Friday, January 10, 2014

Dead in Their Vaulted Arches: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley

I've been a huge fan of Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce cozy mysteries since I heard about his first book at BEA years ago.  

Set in the 1950s countryside with the aristocratic de Luce family in danger of losing their longtime home and estate of Buckshaw, it is hard not to become fond of the genius and Chemistry whiz that is Flavia de Luce.  Flavia's nearly twelve years old in this, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, the 5th book in the series. Flavia's the third and youngest daughter of Harriet and Colonel de Luce and has been raised and educated at home by a series of tutors and governesses, watched over by her war damaged father, two beautiful and preoccupied older sisters, the caring staff, and Dodger - her close friend and her father's man during WWII.  

Buckshaw has been owned and held by the de Luce family estate since William the Conqueror, but the unexpected disappearance of Flavia's mother, Harriet de Luce, has brought with it crippling estate taxes.  It becomes apparent that Colonel de Luce is not particularly financially savvy and although the earlier novels show his and Dodger's talents, it is likely that Buckshaw will eventually be sold to cover the family's tax bill and expenses.  

Buckshaw itself is an amazing place which we learn about through young Flavia's eyes.  Flavia'd discovered a state of the art and well stocked chemistry lab that was initially organized by Uncle Tarquin.  Through her insatiable curiosity, burgeoning chemistry skills and the invaluable handwritten journals that Tarquin has compiled, Flavia clearly shows hereof to be on par with the best chemists of her day.  It's these skills, her powers of deduction and observation that make this young heroine one of the best sleuths of her day and both an invaluable aid and bit of a pest to the inspectors of her area and of Scotland Yard.

Unlike the earlier novels, this particular installment of the de Luce mysteries doesn't focus on a mysterious death of a stranger.  The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches deals more with the mystery of Harriet de Luce and her disappearance.  

For those who haven't read any of the Flavia de Luce novels, you have to read the books in order, but I highly recommend this series!

  • ISBN-10: 0385344058 - Hardcover $24.00
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press (January 14, 2014), 336 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Alan Bradley is the internationally bestselling author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. His first Flavia de Luce novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Dilys Winn Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Agatha Award, the Macavity Award, and the Barry Award, and was nominated for the Anthony Award. His other Flavia de Luce novels are The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without MustardI Am Half-Sick of Shadows, and Speaking from Among the Bones.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Just Grace and the Super Sleepover by Charise Mericle Harper

Just Grace and the Super Sleepover is the latest in third grader Grace's adventures.    Things are still going well between Grace and her best friend Mimi.  They're in the same class, walk to and from school together, and are both invited to their first sleepover party.  

While Mimi is extremely excited to spend the night in a tent and stay up much of the night, Grace is apprehensive.  It's hard for Grace to admit her fears and she finds herself hiding more and more things from her friends.   There are quite a few funny passages as Grace debates with herself the extent to which hiding her feelings should be considered lying.  As Grace avoids speaking her mind, she comes up with an unlikely story - which spreads and gets away from her.  

Friendship, quick thinking, and belated honesty help to make everything come right in the end.  Along the way, we learn about the continents, geography, bugs, and about learning to speak up, even if you don't think your friends, teachers and family are going to like what you have to say.    The book is told from Grace's point of view with her characteristic funny, honest, and likable voice.  Highly recommended!

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Series: The Just Grace Series
  • ISBN-10: 054404584X - Hardcover $15.99
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (January 7, 2014), 208 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Charise Mericle Harper is the author and illustrator of many books for children, including the Just Grace series. In a starred review, Booklist called Just Grace "Hilarious," and said, "The kids come alive in the story, and Harper enhances the comical goings-on with sparkling cartoon sketches. Give this to . . . anyone looking for a funny book." Charise lives in Westchester County, New York. Visit her website at and visit Just Grace's website at, where you'll find all sorts of fun things, including videos, quizzes, and information about all the Just Grace books.