Tag: ya


YA Wednesday: Vivian Apple at the End of the World

Posted 16 December, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

YA Wednesday: Vivian Apple at the End of the WorldVivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Christian, Dystopian, General, Religious, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Goodreads
four-stars

Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed "Rapture," all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn't know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn't looking for a savior. She's looking for the truth.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World is a little bit different than your average YA dystopia novel. First of all, it packs some very interesting political and social commentary into a pretty readable package. Second, it takes on one of my favorite topics, the issue of the giant American mega-churches. Third… well, third it’s just good reading fun.

This novel addresses the very scary, unprecedented relation between corporate power in America and the manipulation of its citizens.

But one shouldn’t dismiss this novel for just atheists or agnostics, it (admittedly towards the end) clarifies the position that not all Believers should be lumped together.

But let me tell you this: you can’t go through life distinguishing the Believers from the Non-Believers and divvying up your love and trust accordingly. It’s more complicated than that, Viv, and you know it.

But I think that the subtext of not lumping people together goes further than religion though. Vivian Apple tackles parentage and to a lesser extent, race.

I read the first of this series? trilogy? because it’s on the Tournament of Books long list, but it was good enough that I might seek out the second Vivian Apple novel in the series to see where it goes.

What do you think, Reader? I know a lot of us are tired of YA dystopia, but does this sound like a new spin on an old genre?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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More to it Monday: The Fault in Our Stars

Posted 24 November, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings, Reviews

More to it Monday: The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published by Penguin Pages: 180
three-half-stars

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

So, if you’re stalking my Goodreads account, (I know you must be) you’ll noticed that I started and finished this title yesterday (in between finishing The Magician King and starting The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (my reading mojo is to die for right now, my blogging mojo… not so much). You’ll also notice that I gave it a big fat three stars only.

So, you’re thinking if I only gave it three stars and my blogging mojo is shit right now, how come I’m up at 3:07 a.m. blogging about the damn book? Good question.

Let’s start with my overall first impressions. Like Monika (I’m not sure if she’s said this publicly, but I’m outing her), I went into this novel with fairly low expectations. Why? Let’s make a quick list: 1. I’m generally bored of YA. 2. This book has been hyped to the heavens and back for years now. 3. Romance and feely-feel novels generally aren’t part of my wheelhouse.

So, I came, I read, and found that it was better than I expected, it was compelling enough to read in a single day, the writing was strong, and it had a good story. So why the three stars? Well. For one, while it was all those things that I just listed it didn’t really blow me away or make me feel all the feels. There was no misting up for me and while I enjoyed the ‘twist’ there just wasn’t enough ‘wow-factor’ to make this anything other than a well-written story for me.

But I just woke up, I was dreaming about this book. Despite having been wrapped up in Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy (those books just keep getting better) for at least a week, at least six to seven hundred pages behind me, this is the book my brain chose to dream about – why? I don’t know, (I’m not a damn psychologist) but it makes me feel like there might be something more to this book. What that is, I really can’t say at this moment – but I’ll let you know if anything other than a coughing fit in the middle of the night and the name ‘Augustus’ in my brain wake me up.

Yes, I also realize this is less of a review and more of the ramblings of a crazy person at three a.m.

So, what about you Reader? Do you ever have books you didn’t think make much of an impression on you at the time come and haunt you later? What about books that may not be intended to be haunting? On second thought, did you find The Fault in Our Stars to be a haunting novel? 



April @ The Steadfast Reader

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YA Friday: Scarlet

Posted 30 May, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

YA Friday: ScarletScarlet by Marissa Meyer
Published by Macmillan on February 5th 2013
Genres: Adaptations, Fairy Tales & Folklore, General, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 454
Goodreads
three-stars

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

So, I really did enjoy Cinder (my review). I’d read a couple of reviews indicating that Scarlet was even better. For me… not so much. The novel was still fun and I still love some fairy tale retellings, but I didn’t connect with Scarlet’s character the way I did with Cinder.

Mostly, Scarlet just got on my nerves. She was short-sighted (as I suppose many eighteen year old girls are) and it was very “Not without my GRANDMA!!!” I could have done with less of her general angsty-ness, though her situation was undoubtably troubling. Additionally I could have done without the werewolf vibe that Wolf gave off – though I do understand that this was a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood so a wolfish character was necessary. I just wish maybe he could have been more subtle? Like Cinder? 

All in all, Scarlet is a easy breezy read that has not deterred me from seeking out the third installment of this series Cress. It doesn’t break barriers between YA and adult literature nearly as well as its predecessor. I’ll let you know how Cress goes. 

So, what about you, Reader? Have you read any of The Lunar Chronicles? YA has a long history of the second book being the weakest, is that the problem with these series? Tell me other interesting things.

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Fairy Tale Friday: Cinder

Posted 25 April, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Fairy Tale Friday: CinderCinder by Marissa Meyer
Published by Macmillan on January 8th 2013
Genres: Adaptations, Fairy Tales & Folklore, General, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I held off on reading this one for awhile because quite frankly, the last thing I wanted to read was another YA novel full of insta-love and teenage angst. But I’ve been kind of burnt out and needed an easy read, plus I love fairy tale retellings, so I picked it up from the library.

What a fun book! (Obviously) this is a retelling of the Cinderella story. It was fun to see how things fell into place and the fairy tale elements lined up in a science-fiction-y way. But! There’s more! Meyer’s world building was excellent as well, which was important as she makes an emphasis on the changes that have happened in civilization. I loved the idea that people had colonized the moon years ago and then evolved into a completely different species. 

I saw the reveal coming from about page twenty five, but the journey getting there was still a good time. I’d also be interested to see how westernized Meyer’s take on Chinese culture is, because aside from a few details it felt very western. 

This is a really light easy read, I’ve gone ahead and requested Scarlet and Cress from the library, we’ll see how they go.

Angela over at Angela’s Anxious Life was also late to the party on this one, her review is here.

What’s your favorite re-telling, Reader? Book, film, television series? 



April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Marvelous Monday: Fangirl

Posted 14 April, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Marvelous Monday: FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Macmillan on September 10th 2013
Genres: Girls & Women, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life--and she's really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it's what got them through their mother leaving.Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.Cath's sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can't let go. She doesn't want to.Now that they're going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She's got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone.For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

The first 50 – 75 pages, Cath annoyed the shit out of me. I was all, “Get over yourself and get out there gurl! You can’t keep eating energy bars! Your roommate’s boyfriend is not going to rape you!” After we got past all that though, it was pretty sweet sailing. Come to think of it, most of the characters in this book rubbed the the wrong way at one point or another during the narrative. I guess the two that stand out are Cath’s roommate, Reagan and Levi – which seems odd because Reagan’s a bit of a social nightmare herself. 

There are red-herrings in the book that are fairly obvious, but that doesn’t detract from how fun this book was. I was irritated at first by the Simon Snow excerpts between chapters – but after the first few chapters they started to grown on me. I read this book in a single sitting over about four hours. I liked Eleanor & Park a lot, but I found Fangirl to be just as compelling. It’s a great coming of age story and Rowell shows that she has the talent to write teenage characters well enough to make adult readers really remember what it’s like to BE a teenager and subsequently allow those of us many removed from that first year of college to empathize and fall in love with these characters.


Also, I always love Rainbow Rowell’s covers. 

What were your thoughts on Fangirl, Reader? What about other books by Rainbow Rowell?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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YA Friday: The Here and Now

Posted 21 March, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

YA Friday: The Here and NowThe Here and Now by Ann Brashares
Published by Hachette Children's on January 1st 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Goodreads
three-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Seventeen-year-old Prenna James emigrated to New York when she was twelve. But Prenna didn't come from a different country, she came from a different time - a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they're from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she's told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth and take the lives of her younger brothers. But everything changes when she falls for Ethan. She might be able to save the world ... if she lets go of the one thing she's found to hold on to.

So I found this book to be a pretty enjoyable little late middle grade/early YA read. There are definitely some problems with the plot, largely – that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But if you’re willing to kick back and suspend reality (it is a book about time travel, after all) you might find it enjoyable.

The weakest point of this novel is the world building. Prenna and the other immigrants come back from a world ravaged by disease. But why? The author explores the why in little snippets but never spends enough time on it. I mean clearly it’s for a better life – but they don’t really appear to have a better life. She’s more interested in the love story between Prenna and Ethan, which in itself I have some issues with. 


There are also some heavy themes about global warming and a rough imagining of what the consequences of a wetter, warmer world could be like. But again, the author sacrifices what could be a really deep and important theme for a boring love story. I say ‘boring’ teenage girls may say ‘thrilling’, regardless what might have been a timeless classic is turned into fluff because of this. It’s a rough attempt at speculative fiction that fails.


Okay, let’s get feminist. At the close of the book the author insinuates that the entire fate of the world rests on Prenna’s ability to remain a virgin, presumably forever. So Prenna’s virginity, not her smarts, or her bravery demonstrated in her standing up to the Community Leaders, becomes the centerpiece of the book. I hated that. I hate the message. I don’t want girls to be inundated with messages that permissive sexuality is all cool – I also don’t care for the message that a girl’s virginity (or sexuality) is the most important thing about her. Which is what I got from the ending of this book. Boo.


Despite all that, this book was readable enough and a nice distraction. I didn’t realize this was the ‘Traveling Pants’ author (which I never read, only saw the movie under duress). If you’re looking for a little loose dystopia/apocalyptic fun, maybe pick it up. If you choose not to, you’re not going to miss anything groundbreaking.

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Middle Grade Monday: I Kill the Mockingbird

Posted 10 March, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Middle Grade Monday: I Kill the MockingbirdI Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora
Published by Macmillan on May 20th 2014
Genres: Adolescence, Books & Libraries, Friendship, Humorous Stories, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 176
Goodreads
four-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to "destroying the mockingbird." Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini revolution in the name of books.

This is a sweet middle grade level coming of age story. I was drawn into it by the fact that I do adore Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird. What I really liked about this novel was that it is very well written and it manages to bring middle grade literature into 2014. The kids start their “I kill the Mockingbird” campaign online. They set up Twitter, Facebook, AND Instagram (Instagram!!) accounts to promote their little conspiracy. There’s even a passage that offers some good advice for all bloggers. When describing how they gave life and momentum to their movement (enough to attract Wil Wheaton!) Lucy reflects:

“First, we communicate everyday with anybody and everybody [that] stops by one of the Mockingbird sites. We also send notes to folks who haven’t visited in awhile. Second, we spend as much time as possible in various online book discussion groups where we comment often and include links back to our own pages. Finally, we start flame wars with ourselves. Basically, we use fake accounts to say really stupid things on our Twitter feeds and Facebook comments. Because so many smart people are our friends and followers now, dozens of them immediately jump in to correct misinformation and come to our defense. Getting a really good flame war started can bring in a hundred new fans. […] Nearly a thousand angry people joined that conversation. More than half of them stayed when the shouting was done.”

It’s reminiscent of ‘The Bachelor’ producer who started a faux-feud with a non-existent woman on an airplane via Twitter last Thanksgiving, isn’t it? 

This book is well written and enjoyable. It’s a great coming-of-age story. Ultimately it’s about growing up in that last summer before high school.  That being said, the ‘romance’ element of this book seemed both contrived and unnecessary. Lucy’s mother beating cancer also seemed to be a little out of the action, but it’s useful as a method for demonstrating the fragility and importance of life. There is a great mother/daughter conversation that occurs in the graveyard. 

My only other qualm with this book is extremely minor. Dickens on an eighth grade reading list? In 2014? No way.

Highly recommended for middle grade readers and up. Also, does not contain spoilers for To Kill a Mockingbird.




April @ The Steadfast Reader

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First Love Friday: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Posted 7 March, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

First Love Friday: The Statistical Probability of Love at First SightThe Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on January 2nd 2012
Genres: Family, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Marriage & Divorce, Young Adult
Pages: 256
Goodreads
three-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row. A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more? Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves.

So this isn’t normally my type of book, but there was a lot of good press going around about it when it came out and so when NetGalley was offering up copies earlier this month I decided to go for it.

It’s not a bad little novel. I think it’s probably a nice read for middle grade/early YA readers. Weddings, funerals, love at first sight. It’s never going to be required reading and it’s not as meaningful or as important as Eleanor and Park but it was a fun little Sunday afternoon read. 

I had a few fluttery moments in this book but the best part was the sub-story of Hadley and her father. The reminders that parents are human too. Maybe that’s age talking. 

The part of this that bothered me the most was the tardiness of the characters to their events. Seriously, your dad is getting remarried and you leave the night before? On a trans-Atlantic flight? Okay, maybe I forget the energy that I had at seventeen, but that’s just the worst planning ever. 

If this is a genre that you generally enjoy, definitely pick it up.




April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Superhero Saturday: ‘Powered’

Posted 15 February, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Powered by: Cheyanne Young

Source: Author
Synopsis: (Goodreads)
Maci Might’s sixteenth birthday is supposed to be the day she’s awarded Hero status. But thanks to a tiny anger problem and a questionable family tree, King City’s elders think it’s best if she doesn’t join the Hero ranks. Determined to change their minds, Maci will break whatever rule it takes to prove she’s Hero material. As her hair darkens and her anger grows, everyone turns against her except Evan; a childhood friend turned scientist who may be able to unlock the secrets hidden in her DNA.

When a villain attacks King City and her dad is held prisoner, Maci discovers a truth she refuses to believe. She may not be a Hero after all—but this time the Heroes of King City need her more than she needs them. And she won’t let them down.


I was really pleasantly surprised by this book. I’ve been kind of burnt out on YA titles these days, especially trilogies, but this is actually a pretty exceptional and well-written piece of YA fantasy. 

Powered brings back memories of NBC’s Heroes or even X-Men. One of the primary differences seems to be that in the Powered universe ‘Supers’ have lived alongside humans for most of appreciable history and they have their own society and civilization that humans seem to know about, but don’t try to penetrate. This really doesn’t come into play a whole lot in the book, I just found it to be a unique piece of world building. 

I also loved the absolutism found in the Super-society (blonde hair/blue eyes = good; dark hair = evil; Heroes don’t have bad dreams, the twin thing, etc.) This absolutism requires Maci and her allies to fight to overcome the stigmas that society puts upon her. This felt like a great allegory to the challenges that girls (especially girls of color) are sometimes forced to handle in life.

Maci isn’t the most likable character that you’re ever going to find in the annals of literature, but I did find her to be relatable and her feelings to be representative (enough) of teenagers. 

Many readers gripe about the fact that many YA trilogies introduce pointless love stories, but unlike other recent YA fantasy/dystopian trilogies the love story in Powered actually serves a purpose in the narrative more than just making Maci ‘softer’ and more relatable. 

All this being said, King City felt a little bit like the Capitol in The Hunger Games (with fewer dystopian elements) and Pepper was almost a photo-copy of Cinna. Neither of these things detract from the story though. 

I’m looking forward to the next one.

Enjoy,

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Whimsical Wednesday: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Posted 8 January, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Whimsical Wednesday: Ophelia and the Marvelous BoyOphelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Published by Random House Children's Books on January 28th 2014
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Friendship, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 224
Goodreads
four-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Magic is “messy and dangerous and filled with longing,” we learn in this brave tale of grief, villainy and redemption that borrows from the story of the Snow Queen. Set in a vast, chilly museum, the tale brings together a valiant girl, a charmed boy, a magical sword and a clock ticking down to the end of the world.”—The Wall Street JournalThis is the story of unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard who doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room.  He is a prisoner of Her Majesty, the Snow Queen.  And he has been waiting for Ophelia's help.As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy's own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.From the Hardcover edition.

Delightful! Charming! Fun! 

These are the first three adjectives that come to mind when describing Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. It’s magical children’s lit at it’s very best. It doesn’t quite reach the brilliance of Roald Dahl as it lacks the sharp wit and humor that is found throughout his novels, (but let’s face it, will anyone, ever??) What other authors seem to have influenced this book? I’d say it feels a little like Neil Gaiman and C.S. Lewis, without all the Christian overtones. Obviously, as it is a retelling of The Snow Queen there are underlying influences of Hans Christian Anderson.


I loved that the strongest of the roles were played by women and girls. Ophelia is a mere girl of eleven with glasses that won’t stay clean and pigtails that always come out uneven if she has to put them up herself. 

This is a story about love and grief, betrayal and redemption, and above all the power of goodness. It sounds a bit hokey, but it’s important to remember that this title was written with a middle-grade demographic in mind (let’s say… seven to twelve) Ophelia (and even the Marvelous Boy) are exceptional role models. The writing is lyrical and full of great messages without being pedantic or overbearing.

“The strangest thing I have learned is that it’s impossible to know what’s inside someone. The wizards didn’t teach me this, but I have learned it myself. Those who appear tall and straight and very good are sometimes rotten on the inside, and others, huge and clawed and apparently very bad, sometimes contain a pure and sweet form of goodness. The biggest trap is to judge a person by their outer casing. Their skin. Their hair. Their snow-white feathers.”

As an adult this book appeals to me in part because I’m admittedly a  bit of an anglophile and this book is decidedly British. 

I also love museums, so there is something to be said about the author being able to capture the spooky feeling that you get when you’re in a room of a museum that is rarely visited. (It’s the same creepy feeling that you get being in a theme park alone, after all the guests have gone home.) 

This book is excellent, it’s especially excellent for middle grade girls.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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