Book Reviews

Middle Grade Mini-Reviews: Girl Power!

I’ve read a number of middle grade books recently with fabulously determined, powerful girls at the forefront, so I thought I’d scoop them up into one post for you as a kind of showcase of fun heroines! All of these books were sent to me free of charge, either as e-ARCs via NetGalley or as physical proofs, but as ever that doesn’t affect my opinions. There’s a wide range, from modern day thriller to historical fantasy, so hopefully something will catch your eye…

The Great Fox Illusion, by Justyn Edwards, from Walker Books.

What a fantastic read this was! Flick Lyons enters a competition to win the final legacy of The Great Fox, one of the world’s greatest stage magicians, with the secret aim of stealing back her father’s greatest trick from the man she’s sure was a charlatan. What follows is an exciting and tense adventure through a reality competition set in a fabulous, booby-trapped mansion, like a magic-themed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (but significantly more inclusive). I loved the dramatic pace and the glimpses of all the tricks (there are a few spoilers for classic magic tricks in here!) – as a young puzzle-solver this would have had me utterly enthralled! The way Flick’s disability is woven into her character and the story is fantastic, and I loved that there was such a strong theme of girl power. Really very entertaining!

Sister to a Star by Eloise Smith, from Chicken House Books

You might have seen me taking part in the blog tour for this book, where I hosted a lovely guest post from the author. Chicken House were also kind enough to send me a copy to review, and I ended up really loving this fun thriller set behind the scenes of a Hollywood movie. It’s not my usual kind of middle grade read, but the high drama more than kept me entertained, and I loved the look at sibling rivalry and jealousy, as well as the determined, relatable heroine. It’s a very fun read.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks by Emily Kenny, from Rock the Boat

A boarding school mystery full of animal magic, this book was right up my street! It’s a really pacey read that follows autistic Alice as she adjusts a new school, only to learn that on top of friend dramas and creepy teachers, she can also talk to animals, and they need her help. I loved Alice’s voice and the real-world aspects of this even without the magic, which is very cool – the ending felt a little rushed to me, with the villain coming a little bit out of nowhere and a lot of new characters piling in for the final chapters, but overall this is a sweet, exciting, and very enjoyable story.

The Colour of Hope by Ross Mackenzie, from Andersen Press

This one, sadly, didn’t really work for me. I loved the concept – a girl born in full colour in a world where colour has been completely eradicated – but I just couldn’t click with the writing. It’s told in present tense in a sort of detached, fairy tale way, and I struggled to connect with the characters emotionally because of that stark sort of style. I think if you enjoy the writing more than I did, there’s a lot to love in this story of kindness, magic, and rebellion (though it is very sad in places), but it wasn’t one for me.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by RL LaFevers, from Andersen Press

If Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse was middle grade, it might look something like this – a sassy heroine with an archaeological bent, a chase that takes us from a London museum to the pyramids, dark magic and a possessed cat! This is a fantastically fun paranormal historical mystery full of Egyptian magic, and I really loved Theodosia’s peppy, capable voice. If you’re a fan of Premeditated Myrtle, I think Theodosia will be right up your street. I’m really looking forward to the TV series of this – it should be great!

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