Can you believe we’re at the end of the year? 2019 has flown by (I swear I say that every year) and I’ve read a lot of great books. Here are my favourites:
1. Top Marks For Murder by Robin Stevens
Daisy and Hazel are finally back at Deepdean, and the school is preparing for a most exciting event: the fiftieth Anniversary.
Plans for a weekend of celebrations are in full swing. But all is not well, for in the detectives’ long absence, Deepdean has changed. Daisy has lost her crown to a fascinating new girl – and many of the Detective Society’s old allies are now their sworn enemies.
Then the girls witness a shocking incident in the woods close by – a crime that they’re sure is linked to the Anniversary. As parents descend upon Deepdean, decades-old grudges, rivalries and secrets begin to surface, and soon Deepdean’s future is at stake.
Can the girls solve the case – and save their home?
If you’re a longtime reader of my blog, you’ll have seen me gush over this fabulous middle grade series before. The Murder Most Unladylike books feature two kickass schoolgirls–Daisy and Hazel–who solve murders in 1930s Britain. YES, it is just as fun as it sounds. Not only are the murders tightly plotted and the books full of vintage references, but they’re also fantastically diverse. The author, Robin Stevens, just announced that her upcoming installment will be the last in this series (*pause for grief*), but I can see myself reading them again and again. Top Marks For Murder was another stellar edition to the Wells & Wong casebook.
2. Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Wunder is gathering in Nevermoor …
Morrigan Crow may have defeated her deadly curse, passed the dangerous trials and joined the mystical Wundrous Society, but her journey into Nevermoor and all its secrets has only just begun. And she is fast learning that not all magic is used for good.
Morrigan Crow has been invited to join the prestigious Wundrous Society, a place that promised her friendship, protection and belonging for life. She’s hoping for an education full of wunder, imagination and discovery – but all the Society want to teach her is how evil Wundersmiths are. And someone is blackmailing Morrigan’s unit, turning her last few loyal friends against her. Has Morrigan escaped from being the cursed child of Wintersea only to become the most hated figure in Nevermoor?
Worst of all, people have started to go missing. The fantastical city of Nevermoor, once a place of magic and safety, is now riddled with fear and suspicion…
The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) was basically the middle grade hit of 2017, so I was very excited to get my hands on the sequel. This world is fantastically imaginative, the plot enthralling and exciting and Morrigan a great heroine. This read blew me out of the water–I was HIGHLY anticipating it and it did not disappoint! It just felt lovely sinking back into such a greatly drawn world and going on adventures with Morrigan again. I can’t wait for the next book in this series–it’s becoming one of my favourites!
3. The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf
There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it.
He’s eight years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets – not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!
But the truth is, Ahmet really isn’t very strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to be his friend.
That’s where my best friends Josie, Michael and Tom come in. Because you see, together we’ve come up with a plan.
A timely book that made me weep and showed just how powerful compassion and kindness is. This is such a fascinating look at the refugee crisis from the viewpoint of a child. Written beautifully with subtly and heart by Onjali Q. Rauf, this is a VERY important story that needs to be spread as widely as possible. I just adored it, and passed it along to my favourite eight year old as soon as I’d finished.
4. The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell
From award-winning author Katherine Rundell comes a fast-paced, sharp-turning, and utterly thrilling adventure, one driven at its heart by an extraordinarily powerful evocation of the loyalty and love between a grandfather and his granddaughter.
Fresh off the boat from England, Vita Marlowe has a job to do. Her beloved grandfather Jack has been cheated out of his home and possessions by a notorious conman with Mafia connections. Seeing Jack’s spirit is broken, Vita is desperate to make him happy again, so she devises a plan to outwit his enemies and recover his home. She finds a young pickpocket, working the streets of the city. And, nearby, two boys with highly unusual skills and secrets of their own are about to be pulled into her lawless, death-defying plan.
Katherine Rundell’s fifth novel is a heist as never seen before—the story of a group of children who will do anything to right a wrong.
Katherine Rundell is one of those authors I auto-buy. Her stories are fresh and classic all at once and The Good Thieves is no exception to this. I ADORE a heist story, and this one was executed so well. The cast of characters were excellent–in particular our main character, Vita, is a super smart badass. This is a twisty-turny story set in a vividly drawn 1920s New York that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. What can I say? Katherine Rundell is a superstar.
5. Malamander by Thomas Taylor
Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous malamander creep…
Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy – especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl. No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up. And it just got stranger…
I ADORE slightly creepy middle-grade fantasy and this really hit the mark for me! Not only does Malamander have this creepy in spades, but it also revolves around a monster mystery that our main characters, Violet and Herbie, have to solve. As a 90s kid who LOVED Scooby Doo an excessive amount, I really enjoyed the fantastical hijinks in this one.
6. Wildspark by Vashti Hardy
A year after the death of her older brother, Prue Haywood’s family is still shattered by grief. But everything changes when a stranger arrives at the farm. A new, incredible technology has been discovered in the city of Medlock, where a secretive guild of inventors have developed a way to capture spirits of the dead in animal-like machines, bringing them back to life. Prue knows that the “Ghost Guild” might hold the key to bringing her brother back, so she seizes the stranger’s offer to join as an apprentice. But to find her brother, she needs to find a way to get the ghost machines to remember the people they used to be. Yet if Prue succeeds, all of society could come apart…
I adored Vashti Hardy’s debut Brightstorm, so I was VERY excited to read this one. Wildspark is a gorgeously drawn tale that deals with themes of death, grief and friendship. It’s original and whimsical and everything kidlit should be! Check out my full review here.
7. The Star-spun Web by Sinéad O’Hart
With her passion for scientific experimentation and her pet tarantula Violet, Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a stranger shows up at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange star-shaped device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan. A plan she must stop at all costs…
I realised after reading this one that I definitely have a thing for stories with multiverses, and Sinead does it brilliantly in The Star Spun Web. We also have a heroine who loves STEM, the world’s best pet tarantula, and potentially nefarious guardians. All elements I ADORE–see my full review here.
8. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.
But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?
A debut YA crime thriller as addictive as Serial and as page-turning as One of Us Is Lying.
I KNOW, I KNOW, a book that isn’t middle grade on my favourite reads of 2019 list?? A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is just that good! As a true crime lover, I was desperate to read this UKYA about a girl who tries to solve a murder and it did not disappoint–I raced through it in about a day. It’s tightly plotted and full of twists, and I didn’t see the ending coming!! I can’t wait to read what Holly Jackson writes next.
What are your favourite books of the year?