Erin reviews Mistletoe & Murder!

Murder with your mince pies, anyone?

 ‘Mistletoe and Murder’ by Robin Stevens: a festive Murder Mystery book review & a Selfie!

Addicted to Mice and Mystery

Welcome one and all, to the global extravaganza that is, the Saturday Book Review!

With that dreaded season of goodwill nearly upon us, we bring you our last book review of the year.

Why dreaded I hear you ask?

Well, if you’ve ever heard the UMM (Upper Much-Mousing) choir, then you’d know why! And if the singing weren’t enough, there is the annual “Great UMM Bake-Off.” For those not familiar with the event, chefs from across UMM, who would normally for the sake of public health and safety, be banned from entering a kitchen let alone actually cooking anything, are let loose to prepare a festive meal. To avoid cheating, anyone who has any skill or can open a tin of beans, is automatically disqualified from taking part. 

The prizegiving takes place at the UMM Charity Christmas meal for those in need (and those who have no breakable teeth, or taste buds) and is generally well attended. OK, the presence of so many paramedics is unusual, but the flashing lights on the ambulances do add some cheer to the event. 

Afterwards, there is the annual Inter Village no-holds-barred ice-hockey match. Now for aficionados, there is one significant difference. The traditional puck is replaced by a selection of overbaked seasonal fare: mince pies, slices of Yule log, and Christmas puds. Mrs H tells me that they did once use turkey wings, but the aerodynamics of burnt wings were not conducive to the game staying on the rink! The winners are the team that can leave the pitch without limping or severe injury! If you plan to attend this culinary match, face masks of the steel kind are an absolute MUST! 

Erin reviews Mistletoe & Murder!
Mistletoe and Murder, the perfect Christmas read recipe!

OK, so enough of the local goings on in Upper Much-Mousing, here’s the book review. . . .

These last few weeks we have been reading book five in the Murder Most Unladylike series, titled: Mistletoe and Murder.

What’s it all about?

The setting.

It is a few days before Christmas 1935. Hazel and Daisy have managed to wangle their festive holidays staying in Cambridge with Daisy’s brother, Bertie, who is studying at Maudlin College. Now aged 14, the girls are looking forward to having an ‘adult-free’ time enjoying the delights of the city, cream teas and mincepies and cake.  

To add to the excitement Alexander, an American boy the girls met on the Orient Express (See book 3 – A First Class Murder) is also staying at another college nearby. He has come with fellow Junior Pinkerton, George, and his brother Harold. Both Alexander and George are, of course, co-chairs, and members of a rival detective society to that of the girls.

The Plot:

The girls learn that in Maudlin College, a male-only college, two of Bertie’s fellow students Donald Melling & Charles ‘Chummy’ Melling are to throw a big party. It’s their coming of age, and it happens to be Christmas day. Now it seems that Donald is always having nasty accidents, as well as being the butt of jokes played by his brother, Chummy. Nothing unusual there you may say, sort of brotherly mischief, and you would ordinarily be right. BUT, On their birthday, Donald, who is ten minutes older than Chummy, will inherit a vast fortune. He plans to spend it on a dubious sounding diamond mine somewhere, a fact that rankles Chummy no end. Tempers between the two are always flaring, and all seem to agree that Chummy should be the one to inherit. After all, he is the more likeable and more outward going, right?

But for our two sleuths, and the Pinkertons, the accidents happening to Donald can mean only one undeniable thing, someone is trying to bump Donald off. All fingers and facts point to Chummy.

Now how would you go about solving and preventing a crime that hasn’t happened? Well, the two societies come up with a plan that will hopefully not only save Donald but decide whether the girls or the boys are the best detectives. The bet is that the first society to solve the crime to be and expose the villain will win. The winner gets the credit, and the loser has to publically proclaim that they are not the best detectives in town…….

The scene is set, and the action starts in this latest adventure, but suddenly, and somewhat unexpectedly, and also inconveniently, someone else is murdered!!!

To add to the adventure, the girls have been hamstrung: girls are not allowed to be in the college, in fact, the College Master has barred them.

Will there be blood spilt between the rival detective Societies? Will Daisy and Hazel fall out again? Will, there be romance this time around, and if so, who has their eyes on whom, and will they notice?

Will you ever be able to look at Mice Pies, Mistletoe and Port in the same way ever again?

Alas, I can not say more as from here on in the story is full of clues and has more ups and downs, many literal, than you could shake a Latin textbook at. Needless to say, to get to the end, the detectives have to outwit each other and the police. Not forgetting Daisy’s intimidating Aunt Austasia, who is a Cambridge don, and some rather irritated University staff, who may have something to do with the crime/s. And all this as the clock ticks down to Christmas Day!

What did we think?

We really enjoyed this book. OK. . . . that is an understatement, it was brilliant! The plot, like the student lodgings in which the crimes and a lot of the action take place, have more ups downs and sideways moves than a snakes and ladders board, and clearly just as dangerous.

Intelligent, complex and fun, and a step up from the last adventure. This book ably reflects the time and gives a feel for the season and location – albeit in a localised way. The story does also reflect the time as far as the treatment and attitude towards women students is concerned, as well as the way non-English students were viewed. The subjects are well handled though and show the authors adeptness at writing for middle-grade and older readers alike.

Who should read this book?

We read with an open mind and to have fun. But we don’t want to be spoonfed. This book, like the others, isn’t patronising for the younger reader, and engaging for the older reader (in Mrs H’s case, the ANCIENT reader!). So definitely suitable for ages 9 upwards (to ancient). We love the format of the book/adventure which has retained the first-person narrative (from Hazel). The book also includes a plan of the location and floor levels to the students’ rooms. There are clues there if we can spot them, but if you fancy a ride, the story sails along like a punt on the River Cam, that flows through Cambridge.

Fancy having a read for Christmas? Then please do consider treating your thermal stockings to a copy. The audible version is just as good and could be winging its way into some readers virtual stocking in seconds. 

Want to buy a copy?

If you’d like a spot of crime with your cranberries or Murder with your Mince Pies, the links below will take you to Amazon. Should you happen to buy a copy, and we hope you will, Mrs H and I will earn a few pence that we will be multiplying up and passing on to our local cat and dog Rescue Centre.

However, 

All book shops across the world are feeling the effects of the Covid virus and imposed lockdowns. If you can, please do support your local bookshop first. 

If you would like something extra spiffing, Round Table Books here in the UK, can offer special editions, signed copies and pre-orders. I believe they do ship internationally too. A link to Round Table Books special orders can be found HERE.

Round Table Books is “an Inclusion-led book shop” based at the heart of Brixton, London, UK. Its purpose is to highlight and celebrate underrepresented children’s books, writers and illustrators, and draws from as wide a range as possible of UK and Irish publishing houses. Mrs H says, in an age when small is often pushed to one side by the big, shops across the world like Round Table Books, should be encouraged by us all, so we can nurture great new diverse talent.

USA Link to buy BOOK 5 ‘Mistletoe and Murder’ from Amazon.com can be found HERE   

UK Link to buy BOOK 5 ‘Mistletoe and Murder’ from Amazon.co.uk can be found HERE   

USA Link to Book 1 ‘MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE’ from Amazon.com, can be found HERE.

UK Link to Book 1 ‘MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE’ from Amazon.co.uk, can be found HERE.

USA Link to Book 2 ‘ARSENIC FOR TEA’ from Amazon.com, can be found HERE.

UK Link to Book 2 ‘ARSENIC FOR TEA’ from Amazon.co.uk, can be found HERE.

USA Link to book 3 ‘A FIRST CLASS MURDER’ from Amazon.com, can be found HERE.

UK Link to book 3 ‘A FIRST CLASS MURDER’ from Amazon.co.uk, can be found HERE.

USA Link to BOOK 4 ‘JOLLY FOUL PLAY’ from Amazon.com can be found HERE   

UK Link to BOOK 4 ‘JOLLY FOUL PLAY’ from Amazon.com can be found HERE   

And now, my pre-UMM event snoozie selfie – I’ll be needing all my energy for the big match, mainly so I can avoid the flying pies!

Next time I will be reviewing Book 6 in the series. 

OK, so that is it from us here at the Palace. We will return, injuries and indigestion permitting, some time in January, when all the empty sweet papers have been swept up and the left over turkey (Mrs H’s) has been confined to my tummy.

Till then, we wish you all a safe, happy, mince pie and pudding filled – with the occaisional sherry or five – few weeks!

Till later.

Toodlepip and Purrs!

ERin

Duvet Expert for Hire . . .

Hello and welcome to The Sunday Selfies!

We are joining The Kitties Blue, from The Cat on My Head blog, for the weekly celebration of blogs and bloggers from across the world and across the species.

To join in, get the Linky-Link code from their website– add it to your page– and enjoy the hop!

And now here is my selfie for the week:-

     

     With storm ‘Erik’ rumbling and battering the UK this week, I rather thought it was time to lay back and let the world blow by–excuse the pun.  So without further encouragement from Mrs H, I took to my bed and enjoyed a good roll on my current pink duvet, purchased from Tesco (in two tone pink) just to make sure I got my monies worth before this one hit the laundry tub.

As some quick thinking folk may have noticed, I do love checking out duvets. So with that in mind I have come up with this great idea to legitimately earn some extra and much needed funds for the palace, AND get to nap on the job: Duvet testing; specifically duvet covers.

So, if theres any purveyors of fine duvet and duvet covers out there, be they

Harrods,

Selfridges,

Walmart,

or any other fine retail outlets, that wish to be featured on the blog with yours truly, please email me ASAP to book a slot on my bed.

OR

Call my toll free number at the palace. PLEASE NOTE: A small connection fee applies as I have to pay the gardener. If you wondering what the gardener has to do with duvets– well, as Mrs H will have to answer the millions of calls that I am anticipating for this excellent service, I have to get the dairy-maid to cover for Mrs H. The dairy-maid’s job will be covered by the scullery-maid who will be covered in turn by the girl from the village that cleans my brass mousetraps. And her work will be covered by the paper delivery girl, whose round will be covered by the gardener. As he gets paid the least of all of them, it does seem like a good deal . . .  unless I can get Mrs H to cover him?  What do you think?

Anyway, next week I will be sporting a nice matching pillow and duvet combo in pale pink and white, brought to you by IKEA bedding. You can find the link to my duvet set clicking HERE.

 What will you guys be testing next week? 

To see what our pals are up to this week, please go to the Kitties Blue site, or if available, click the links below, and Enjoy the Hop!

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

A review of ‘The Ship of Shadows’.

Mystery and Adventures in Middle Grade reading. Reviews brought to you by Erin the Cat.

This week we review:-

The Ship of Shadows, By Maria Kuzniar 

 

Hello and welcome back to the blog. 

After a hefty hiatus, and by that I don’t mean all the pounds and kilos Mrs H has piled on during lockdown, we have finally burst free from the covid induced hiding under the duvet, with a review of a most wonderful book.

I recently finished reading books 1 & 2 in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency series by acclaimed author L.D. Lapinski (more on these great books in another review) and found myself with a massive void to fill in my reading life. So I instructed Mrs H to hunt through through Amazon for something exciting and flavoursome that I could dive into. 

Alas, she bought a saucepan! I tweeted about my woes at her apparent ineptitude, and possible need for new glasses, and was rewarded by L.D. Lapinski herself recommending to us The Ship of Shadows.

And most grateful I am too, as this has proven to be a delightful adventure.

So enough of the pre-amble, heres the review!

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

The adventure starts in Seville, Spain, in the early part of the 1700’s, 1715 to be precise. Here we meet Aleja, a twelve-year-old who would rather seek adventure and trips to foreign countries than do what other girls her age are expected to do. Teased and bullied for wanting to follow her dreams, she spends her nights on the city’s rooftops. There she dreams, studies the stars, and reads books about the famous pirates, explorers and adventurers: Columbus and Thomas James, to name but two.


One night Aleja spots a mysterious, cannon-fire damaged ship slip silently into port under cover of darkness. When she realises the ship belongs to the long-missing, presumed dead explorer, Thomas James, her interest is more than aroused. Piecing together what she has read, this ship has to be the infamous Ship of Shadows, a pirate ship feared by men and said to be crewed by a band of merciless pirate women. The ship is also said to be haunted by the ghosts of the sailors they have killed. She is keen to know more. After all, these are women who are defying the expectations of their gender and living a life of adventure Aleja can only dream of. Who wouldn’t want to at least see if the tales were true?


Whilst following one of the women from the crew, she discovers, quite by chance, smuggled gold coins on the dock – counterfeit coins. Caught with a coin in her hand, she manages to escape from the gang. If she tells the authorities, the penalty for them will be death. The sentence for being accused of being a thief is public flogging. The smugglers give chase, intent on retrieving the coin and branding her a thief. Aleja runs because who would believe a twelve-year-old over the leader of the gang who is a prominent landlord. 


Now, through twists and turns, she comes a cropper and is caught. And so begins probably the best adventure of its kind I have read in many a year, and worthy to sit beside Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the Arabian Nights tales, and Jules Verne’s adventures. I know these are big names to compare against, but this is a big-hearted story in the same vein. 


What I really liked.

An excellent and varied supporting cast of personalities that are not cut and dried, and evolve with the story. No adventure would be complete without villains, and this has the looming threat of a key antagonist, a pirate hunter with a grudge. Of course, there are fantastic monsters, too, monsters that I think Jules would have been proud of and punctuate the story just at the right moments! Mrs H says she’ll never be going to the seaside again without some serious backup!


Did I mention the ship itself? Well, that is more fun and secrets buried within its timbers than Hogwarts.


Which sort of leads me to a question I have increasingly been asking myself as I read more and more Middle-Grade adventures. Would I take this over JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, given this is the first book? The answer is an emphatic YES. Both have their merits, but this has a kind of spark that goes deeper and wider and stretches the enquiring mind more. Maybe that is just us, but Mrs H and I both felt that we had been transported away with this book, and I half expected a flying carpet to be by the bedroom window when I looked out. 


Now I won’t spoil any more for you; that really would not be fair on what is a wonderful tale.

The second instalment of this beautiful adventure, called The ‘Secrets of the Stars’, is released 8th of July 2021. We are hoping to buy of a copy of this as soon as released and will do a review for you.


If you know some budding adventurer (of whatever age) who would love a great read, then please do consider ordering from your local independent book shop. In this day and age, they all deserve our business.

I can’t leave without saying just how nice the book cover is. In fact, it has two front covers, all glossy and exciting.

And here is the back cover.

Well that’s it from me this week. I hope you enjoyed this review.

The Ship of Shadows is published by Puffin Books, part of Penguin Random House. 

Tune in next time when we will be reviewing one of my favourites: Max the Detective Cat, by Sarah Todd Taylor!

Erin the Cat: Addicted to Mice, Mystery and Adventure!