoctrinated misogyny housed in her brain, as she enters the Emperor’s army, as a special sector of the legions. Along the way she makes alliances and bands together with others, in the kinship of sisterhood, whilst also blossoming as an individual, piecing together her past and fighting for her future.

As this is a book told in first-person, I massively enjoyed the experience of living inside Deka’s brain as she undergoes all of these shocking and exciting new experiences. The overall message and themes contained within the pages, such as the importance of friendship and defiance, with the feminist overtone make for an impactful fantasy. The world building is unique, and the characters feel fleshed out and multi-faceted. As a debut novel, this is certainly commendable.

If you are a lover of the fantasy genre, or if you are interested in trying fantasy, I would definitely recommend ‘The Gilded Ones’. The writing style is eloquent, but easy to read, and you will find yourself gripped in no time. It’s sequel, ‘The Merciless Ones’ has recently been released, and therefore if upon finishing, you are eager for more, there is a whole new novel for you to devour. If however, you would prefer to read it as a stand-alone, then ‘The Gilded Ones’ will not disappoint. The ending ties the tale together neatly,  and you could leave the story there.