Book review: Pearls, jewels, spies and romance top a new season of reading

Pearls, jewels, spies and romance top a new season of reading

Pearls, jewels, spies and romance top a new season of reading

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September is here and with it a new month of exciting children’s books to add welcome colour to the back-to-school blues.

There’s an exotic debut starring a feisty super-sleuth, a thrilling fantasy set in a dangerous alternative universe, a heart-melting wartime romance and a sassy teen novel from TV actress, singer and celebrity Michelle Gayle.

And if that lot doesn’t float your youngster’s boat, how about a boy who’s forced into disguise as a girl, a charming tale on the importance of friendship and a beautiful picture book about a very special arrival.

Age: 8 plus

Violet and the Pearl of the Orient by Harriet Whitehorn

Some books are the complete package… an alluring cover, irresistible illustrations and a story so funny, clever and appealing that it becomes an instant family favourite.

Debut novelist Harriet Whitehorn has certainly struck gold with the madcap adventures of Violet Remy-Robinson, a deliciously adorable 10-year-old detective who dares to venture where many would fear to tread.

The only child of rich, eccentric parents, Violet’s intrepid sleuthing and her rich cast of friends, foes and family spring to glorious life in the capable of hands of up-and-coming illustrator Becka Moor.

Violet Remy-Robinson lives with her ultra-sophisticated parents in a very stylish and incredibly tidy flat. Her elegant, clever mother Camille is a jewellery designer and her learned and successful father is an architect.

As an only child, Violet spends a lot of time with grown-ups who have taught her useful things like how to read a menu, mix cocktails and play poker.

Housekeeper Norma has told her that you can tell a lot about a person by their favourite food which is one of the reasons why she is very suspicious about her new neighbours Count and Countess Du Plicitous whose favourite foods are snails (the Count) and protein shakes (his wife).

Violet is convinced that there is something rather strange about them and when her unconventional but adorable neighbour Dee Dee Derota, a former Hollywood starlet, has a precious pearl stolen, Violet and her timid but equally heroic friend Rose Trelawney set out to uncover the truth...

Whitehorn leaves no stone unturned in her quest to entertain, including a quirky ‘who’s who’ picture gallery, maps, itineraries and an ‘extra-helpful’ word glossary to make the reading experience easier and more entertaining.

With its magical combination of subtle but child-accessible humour, adventures that will charm all fun and mystery fans, and a gallery of lively, expressive illustrations, Violet and the Pearl of the Orient is a story book gem.

And the good news is that her daring detective escapades are just the first of a super new series… at this rate, it looks destined to run and run.

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £8.99)

Teen:

Dawn by Eve Edwards

Get ready to have your heartstrings well and truly tugged in the second part of Eve Edwards’ luscious wartime romance.

Dawn, sequel to Dusk, continues the epic tale of a young couple caught up in the brutality and tragedy of the First World War.

At London’s Paddington Station in October 1916, Lieutenant Sebastian Trewby, an officer in the flying corps, reaches into his pocket for the portrait of Helen Sandford that he drew only last year. ‘I’m looking for a young lady who came through here late last night,’ he tells an elderly porter.

In the midst of the war, Helen, a young nurse, has disappeared. Sebastian is determined to find her so that he can protect her before his flight squadron calls him back for duty.

Meanwhile, Helen knows that if Sebastian discovers her, it could ruin him. Society wants to persecute her for her German heritage and she is threatened at every turn. Her only hope lies with those that love her, and the authorities are closing in...

Beautifully written and moving in its depiction of the uncertainty of war, Dawn allows a new generation a glimpse at the realities of a 100-year-old conflict.

(Penguin, paperback, £7.99)

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Beauty and brutality collide in debut author Amy Ewing’s shocking and compelling new young adult series which transports readers to a dangerous, dystopian landscape.

Due to a genetic mutation, Violet Lasting is considered to be no longer a human being. Tomorrow she becomes Lot 197, auctioned to the highest royal bidder in the Jewel of the Lone City. Tomorrow she becomes the Surrogate of the House of the Lake, her sole purpose to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess.

Imprisoned in the opulent cage of the palace, Violet learns the brutal ways of the Jewel where the royal women compete to secure their bloodline and the surrogates are treated as disposable commodities.

Destined to carry the child of a woman she despises, Violet enters a living death of captivity and quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering façade; the cruelty, backstabbing and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life. Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence and try to stay alive.

But then she sets eyes on Ash Lockwood, the royal Companion. Drawn to each other by a reckless, clandestine, illicit passion, Violet and Ash dance like puppets in a deadly game of court politics until their obsessive love starts to threaten their lives.

Forbidden romance, life-threatening danger and a journey of terrible discoveries await in this thrilling opener to a daring, dynamic new series.

(Walker Books, paperback, £7.99)

What’s the Drama, Malibu Bennet?

Michelle Gayle

The third and final instalment of Michelle Gayle’s pitch-perfect diary-style teen series about dizzy beautician and footballing WAG Remy Louise Bennet sees more romantic drama and emotional turmoil.

Remy is struggling to balance her hectic career with her demanding family (not least her unpredictable sister Malibu) and to top it all off, she has just humiliated herself on national TV!

It’s time for her to take stock of what is important and how far she will go to keep other people happy. Just what can she sacrifice before she loses herself and the real Remy that we know and love?

Love, laughter and tears round off a sparkling foray into teenage trials and tribulations.

(Walker Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age: 9 plus

Tiger Moth by Suzi Moore

Jobs as both a nanny and a teaching assistant have given Suzi Moore insight into the workings of a child’s mind and in her second young fiction novel, she turns that experience into a moving story about a troubled girl.

Ever since she was adopted by her parents, her new home Culver Manor, with its hidden rooms and overgrown garden, has been the one place Alice feels safe, the one place she can call home.

Everything seems perfect until she finds out that her mum is going to have a baby and Alice’s world turns upside down. Will they love their real baby more than her, and why isn’t she enough for them any more?

Alice doesn’t know what to say, so she doesn’t speak at all. She stays silent that day and the day after that, until six months have passed without her saying one single word.

Meanwhile, Zack has everything he could want. His dad is a film stuntman, he lives in the best house on the best street and is Mr Popular at school. Everything seems perfect until Zack’s dad is killed on set and he and his mum are forced to sell their house and move to a tiny cottage by the sea.

Ripped from the life he once knew, Zack is angry at the world and looking for trouble. Then he meets Alice, the girl who doesn’t speak, and together they begin to realise that sometimes it’s when life seems less than perfect that the most magical things can happen.

Tiger Moth is a beautifully perceptive story about grief, loss and acceptance which speaks loudly to children struggling to cope with life changes and trauma. By working through the problems of Alice and Zack, Moore’s heartwarming story brings wisdom, understanding and resolution in a style that is both relevant and relatable.

A clever, compelling book...

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 6 plus:

Spies in Disguise: Boy in a Tutu by Kate Scott

Boys will be boys... and sometimes boys will be girls, but only in the name of espionage you must understand.

Welcome to the world of schoolboy spy Joe whose parents are undercover agents and have to keep their true identities a closely guarded secret. And that means Joe going undercover too… as a girl!

And to top it all, the girlier he looks, the less likely it is that enemy spies will suspect who and what he is. So Joe is in training to be a ‘proper’ spy along with Sam, the girl who lives down the road and has become his one true friend.

Boy in a Tutu is the second book in Kate Scott’s quirky and engagingly different Spies in Disguise series, ideal reading for youngsters with its easy-to-follow storylines, imaginative concept and vibrant characters.

In Boy in a Tutu, we find Joe and Sam putting their spy skills and gadgets to the test against a new villain in a new mission and in… tutus!

The only way to find out who is scheming to steal the World Cup memorabilia exhibition at the local leisure centre is to sign up for ballet lessons there. Joe and Sam land the lead roles in the end-of-term show, but Sam is playing the male lead and Joe is the prima donna!

Can Joe hold it together (and Sam stop laughing) for long enough to maintain Joe’s secret identity, find the clues and catch the criminal behind the next great robbery?

Scott again combines humour, suspense and adventure in a story that is tailor-made for both girls and boys.

Vive la différence!

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

The New Small Person by Lauren Child

A new baby in the house isn’t always a welcome surprise for toddlers who like ruling the roost.

Take Elmore Green… he started life as an only child, had a room all to himself and everything in it was his. Then one day, everything changed.

Innovative author and illustrator Lauren Child has a way of putting childhood dreams and dilemmas into words and pictures, and her enchanting new book will strike a chord with families everywhere.

Elmore has got used to being the funniest, cleverest, most adorable person his parents have ever seen but a new, small interloper who doesn’t seem to do much is the centre of everyone’s attention.

It’s only when the ‘small person’ starts doing things that Elmore enjoys, like playing games and laughing at the TV, that Elmore suddenly realises having a younger brother could be rather special after all.

Learning to share life and parental affection is not always easy and this emotive and beautifully conceived story will help pre-school youngsters to make sense of a new sibling… and maybe even grow to love them dearly.

Lauren Child, one of the best authors and illustrators in the business, uses all her trademark wit, humour and evocative style to create a picture book that will be an essential teaching tool for expectant parents… and a journey of discovery for toddlers who need a lesson in love.

(Puffin, paperback, £6.99)

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