The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

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Helllllo readers, not the greatest start to my reading year but I’m in a bookish slump. This isn’t where I wanted to be, but the last month or so I’ve been in a bit of a rut. A couple of badly written books, a lack of time to reply to comments, a slight obsession with Prison Break and a really nasty lung infection I just haven’t had the time to read. I’ve therefore done what I do best, go back and read something easy, light, and comfortable – this time it’s a book for a younger reader and one I really enjoy. Eva Ibbotson was one of my favourite authors as a child and I thought there really wouldn’t be a better book to get me back on track with reading – apologies it’s a little old but this book is a lovely read.

Under Platform 13 at Kings Cross Station is hidden a quite remarkable secret. Every nine years a doorway opens to an amazing, fantastical island. Nine years ago, the island’s baby prince was stolen on the streets of London. Now a rescue party, led by a wizard and an ogre, must find him and bring him back. But the kind prince has become a spoilt rich boy, who doesn’t believe in magic and doesn’t want to go home. Can they rescue him before time runs out – and the doorway disappears for ever?

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As the blurb suggests the book follows The Secret of Platform 13, this secret being that, on a mystical Island, (we’re never quite given the details where) where humans and magical creatures live harmoniously there is a portal that only opens every nine years, that leads to the London Underground. One day, two nurses are taking the infant Prince out for a walk and are tempted into the portal; letting the Prince out of their sight for a minute the terrible Mrs Trottle snatches the baby for her own. A rescue mission is arranged for nine years later to try to find the lost Prince and bring him back to his home; but is it too late?

So what’s good about this book? I loved the fantastical feel of the writing – this book was actual written before the Harry Potter series and I really feel that this was the book that set me up for my utter adoration for Rowling and her magical books. I loved the inclusion of the feys, witches, trolls, hags, mermaids and wizards; there really is a mismatch of different mystical beings each with their own personalities, special characteristics and additions to the plot-line.

The plot follows the rescue mission lead by a hag named Odge, a giant, a fey and a wizard. For the nine days where the portal is open they try their best to find and bring home the prince but to no avail as there seems to be a confusion as to who is the real prince? Odge here begins to take center stage and she really comes into her own as she struggles to find out who the real prince is. Is it  the spoiled son Trottles or the sweet kind-hearted Grandson. Here we see the group of misfits struggle to decide and with time racing they must make a decision.

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In terms of the writing style it’s got enough description to be interesting and exciting but not so much to bog the reading speed down too much. The book is marketed at children between the ages of 9-12 and that allows for the book to take a slightly darker tone but it’s an enjoyable and funny tale – think a little like Lemony Snicket but a little lighter. Yes the plot is a bit predictable and looking at the reviews many have panned this book for that, but for a younger reader it doesn’t need to be constantly held a secret, as this could cause the reader to become confused and disengaged, so for me it’s right on the mark.

Overall this is a fun book with an intriguing tale – with strong characters, lots of magic and mystery it is the perfect fantasy book for younger readers to get their teeth into. A little predictable but funny, light and exciting with the use of time – a lovely little fantasy read.

Linnnnks

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Courage Resurrected by R.Scott Mackey

Reviews, reviews, reviews, reviews; I am slowly climbing through the pile and attempting to get the list a little more organised and feel a little more manageable. If you are waiting for a reply to your email, I promise you will hear back from me. I don’t want to take on anymore manuscripts until I’ve made it through all the first ones emailed to me and as the number is nearing thirty or so it could be a little while. However please be patient and I will make it through to you as soon as I possibly can. I’ve had quite a few misses in terms of books recently and it’s left me a little bit miserable. All the ones I think have the chance to be brilliant have just missed the mark on so many levels. It’s been a lot of romantic genre books and it makes me more and more cynical about the genre as a whole I’m sad to say. Today however, a crime mystery that left me a little blown-away and wanting more. Something that I am a little surprised to admit but all the same a brilliant book to get your hands on.

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Ray Courage’s wife Pam died thirteen years before in a car accident. Or did she? Ray’s world is turned upside down when he receives a series of e-mails from someone claiming to be his dead wife, accusing him of attempting to kill her and vowing revenge. Ray sets out to find the identity of the e-mailer only to discover the circumstances of his wife’s apparent death appear to be all but accidental. Soon Police Detective Carla Thurber comes to suspect Ray of killing his wife, and of a subsequent murder of Pam’s confidant. Meanwhile, a murderous predator who does not want the facts of Pam’s death to surface aims to stop Ray. In the greatest challenge of his life, Ray must outrun the police and elude those who are out to kill him as he seeks the truth about his wife’s death.

 So, quite a devastating book plot but it’s one I think you will really and honestly find intriguing. Ray Courage’s wife Pam has been dead for thirteen or so, killed in a strange mishap or accident if you like because no vehicle was ever found at the scene of the crime. After the tragic event Ray attempts to move on with his life and make a new life for himself and credit to him, he does. However, one day his life is turned a little upside down when he receives an email apparently from Pam stating that he attempted to kill her. Thinking it is only a sick joke his is quickly made aware through further communication that the police has been contacted. As a disbelieving policewoman begins to point the finger at our main character the body of his wife’s former co-worker is found in his apartment and it’s becoming a little more sinister. Taking the law into his own hands we follow Ray as he drives to clear his name and regain his innocence.

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 Right so a little bit of a technicality first. I am reading this book without any prior knowledge of the books coming before. If I am correct this is book number three and therefore if any comments I make that relate to the first two instalments apologies. This book is a little bit of a whirlwind and after a number of disappointing books earlier in the week it’s brilliant to finally get something into my hands that is truly provoking of those feelings that come when you get caught up in a mystery. The writing is strong and bold, Mackey really knows how to spin the reader and keep them guessing. With thrillers I’m always trying to stay one step ahead, it’s a competition for me as a reader but here I really struggled to piece everything together. The characters are strong and witty but with bite that makes them feel genuine. Ray has a sense of oldness meaning he feels a little weathered but safe. Sometimes when you read mystery books the characters are just as jumpy as you are but here Ray instils a feeling of calm that jars with the tense atmosphere and it really works.

 I liked the red herrings that are mixed within the plot and I thought the entire story had a keen eye for detail. The clues are just subtle enough to create drama and intrigue but help pull the reader in making the twists, turns and surprises all the more enjoyable. Commenting as a reader of this book only, I liked the way the book started on the first page, it really grabbed your attention. I don’t know whether the previous two do but some mystery books feel like the cogs are slowly, slowly turning and just easing you in but here, no chance. I liked the constant toying between whether Courage’s wife could somehow still be alive and I thought that the interaction between him and his daughter Rubia was wonderfully described. It also added a human touch to the story. The pace is quick and light which means that you are constantly trying to sift through for the clues that are there but you can’t quite get to.

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 As a reader of this genre I would recommend this straight away. It’s a brilliant book with enough characters, bad guys, twists and turns to keep you thoroughly entertained. Even if you’re not a big fan of the mystery/thriller genre, I know not all are I think this has enough included, with the parts between Rubia and Ray to fill the gaps that you may normally miss from a book of this genre. I’m a little upset I’ve come into this series now  however I’m utterly happy I had the chance to experience this book for myself.