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.

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!

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.

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Taking the Blame by Louie Stowell, reviewed by Niamh (10)

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Taking the Blame is Louie Stowell’s second book in the series. Norse trickster, Loki, was previously sent to Midgard\Earth in the form of an 11-year-old boy to do good deeds or face punishment by Odin. 

In the body of a mortal child, he is cruelly forced to go to school, while Heimdall and Hyrrokkin pretend to be his parents and Thor his twin brother. Loki being Loki, he always somehow finds a way to cause trouble even without trying!

I love this book so much! It’s hilarious and is packed with fun adventures and a good twist at the end. I liked the bit where Loki turned himself, Thor and two mortal friends into horses and started a horse rampage!

Niamh (10)

Despite having done a good deed in the last book, in the second instalment Loki must stay on Earth to protect it from fearsome Frost Giants and clear his name after Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, goes missing…

The book is in the form of Loki’s diary and is filled with lots of funny illustrations and sometimes the diary talks back and detects when Loki is lying! 

I love this book so much! It’s hilarious and is packed with fun adventures and a good twist at the end. I liked the bit where Loki turned himself, Thor and two mortal friends into horses and when they started a horse rampage! 

It also made me laugh when Loki explained the ‘birthday rituals’, which includes Thor spitting on a burning cake and a game where you win prices for stopping dancing, where he says: “but my dancing is EXCELLENT. Why would I stop?”.

My friend Harrison loves the Loki books too and he says his favourite part was when Loki tries to start a spitting contest to get spit for a spell to test if someone was a giant.

I would recommend the Loki books to anyone who likes Norse mythology, funny adventures, lots of mischief and hilarious illustrations. I can’t wait for the third book!

Perfect for fans of: Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to be Good by Louie Stowell; and Who Let the Gods Out series by Maz Evans.

Giant by Nicola Skinner, reviewed by Aysha (11)

This book is amazing!!!

I love the way it is written and illustrated and told.

As a person who does not usually read a lot of books about Giants, this book was great! As you can tell by the title, this book is about Giants. 

I loved reading this story, there were so many twists to the story, it kept me guessing right till the very end. 

Aysha (11)

In Minnie’s island of people, there are also Giants. The Giants work for the Giant Management Company which is run by Mrs Primrose. How does it work, you ask? Well, Giants get trained to be servants and look after children until the children turn 12. When the children turn 12, there is a ceremony where the children kiss their Giant. When the child kisses their Giant, their Giant turns to stone.

When a massive earthquake hits Quake Quarter, Minnie’s ceremony is fast-tracked. But she is not ready for her ceremony and not ready to say goodbye to Speck her Giant, so Minnie runs away. How will she survive and are there some hidden secrets along the way!?

I loved reading this story, there were so many twists to the story, it kept me guessing right till the very end. 

Unraveller by Frances Hardinge, reviewed by Farrah (16)

Unraveller is a vivid and delightful fantasy novel, which had me gripped from the very first chapter. Featuring Kellen, an unraveller of curses, and Nettle, an individual whose curse was unravelled by Kellen, we follow these characters as they are joined by unlikely allies in a journey to uncover the conspiracy surrounding a band of fugitive cursers. Along the way they travel through the alluring and vibrantly depicted locations of Mizzleport, the Shallow and the Deep Wilds.

It will certainly go down as one of my favourite stories of the year.

Farrah (16)

Covering a variety of topics in this expertly crafted fantasy, this is a book which you will find yourself unable to put down. I loved the vast cast of characters, and the incredible set-up of this fantastical world and its ‘magic system’. From the fearsome creatures inhabiting the Wilds, to the victims of strange curses and their seemingly formidable cursers, these are characters who’s escapades are a joy to read. Nettle’s quiet compassion and Kellen’s vivacious lust for adventure (and often the danger that accompanies it) are enchantingly written.

Lover of the fantasy genre or not, the lyrical writing and engaging characters will entice you in from the get-go. I would highly recommend this book to a large variety of age groups, and it will certainly go down as one of my favourite stories of the year.

Leonora Bolt by Lucy Brandt, reviewed by Caitlin (7)

This book is really good and it has lots of mysteries. 

Leonora Bolt and her friend Jack go on an exciting adventure with Millie the cook. With lots of unexpected happenings.

Some bits were very funny and some bits were a little scary (but in an exciting way.)

Caitlin (7)

Leonora is a kind girl who is a secret inventor. But she does not know what the mainland looks like because she is stuck on an island, called Crabby Island, in the middle of nowhere with her horrible Uncle. Leonora Bolt also has a little sea otter Twitchy as her pet. And he helps her with her mission. 

The book was amazing, and some bits were very funny and some bits were a little scary (but in an exciting way). 

There is a cliff hanger and I think it is really cool that there is a mystery to be solved. I want to read the next one. And I loved the funny ferry timetable.