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3 Monday minis: ghosts! magic! mystery!

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller
Pub. Date: September 19, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Amulet Books!)
Summary: Abandoned by her mother and neglected by her scientist father, timid Elizabeth Murmur has only her fearless friend, Zenobia, for company. And Zenobia’s company can be very trying! When Elizabeth’s father takes them to live in his family home, Witheringe House, Zenobia becomes obsessed with finding a ghost in the creepy old mansion and forces Elizabeth to hold séances and wander the rooms at night. With Zenobia’s constant pushing, Elizabeth investigates the history of the house and learns that it does hold a terrible secret: Her father’s younger sister disappeared from the grounds without a trace years ago.
Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal

I came for the promise of Middle Grade paranormally goodness, I stayed for the evil plants. I’m honestly not quite sure what to make of Elizabeth and Zenobia. Elizabeth’s father moves his family (or, rather, what’s left of it: just himself and Elizabeth) into the grand old manor where he grew up. Elizabeth’s imaginary friend Zenobia is convinced there are ghosts and, despite Elizabeth’s fears, talks her into holding seances and exploring the dark halls at night. Eventually Zenobia’s prodding reveals a terrible secret: Elizabeth’s aunt, long thought to have died as a child, is still on the grounds, trapped in a fairy tale story.

I’m sad to say Elizabeth and Zenobia missed its mark. Throughout the novel I honestly wasn’t sure if Zenobia was just an imaginary friend or if she was a ghost herself – and the book doesn’t lean either way. Despite its incredibly short length (barely over 200 pages) I slogged my way through, taking multiple days to get through a book that should have hardly taken an afternoon; there just wasn’t enough meat to this story to capture my interest – and if I found myself constantly setting the book aside, I can’t imagine how a Middle Grade reader would manage to be invested in this one. That said, I REALLY enjoyed the Plant Kingdom aspect…everything else simply fell flat. Also, I’m baffled by the illustrations. I first assumed they were simply rough sketches meant to serve as placeholders for the final product. Now I’m wondering if they are the final product. I hope that’s not the case, it makes the book take on a self-pubbed feel that I don’t like.

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda
Pub. Date: April 11, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgally (Thank you, Simon & Schuster!) + audiobook via library
Summary: In the masterful follow-up to the New York Times bestseller All the Missing Girls a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

I’m loving what Megan is doing with her adult novels! Last year’s All the Missing Girls was a ton of fun – and presented in such an original way (the story was told backwards) – that I couldn’t wait to dive into her follow-up! There was also another reason I was itching to read it: the main character has my name. It wasn’t until I grabbed the audiobook that I learned it’s also pronounced correctly how I pronounce it!

…hahaha, unfortunately, there were a few scenes where one of the other characters was being SUPER rude and condescending to Leah and listening to that put me into rage mode. Enough so that I actually had to stop listening, lest I destroy my phone at my desk. Oops.

Apart from that, The Perfect Stranger was another fast-paced, intense read from an author I’ve come to seriously enjoy. Unlike All the Missing Girls, however, The Perfect Stranger doesn’t offer up anything new to the genre, but I truly didn’t mind at all and am eagerly awaiting her next book!

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones
Pub. Date: September 19, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Knopf Books for Young Readers!)
Summary: The year is 1818, the city is London, and 16-year-old Annis Whitworth has just learned that her father is dead and all his money is missing. And so, of course, she decides to become a spy.

Annis always suspected that her father was himself a spy, and following in his footsteps to unmask his killer makes perfect sense. Alas, it does not make sense to England’s current spymasters—not even when Annis reveals that she has the rare magical ability to sew glamours: garments that can disguise the wearer completely.

Well, if the spies are too pigheaded to take on a young woman of quality, then Annis will take them on. And so she crafts a new double life for herself. Miss Annis Whitworth will appear to live a quiet life in a country cottage with her aunt, and Annis-in-disguise as Madame Martine, glamour artist, will open a magical dressmaking shop. That way she can earn a living, maintain her social standing, and, in her spare time, follow the coded clues her father left behind and unmask his killer.
Genre: Historical Mystery, Fantasy, Magic

What a FUN book! I went in, hoping for a similar read to Duels and Deception, and it was excellent. Annis has just learned, not only of her father’s death, but that his fortune appears to have gone missing…meaning she and her aunt have no way to pay the bills. Suddenly her high class lifestyle is in serious jeopardy. Add in a bit of spy intrigue – Annis is convinced her father was a spy – and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful novel.

Naturally the War Office isn’t going to take a 16-year-old girl seriously, so what does Annis do? She goes undercover – sewing magical glamours to disguise herself and open a dress shop, all the while collecting what info she can on what really happened to her beloved father.

Though I really enjoyed this one, its open ending leaves me wondering if it’s simply just that: a vague ending, or if there will be a sequel. There were hints of a romance to come and still some unanswered questions. If it turns out there will be more, I am so there!

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