Book Series I’ve Finally Finished Reading!

All of the latest book series I've finally finished reading (some of these are all-time favorites!). | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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There are so many book series that I’ve enjoyed and yet took forever to finish reading, and I’ve finally decided to make finishing some of those series a priority. Okay, some of these series are ongoing, but I’ve read all the books that have been published, so I think that’s close enough!

(Please note that, because I’m providing a quick summary of many or all the books in a series, there will be spoilers!)

Flavia de Luce

I’ve read a couple of these books previously (reviews here and here), and I was glad to pick them up again. Flavia is as precocious and irritating as ever, which depending on your point of view is either the whole charm of the series or the reason you hate it.

The latest books in this series are Speaking from Among the Bones, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, and Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d. I found Speaking from Among the Bones a particularly great continuation of the series, as Flavia actually starts connecting with her sisters, Feely and Daffy, as their lives start changing and Buckshaw is sold.

Unfortunately, I thought the quality of the series started to decline with As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. Flavia is still a wonderful character, but (*spoiler alert*) the fact that she is sent to a girls’ boarding school that is secretly training her to be a secret agent feels like an unrealistic twist to a *mostly* realistic mystery series.

In Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, Flavia returns to England, where she finds her father in the hospital and a corpse hanging from a door, and the series gets back to normal. I’m hoping that further installments in the series will follow that trend, rather than the out-of-left-field twist in As Chimney Sweepers.

Incorrigible Children

This series is one of my favorite reads of 2017! Penelope Lumley, a young governess in Victorian England, is hired to care for three children with a unique problem–they were literally raised by wolves. Miss Lumley has high expectations for her pupils, and she lovingly guides them through learning both table manners and epic poems.

As the series progresses, it becomes clear that someone is out to get the Incorrigible children, and possibly Miss Lumley, too. As the children and their governess (along with the oblivious Lord Ashton and his spoiled wife) travel throughout England and face various strange and hilarious perils, we uncover more and more of the mystery behind these children.

This series has been described as Jane Eyre meets Lemony Snicket, and I couldn’t agree more. There’s a tongue-in-cheek kind of narration which is very charming, and the series puts a fun twist on Gothic elements. If you like silly, strange MG novels, you’ll like the Incorrigible Children series.

Miss Peregrine

I had to look up a synopsis of the first book before reading the rest of the series because it has been so long since I read it. In case you, like me, need a quick review, here it is: After the dramatic events of the first book, in which Jacob finds out that he is one of a group of peculiar children and discovers that he can see the hollowgasts that are trying to hurt him and his new friends, Jacob and his friends have to fight off hollowgasts and wights in order to get Miss Peregrine back to her human form.

Am I glad I finished this series? Yes, although I won’t remember these books a few months from now. The books are quirky and strange, and the photographs are always a highlight, but I wish they had been a bit more memorable. Still, the sweet ending was worth it for me.

Septimus Heap

Ahhhh I loved this series so much! After reading the first book years ago, I was finally inspired to read the rest of the Septimus Heap series, and I’m soooo glad I did! To me, this was a more lighthearted, MG take on a Harry Potter-esque series. But don’t let that scare you off–there’s enough of a difference between that series and this one that Septimus Heap doesn’t suffer from the comparison.

As the story progresses from Magyk, in which Septimus finds out who his true family is and becomes the apprentice to the wizard Marcia, we go through Flyte, in which Septimus has some growing pains as a wizard; Physik, when Septimus gets sent back in time and Jenna, Nicko, and Snorri attempt to save him; Queste, in which Septimus, Jenna, and Beetle have to rescue Nicko and Snorri from the House of Foryx (and Septimus gets sent on a deadly queste); and Syren, when Septimus, Jenna, Beetle, Wolf Boy, and Lucy all end up on an island with a syren and Tertius Fume tries to release an army of jinn.

So many things happen in those books that it’s difficult to provide a summary–you’ll just have to read them yourself! But the last two books were my favorites by far. in Darke, Septimus and his estranged brother Simon have to team up as a Darke Domaine takes over the Palace and tries to enter the Wizard Tower, despite Marcia’s best efforts. Merrin, Beetle, and many other characters from past books make an appearance as Jenna accidentally joins a witch’s coven and Septimus completes his Darke Week by exploring the Darke Halls and searching for Alther’s ghost. And finally, Fyre, the finale of the series. I loved having all the gang back together, and Septimus gets to finally resolve some of the plot threads that have been hanging for books.

If you like magic, dragons, quirky characters, and plot threads that continue throughout the series and are resolved in a most satisfying fashion, you have to read the Septimus Heap series. I can’t recommend it enough.

Book Review: The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag

Book Review: The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag | Newbery and Beyond
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This is the sequel to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and I liked this mystery just as much!  As I said in my last review, each book in this series is based on a now-obscure hobby that was popular in 1950’s England, and this book’s focus is on marionettes.  I think puppets and marionettes are kind of creepy, but the way the performances are described in this book makes me want to change my mind.

The story starts when a famous puppeteer and his assistant/lover drive into town in a broken-down van.  They can’t leave until the van is fixed, so the couple agrees to put on a couple of shows for the town in order to pay for the repairs.  What starts out as innocent fun, however, soon turns deadly, and Flavia starts to wonder if the recent death has anything to do with the tragic death of a small child several years earlier.

Once again, Flavia is an energetic, revenge-seeking, too-smart-for-her-own-good eleven-year-old who gets in the way of the police, breaks into the library, and generally makes a nuisance out of herself before eventually (*spoiler*?) solving the mystery.  I really enjoyed this book–it made for great road trip reading–and again, I can’t wait to read the next books!

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie | Newbery and Beyond
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This was a really fun book.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is an adult mystery book from Alan Bradley, but the protagonist, Flavia, is eleven years old.  (I love me a good child protagonist in an adult fiction book!  The author can imply so much that the protagonist doesn’t explicitly know or understand.)  Flavia is passionate about chemistry, particularly poisons, and she spends much of her time doing experiments in the chemistry lab in a deserted area of her family’s mansion.  When a dying man breathes his last word into Flavia’s face, she turns her energies toward solving the mystery of his murder, which goes back all the way to her father’s school days and a stamp collector’s story.

The story is told by Flavia, so we see only her perspective on the events, including Flavia’s distant relationship with her father, as well as her sisters Ophelia and Daphne.  Of course, Flavia gets into trouble trying to get to the bottom of the mystery (her lock-picking skills are almost equal to her knowledge of chemistry), but that’s part of the fun.  Flavia seems like a real 1950’s British girl, full of slightly rude slang, pranks on her older sisters, and a proclivity for taking her bicycle on long adventures without informing her father.

According to a blurb by the author, he wanted to highlight old-fashioned hobbies and entertainment that were popular in 1950’s England.  This book’s mystery hinged upon stamp collecting, and the next one (I’ve already read it!) centers around puppeteering.  With such an entertaining premise and an endearingly abrasive protagonist, I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

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