Secrets of the Snakestone by Piu DasGupta, reviewed by Niamh (11)

Secrets of the Snakestone is Piu DasGupta’s brilliant, gripping, thrilling debut middle-grade novel. 

Set in the 19th century, Zélie Dutta has been shipped to Paris to work as a maid at Madame Malaise’s mansion far, far away from her home in Calcutta. The other servants hate her and accuse her of being a witch when poor Zélie has done nothing wrong! 

“I was heartbroken when I finished it!”

Niamh (11)

The only thing keeping her happy were her father’s letters containing riddles, but one day they just stopped coming. Life seems normal and mundane until she finds out about the mysterious Snakestone and its connection to her family. Zélie, along with her friend Jules, must embark on a treacherous journey to find the deadly Snakestone before it falls into the wrong hands… 

Secrets of Snakestone is dark, mysterious and you never know what’s coming next. I love the constant mysteries all through the book and the excitement on every single page! I am astounded how Piu Dasgupta managed to tell all that story in such a gripping way. I was heartbroken when I finished it!

I loved trying to solve the mysteries throughout the story and how different all the characters’ personalities were. And it would take a cold heart not to be won over by Titicaca the albino sloth!

This book is perfect for mystery lovers and people who love dark plots and shocking twists.

Perfect for fans of: The Cogheart Adventures by Peter Bunzl, The Eerie-on-Sea Mysteries by Thomas Taylor, and Mouse Heart by Fleur Hitchcock.

Peanut Jones and the End of the Rainbow by Rob Biddulph, reviewed by Aysha (12)

I absolutely loved this book. I got it for Christmas and I couldn’t put it down because it is a thrilling book to read. This book is great for readers who love adventure stories and books with illustrations. 

“This book is funny and definitely one of my favourites.”

Aysha (12)

This book is the third in the Rob Biddulph’s series and it is all about Peanut Jones who is at the end of her journey to beat Mr White and make The Illustrated City wonderful again with the help of her friends. But when Mr White decides to get Peanut Jones’s mum involved, now she’s in terrible danger. Will Peanut Jones be able to save her mum and also stop Mr White?

My favourite character is definitely Rockwell as over the series you can see how much he has grown to become the character he is in the third book. At the start of the series, he was quite shy and scared but at the end of the series he got braver and used his knowledge to his advantage. 

This book is funny and definitely one of my favourites. The illustrations are phenomenal and you can tell that he has put a lot of work into making the illustrations come to life with the different colours. 

(Cover illustration by Aysha)

Scareground by Angela Kecojevic, reviewed by Oliver (11)

Scareground is a book filled with suspense and mystery. Set in Victorian Britain we meet Nancy, a girl, who was adopted 12 years ago by her adoptive parents, the Crumpets. 

“A spine-chilling adventure full of danger and magic.”

Oliver (11)

She lives in Greenwich and has a best friend called Arthur Green – a child who was far more privileged than herself but who also has his own problems and fears.  

However, Nancy’s whole life changes when a fair comes to town. Who are her real parents and why was she left abandoned in the park 12 years ago?

Determined to find out her past histories, Nancy becomes involved in a spine-chilling adventure full of danger and magic.  A fantastic story from start to finish – a perfect book for a child aged 10 to 12 years who enjoys a spooky read.

Finding Wonder by Lauren St John, reviewed by Aysha (12)

Finding Wonder is a brilliant book and it should definitely be on your to-read list!

The story is about a girl called Roo. After the unexpected death of her father, she moves into a wee caravan with her Aunt Joni. Then something extraordinary happens, she discovers that before his death, her father bought a winning lottery ticket.

“My favourite character has to be Aunt Joni as she gives a warm, calming feel to the book.”

Aysha (12)

Deciding to spend the money on something she loves, when Roo sees that her favorite horse, Wonder Boy has gone on the market, she decides to buy the horse. However, before she can collect Wonder, the horse goes missing and within weeks, more famous horses go missing.

Roo and her Aunt Joni decide to investigate. Will they find Wonder Boy and the other horses?

I think this book is for ages 9+. I adored reading this mystery.  My favourite character has to be Aunt Joni as she gives a warm, calming feel to the book. 

Tapper Watson and the Quest for the Nemo Machine by Claire Fayers, reviewed by Niamh (11)

Tapper Watson and the Quest for the Nemo Machine is a thrilling adventure through space by Claire Fayers, who’s best known for the Accidental Pirates book series. It is illustrated by the brilliant Becka Moor who has drawn some of my favourite books like the Mickey and the Animal Spies trilogy and the Libby series. 

The story features Tapper, a boy from the planet Eris who has been sent to space by his uncle. He is accompanied by Argo and Belladonna who are there to look after him. On an unplanned trip to Earth, they meet Fern Shakespeare, her dad and a talking plant called Morse. 

“It’s so imaginative and funny. I absolutely adored how Claire Fayers created so many planets in this book, and who wouldn’t love a book with lobster mobsters and talking plants?!”

Niamh (11)

When Mr Shakespeare loses his memory, Tapper and the others must travel to outer space on an adventure to find the mysterious Nemo Machine to restore his memory, but it isn’t easy doing so when you’re being chased by two lobster mobsters armed with ray guns that turn you into stone!  

Tapper Watson and the Quest for the Nemo Machine is a brilliant, unique story full of twists and non-stop excitement. I love this book because it’s so imaginative and funny. I absolutely adored how Claire Fayers created so many planets in this book, and who wouldn’t love a book with lobster mobsters and talking plants?!

I particularly enjoyed the exciting chase scenes through space, my heart was pounding I was so excited reading it! I also liked the Greek Mythology names (e.g Scylla) and references. 

This book is ideal for people who love space adventures, imaginative characters and thrilling twists! 

Perfect for fans of: The Peanut Jones series by Rob Biddulph. 

Friends and Traitors by Helen Peters, reviewed by Aysha (12)

I think everyone should get to read this Fantabulous book (that is not a word I use often).

“I absolutely loved this book. It taught me so much about World War II and stuff you don’t get taught at school.” 

Aysha (12)

Nancy suddenly finds herself working for a girl’s school in Stanbrook where she encounters a girl named Sidney about her age who has just moved here. They are positive that something is going on in the stables with Mr Armitage, the owner of the house and Miss Taylor, a sports car driver. As Nancy and Sidney explore the house, they discover even more secrets and shocking news. Can they figure out what they are planning before it is too late?

I absolutely loved this book. It taught me so much about World War II and stuff you don’t get taught at school. 

This book includes World War II, Mystery + Detective.

I think this book is suitable for ages 11 upwards. 

Lottie Brooks’s Totally Disastrous School Trip by Katie Kirby, reviewed by Emily (13)

This book is Katie Kirby’s fourth book in the Lottie Brooks series and doesn’t disappoint.  Filled with her usual humour and catastrophic storyline, it was a book which entertained me throughout.

“Lottie Brooks never fails to help me see that my life is far more stable than hers.”

Emily (13)

Lottie Brooks is a twelve-year old girl who stumbles through her teenage years with the help of her friends and hamsters.  This time the novel is based around Lottie going on a residential trip to Camp Firefly with her class.  Separated from her best friend, Lottie attempts to challenge herself by abseiling, raft building and walking along a sensory trail blindfolded.  This story is full of friendship dramas with hilarious consequences. Lottie has to also navigate around the mean girls from a private school who are also staying at Camp Firefly as well as suffer the outcome from having her diary read out loud.  

Lottie Brooks never fails to help me see that my life is far more stable than hers.  A great book for 11 years and up if you like laugh out loud storylines. A must read for anyone about to embark on a school residential trip with their classmates.

Friends And Traitors by Helen Peters, reviewed by Emily (13)

Helen Peter’s novel, Friends and Traitors, is a thrilling and fast-paced story which kept me turning the pages from start to finish.

“Who will listen to a servant and a schoolgirl with an overactive imagination?…I found this story incredibly engaging. The plot was full of twists and turns as their adventure develops.”

Emily (13)

Set during World War Two in the 1940s, the main character is a teenage evacuee called Sydney whose boarding school is evacuated to a large stately house in the countryside.  Sydney is a loner and makes friends with a maid called Nancy and together they unwittingly uncover a secret Nazi plan which would threaten the security of Britain and their chances of winning the war.  But who will listen to a servant and a schoolgirl with an overactive imagination?  And will the girls succeed in alerting the authorities to the revealed traitors top secret plot?

I found this story incredibly engaging. The plot was full of twists and turns as their adventure develops.  I would recommend this book for 10-year-olds and up particularly if you enjoy war and mystery stories.

Dead Lock by Simon Fox, reviewed by Oliver (10)

Simon Fox has produced an outstanding book called Dead Lock.  After reading the first chapter, I was hooked or should I say “locked in!” 

Every chapter ended with a cliff hanger and I couldn’t put it down or wait to turn the next page.  Simon Fox’s storyline was so gripping – I felt I was with Archie on his thrilling adventure throughout the story.  If you are a fan of Alex Rider, then you are sure to love this!

“If you are a fan of Alex Rider, then you are sure to love this!”

Oliver (10)

Archie Blake and his dad share a useful skill – they can pick locks. After the loss of his mother, together he and his father have lock picking competitions to see who can pick a lock the fastest. His dad is a policeman and he works for the art crimes department.  Archie’s whole world falls apart when his dad is arrested for the theft of a diamond necklace. 

Archie decides to go on the run and to prove his father is innocent – but he only has 48 hours to do so. His only option is to go to the safe house where he meets a girl called Bunny who helps him with his quest. Together they fall deeper into the twists and turns of jewel heists and police corruption.  Maybe his dad wasn’t as innocent as he thought?

I think this book would be a great read for 9 to 12 year olds.  Packed with thrills and dangerous feats I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down!

Fablehouse by E.L.Norry, reviewed by Niamh (10)

Fablehouse is a brand-new gripping middle-grade series by E.L. Norry. She’s already known for writing fantastic stories that tell the untold tales of black children in history and her first book, Son of the Circus, was previously shortlisted for the Diverse Book Awards. 

Set in a children’s home for ‘Brown Babies’, mixed-race children born to black US army soldiers and white British mothers after the Second World War, the story follows Heather and her friends as they fight evil fae and stop everyone living in Fablehouse from being replaced by changelings.  

Fablehouse draws on E.L. Norry’s own personal experiences as a mixed-race child growing up in the care system in Cardiff, although we don’t know if she was battling fae during her childhood!

Niamh (10)

After they help injured Palamedes (also known as Pal), a black knight who served King Arthur, they are tasked with the quest to prevent his old friend, ‘The Champion’, from leading the fae to take control over the whole world!

I loved this book! It deals with real-life serious issues, while also telling a magical, exciting adventure story. I couldn’t put the book down after the changelings began to appear, which were fae left in the place of children living in the care home that talked in a low, threatening hissed voices.

Fablehouse draws on E.L. Norry’s own personal experiences as a mixed-race child growing up in the care system in Cardiff, although we don’t know if she was battling fae during her childhood! I was furious at the horrible way the local children treated Heather and friends in the book because they were mixed-race. 

I recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure, folklore, magic and wants to learn more about the experiences of mixed-race children born post-WW2. I’m delighted there will be more books in this series and I can’t wait to find out what happens Heather and her friends next. 

I’ve got tickets to see E.L. Norry, Lizzie Huxley-Jones and Ross Montgomery at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this summer and I can’t wait to tell them all in-person how much I love their books! 

Perfect for fans of: Vivi Conway & The Sword of Legend by Lizzie Huxley-Jones; and The Chime Seekers by Ross Montgomery