A Series of Unfortunate Events 7-9

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels [here] and [here].

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series of darkly humorous novels which focus on the miserable and dangerous lives of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire – three orphans who are relentlessly hunted by the greedy Count Olaf who will stop at nothing to get their inherited fortune. The series was written by Lemony Snicket and consists of thirteen novels – The Bad Beginning (1999), The Reptile Room (1999), The Wide Window (2000), The Miserable Mill (2000), The Austere Academy (2000), The Ersatz Elevator (2001), The Vile Village (2001), The Hostile Hospital (2001), The Carnivorous Carnival (2002), The Slippery Slope (2003), The Grim Grotto (2004), The Penultimate Peril (2005) and The End (2006). For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at books 7 to 9 only.

In The Vile Village, the Baudelaires this time find themselves adopted by the strange village of VFD. They are initially convinced that this must have some connection to the deaths of their parents, but it quickly becomes apparent that it’s just a town of strange, elderly people who stick rigidly to their contradictory rules. However, when the children receive a message from the Quagmire Triplets, it becomes clear that something more is afoot. It’s not long before the villagers capture a man that they believe to be Olaf. The Baudelaires immediately realise that the man – Jacques Snicket – is innocent, but can they prove it before the villagers have him executed?

In The Hostile Hospital, the Baudelaires find themselves accused of the death of Count Olaf and are forced to flee. They arrive at a half-built hospital and discover that the building’s Hall of Records may contain a file about their parents. However, when Olaf and his crew manage to capture Violet, the children find themselves in greater danger than ever before. Olaf plans to murder Violet during a public medical procedure. How will Klaus and Sunny manage to get her to safety, when the entire hospital is watching?

In The Carnivorous Carnival, the Baudelaires hide in Olaf’s car and find themselves at a sideshow in the desert. Disguising themselves as freaks, they accept jobs in the carnival while they look for a way to escape from Olaf and his henchpeople. However, they soon learn that Madam Lulu, the carnival fortune teller, has been feeding Olaf information about their whereabouts. If the woman really is psychic, it can’t be long before she realises who the new freaks really are. The children know they need to find a way to escape, but not before they find out exact what Madam Lulu can tell them about the VFD…  More


Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball is due for release in October 2017 and is the first novel that has been both written and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson. It is a humorous Gothic fantasy for younger readers that focuses on a vampire’s attempt to rescue her pet from a wicked prince. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

The Kingdom of Nocturnia is a place where things are more than happy to go bump in the night. The ghoulish inhabitants have only one thing to fear, and that is glitter. They know that they are safe so long as they are home before dawn, as that is when terrible things like unicorns, faeries and kittens wake up. Nobody wants to find themselves face to face with a faery. The very thought is too terrible to contemplate.

Amelia Fang is pretty happy on the whole. Her mother is obsessed with looking pretty and her father is a crossword enthusiast but she has two great friends – Florence the Yeti and Grimaldi the Grim Reaper – and a loyal companion in her pet pumpkin, Squashy. However, everything changes when Prince Tangine enrols in her school. Amelia knows that the Prince’s mother was eaten by a faery and wants to feel sorry for him, however he makes it very difficult. Prince Tangine is rude to everyone and is given whatever he wants, even if that thing belongs to someone else.

When the Prince comes for dinner at her house and takes a liking to Squashy, Amelia’s mother immediately hands the poor pumpkin over as a gift. Amelia is heartbroken. She cares about Squashy more than anything and knows that Tangine won’t treat her pet nicely. With Florence and Grimaldi’s help, she embarks on a mission to get him back. However, in doing so she discovers that there is more to her enemy than she first thought…



Spontaneous was written by Aaron Starmer and first published in 2016. It is a book aimed at older teens that focuses on love, friendship, being a teenager and spontaneous human combustion. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Mara Carlyse’s life is pretty normal. She goes to school, experiments with alcohol and likes hanging out with her best friend Tess. She knows that life as the daughter of a deli owner is far from eventful. That is, of course, until Katelyn Ogden explodes in her calculus class. While people initially suspect that it’s some kind of bizarre terrorist attack, they soon realise that the truth is far stranger. Katelyn has just randomly popped like a balloon.

Although people try to chalk this up to a freak occurrence, things grow more insane when another student explodes during a group therapy session. As more and more teenagers randomly blow up, it begins to attract world attention. It’s clear that something is wrong in Katelyn’s school but no one can quite figure out what. People blame race, sexuality and drug use yet patterns grow blurred as more and more students are effected.

It’s not long until the town goes into lock-down to prevent the students from potentially infecting others. Yet Mara and her classmates slowly start to realise that the American government doesn’t really care about them at all. Their lives are rocked by the combustions and basic rights, such as graduation and even the ability to attend a prom, are stripped from them. Mara knows that they need to take some kind of stand. She just needs to figure out what she can do to convince the others…




Awoken is Serra Elinsen’s debut novel and was first published in 2013. It’s both a pastiche and parody of a young adult paranormal novel which takes the form of the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with Cthulhu. The novel is the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Andromeda “Andi” Slate hates Portsmouth and longs to return to the sun-drenched shores of California. Everything about her new home is dull and she’s generally ignored by everyone but her two closest friends, Vik and Bree. But then she starts having strange dreams about an octopus-faced sea monster and a gorgeous teenage boy. The dreams seem unusually vivid and she wonders what they could mean.

When Vik comes into possession of a copy of the Necronomicon, the group ignore all the warnings about its curse and read it out loud. Moments later, Andi runs into the same boy from her dreams. It turns out that he’s the new exchange student, Riley Bay. He seems do nothing but glare at Andi but for some reason, he still seems to relentlessly stalk her wherever she goes. Andi is quite rightly baffled by this behaviour. Could it mean that he likes her?

But boys aren’t all that Andi has to worry about. The stars will come into perfect alignment on the night of the Pumpkin Ball, giving evil cultists a chance to summon Great Cthulhu from his slumber to destroy the world. To do this, they need to get their hands on two books. The rare and precious Eldritch Grimore…and the Necronomicon.


Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend

Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend

Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend was written by Alan Cumyn and first published in 2016. It is a strange, surreal story that focuses on the chaos that breaks out at a high school when its first ever interspecies transfer student enrolls. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of Cumyn’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Shiels Krane has everything under control. As student body chair, she’s super-efficient and so everything runs like clockwork so long as everyone follows her instructions to the letter. She has a good life, a supportive boyfriend and hopes to one day soon head off to college to learn political anthropology from her hero, Lorraine Meins. Everything is coming up roses for her until the day that Pyke crash lands outside her school.

Pyke is a pterodactyl, the first of his kind of ever attend high school, and Shiels anticipates that his arrival will cause no end of problems. There’s no way that the other students and their parents would ever accept a prehistoric monster. However, she could not have been more wrong. Pyke seems to possess a strange animal attraction that drives all of the girls wild and Shiels is horrified to discover that even she is not immune to his charms.

After she is filmed in a compromising position with Pyke at the school dance, she’s horrified to discover that her grasp on life is slipping. She’s suddenly one of the least popular people at school and her nose has turned bright purple, putting a strain on her relationship. With everything she believed she wanted now in question it’s up to Shiels to decide who she really wants to be, even if that person is a pterodactyl’s girlfriend.


Dealing with Dragons

Dealing with Dragons

And finally, here’s the last of my Secret Santa reviews. Sorry they ran over so much! Next time we’ll be back to the usual schedule.

Dealing with Dragons was written by Patricia C Wrede and has also been published under the title Dragonsbane. It was first released in 1990 and forms the first part of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, followed by Searching for Dragons (1991), Calling on Dragons (1993) and Talking to Dragons (1985).

As a Princess of the Realm, Cimorene has always been expected to act properly. Her life is defined by etiquette and strict rules, from how to greet foreign ambassadors to the correct way to scream if she gets kidnapped by a giant. Cimorene finds all of these things quite dull but whenever she tries to pursue her own interests – fencing, magic, cooking – her father quickly finds out and puts an end to it. Princesses are supposed to be proper.

When her parents announce that she is to be married to a neighbouring Prince, Cimorene knows that she must take matters into her own hands. She takes off in the night and heads straight to the mountain stronghold of the dragons. There, she gives herself over to Kazul, one of the most dangerous dragons. It is highly improper for a Princess to kidnap herself but luckily Kazul is impressed by her attitude and takes her on as a Dragon Princess.

Life as a Dragon Princess is difficult and often dangerous. Over her first few months living with Kazul she’s forced to deal with cooking for a dragon banquet and seeing off the countless knights who come to rescue her. When suspicious wizards begin hanging around the caves, Cimorene makes it her business to find out what they’re planning. If she doesn’t her new-found freedom and the lives of her dragon allies may be at stake!


Artemis Fowl / Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident

Artemis Fowl 1 + 2

Artemis Fowl is one of those books that I’ve always felt as though I should read because people tend to mention it in the same breath as Harry Potter. The series was written by Eoin Colfer and focuses on a young criminal mastermind as he tangles with a society of subterranean faeries known collectively as the People. The series ran for eight novels – Artemis Fowl (2001), Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident (2002), Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code (2003), Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception (2004), Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony (2006), Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox (2008), Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex (2010) and Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian (2012). For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at the first two novels only.

Artemis Fowl is far from ordinary. Although he is only twelve years old, he’s the son of a successful criminal and has a genius level IQ. With his father missing-presumed-dead and his mother insane with grief, it is now his duty to maintain his family’s wealth and restore their honour. Aided by his Butler, his bodyguard and only friend, he plans a heist unlike any the world has ever seen. For him, failure is never an option.

In Artemis Fowl, Artemis comes into possession of the Book of the People – a codex carried by every faerie. With his intelligence and the technology he has at his disposal, it is not long before he has deciphered their language and learned all of their secrets. Using this new knowledge he manages to capture Holly Short, an agent of the LEPrecon unit, and plans to ransom her back to her people for faerie gold. However, the faeries are not about to part with this without a fight. Soon, Artemis finds his mansion under siege. The LEP believe that saving Holly will be an easy matter but they may have woefully underestimated their human foe…


Sleeping in the Morgue

Sleeping in the Morgue

Phew. I’ve sure reviewed a lot of fantasy novels lately. As much as I love them, I think it’s time to have a break and review some different genres for a while.

Sleeping in the Morgue is a darkly comical novel about a teenage girl who takes drastic measures to ensure that she gets into college. It was written by Jennifer Tressen and first published in 2014. The novel is a short, stand-alone story and is suitable for older teens.

Paige Thorton is overjoyed when she gets accepted into Harvard but her excitement doesn’t last long. It turns out that her mother has frittered away her college fund and now she is $10,000 short of being able to afford her tuition fees. Although she applies to many scholarships, she realises that she has no chance of making the money unless she gets a job. Without, she is doomed to take over the family business and that means running the town’s morgue.

Although Paige’s mother is happy to pay her $500 for every corpse that she prepares, Paige knows that this will not be enough to make up the funds that she needs. The local care home has recently closed and people just don’t die fast enough. Yet, as she is approached by an old man who is desperate to be with his deceased wife, she hits upon an idea. Perhaps there is a way to drum up some more business and help her community as she does so.

As Paige investigates, she discovers that many people that she knows hide dark secrets. If they were to meet with tragic “accidents”, Paige knows that the town would be better off. However, it is not long before her police officer boyfriend, Brock, begins to see connections between the deaths. Will Paige be able to raise her tuition fees before the deadline or will Brock figure out that all clues point towards his girlfriend?




Questors was written by Joan Lennon and first published in 2007. It is a science-fiction / fantasy novel suitable for middle graders and young teens which is set in a world where three very different Earths exist on top of each other. The novel reads a little like the first part of a series but, at the time of writing, no further installments have been announced.

The three parallel worlds – Trentor, Kir and Dalrodia – have always existed harmoniously, sharing the same point in space and time and linked only by the mysterious London House. However, a leak has formed in the energy that keeps these worlds in balance. If left unplugged, this will cause the three worlds to drift further and further apart until they are destroyed altogether.

Unable to repair the damage themselves, the Prelates charged with maintaining the balance order the creation of three heroes – born from one mother but each embodying the essence of one of the worlds. When they come of age, these heroes will be charged with venturing into the future of each world to find a mystical artefact. Only with these can the Prelates stop the leak.

However, unbeknownst to the Prelates, an evil villain has tampered with the design and caused the three heroes to develop imperfections. To make matters worse, the worlds begin to divide much faster than originally calculated, causing the Prelates to have to call on their heroes when they are still only children. Without any explanation as to what is expected of them, Madlen, Bryn and Cam are sent off on their quest. If they fail, everyone in the three worlds is doomed.


Public Enemy Number Two

Public Enemy Number Two

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, The Falcon’s Malteser. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Public Enemy Number Two is the second novel in Anthony Horowitz’s The Diamond Brothers series and was first published in 1987. It was preceded by The Falcon’s Malteser (1986) and followed by South by South East (1991), Three of Diamonds (2004 – consisting of the short stories The Blurred Man, The French Confection and I Know What You Did Last Wednesday), How the Greek Stole Christmas (2008) and The Double Eagle Has Landed (2011). The stories follow the cases of Tim Diamond (real name: Herbert Simple), a London-based private detective, and his younger brother Nick who is infinitely more competent.

Six months have passed since the case of the Falcon’s Malteser and Nick and Herbert have long since spent all of their reward. Just as the brothers are run out of baked beans and prepare for starvation, their luck finally changes when Herbert finally finds a new case. A Ming vase called the Purple Peacock has been stolen from the British Museum and his client is paying generously for its safe recovery.

At the same time, Nick is approached by Chief Inspector Snape and offered a job of his own. Snape wants him to go undercover in a young offenders institute and befriend Johnny Powers – Public Enemy Number One. Although Powers is only fifteen his has already become the leader of a London gang and Snape needs to know the name of the person who is fencing all of the goods that Powers has stolen.

Although Nick initially refuses, he quickly discovers that he has no choice. On a school trip to a stately home he is framed for having stolen a priceless ruby. Nick is condemned to spend eighteen months in prison and naturally finds himself as the cellmate of Powers. The choice that he has is obvious. He either needs to survive his sentence or find out the identity of the Fence. However, things become more complicated as he discovers that Powers is planning a gaol break…


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