Review: Beguiled

Title: Beguiled
Author: Cyla Panin
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Amulet Books
Source: Publisher and Author
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: August 23, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A dark and enthralling story about a young woman who makes a deal with a spirit to try and gain her independence—and the twisted price she has to pay for it

Ella is a 17-year-old weaver whose entire livelihood depends on her loom. She dreams of opening her own shop, but when her father died in debtor’s prison, she had to support herself by taking whatever clients she could get. In order to buy her supplies she goes into debt of her own, and when her loom breaks, Ella realizes she needs more help than a repairperson can give her. She, like everyone, has heard about the old washerwoman spirit called the Bean-Nighe who will grant any one wish—for a price.

But Ella is desperate, so she asks the Bean-Nighe to fix her loom. And it works. The loom is fixed, and she’s creating beautiful pieces she could have never imagined before. All she has to do is feed the loom a drop of blood each time she weaves—a small price to pay for such magnificent silks. And when she brings two bolts to a rich client, she meets a mysterious young man named Callum and bargains for an invitation to his exclusive party. At that party, he’s so mesmerized by her talent, he offers Ella a place to live and patronage for her art. It seems like Ella’s fortune is finally turning for the better . . . until she begins to notice the loom taking more from her than she offered.

As she becomes entangled in the lives of the city’s rich, swept into Callum’s allure, and trapped by the Bean-Nighe’s magic, Ella must figure out a way to secure her future while she still has a future at all.

Review:

Since Ella’s father died in a debtor’s prison, she’s had to support herself with her weaving. She dreams of being able to open a shop, but she has had to go into debt to buy the supplies for her weaving. When her loom breaks, Ella only has one choice: to go make a deal with Bean-Nighe, a washerwoman spirit at the river who will grant any wish, for a price. Ella makes the deal and her loom is fixed, and now it creates better silks than ever before. She sells the silks to a high paying client, Odina, who introduces her to Callum. When they discover at a party that Ella’s silks also hold magical powers, Callum offers to be Ella’s patron so that he can have exclusive access to her silks. Ella thinks her luck has finally changed, but her new skill comes at a high price that she has to determine if it’s worth giving up part of herself. 

This was such a great fantasy novel. It was nearly impossible to put down by the end because there were so many twists and surprising reveals. 

One thing that I love in a story is when my feelings towards a character changes by the end of the story. There was one character who I was suspicious of for most of the story, but turned out to be a good person by the end. There was also a morally gray character who didn’t really have any redeeming qualities at the end. 

Beguiled is a great young adult fantasy!

Thank you Cyla Panin and Abrams Kids for sending me a copy!

What to read next:

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Stalking Shadows by Cyla Panin

Have you read Beguiled? What did you think of it?

Review: A Merry Little Meet Cute

Title: A Merry Little Meet Cute
Author: Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Avon
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 20, 2022
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Cowritten by #1 New York Times bestselling author Julie Murphy and USA Today bestselling author Sierra Simone—a steamy plus-size holiday rom-com about an adult film star who is semi-accidentally cast as a lead in a family-friendly Christmas movie, and the former bad-boy pop star she falls in love with.

Bee Hobbes (aka Bianca Von Honey) has a successful career as a plus-size adult film star. With a huge following and two supportive moms, Bee couldn’t ask for more. But when Bee’s favorite producer casts her to star in a Christmas movie he’s making for the squeaky-clean Hope Channel, Bee’s career is about to take a more family-friendly direction.

Forced to keep her work as Bianca under wraps, Bee quickly learns this is a task a lot easier said than done. Though it all becomes worthwhile when she discovers her co-star is none other than childhood crush Nolan Shaw, an ex-boy band member in desperate need of career rehab. Nolan’s promised his bulldog manager to keep it zipped up on set, and he will if it means he’ll be able to provide a more stable living situation for his sister and mom.

But things heat up quickly in Christmas Notch, Vermont, when Nolan recognizes his new co-star from her ClosedDoors account (oh yeah, he’s a member). Now Bee and Nolan are sneaking off for quickies on set, keeping their new relationship a secret from the Hope Channel’s execs. Things only get trickier when the reporter who torpedoed Nolan’s singing career comes snooping around—and takes an instant interest in mysterious newcomer Bee.

And if Bee and Nolan can’t keep their off-camera romance behind the scenes, then this merry little meet cute might end up on the cutting room floor.

Review:

Bee Hobbes is a successful plus-size adult film star under the stage name Bianca von Honey. When her producer casts her in a clean Christmas move for the Hope Channel, Bee is ready to take her career in a new direction. Her co-star will be Nolan Shaw, a former boy band singer whose career ended with a scandal. Nolan decided to do this movie to make extra money to help his sick mother and young sister. As soon as they meet on set in Vermont, Nolan recognizes Bee as Bianca von Honey because he subscribes to her ClosedDoor channel. Things heat up between them, but they have to keep their relationship a secret so that Bee’s other career isn’t discovered and their movie isn’t cancelled. 

This was a super steamy read! There were some funny holiday-themed romance moments that were a little silly, but it was a good story too. 

I liked that even though Bee and Nolan each had big secrets that they were keeping from almost everyone else on set, they knew each other’s secrets. I was surprised because usually the love interests in a romance are keeping the huge secrets from each other but in this story, the tension comes when everyone else discovers the secrets. Bee’s and Nolan’s secrets bonded them throughout the story and made them have an intense and steamy romance. 

A Merry Little Meet Cute is a steamy holiday rom com!

Thank you HarperCollins Canada for providing a digital copy of this book.

What to read next:

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

Have you read A Merry Little Meet Cute? What did you think of it?

Review: Dead Flip

Title: Dead Flip
Author: Sara Farizan
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Source: Thomas Allen and Son
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Edge-of-your-seat YA horror perfect for fans of Stranger Things
 
Growing up, Cori, Maz, and Sam were inseparable best friends, sharing their love for Halloween, arcade games, and one another. Now it’s 1992, Sam has been missing for five years, and Cori and Maz aren’t speaking anymore. How could they be, when Cori is sure Sam is dead and Maz thinks he may have been kidnapped by a supernatural pinball machine?
 
These days, all Maz wants to do is party, buy CDs at Sam Goody, and run away from his past. Meanwhile, Cori is a homecoming queen, hiding her abiding love of horror movies and her queer self under the bubblegum veneer of a high school queen bee. But when Sam returns—still twelve years old while his best friends are now seventeen—Maz and Cori are thrown back together to solve the mystery of what really happened to Sam the night he went missing. Beneath the surface of that mystery lurk secrets the friends never told one another, then and now. And Sam’s is the darkest of all . . .
 
Award-winning author of If You Could Be Mine and Here to StaySara Farizan delivers edge-of-your-seat terror as well as her trademark referential humor, witty narration, and insightful characters.

Review:

Cori, Maz, and Sam were inseparable friends growing up. Now, it’s 1992, and Sam has been missing for five years. In that time, Cori and Maz have drifted apart. One day when Maz is jogging, he runs into twelve-year-old Sam, who has returned, looking exactly like he did when he went missing. Maz and Cori have to figure out what happened to Sam that night, and how he has changed since then. 

This book is perfect for fans of Stranger Things! There were so many nods to the show. There were even some parts that reminded me of the latest season of Stranger Things, even though this book was written before that aired. 

This story was creepy and mysterious, but the ending made sense. It would probably appeal to a variety of age groups, since the characters are in middle school in some chapters, but in high school for most of the book. The story ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, so there could be a sequel. I would love to find out what happens next!

Fans of Stranger Things should check out this fun and creepy story!

Thank you Thomas Allen and Son for sending me a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Whispering Pines by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski

Have you read Dead Flip? What did you think of it?

Review: Gilded (Gilded #1)

Title: Gilded (Gilded #1)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: November 2, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Marissa Meyer, #1 New York Times-bestselling author, returns to the fairytale world with this haunting retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.

Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller’s daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue.

Or so everyone believes.

When one of Serilda’s outlandish tales draws the attention of the sinister Erlking and his undead hunters, she finds herself swept away into a grim world where ghouls and phantoms prowl the earth and hollow-eyed ravens track her every move. The king orders Serilda to complete the impossible task of spinning straw into gold, or be killed for telling falsehoods. In her desperation, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious boy to her aid. He agrees to help her . . . for a price.

Soon Serilda realizes that there is more than one secret hidden in the castle walls, including an ancient curse that must be broken if she hopes to end the tyranny of the king and his wild hunt forever.

Review:

Serilda, the miller’s daughter, has been cursed by the god of lies to spin stories and lies. When she meets the Erlking and his hunters one night, she tells him the lie that she can spin straw into gold. Instead of letting her go, he takes her to his castle where he sets her up in a room to spin a roomful of straw into gold. If she fails the task by morning, he will kill her. Then, Gild appears in the room. He tells her that he can spin the straw into gold for her, but for a price. Once the task is completed, Serilda is free to return home until the next moon when the Erlking will return for her again. Serilda must figure out how to end the tyrannical reign of the Erlking, which may mean losing some people along the way. 

This retelling of Rumpelstiltskin was exactly what I wanted in a Marissa Meyer fairytale adaptation. I’m not as familiar with Rumpelstiltskin as I am with other fairytales so I was surprised as the story progressed. I loved the shocking twists in this story, particularly at the end. 

I really liked the incorporation of German folklore. There were quite a few creatures that I had to look up, which were based in German folklore. This gave it an authentic fairytale feeling. 

Though there were some heartbreaking parts in this story, the ending was so suspenseful that I can’t wait to read the sequel!

What to read next:

Cursed by Marissa Meyer

Other books in the series:

  • Cursed (Gilded #2)

Have you read Gilded? What did you think of it?

Review: Direwood

Title: Direwood
Author: Catherine Yu
Genre: Young Adult, Horror
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Source: Manda Group
Format: Paperback arc
Release Date: September 20, 2022
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In this velvet-clad 1990s gothic horror, Aja encounters a charming vampire who wants to lure her into the woods—just like her missing sister.

No one ever pays attention to sixteen-year-old Aja until her perfect older sister Fiona goes missing. In the days leading up to Fiona’s disappearance, Aja notices some extraordinary things: a strange fog rolling through their idyllic suburban town, a brief moment when the sky seems to rain blood, and a host of parasitic caterpillars burrowing their way through the trees. Aja’s father, the neighbors, and even her ex-friend Mary all play down this strange string of occurrences, claiming there must be some natural explanation. It seems everyone is willing to keep living in denial until other teens start to go missing too.

Aja is horrified when she meets Padraic, the vampire responsible for all the strange occurrences. His hypnotic voice lures her to the window and tells her everything she’s longed to hear—she’s beautiful and special, and he wants nothing more than for Aja to come with him. Aja knows she shouldn’t trust him, but she’s barely able to resist his enthrallment. And following him into the woods may be the only way to find Fiona, so she agrees on one condition: He must let her leave alive if she is not wooed after one week. Though Aja plans to kill him before the week is out, Padraic has his own secrets as well.

In the misty woods, Aja finds that Padraic has made his nest with another vampire in a dilapidated church infested by blood-sucking butterflies. Within its walls, the vampires are waited on and entertained by other children they’ve enthralled, but there is no sign of Fiona. Before her bargain is up, Aja must find a way to turn her classmates against their captors, find her sister, and save them all—or be forced to join the very monsters she wants to destroy.

Review:

Aja had always lived in her sister’s shadow, until Fiona disappeared on her eighteenth birthday. At the same time, strange things start happening in their small town. The rain looks like blood falling from the sky and lots of caterpillars are burrowing into trees. One evening, a young man named Padraic meets Aja at her window. She has a feeling that he knows about her sister’s disappearance, so she follows him into the woods. Padriac is a vampire, who is responsible for the strange things happening in town. Aja can’t help but be hypnotized by Padriac’s charm, though she tries to resist him while she looks for clues to her sister’s disappearance. 

This was an intense vampire story. There were some gruesome scenes involving blood and bugs, caterpillars and butterflies. I did predict the twist at the end, but it was a wild, fast-paced story that kept me hooked until the end. 

If you’re looking for a fast-paced vampire story, I recommend checking out Direwood!

Thank you Manda Group and Page Street Kids for providing a physical copy of this book.

What to read next:

Vampires Never Get Old edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker

Have you read Direwood? What did you think of it?

Review: The Vermilion Emporium

Title: The Vermilion Emporium
Author: Jamie Pacton
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Peachtree Teen
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: November 22, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The heart-wrenching story of The Radium Girls meets the enchanting world of Howl’s Moving Castle. Jamie Pacton’s fantasy debut is a story of timeless love and deadly consequences.

It was a day for finding things . . . 
  
On the morning Twain, a lonely boy with a knack for danger, discovers a strand of starlight on the cliffs outside Severon, a mysterious curiosity shop appears in town. Meanwhile, Quinta, the ordinary daughter of an extraordinary circus performer, chases rumors of the shop, The Vermilion Emporium, desperate for a way to live up to her mother’s magical legacy. 
  
When Quinta meets Twain outside the Emporium, two things happen: One, Quinta starts to fall for this starlight boy, who uses his charm to hide his scars. Two, they enter the store and discover a book that teaches them how to weave starlight into lace. 
  
Soon, their lace catches the eye of the Casorina, the ruler of Severon. She commissions Quinta and Twain to make her a starlight dress and will reward them handsomely enough to make their dreams come true. However, they can’t sew a dress without more material, and the secret to starlight’s origins has been lost for centuries. As Quinta and Twain search the Emporium for answers, though, they discover the secret might not have been lost—but destroyed. And likely, for good reason.

Review:

On the morning that The Vermilion Emporium appeared, Twain found a strand of starlight. While searching for the shop, Quinta finds Twain waiting outside of it. They enter it together and discover the secrets of how to weave the starlight into lace. However, no one knows how to find more starlight. They take on a job to create a starlight gown for the ruler of Severon, even though it seems like an impossible task. Quinta and Twain have to search for the way to find starlight, but it could have deadly consequences. 

This was a fabulous fantasy debut! Quinta and Twain were lovable characters who had overcome many struggles in their young lives. There was a lot of mystery that kept me guessing, but everything was explained at the end. I loved the way everything came together at the end. 

I thought the ending would be sad with the way it was going, but there was a happy ending. This story was inspired by The Radium Girls, which I didn’t know anything about before reading this one, but is a heartbreaking story. I was happy with how this story ended though. 

I highly recommend The Vermilion Emporium!

Thank you Peachtree Teen for providing a digital copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton

Have you read The Vermilion Emporium? What did you think of it?

Review: Demon in the Wood (Grishaverse #0)

Title: Demon in the Wood (Grishaverse #0)
Author: Leigh Bardugo, Dani Pendergast (illustrator)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Before he led Ravka’s Second Army, before he created the Fold, and long before he became the Darkling, he was just a lonely boy burdened by an extraordinary power.

Eryk and his mother, Lena, have spent their lives on the run. But they will never find a safe haven. They are not only Grisha—they are the deadliest and rarest of their kind. Feared by those who wish to destroy them and hunted by those who would exploit their gifts, they must hide their true abilities wherever they go. But sometimes deadly secrets have a way of revealing themselves…

Discover the start of a grand and sinister destiny in this must-have graphic novel prequel to the bestselling series and international Netflix sensation Shadow and Bone from spectacular new talent Dani Pendergast and #1 New York Times bestseller Leigh Bardugo.

Review:

Before he was the Darkling, Eryk lived on the run with his mother. They were both Grisha, or witches, running from people who hunted them. Not only were Eryk and his mother Grisha, but they were the most powerful amplifiers who can increase another Grisha’s power. When they seek refuge with a group of Grisha, Eryk makes a mistake that threatens to reveal their secrets. 

This was a great graphic novel adaptation of Demon in the Wood. It’s so fun to see characters come to life in illustrations. The Darkling is such a complex villain, so it’s great to see his childhood and the challenges he faced that turned him into the Darkling. 

My only criticism is that I wish it was longer. There were many pages with no dialogue, and while the illustrations were beautiful, I would have liked more of the story of his life. 

Demon in the Wood is a great Grishaverse graphic novel!

What to read next:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Have you read Demon in the Wood? What did you think of it?

Review: Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)

Title: Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: April 1, 2008
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose… 

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians—including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks… This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory. 

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price..

Review:

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, and the students are going on a ski trip. The trip is mandatory for everyone this year, because of a Strigoi attack on one of the Royal families. A number of guardians are brought into the school, including Rose’s estranged mother. Rose is in a love triangle, which gets more complicated when the new guardians join the trip. When Rose gets a tip on where the dangerous Strigoi are hiding out, she can’t keep it to herself, leading to a dangerous trip across the country that not everyone will survive. 

This is a great sequel! I loved that the story is quite different from the first book and a complete story in itself. There were some intriguing new characters that I’m excited to get to know in the next books. Though it had a tragic ending, I’m looking forward to reading the next book. 

Frostbite is a captivating Vampire Academy story!

What to read next:

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Other books in the series:

Have you read Frostbite? What did you think of it?

Review: Twin Crowns (Twin Crowns #1)

Title: Twin Crowns (Twin Crowns #1)
Author: Catherine Doyle and Katherine Webber
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Blazer + Bray
Source: Litjoy
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: May 17, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Wren Greenrock has always known that one day she would steal her sister’s place in the palace. Trained from birth to return to the place of her parents’ murder and usurp the only survivor, she will do anything to rise to power and protect the community of witches she loves. Or she would, if only a certain palace guard wasn’t quite so distractingly attractive, and if her reckless magic didn’t have a habit of causing trouble…

Princess Rose Valhart knows that with power comes responsibility. Marriage into a brutal kingdom awaits, and she will not let a small matter like waking up in the middle of the desert in the company of an extremely impertinent (and handsome) kidnapper get in the way of her royal duty. But life outside the palace walls is wilder and more beautiful than she ever imagined, and the witches she has long feared might turn out to be the family she never knew she was missing.

Two sisters separated at birth and raised into entirely different worlds are about to get to know each other’s lives a whole lot better. But as coronation day looms closer and they each strive to claim their birthright, the sinister Kingsbreath, Willem Rathborne, becomes increasingly determined that neither will succeed. Who will ultimately rise to power and wear the crown?

Review:

Wren Greenrock has been trained her whole life to take over her twin sister’s place on the throne. However, her twin sister, Rose, doesn’t know Wren exists. Wren and her friend Shen break into the palace and kidnap Rose, leaving Wren in her place. Wren enters a world where she’s destined to marry a prince and be controlled by the Kingsbreath, who is ruling in place of a King. Meanwhile, Rose enters the world of witches, who she has been taught to fear and hate. Both sisters want to have control of the throne, as their eighteenth birthday and coronation day approaches, but they must defeat the Kingsbreath who stands in their way. 

I knew I was going to love this book as soon as I saw the cover. YA fantasy about royalty is my favourite kind of book. There were a few moments in this book that reminded me of The Parent Trap, which is one of my favourite movies, but as if one of the twins didn’t know the other existed. That situation made some great tension and twists throughout the story. 

Twin Crowns is a fantastic YA fantasy! I can’t wait for the sequel next year!

What to read next:

Sisters of the Snake by Sarena and Sasha Nanua

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

Have you read Twin Crowns? What did you think of it?

Review: The Dead Man in the Garden (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #3)

Title: The Dead Man in the Garden (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #3)
Author: Marthe Jocelyn, Isabelle Follath (illustrations)
Genre: Middle Grade, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Tundra Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

For young detective Aggie Morton and her friend Hector, a spa stay becomes a lot more thrilling when TWO dead bodies are found in this third book in the Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen series, inspired by the life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot.

Aspiring writer Aggie Morton is ready to enjoy an invigorating trip to a Yorkshire spa, where her widowed mother can take the waters and recover from a long mourning period. Having solved yet another murder and faced extreme peril with her best friend Hector over Christmas, Aggie’s Morbid Preoccupation is on alert when rumors abound about the spa’s recently deceased former patient . . . and then another body appears under mysterious circumstances. Together with Grannie Jane, and often in the company of George, a young patient at the spa, Aggie and Hector take a closer look at the guests and staff of the Wellspring Hotel, and venture into the intriguing world of the local undertaker. Has there been a murder–or even two? As Aggie and Hector ignite their deductive skills, their restful trip takes a sudden, dangerous turn.

Review:

Aggie Morton goes on a trip to a spa in Yorkshire with her recently widowed mother, grandmother, and friend Hector Perot so that her mother can recover from her mourning period. When they arrive, Aggie and Hector learn that a woman who was staying there died the previous week. As they start investigating that death, another client of the spa dies under mysterious circumstances. Aggie and Hector join together with their new friend George to investigate these deaths and figure out what is going on at the spa. 

This was another great Aggie Morton mystery! Aggie Morton is like a young Agatha Christie. Her friend, Hector, is similar to Christie’s character Hercule Poirot, and Aggie’s grandmother is like the Christie character Miss Marple. I love seeing these nods to her classic characters. 

This mystery kept me guessing until the end. The answer was right there the whole time, but it was someone who I didn’t suspect. I’m always pleased when the solution to a mystery surprises me. 

The Dead Man in the Garden is a great middle grade mystery! 

Thank you Tundra Books for providing me with a digital copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Seaside Corpse by Marthe Jocelyn, Isabelle Follath (illustrations)

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Other books in the series:

Have you read The Dead Man in the Garden? What did you think of it?