Friday 30 December 2022

Alice Eclair, Spy Extraordinaire: A Spoonful of Spying by Sarah Todd Taylor

Link to publisher

Published by: Nosy Crow, 12th Jan 2023

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Perfect for competent middle-grade readers who love both spy stories and baking, this series is pure class. Packed with action and French panache, it is sublimely plotted, superbly written and has the effortless air of chic sophistication about it. 

With the world's best inventors and artists descending on Paris for a World Fair, Alice is assigned to a dangerous undercover mission: to find out the identity of the enemy spies who are trying to steal the secrets behind a new aeroplane invention whilst also dazzling the fair with her baking talents. 

But when agents start disappearing and her new friend is put in danger, Alice has to forget the baking and cook up a plan to save them all. Can she prove herself to the other far more experienced French spies?

With an excellent plot and lots of pacy, dynamic action, this is an engaging and mouth-watering read. As well as whipping up the genius combination of spying and patisserie, Sarah Todd Taylor has also included trains and planes within the first two books, making it comparable to the epic Adventures on Trains series. Stories set in Paris always seem to prove pretty special and the fact Alice's adventures are dated just before the World War II gives the story a really authentic feel. 

As if that isn't enough, Alice's spying adventure also whisks her into the world of fashion, prompting a very clever plot twist. Although Alice comes across as a rather grown-up character for her age, I particularly love how she embraces her mistakes and her personality and determination is endearing. She's definitely a female Bond in the making - quick-witted, personable and charming. The world is definitely as elegant as Bond's with super high stakes. Wrapped up in a front cover which is as pretty as pink icing, courtesy of Beatriz Castro, DO NOT underestimate the power of this 'cosy' read - it seriously packs a punch!

A big thanks to NetGalley and Nosy Crow for allowing me a review copy. A Spoonful of Spying is released in the UK on 12th Jan 2023.

The Bookshop At The Back Of Beyond by Amy Sparkes, illustrated by Ben Mantle


Published by: Walker, 5th Jan 2023

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The new year is bringing with it a LOT of great new book releases and we highly recommend that you kick off 2023 with a magical dose of fabulousness. The Bookshop At The Back of Beyond is the third instalment in The House At The Edge of Magic series and possibly my favourite yet. But - spoiler alert! - although I was assuming this was a trilogy, making this the epic finale, it looks like things are not quite over ...

After curing the House of hiccups, Nine and her friends are off to Beyond to help Spoon find Professor Dish. But when they encounter Flabberghast's formidable aunt Ophidia AND his dangerous sister, they become embroiled in a magical game of cat and mouse. Will they manage to escape Beyond unscathed, will Nine ever find out what happened to her mother and what is Flabberghast's sister really after?

Whereas the previous two books have focussed mainly on Amy Sparkes' magical and delightful House, this instalment takes the characters beyond the front door on a different mission - to find Spoon's partner in alchemy, Professor Dish. Both the plot and the world-building are richly imagined. Beyond is a fantastical, quirky and atmospheric setting whilst the characters remain absurdly loveable, endearing and downright funny with their razor-sharp banter and hilarious antics. 

Nine remains a great main character in a story that still reminds me of a magical Oliver Twist. Although her patience is wearing thin and her frustrations simmer near the surface in this book, you find yourself rooting for her as she inches closer to uncovering her mother's secrets. I also particularly loved her inner battle with trusting others, telling the truth and her old habits of stealing despite having found where she belongs. 

So if you're after a story that's wonderfully chaotic, full of magical mayhem but bound together by love and friendship, this is the book for you. Flabberghast's sister also makes the best, most complex and sassiest love-to-hate baddie I've read in a long time, making it pretty spectacular on every level. 

The Bookshop At The Back of Beyond is released in the UK on 5th Jan 2023. A big thanks to Netgalley and Walker for allowing me a review copy. 

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