Marshmallow reviews Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs

After a one-month break, the book bunnies have a lot of books to write about! Marshmallow starts 2020 off with her thoughts on Belly Up, the first novel in Stuart Gibbs’ Teddy Fitzroy / FunJungle series.

Marshmallow reviews Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs.
Marshmallow reviews Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like mysteries, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Teddy Fitzroy lives in the largest zoo in the world, FunJungle, where you could watch sharks in Shark Odyssey, experience what being on a Safari is like, or see what most of the visitors come for: Henry Hippo, the most celebrated hippo in the world. That is, until he dies.

The vet of FunJungle figures out that Henry was actually murdered. Teddy sneaks into the autopsy and learns that Henry might have died from peritonitis, a disease that makes holes in the stomach, but the vet, Doc, says that there were too many holes for it to be natural. The people who run FunJungle cover it up and say that Henry Hippo died of natural causes. Teddy realizes that no one is doing anything and that he has to solve the mystery himself. 

“As Teddy searches through all the clues and asks too many questions, it becomes clear that he too might end up belly up.”

Marshmallow is reading Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs.
Marshmallow is reading Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs.

Marshmallow’s Review: This book is a great book! You will not be able to put it down once you start reading.

The story is so mysterious that you cannot figure out who killed Henry even if you are Sherlock Holmes. The book supplies you with so many suspects that you cannot guess who did it. Unlike many mystery books, Belly Up supplies you with many suspicious characters. The real murderer turns out to be someone who you would never suspect even though the clues were all there under your nose (but they were all just things that seemed unimportant).

This is one of the best mystery books that I have read and I expect that I will reread it over and over again.

I have to admit that Belly Up is slightly confusing and requires holding onto clues that add up to the solution, so it is probably great for ages 8-15. it might confuse readers under 7. There are some curse words but not any very serious ones and there are only a few in a 286-page book.

Marshmallow thinks that Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs is one of the best mystery books that she has ever read.
Marshmallow thinks that Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs is one of the best mystery books that she has ever read.

Stuart Gibbs creates great characters, and his characters show us what other peoples’ lives are like. For example, Summer McCracken, the daughter of the billionaire J.J. McCracken, lives a luxurious but caged existence.

I think that this is a book that can also be enjoyed by adults, too, (and I am trying to get Sprinkles to read it soon!) but I believe it is better for children. Belly Up has humor, animal facts that Teddy uses to solve the mystery, adventure, and mystery.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs 100%.
Marshmallow rates Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs 100%.

Marshmallow reviews The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

Marshmallow recently got her paws on Anne Ursu’s recent book The Lost Girl, and finished it in two days. Below she shares some of her thoughts on the book.

Marshmallow reviews The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu.
Marshmallow reviews The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu.

Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like books that are about mystery and friendship, then this might be for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Let me start with the publisher’s synopsis: 

“When you are an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark. Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark is inventive, dreamy, and brilliant–and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.”

This already tells you that the book is about twins Iris and Lark. We know that they complement each other. A big problem that they face in the book is that the adults in their lives think it might be better for them to be separate for a while. This is a big deal and shakes both girls up a lot. This is one of the two main threads in the book.

The second thread is about a mysterious store. Before fifth grade starts, a small odd shop named Treasure Hunters opens in their town. Right outside the shop is a sign that says:

WE ARE HERE.”

Iris and Lark go in the store, and inside they meet a man that Iris thinks looks like a mole. Iris asks him about the sign. The man asks if they believe in keeping their promise. They say that they do. The man acts as if that answered their question.

Then later, they learn about their class assignments. For the first time they are going to be in different classes: Iris has Mrs. Shonubi and Lark has Mr. Hunt. The girls think that Mr. Hunt is a mean teacher, “an ogre”, they think. (Actually they think he is a real ogre, the mythical one.)

The girls soon realize that the sign next to the new shop no longer says, “WE ARE HERE.” The sign now says,

ARE YOU?

The girls are startled and think that it is a peculiar way of advertising. As their school starts the sign changes again and this time says

ALICE, WHERE ARE YOU?

Iris enters the store to ask who Alice is. The man seems reluctant but eventually says that Alice was his sister. Iris asks what happened to her and the man says that she just disappeared. He looks very sad.

Alice is not the only person or thing that disappears however. The famous Spoonbridge and Cherry in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden also disappears. So does a beluga named Peanut and the sulu bleeding heart specimen. Some items in Iris and Lark’s home also go missing: Lark’s bracelet, a doll named Baby Thing, Lark’s beanbag cat named Esmerelda, and a figure of an ogre. Where do all these go? Find out in The Lost Girl.  

Marshmallow is pointing at a picture from the book, but do not look too carefully if you don't want any further spoilers!
Marshmallow is pointing at a picture from the book, but do not look too carefully if you don’t want any further spoilers!

Marshmallow’s review: This is a very interesting book that has an intriguing plot. It is a little creepy, so it is for ages eight and up. There is a very interesting twist toward the end and the bad guy turns out to be someone that is unexpected.

This is a book that is about friendship. It is a mix between creepy, mystery, and friendship. Iris unwillingly goes to a camp for girls and finds that friendship between girls can be empowering, despite her original cynicism.

The plot is intricate, and everything fits together, just like in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, though if you are not careful or if you read it too fast, in the end it might get a little bit confusing. But all in all it is well planned and it is evident that the author planned everything out and left clues for the reader.

Marshmallow’s rating: 95%

Marshmallow rates The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu 95%.

Marshmallow reviews The Mysterious Mannequin by Carolyn Keene (Book #47 of Nancy Drew Detective Stories)

Marshmallow has read about fifty of the classic Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. Below she shares her thoughts about The Mysterious Mannequin, the forty-seventh volume in the series, first published in 1970.

Marshmallow reviews The Mysterious Mannequin by Carolyn Keene (Book #47 of Nancy Drew Detective Stories).
Marshmallow reviews The Mysterious Mannequin by Carolyn Keene (Book #47 of Nancy Drew Detective Stories).

Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like detective stories where the main character is a kid who solves crime mysteries, then this might be the book series for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Nancy Drew receives a mysterious package that contains a Turkish prayer rug that hides a message. Nancy’s friends, George, and Bess, help her figure out the message:

“Carson, find mannequin. I love her. Carry her to Constantinople.”

Nancy and her father Carson Drew decide that the sender is probably Farouk Tahmasp, a client of Mr. Drew who, after being charged for smuggling, disappeared mysteriously. But other people know about the rug that Farouk Tahmasp sent to the Drews: a man comes and attempts to steal the Turkish prayer rug. Luckily, Nancy’s dog Togo saves the day (and the rug). Nancy sees a man who looks exactly like the man who tried to rob the Drew house. He meets with a woman and shows her a note that is short but sad. She bursts into tears, and then when the man sees Nancy, he tells her to run. They flee and Nancy and her friends, George and Bess, run after them.   

Nancy is an amateur detective and immediately starts to search for the mannequin that the sender, Farouk Tahmasp, is looking for. Nancy finds a clue while dining at a Greek/Turkish restaurant. Nancy describes the thief and the woman who he talked to. She asks if he knows anyone by the descriptions that she tells him. Another man, probably the “neighborhood boss”, gets up and asks them (not very nicely) why they are asking all these questions. Nancy asks him who he is and then he goes back and sits down again. The owner of the restaurant, Mr. Akurzal, leaves. Later one of the waiters drops a note in Nancy’s lap. It says:

“There are many young people who answer your description but you might look for two men, Cemal Aga and Tunay Arik, and girls, Alime Gursel and Aisha Hatun.”

Find the people that the owner, Mr. Akuzal, told them about in the note. They cross out two of the suspects, Cemal Aga and Alime Gursel. That means that the main suspects are Tunay Arik and Aisha Hatun. They can’t find them though. Nancy and her friend, Ned, look but they can’t find the man Tunay Arik. Nancy and Ned start looking for Tunay Arik in shops. They don’t find him, but they do meet the two girls who lead them to Tunay Arik. Sue and Kathy, the two girls, take them to Tunay Arik’s location. He is not there though. They find out who is the woman, Aisha Hatun. They learn that Aisha and Farouk were in love and then Farouk got involved in the smuggling issue. (Farouk was proven innocent.) Farouk left and then Tunay started annoying her. Nancy and her friends, George, Bess, Aisha, Ned, Burt, and Evan, all leave to Turkey. The problem is that they don’t know where the mannequin is. Where is the mannequin?

Marshmallow is reading The Mysterious Mannequin by Carolyn Keene (Book #47 of Nancy Drew Detective Stories).
Marshmallow is reading The Mysterious Mannequin by Carolyn Keene (Book #47 of Nancy Drew Detective Stories).

Marshmallow’s Review:  This is one of my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries and I have read it over and over again, several times. The characters are interesting and the way that Nancy reveals the mannequin is intriguing.

It is also at the same time an old book and its age shows. I felt that occasionally it is not very culturally sensitive. But the book does try to give a flavor of Istanbul to the readers, and does mention some facts about Turkish history.

Nancy Drew is a little like Encyclopedia Brown (you can see my review of Encyclopedia Brown Books 1-4 here). Nancy Drew is not an encyclopedia of facts A to Z but is very intelligent. She has a very practical mind and has the ability to make connections that most of the time solve the mystery that she is working on. Her friends are not as intelligent but are helpful and supporting of her.

Marshmallow’s rating:95%

Marshmallow rates The Mysterious Mannequin by Carolyn Keene (Book #47 of Nancy Drew Detective Stories) 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Mysterious Mannequin by Carolyn Keene (Book #47 of Nancy Drew Detective Stories) 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Encyclopedia Brown Books 1-4 by Donald Sobol

Marshmallow loves to read detective stories with young protagonists. Below she shares some of her thoughts on the first four books of a classic series, Encyclopedia Brown, by Donald J. Sobol.

Marshmallow reviews the first four books of Donald Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown series.
Marshmallow reviews the first four books of Donald J. Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown series.

Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like books that have very smart people in them, or if you simply like detective stories where the main character is a kid who solves crime mysteries, then this might be the book series for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): The name Encyclopedia Brown gives you the hint that he or she is very smart since an encyclopedia is a book that contains facts, A to Z. (Encyclopedia Brown’s real name is Leroy Brown. Encyclopedia is his nickname.) The truth is, yes, Encyclopedia Brown is VERY smart and has a vast amount of knowledge. Encyclopedia is also a great detective. He can solve any mystery, even if it is an eighty-five-year-old case that has been a story for a long time. 

According to Wikipedia, there are at least twenty-nine Encyclopedia Brown books, but I have read only four of them so far. Each book is less than a hundred pages and is easy to read in one day or less. In each book there are about ten stories. Sometimes the stories in one book are related to one another and have common characters. For example Sally Kimball is one of Encyclopedia Brown’s best friends and serves as his body guard. Another character who appears several times is Bugs Meany, often the criminal in the cases brought to Encyclopedia by other kids. 

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch is Marshmallow's favorite among the four.
Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch is Marshmallow’s favorite among the four.

The book I like the most is book number two, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch. In that book, one of my favorite stories is The Case of the Glass of Ginger Ale. This story is about a famous blind violinist who got tricked by Hans Braun, “concert master of the Glendon Symphony”. Encyclopedia solves this mystery quickly and gets an autograph from the violinist as well.

Marshmallow is reading her favorite Encyclopedia Brown story: The Case of the Glass of Ginger Ale.
Marshmallow is reading one of her favorite Encyclopedia Brown stories: The Case of the Glass of Ginger Ale.

Another one of my favorites is The Case of the Balloon Man. In this story, a man named Izzy is suspected of kidnapping a little child named Bobby Tyler. Encyclopedia solves this mystery quickly while eating dinner. 

The Case of the Hungry Hitchhiker is a great example of how good Encyclopedia’s mystery solving skills are. In this story, a “hitchhiker” turns out to be a part of a holdup gang. Encyclopedia figures this out by a not-melted chocolate bar that should have been melted. (Especially if you have been standing outside on a ninety-three-degree day for an hour as the hitchhiker claimed.) 

Marshmallow’s Review: This is a book series that everyone will enjoy. The author puts the clues in plain sight, but it is very easy to not notice them because they are not things that will attract a lot of attention. Encyclopedia Brown is clever and always has the right answers. The answers to the mysteries are in the backs of the books. The reader will probably need to go to the end often to find out the answers to the cases that Encyclopedia Brown easily solves.

Marshmallow’s rating: 95%

Marshmallow rates Encyclopedia Brown books 1-4 95%.
Marshmallow rates Encyclopedia Brown books 1-4 95%.