Bookish Things

Murder Most Unladylike – Stevens

I read Murder Most Unladylike because we’ve had an increasing number of students in years 7 and 8 asking for “murder mysteries.” I have no real idea as to why these types of stories are becoming popular again, but as an avid reader of Agatha Christie in my early teens, I cannot complain! And so, it was with great pleasure that I realised there is a new range of Middle Reader friendly murder mysteries available, one of which is the A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery series by Robin Stevens.28953339

Synopsis:

When Hazel Wong moves from Hong Kong to Deepdean School for Girls in England, she finds it difficult to make friends at first. After a rocky start she soon becomes fast friends with Daisy Wells, a typical English young lady. Due to Daisy’s murder mystery obsession, the two friends start their own Detective Agency. After solving a couple of small crimes, such as lost ties or collecting gossip, Hazel eventually stumbles on their first real crime: their Science Mistress has been murdered and Hazel discovers the body.

The body goes missing shortly after Hazel discovers it and so Hazel and Daisy must race against the clock to collect clues to find out who the murderer is. They know it’s someone on staff, but who?

Thoughts:

I did like this story, but I didn’t love it and I think it’s because I’m not it’s targeted audience. The murder mystery was well thought out though. I didn’t see the “who done it” coming and the way that certain off-hand events tied in was very clever – in this sense it is very Agatha Christie.

Hazel and Daisy of the Detective Society are likeable enough. The mentions of Hazel’s “oriental” background and the way the girls in her form refer to her are very apt for the time the story is set in. However at the same time, Stevens has shown sensitivity towards migrants by using Hazel’s voice as a voice of displeasure over the apparently “harmless” comments made by her peers. Daisy is initially portrayed as the perfect English rose, but her depth of character is explored further when Hazel slowly discovers that Daisy is the smartest girl in school but hides it, she loves to play rough when it comes to sport, and has a fascination with murder.

The setting of an all girls school back in the day (I don’t think the year is ever specified), and the description of the teaching staff set the scene for trouble quite nicely. The explanation of the Masters and Mistresses is slightly one dimensional; we never really get to know the staff that well, but I believe this is largely due to the fact that Hazel, the voice of the story, doesn’t know them well enough to make their personalities clearer. We see them as she sees them: untouchable and infallible.

The narrative of the story is a combination of present and past events. We see the murder unfold as the present, but Hazel adds in tidbits of information about the school and characters are reflective chapters. It’s really very clever. The other notable thing about the way in which this book is written is how Stevens has divided the story into parts. I am a huge fan of this as it gives me tangible goals for reading and I think this will only increase it’s popularity among Middle Readers.

Overall, I think this is a very clever murder mystery that is perfect for Middle Years readers looking for an Agatha Christie style novel. It’s easy to read, the main characters are likeable, and the plot twists are certainly shocking.

Education

Constantly surprised

My students are constantly surprising me, and it’s a great thing. I am about to embark upon some shameless boasting about how talented these girls are – you have been warned!

I found out the other day that I have a few students that have written whole or parts of books on the website, Wattpad. This meant of course, that I had to create an account to be able to follow and read those stories. I also found out that another of my students collaborates with other girls here at school to regularly publish posts on a fashion blog they all contribute to. They now have over 500 followers and have been approached by companies to write posts with their products showcased in them. It was at then that I realised how amazing these students are and how fortunate I am to know them. I might also add that these students are all in year 7! So where am I going with this?

Well, according to the Australian Curriculum ICT General Capabilities it is essential that students learn to use…

“ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school. ICT capability involves students learning to make the most of the digital technologies available to them, adapting to new ways of doing things as technologies evolve and limiting the risks to themselves and others in a digital environment” (ACARA, 2010).

It is essential that we teach young people how to connect globally with unknown collaborators in a public space safely. I particularly like the emphasis placed upon “their lives beyond school” and “learning to make the most” whilst “limiting the risks.” It is clear to me that many of my students are currently doing this and doing it rather successfully!

References:

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability – Introduction – The Australian Curriculum v8.2. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/information-and-communication-technology-capability/introduction/introduction

Bookish Things

A new favourite author – Sarah J Maas

There are some authors that you just want to read everything they’ve ever written because you’ve fallen in love with their writing style, character development, and plot lines. I have not felt this way about an author since I was in year 6 and reading Tamora Pierce‘s series, such as Song of the Lioness, Daughter of the Lioness, Circle of Magic, and The Circle Opens, until recently. For me that author is now Sarah J Maas; author of Throne of Glass series and the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

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So why do I love Maas’ writing so much?

Maas has this way of allowing you to relate to and understand all of her characters, even the ones you don’t like. In the Throne of Glass series, Maas writes in 3rd person, regularly jumping around to tell the story from different characters’ points of view. She does this seamlessly. You never get lost in the story, it flows really well and is very clear. Due to the switching perspectives, readers are able to gain insights into the thoughts, feelings and experiences of almost all the main and supporting characters. As the series progresses, you find yourself actually wanting to read points of view, not just the main ones, and find yourself wishing for sections from characters that don’t particularly get the limelight. This is masterful writing and demonstrates just how well Maas develops her characters. After reading the 5 books in this series, I am yet to have a concrete favourite character. I could go on and on about why I am thoroughly enjoying this particular series of Maas’, but I do not want to give away any spoilers! All I can say is this, the progression of the story from book to book only draws you into the world Maas has created more and more, and ensures that by the time you’ve read all 5 books, you are aching for the next instalment!

In terms of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, affectionately known by fans as ACOTAR, Maas writes from a 1st person perspective, specifically that of main character Feyre. Because of this, you see the world completely through Feyre’s eyes and therefore your opinion of other characters if completely influenced by how she is feeling. The advantage of this is that you really begin to understand Feyre’s motives and want her to succeed in her trials. The character development and twists that occur during the series are made even more shocking and amazing to the fact that we experience it all alongside Feyre and never see them coming – this is what has made ACOTAR my favourite of the two series! It will be interesting to see whether this style of writing from only Feyre’s perspective persists for the remaining books of the series as the last 2 chapters of A Court of Mist and Fury suggest otherwise and I simply cannot wait!

The last point I’d like to make is with regard to Maas’ novellas for Throne of Glass. It is my opinion that most novellas are written for the sake of generating more interest in the series and income for the authors. In Maas’ case, I feel this is not true. Her collected novellas, printed as The Assassin’s Blade, is somewhat vital to understanding the background of major characters in Queen of Shadows, and the arrival of new ones in Empire of Storms. Without these novellas, Maas would have had to have spent time developing these stories within the context of these two books – something I am not sure she had the time or word length to do justice to them. Therefore, the addition of these novellas allows readers a chance to explore the world more extensively, fall in love with the characters more deeply, and understand the importance of certain events more fully.

I could spend all day talking at length about the genius of Sarah J Maas and why I think she’s made such a big splash in the YA world at this time, however I will refrain from doing so. I urge those that have not had the opportunity to experience her writing for themselves to give it a go!