All the Bad Apples

All the Bad Apples was written by Moïra Fowley-Doyle and first published in 2019. It is a work of magical realism that follows a teenage girl as she hunts for the truth behind her family’s supposed curse. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Deena Rys knows that her seventeenth birthday is going to go badly when she accidentally comes out to her devout Catholic father. However, she has no idea how bad things are going to get. When she tells her sister, Mandy, about what happened, Mandy panics. She tells Deena that there is a curse that affects all of the bad apples in their family – those that deviate too far from what their father believes to be normal. The following day, Mandy vanishes.

When someone matching Mandy’s description is seen hurling themselves off a cliff, everyone knows that there is no way for her to have survived. However, even as the family lay her to rest, Deena cannot accept this. Strange things have been happening since Mandy’s death, and she is starting to believe that there may be a curse after all. Although her friends and family urge her to move on, Deena realises that she on the right track when she finds the first letter.

Mandy’s letter is the start of a treasure hunt, and Deena knows that she will find her sister alive and well if she follows it to the end. Yet to do so, she must revisit tales of past crimes inflicted on the women in her family. The origins of the curse lie in generations past and those who were silenced by society for being bad apples. If Deena is ever going to find Mandy, she must follow the trail of letters and allow these ghosts to finally be heard…

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Malamander

Malamander was written by Thomas Taylor and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade fantasy story which focuses on a young girl’s hunt for her missing parents at a mysterious seaside resort. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Herbert Lemon holds the prestigious post of Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel. It’s his job to take care of all lost luggage and do everything he can to reunite it with its owners. However, when Violet Palma appears in his office, he realises that his job has just gotten more complicated. Violet was found in the hotel as a baby and now wants Herbert’s help to locate her missing parents.

As they explore the quaint town of Eerie-on-Sea, Violet quickly learns that nothing is quite as it seems. A fortune telling mechanical mermonkey prescribes books to visitors at the Eerie Book Dispensary, cats can talk and the owner of the fish and chip shop can’t leave his workplace due to a siren’s curse. Yet most mysterious of all is the tragic tale of the Malamander.

As Violet learns more about the fish man, she discovers that both of her parents were also obsessed with the legend. Could the Malamander have something to do with their disappearance, and could its wish-granting egg be the key to getting them back? Unfortunately for Violet and Herbert, there are others who are keen to get their hands to the Malamander egg, and they are prepared to hurt anyone who gets in their way…

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A Pinch of Magic

A Pinch of Magic was written by Michelle Harrison and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade novel that focuses on three sisters as they try to break a deadly family curse. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Betty Widdershins is fed up of her life on the remote island of Crowstone and longs to explore the world. However, on her thirteenth birthday, she learns that this will be impossible. A terrible curse has inflicted women of the Widdershins family for generations. If she ever passes beyond the confines of Crowstone and its three sister islands – Repent, Lament and Torment – she will be driven mad by the cawing of invisible crows and perish by the next sunset.

However, along with the curse, Betty also learns of her family inheritance. Each Widdershins girl is also gifted with a magic item – a mirror that allows one to see across great distances, a set of nesting dolls that grant the power of invisibility or a travelling bag that allows the owner to teleport. With the help of her two sisters, Fliss and Charlie, and with these items in hand, Betty sets out on a mission to break the curse and earn her freedom.

Their quest first takes them to a prison on Repent, where a teenage boy claims to know the secret to breaking the curse. Colton has been imprisoned for a crime that he claims he did not commit, but will only help the sisters if they first free him. Reluctantly, the Widdershins form a plan to use their magic to get him to safety. Yet, when something goes wrong and Fliss and Charlie are kidnapped, Betty finds herself in a race against time to find them and break the curse. If she fails, she now knows that her sisters will not live to see another day…

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Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments in this series. You can read my review of these novels by clicking the links below:

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball | Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords

Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief was written by Laura Ellen Anderson and first published in 2018. It is a middle-grade fantasy story about the adventures of a young vampire girl, her ghoulish friends, and her pet pumpkin, in a world populated by a mixture of monsters and cute fantasy creatures. The novel forms the third part of the Amelia Fang series and is preceded by Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball (2017) and Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords (2018). I would recommend reading these stories in sequence if you want to fully appreciate them.

Now that Amelia and her friends have proven that the Creatures of the Light are no threat, Nocturnia has become a very different place to live. Faery exchange students are welcome in school and their classes have been adapted to include a number of new subjects – including Glitterology and Angel Kitten singing. Yet most exciting of all is the new cooking class. Their teacher is the famous faery chef, Mr Sublime, and in his first lesson he sets a contest to win tickets to the Pumpkin Paradise Park to whoever can bake and sell the most Sublime Cookies.

As she dreams of becoming a pumpkinologist, Amelia is desperate to win the tickets. While Tangine is happy to help her out due to his new-found love of cooking, the others seem less than convinced. Florence and Grimaldi are much more interested in playing Goblin Tag and this leads to friction as their lack of focus starts to ruin Amelia’s chance of winning the prize. Amelia also finds herself disappointing her mother. The Countess Frivolita wants Amelia to follow in her footsteps, yet Amelia doesn’t know how to make her mother see that she’s more interested in pumpkins than fancy balls and organ lessons.

However, in the midst of everything, something strange begins to happen. When Florence claims that she forgot about meeting with Amelia, Amelia first assumed that she was lying. Yet, when other people around the town start to become forgetful, she realises that something is seriously wrong. Can she and Tangine find out what is causing the memory loss before their friends and family completely forgot who they are?

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The Story Collector: A New York Public Library Book

The Story Collector: A New York Public Library Book was written by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb and first published in 2018. It is a middle-grade mystery novel that tell the story of Viviani Fedeler, a young girl who really did live in the New York Public Library in the 1920s. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Viviani knows that she is really lucky. She and her older brothers, John Jr and Edouard, know the New York Public Library better than anyone else. As her father is the building’s superintendent, the whole family lives on the premises. Viviani loves the library more than anything, sharing all of her secrets with its magnificent lion statues and spending her free time playing baseball in the Periodical Reading Room (much to the horror of the head librarian).

Viviani also loves collecting stories and is known for wowing her classmates with her tall tales. However, things become tough for her at school when a new girl starts. Merit has immigrated from Egypt and has fascinating stories of her own. Unfortunately, Merit is only interested in hard facts and is quick to dismiss Viviani as being a liar, humiliating her in front of her friends.

It is clear to Viviani that Merit needs to be taught the value of stories and plans an elaborate prank to teach her a lesson. However, things quickly take a bad turn. When a valuable stamp collection is targeted by a thief, Viviani soon finds herself with more problems than she can handle. Is there a way that she can forge a friendship with Merit and capture the culprit at the same time?

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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black was written by Emily Barr and first published in 2017. It is a contemporary thriller that focuses on a teenage girl who discovers that her parents are hiding a dark secret. The novel stands alone, so you do not have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Although Ella Black feels smothered by her mother, she knows that she has it good. She lives in a nice area, goes to a posh school and has two wonderful friends – Lily and Jack. Yet she knows, deep down, that there is something wrong with her. Ella has a dark side that she calls “Bella” – a voice in her head that encourages her to do bad things and hurt people – and she is finding it hard to keep control.

Then comes the day that her mother suddenly pulls her out of school. Her parents explain that they have to go to Brazil for a while, but will not tell her why. They take her phone and politely encourage her not to contact her friends. Although Ella has always wanted to visit Rio, she can’t help but worry. She wonders if her parents have done some terrible, and her fear makes Bella even harder to control.

When Ella finally learns the secret that they are hiding, she is horrified. Her parents have been lying to her for her entire life, hiding the truth of who she is. And then Bella makes her do something unforgivable. Certain that her parents and the police are in pursuit, Ella runs away. Yet, unable to speak the language and with little money to her name, how can she hope to survive on the streets of Rio?

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The X-Files: Goblins

Now that I’m all finished with Animorphs, I think it’s time to take a look at another series that really struck a chord with me as a teenager. In celebration of its 25th anniversary, I think it’s appropriate to dedicate a few posts to The X-Files. As with the Animorphs reviews, these are retrospective posts and so may contain spoilers for the books in question.

The X-Files was a massively popular television series and so a lot of novels that tied into it were produced over its run. Although these were usually just novelisations of popular episodes, six original stories were published between 1994 and 1998. These books were penned by three different authors and were technically aimed at adult readers, but were generally light enough to be enjoyed by older teens as well. For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at Goblins by Charles Grant.

A quiet town near Fort Dix is rocked by a pair of brutal murders. Two military personnel are found dead in public places, their throats viciously slit. However, an eye witness account paints a strange picture of the crimes. The killer has the power to blend into their surroundings, invisible to its victims before it strikes.

A case of an invisible man isn’t generally enough to entice Special Agent Fox Mulder, but he has no choice but to investigate when a senator calls in a favour from his current director, Arlen Douglas. However, it will not just be his partner, Dana Scully, assisting him this time. Douglas insists that they be accompanied by two rookie agents – Hank Webber and Licia Andrews – who desperately need some time in the field.

Although Mulder is initially sceptical that the case is an X-File, he soon encounters a local woman who believes that goblins stalk the woods and realises that there is something strange going on. The local military hide a terrible secret – one with deadly applications. However, as Mulder and Scully get closer to the truth, they also risk becoming the killer’s next targets…

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A Series of Unfortunate Events 13

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

1-3 | 4-6 | 7-9 | 10-12 | Extras

A Series of Unfortunate Events was a series of novels written by Lemony Snicket and published between 1999 and 2006. The main series consisted 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). The series also has a couple of supplementary novels that further flesh out the world and has been adapted into both a film and Netflix series. For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at the final instalment only.

Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire managed to escape the burning of the Hotel Denoument but had to do some pretty villainous things in order to do so. Now, they have found themselves stranded at sea aboard the Carmelita. To make matters worse, they are also sharing the boat with their hated enemy, Count Olaf. Although he seems less threatening without his henchpeople, he still has the diving helmet full of the medusoid mycelium at his disposal and so can easily kill everyone aboard the ship.

Following a huge storm, the Baudelaires and Olaf find themselves marooned on a coast shelf, regarded to be the place where everything washes up eventually. They soon meet the nearby islanders and discover that they also once underwent a schism. A large number left the island but those that remain now live under the rule of Ishmael – a man who seems to have the power to control their actions and beliefs through not-so-subtle suggestion.

When a familiar face also washes up on the island, the Baudelaires slowly start to learn that chance has brought them to a place that has connections to their past. Although they thought they had left the VFD far behind them, their parents had once visited the island and may have been instrumental in the schism. However, the Baudelaires do not have long to explore this connection. Olaf is determined to seize control away from Ishmael and would not be averse to using the medusoid mycelium to do it…  More

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Supplementary Material

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

1-3 | 4-6 | 7-9 | 10-12

A Series of Unfortunate Events was a massively successful series for middle grade readers. The thirteen instalments were written by Lemony Snicket and published between 1999 and 2006. They follow the tragic and often dangerous adventures of the orphaned Baudelaire siblings as they attempt to discover more about a mysterious organisation known as the VFD and avoid the evil Count Olaf, who is determined to kill them and steal their fortune. But that is not what I intend to talk about in this review.

As I only have one book left to review in the main series, today I’m going to be looking at some of the supplementary material. The Unauthorized Autobiography (2002) and The Beatrice Letters (2006) were published alongside the main series and contain hints, codes and answers that help to further flesh out Snicket’s world.

The Unauthorized Autobiography is a collection of materials that were unearthed following the reported “death” of Lemony Snicket. Its aim is to answer some of the questions that plague those who have been following the mystery of the Baudelaire children, though those questions may not be quite what they thought to ask. The Beatrice Letters collects two sets of correspondence. The first of these are letters written by a young Lemony Snicket to the love of his life, Beatrice Baudelaire. The second are a series of letters written to Snicket long after Beatrice’s death, desperately trying to arrange a meeting with him. The strange thing is that these letters are also signed with Beatrice’s name…

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A Series of Unfortunate Events 10-12

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

1-3 | 4-6 | 7-9

Once again, I regret to inform you that I have been forced to delve into the misfortunes and murders that follow in the wake of the Baudelaire siblings…

A Series of Unfortunate Events was written by Lemony Snicket and focuses on the adventures of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire – three orphans who are struggling to uncover the secret behind their parents’ death whilst avoiding the cunning and ruthless Count Olaf. The series consists of thirteen main novels – The Bad Beginning (1999), The Reptile Room (1999), The Wide Window (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). Snicket has also published a few spin-off stories and the series has been recently adapted into a fantastic Netflix series. For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at books 10 to 12 only.

Although the Baudelaire siblings have outwitted Count Olaf time and time again, it seems that this time he has gotten the better of them. Violet and Klaus have found themselves trapped inside a caravan as it winds down a precarious mountain path, helpless to watch as the villain drives away with their little sister. However, help comes to the Baudelaires from an unexpected source. They are soon contacted by someone long presumed dead; someone who is able to finally explain the nature of the VFD.

Yet it is not long before tragedy and misery find the orphans once again. Although they are reunited with Sunny, they find themselves swept away down a raging stream. It is here that they meet another member of the VFD and begin a frantic hunt for the elusive sugar bowl. However, their investigations turn up something far more terrifying. In the depths of the Gorgonian Grotto, a deadly fungus grows. The Medusoid Mycelium is able to kill a person within an hour and Olaf will stop at nothing to get it.

Finally, the Baudelaires find themselves at the Hotel Denouement – last safe-house of the VFD. Disguised as concierges, they spy on the guests in the hope of finding out the identity of the mysterious “JS”. It’s not long before the orphans begin to recognise many faces from their previous adventures and realise that the VFD has been following them for a long time. Unfortunately, this means that they have to come to terms with how badly adults have failed them in the past. With no one left to turn to, the Baudelaires are forced to make allies in unexpected places, and start a few fires of their own…

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