I was feeling burnt out on big, heavy, Important books recently. I’m glad these books exist and I want to keep reading them, but I kept looking at my bookshelf and not feeling excited about anything. So I switched my focus to middle grade for awhile and had lots of fun!
Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens: The first in a British series, set in a boarding school in the 1930s. Best friends Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have been solving small mysteries, but when a teacher is murdered, it’s the first real test of their detective abilities. I loved this book: I loved the setting, I loved Hazel’s voice, I loved the way her feelings & worries about being a Chinese girl in the middle of a British boarding school were woven into the story. I may end up buying the second book from the UK because I’m impatient and don’t want to wait for it to come over here.
Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon: Castle Hangnail needs a new Master, but when Molly (a Wicked Witch) arrives, she’s not quite what any of the minions expect. I loved the fresh, funny story, which also reminded me of classic middle grade books, like Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett (Vernon notes Eva Ibbotson as an influence too).
Jupiter Pirates: Curse of the Iris by Jason Fry: I liked the first book in this middle grade science fiction pirate series quite a bit, and Curse of the Iris is a great follow up. The characters get hashed out a little more, I was glad to see some more diversity in the overall world, and there are SECRETS and MYSTERIES and BURIED TREASURE.
The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan: The hook for this title is pretty simple: historical lady detectives! It’s based on a real person, the first female Pinkerton’s Detective. However, the main character–her niece–is fictional. It’s a bit episodic, but there are some fun scenes and I liked Nell’s quest for a place to belong.